What is Sekiro?
Sekiro Shadows Die Twice is an action-adventure video game developed and self-published (for the Stadia port) by From Software who is also known for previous titles like the Dark Souls series as well as PlayStation exclusive game Bloodborne.
As of writing this first impression I have played Sekiro for around 6 hours so my opinion (if) I write a final review could change and this may become outdated over time.
The gameplay of Sekiro is the most fluent and fast-paced games I have played out of From Software in comparison to the clunky and weighty feel of Dark Souls. Sekiro has stylish animation which triggers a satisfying sound effect such as when you put in the effort of being as quiet as possible, as you stalk your prey in some tall grass you click R1 as you jump on the enemies back as you slit their throat as blood comes gushing out. The controls in the game feel precise and weighty without feeling too slow and clunky, but overall the controls follow a mostly standardised control scheme except that attacks use the bumpers (which I’m quite fond of). The difficulty… I don’t know what I could compare it to? The game is skull crushingly hard in comparison to a lot of other games I play, such as Red Dead Redemption 2 or Tomb Raider for example. This game will punish you for making mistake., You made a mistake, screw you half your health is gone. As this is an incredibly reflex heavy game Stadia runs this game with no problems in terms latency stopping you from getting parries off or making the game feel unfair. I truly appreciate the lengths the developers have gone to make this game difficult without feeling borderline unfair in boss encounters (such as in the first main boss) or in mini-bosses such as the first General (see video).
Overall Presentation (Audio Mix, Music, Visuals)
Audio Mix & Music
First of all lemme get this straight, Sekiro’s dialogue will play in Japanese with English subtitles if you don’t like this you can change this in the settings (I hate how I have to do this). The voice acting in this game is serviceable especially compared to the disgustingly bad dialogue of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, I can’t really comment on the Japanese voice acting but it seemed to be alright and matched how I interpreted the text at the bottom of the screen. I guess the voice acting helped me roughly understand how I should’ve interpreted the text? All voices in the game follow where your camera is relative to where your character is on screen, so if your character is on the right-hand side of your screen it will come out of your right headphone (this also shows that the directional audio is already leagues ahead of Dead by Daylight) etc and all voices are audible over music and other sound effects which could be happening in a fight.
The music is used to capture the intensity of the fight (along with some of the visual hints). The intensity rises as the music gets more intense and is actually quite memorable and using a variety of instruments of drums and blowing instruments.
The game has an overall natural and muted looking aesthetic with more flashes of colours for when things such as parry opportunities would contrast with the floor or the enemy I was fighting (giving the image more visual flair), due to the enemies wearing more brown or darker colours with reds and similar-looking colours. The visuals of the game also use whites, browns, greens in different types of environments from what I’ve played, but these environments always refer back to having a natural and more muted appearance compared to other games which go for more visual flair and pop (on terrain etc) like Red Dead Redemption 2 and is more in line with the look of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (with its use of greys and browns to give it a more muted and natural look).
The level design of Sekiro appears to be more linear compared to a lot of more open-world games which are available on Stadia such as Assassin’s Creed Odyssey with it basically being A-B in terms of progressing forward. However, the game allows you to go backwards and do side missions or find secrets if you search around enough inside of the level to find more items such as health pellets or ash to slow down the enemy and make it so you can force it so you can attack enemies.
In conclusion, I think Sekiro is a fun action game with fun and challenging melee combat in comparison to the other IP that From Software develop (Dark Souls and Demon Souls) with light feeling combat which still has weight. The overall audio mix of the game is what you’d expect of a game like this with a dynamic sounding mix using stereo headphones. The visuals in the game have a more natural look to them but are on the darker side in terms of presentation. With linear feeling levels with densely packed environments and hidden items which award exploration.
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