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Returning to Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Updated: Jan 14, 2023

What's poppin' - Today I wanted to talk about Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice a little bit. It's really, really hot today, so while I should be outside, soaking it up - I figured I'd do this instead.

It's also typically a stream day, but am taking this week off as holiday to focus on some other things and get some energy back. I thought maybe this would be fun to share, and I've been enjoying the game so much I wanted to share some thoughts.


First Impressions

I got Sekiro when it came out in 2019 for the PS4 and enjoyed what I played, but it wasn't very much. I got past the first two bosses and then pretty much stopped because I thought I was about to have to fight ghosts.

My main memories are of the beginning sections and of the Hirata Estate and the boss fight there.

A few things stuck with me from those first few sessions.

One was a memory of the game mechanics allowing for some really satisfying approaches to groups of enemies or encampments. The early groups in Hirata Estate start off so intimidating but eventually when you start finding ways to deal with the ranged enemies and kind of just dive in, you come out the other end with a huge sense of satisfaction. I remember this in Ashina too with a few groups of enemies.

Next was the core gameplay. It's easily understood but I remember feeling it was just super hard. I struggled to differentiate between sweeps and stabs from enemies, and with both requiring different responses, would get murdered a lot.

Finally was the cinematic direction and I'm re-appreciating this now that I'm playing the game again. The image that stuck with me was the entrance to Lady Butterfly at the end of the Hirata Estate. Playing again it's really nice how the game ebbs and flows. From seeing Hirata burning from the top of the hill, to making your way through to Owl who gives you the temple key, to fighting Juzou the drunkard, surrounded by lesser enemies with rapturous music and an NPC helper. You come out victorious and step inside the house - Suddenly it's silent and the colours go from burning oranges and greens to quiet dark shades of blue.

At the end of a thin hallway with one enemy in the way is a quietly ominous door. When opened, the main boss room appears.

The sight of the burning temple and Buddha statue sitting peacefully amidst the scene stuck in my mind as a beautiful visual build up and release.


There weren't any ghosts, so far anyway...

To share something of my thoughts now that I'm playing the game again;

I'm not much further than this now but have made progress in three different directions then eventually found my way to the third boss who I beat this morning. After reading the Sekiro sub Reddit I saw the boss' name come up a few times so I thought I would be in for it, but the fight felt super fair and I was very happy to see my hands respond to the subtle on screen projections that differentiate between a stab and a sweep, whilst incorporating new mechanics I just encountered for the fight. Again, the build up to the fight was terrific and the game is utilising the grapple hook and ability to jump in the level design magnificently.

The progression has been very satisfying in that sense and that's a word I think comes up a lot around all of FromSoft's games. Here maybe even more than the others - I see Souls veterans saying that compared to other FromSoft games, the methods to victory are streamlined. The game more or less forces you to meet it in a specific way. The challenge is there and you either beat it the way it wants you to or you don't beat it. There is still variety through moves and sometimes a bit of cheese can be employed, but certainly compared to the other games this holds true.

Even some of the lesser enemies have been like entire boss fight ordeals by themselves, and I'm told there are a lot of these throughout the game..

It's really premature to make a video / blog and share my thoughts like this with so much more to play, but I was so excited to be enjoying the game and wanted to share my feelings so far.

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