Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice has been one of the biggest draws of Gamescom 2018. It even won the award for the best game at Gamescom 2018, I hear. One thing’s for sure, it was the longest line I had to wait. And, let me tell you, it was worth every minute of that hour. To be sure, Sekiro kicked me to the curb in very interesting ways, but, like any good soulslike, uses the pain it inflicts on you to teach you through failure. So, here are my first impressions of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.
First Gameplay Impressions of Sekiro Shadows Die Twice
It’s tempting to call Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice as “Dark Souls with a grappling hook.” Hell, I’ve already heard some people call it that. And, well, that isn’t too far off. However, that’s quite an oversimplification. Sekiro does have many similarities to Soulsborne games, but it does mix up the formula significantly. Now, I’ll be completely honest. During my twenty or so minutes with Sekiro, I didn’t get too far. The game kicked my ass, and only by the end did I start wrapping my mind around it. That said, I still got a pretty good feel for the game, so let’s get into it.
The Gamescom demo of Sekiro drops you right in the middle of the action, without any fanfare or context. I got very little in terms of instructions, so I had to figure out everything on my own. And, it was as fun as it was hair-pullingly frustrating. The first thing I got to experience is the grappling hook. Basically, there are preset locations that the game points out, which you can use to traverse the map and also get out of a hairy situation. It adds an extra layer of gameplay that is very welcome and freshens up the formula.
Another interesting addition to the gameplay is the larger emphasis on stealth. In fact, you can ambush unaware enemies by jumping on them from above and instantly killing them. Basically, if it’s at all possible, stealth will always the better approach. Sure, you’ll often have to go hand to hand with enemies, but if you can stealth-kill them, you absolutely should. Oh, and, if you alert an enemy, you can’t jump them from above anymore. Believe me, I tried to cheese that way, it does not work when they’re aware of you.
Speaking of enemies, the combat. It is somewhat Dark Souls, but, again, some elements are different. For example, the goal here is to use your swordsmanship to find a hole in your enemy’s defense, and then destroy them with a blow from your katana. So, the enemies aren’t your typical damage sponges; instead, the idea is to patiently parry and attack until the opportunity presents itself. This is more difficult than it sounds, of course, and even the run-of-the-mill enemies are nothing to sniff at.
And, of course, there’s the prosthetic arm. In the demo, there were three things it could do: throw shuriken, unleash a blast of flame, and deliver a devastating heavy attack with an axe. You can freely scroll between the three, depending on what you find most valuable at the moment. Once again, it is evocative of Dark Souls to a degree, but adds enough new stuff to feel different and challenging.
Another interesting detail I’ve noticed is that I ran into two checkpoints in a very short distance. Basically, you come across a statue for the spirits of ancestors. And, I somehow managed to run into two of them within, like, three minutes. A far cry from bonfires or lanterns; we all know how scarce these could be. Maybe I was just lucky and chose a path that happened to have checkpoints packed more tightly. It bears mentioning that I completely ignored the samurai general after dying to him in a horrific fashion in order to see what comes beyond.
That was some of the stuff that I found most interesting during my time with Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. I really wish I could’ve had more time with it, and really get to know the ins and outs of the game. It’s coming out on March 22nd for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. What I can say for now is, if you like Soulsborne games, and want something that does offer a somewhat fresh approach to the formula, then Sekiro is for you.