From Software’s new game builds on formula

‘Sekiro’ learns from its predecessors

Spencer Batute, @batutie_

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice” is the latest release by the revered Japanese gaming development company From Software, most known for their critically acclaimed Dark Souls franchise and its equally praised spiritual successor, Bloodborne. These action role-playing games have inspired the presence of a hardcore fan base and been cited by many critics and publications as among the greatest games of all time. But with such veneration comes expectation, and the new entry has been no stranger to the high hopes of longtime fans and gaming critics. Does “Sekiro” have what it takes to fulfill the wildest desires of the gaming community and live up to the legacy of its spiritual predecessors?

“Sekiro” takes place in 16th century Japan, an era in Japanese history pockmarked by widespread warfare. The story focuses on a one-armed shinobi named Sekiro and his quest in protecting the Divine Heir, the holder of a power capable of granting immortality to those its blessing is granted to. The story is presented more directly than in the cryptic fashion of the Soulsborne titles, allowing more accessibility.

The game world draws heavily from Japanese lore in its larger-than-life depiction of tropes like ninja, shinobi, samurai and all manner of Japanese mythology. Though the dark atmosphere of the game’s setting and the incorporation of mythological canon is a familiar direction for the seasoned game developers, “Sekiro” is a refreshing departure from the Western fantasy setting of the Soulsborne titles.

Also influenced by previous developer efforts, “Sekiro” retains many game design choices that made the Soulsborne games so popular. The branching layered world design, the core gameplay loop, and the high difficulty curve among many other key elements exist in much the same manner as they have for the past decade or so.

However, “Sekiro” stands out as more than yet another Souls clone. One of the biggest changes to the game formula is the new level of verticality in the world, enabled by the addition of a grappling hook. With this mechanic, the player is given more opportunities for world exploration and combat.

Combat has also been reinvigorated with several other novel ideas, including the shinobi prosthetic tool and the newly emphasized deflection system. The end result is one of the game’s strongest points: a unique dance of clashing swords, step dodges and well-timed parries that is difficult but gratifying to master.

Similarly shaken up is the leveling system of days past. Complexities regarding individual stats and player builds have been streamlined into a leveling system dependent on world exploration and story progression.

Though “Sekiro” isn’t the flashiest game around in its graphical and technological departments, it still packs a fantastic presentation through its finely detailed textures, smooth animations, and polished art direction.

The soundtrack of “Sekiro” is well-produced and fits into the gritty game world like a glove. Though the score felt dynamically one-dimensional at times in its forceful, militant approach, it gets the job done and is far from detractive of the overall experience.

While the verdict is not yet out on the game’s lasting impact on the gaming industry, “Sekiro” has more than built upon its predecessors’ roots and proven itself as its own respectable title free from the long shadow cast by its parent studio’s legacy. No less, “Sekiro” lives up to the standards that put From Software on the map and pushes the action role-playing genre forward in ways that leave one hopeful for the future of both From Software and games in the vein of the Soulsborne formula.

“Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice” is available now on Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC.