Overall 9.10
The newest original game from FROM software goes all action removing many RPG elements and adding some stealth mechanics. Sekiro started as a Tenchu game and that DNA is noticeable as stealth is a big aspect but not as deep as it should be. The core of this game is the reflex based action, brutal combat that might leave some frustrated to all hell.

Sekiro removes stamina changing the way combat flows drastically. This game is about applying pressure and maintaining that pressure either by defense or offense.  You have your life meter and a block meter, enemies will block the majority of your attacks which will slowly degrade their block meter, once broken they are susceptible to an instant kill. If they attack, and they will a lot it’s up to you to block but that will lower your meter, what you want to do is parry which means pressing block as soon as their attack lands, then you don’t lose your meter and it injures the enemies.

This means battles are all about timing and pattern recognition so much so that I feel it’s more like Punch out than say Ninja Gaiden. Most enemies will have a special attack that can’t be blocked or parried by normal means. An icon will flash on the screen and then you have like a split second to recognize the type of attack, a lunge can be beaten by a step block, a sweep by jumping on them and a throw must be dodged. Trust me it’s way to hard to react the first time, you will die many many many many times and eventually learn the enemies tells and different attacks, much like Punch-Out. I spent hours on many bosses and then all of a sudden there is a sort of breakthrough and I would demolish the boss as if I suddenly became Neo. There is little middle ground, you don’t know the patterns and then you do, once you do it’s just timing.

This game will test the limits of your sanity because of how unforgiving this combat system is. One mistake can kill you outright, luckily you get a free revival (more as you progress) but if you die again you lose half your EXP and money. Prepare to lose progress in your leveling up and being stuck for hours at a time. Overcoming the boss after so much time felt great, I cheered, I cursed, emotions ran high. Normally I love that but I hit brick walls so many times it hurt the flow of the game.

There are many side attacks and upgrades that are gained throughout this massive adventure. Your prosthetic arm can be outfitted with three different weapons at a time, these can do stuff like have an axe that breaks shields, or shoot out flames to stun or burn enemies. One is a shield that will block oncoming attacks and bullets. These are great for the specific enemies that are weak to them, for instance when you first meet shielded enemies it’s a fight you should avoid but once you get the axe they are push overs. My problem is that many of these skills are so enemy specific that they are almost useless against the many human skill based bosses. Often times using a skill might mess up the flow and timing rather than help, it’s better to just stick with the regular attacks and blocks.

There are also a whole host of ninja skills to learn but you can only have one active at a time and it’s crappy, again high skill play will probably not make use of it. This is where the combat shows it’s limitations, all these skill trees and upgrades yet your personal skill with blocking and attacking is all that is needed for the hardest bosses. You can’t create a unique build, you do grow in strength as you level up but those are just stat advancements more than learning all new ways to fight. I miss the variety and depth of souls even if that combat is more clunky. And it doesn’t hold a candle to Nioh’s fantastic combat system.

Where this game shines as with all FROM games is the level design and enemy variety. This is the most vertical and open game world the souls team has ever created. Sekiro has a grapple hook which allows him to quickly launch into the air and prowl on rooftops. Stealth aspect is engraved into the level design with many opportunities to get the drop on enemies or hide in bushes to get those instant kills. The stealth aspect isn’t the best, enemies don’t have great search patterns, it’s rather basic but it works for this game because in the end getting into the combat is what the game wants you to do.  

Exploring is an absolute joy because movement is so fluid and fast. There items hiding in nooks all over, almost always your curiosity is rewarded with some item. The game world is based on ancient chinese myths, a lot of the game is in old style villages and cities but as you explore deeper you end up dark caverns, beautiful basins and cliff side on mountains guarded by a giant snake.

Yes a giant snake prowls certain areas of the game, moments like those are where FROM is unmatched. I once veered off my usual path and found a deep dark cave where this snake lived, that’s the kind of exploring that makes gaming special. Turns out that was part of some quest I didn’t even start yet, I love that freedom. Speaking of quests there are plenty of NPCs and this time they speak far more clearly than the esoteric speech of souls games. Quests can lead to optional areas and bosses to gain items needed for one of the four different endings, generally I enjoyed figuring these out and scratched that itch you get in souls games when you wonder what the fuck does this do?

This is an offline game, there are no messages, no summoning help. Sadly this means no covenants or PVP, a huge part of souls games just missing with no replacement. I did miss it, I felt the adventure just wasn’t as grand with these aspects missing.

Sekiro uses the Souls engine so it’s not the best looking game but the art direction is phenomenal as always. Environments pop and are very detailed. I played on PC so I got a fluid 60fps at 1080p but depending on your version it can be slower. There are some good music tracks but nothing really stands out. Voice acting is the usual Souls fare. Expect to take 40-50 hours depending on how many times you die and of course there is new game plus which tests your skills further.

As an action game Sekiro is a cool twitch based combat game that isn’t as deep as contemporaries. Where it stands out is the level design and boss battles which are Souls inspired, there is still not much like it and definitely not at this quality. Due to its frustrating nature and lack of features i am used to in souls games I probably rank it only better than dark souls 2 but it’s still a fantastic game worth playing.
Posted by Dvader Sat, 06 Apr 2019 18:41:12
Sat, 06 Apr 2019 22:07:08
This review reads more like an 8 to me. What's the reasoning behind the score?
Fri, 12 Apr 2019 05:55:48
Its a from software game that offers 50 hours of great level design, incredible tense moments of combat, that mystery of exploring and finding paths you shouldnt be going down but go down anyway. Its common place now for FROM games but when compared to what everyone else is doing they are in a special class. This kind of game is a 9. Now its one of my least favorite of this kind of game but I'll take this over many many other games.
Wed, 24 Apr 2019 18:11:45
New reviews, nice.
Do you have your PC hooked up to your tv or are you desktop bound?
Sat, 04 May 2019 19:25:22
TV and using controller.
Fri, 30 Aug 2019 08:40:45
it sounds like you like this as a games enthusiast rather than it being an enjoyable game -- is that about right?
Fri, 30 Aug 2019 08:41:01
And good job man!
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