I’m going to come right and say it in the beginning here, the Dark Souls series may be one of my favorite video game series ever. I love the giant explorable world, I love the atmosphere, I love the crushing difficulty and boss fights that let you slam you head against the wall over and over until eventually, little by […]
I’m going to come right and say it in the beginning here, the Dark Souls series may be one of my favorite video game series ever. I love the giant explorable world, I love the atmosphere, I love the crushing difficulty and boss fights that let you slam you head against the wall over and over until eventually, little by little, the wall starts to break, you conquer the wall, and are rewarded with the next one. I love it all, and yes, I’m including Dark Souls 2 in that as well, flaws and all. Hell, Bloodborne was one of the main reasons I decided on buying a PS4 instead of staying with the PC I’d been using, and sure that might be just a bit sad, but it was absolutely worth it in terms of hours I’ve put into both it and this series. So when FromSoftware released Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice in March, I was all about it. I had it pre-loaded and was ready for the next challenge that the new FromSoft game was going to throw at me.
Unfortunately for me, there was something quite different about Sekiro, something that wasn’t apparent when you first play through of the game. See, Sekiro is lots of fun, and brutally difficult as you come to expect from FromSoft’s games. But the more you play and beat it, something happens, the game stops being a real challenge after one or two play throughs. The game put’s a focus on learning the timing of enemy’s attacks and learning to parry with the strikes as they’d hit you. Once you’ve learned them however, they become quite easy to deal with because the timing doesn’t change. So while the difficulty of the game in the beginning is outright brutal sometimes, once you learn how the different enemy’s attack and interact with you, they become trivial to deal with. This becomes even worse once you beat the game the first time, because now you have no reason to interact with any enemy that isn’t a boss. Regular enemies don’t drop anything together than basic crafting materials and mid-bosses stop dropping unique items after you beat them the first time, so you can just sprint through the level and get to the next checkpoint without dealing with all the riff raff along the way.
The beauty about the Soulsborne series is that everyone in the world is operating under the same rules as your character. They have stamina, health that doesn’t regenerate, and a specific move set to work with. You can run past people as you go and eventually level up your character enough to one shot them, but they still operate under the same rules as you, which makes every enemy a threat if you’re too careless and just want to run through the level. Compare that to Sekiro, where you can pretty much skip every enemy between you and the checkpoint, the threat level is much lower because you start to run by everyone, due to the fact that you have no real reason to be interacting with them once you’ve beaten the game once. Once you’ve figured out how the game works, there’s no more challenge to complete aside from finding and beating the game’s bosses and getting the different endings, all with the same problem.
The other problem the Sekiro has that isn’t present in the SoulsBorne series is a problem of replayability. With the Soulsborne series, you can level up any way you want and and use a variety of different weapons and spells to approach the world as you see fit. You’ll need to need to adjust your play style each time to actually make it work mind you, but in the Soulsborne series, anything and everything the game gives you can be used to beat the game. Every tool is a viable means of beating the game, so much so that Youtube Channels have been created with the purpose of figuring out how hard you can really make it. With Sekiro, you’re forced to use the tools that the game gives you, which leads to a lot less replay value, as you can only beat the game so many times before you’ve done everything the game has to offer you.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice didn’t set the world on fire quite the way the Dark Souls series did. To be completely fair to the game, it began it’s life as a remake of the video game Tenchu, another Fromsoft title that focuses more on stealth and being a ninja rather than the western fantasy focus of Dark Souls or the Lovecraftian horror that is Bloodborne. Sekiro is all about being stealthy and doing ninja stuff cause you’re SUPPOSED to be a ninja, so the less emphasis on action is understandable and expected. And while it’s not really fair to compare it to a game series it’s trying to leave behind, it being the first game that FromSoft has released since the final entry to the Soulsborne series, it unfortunately demands the comparison. Without the freedom to tackle challenges however you want and with the game not being very hard once you know everything it’s going to throw at you, it’ll never reach the heights that it’s predecessors reached.
Despite everything I’ve written here, I like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have spend the hours and hours it took to grind out all of the PS4 achievements. The game is fun, and if you’re looking for a decent challenge, the first one or two runs through the game certainly deliver that in spades. But while I did enjoy my time with it, the game is just missing somethings that stop it from being a true classic like the other games in the Soulsborne series. Without the constant difficulty or the infinite replay ability of the games that came before it, I’m afraid it’ll just be another fad game chewed up and spit out by the games industry.
Posted by Austin Hamblen, Owner and Main writer of Endlessmonkey.com