In a confluence of weird surprises, From Software launched its new Activision-released action game, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, at Microsoft’s press conference at E3 2018. As we have long known, this no. It’s not a Dark Souls game, and most importantly, it’s not a Bloodborne sequel either. But it’s directed by Highlighter of Souls Hidetaka Miyazaki, and his press release confirms that Sekiro is set in the late 1500s in Japan in Sengoku.
Some other solid facts: It’s a “third-person action-adventure game with RPG elements”. The press material also clarifies that this is a ‘single player’ game, so we may not see the online co-op / PvP elements featured in other From Software action RPGs. “The protagonist [is] a hard-hearted warrior whose mission is to save his master, a young lord, and take revenge on his nemesis, ”the press release read. “As ‘Sekiro’ or the ‘One-armed Wolf’, players will discover the many ways to strategically approach combat and engage enemies.”
Now that the facts are out, let’s dissect this trailer.
Dance of death
The combat is obviously faster and less defense-oriented than the Souls series, and even raises the bar compared to Bloodborne. Sekiro is known as the “One-armed Wolf,” and from the evidence in the trailer at least, it looks like his mechanical arm will be the aspect of Sekiro’s approach to combat with the most nuance and customization. .
Note that throughout the trailer, Sekiro wields a sword in his left hand the entire time. His right hand (mechanics) blocks, apparently scoops up axes from nothing, unleashes defensive umbrella blade bursts, and contains a grappling hook. This could be proof that Shadows Die Twice will feature a skill unlock and combo upgrade system, rather than the number-centric one we’re used to using in Souls games.
The trailer’s final encounter with the Giant on Horseback features the most exciting fight footage. Note how in the heat of the moment, Sekiro evades his foe’s attack not with the usual From Soft dodge-roll (or in Bloodborne’s case, the side step), but with a quick jump. This presents an interesting idea: Will Sekiro have a jump button? Like, a real one? For an action game focused on dexterity, this seems to go without saying, although it is not guaranteed. Notice how Sekiro uses his grappling hook to quickly get close to his opponent and throw a cheeky sword whip in his face. Maybe you don’t need to jump if you can grab hold of it. (It looks like a jump button jump, however.)
Death is not the end?
Who is Sekiro? Well, it looks like he was ready to have a peaceful old death, but for better or worse he is now alive again. We say to him: “death is not yet your destiny”. During his abortive death, Sekiro lost his right limb, and he was told his mechanical replacement was “something much more useful”. “You will learn to appreciate its value,” he said, probably pointing out the member’s personalization and powers.
Later, after being chopped by a huge enemy armed with a blade, the voiceover scolds: “your death will not come easy”. Sekiro then seems to come to life before plunging his blade into the brute’s shoulder. Pleasant!
But it seems important. It seems obvious that Sekiro just can’t die until his master, the young lord, is safe again. But this scene raises huge questions about how the game will handle punishments: It seems possible that From Software is avoiding the familiar checkpoint systems used in Dark Souls and Bloodborne, and this will undoubtedly affect the level design as much. than the pace of the game.
And the trailer has mixed signals regarding the “pace of the game.” It’s a thick and fast-paced action game, yes, but are there any stealth elements there too? Very probably.
Here are two of three examples from the trailer that Sekiro will sometimes have to keep quiet:
And here’s Sekiro performing a stealth teardown:
Sekiro will also feature a “vertical traverse” according to Activision’s official press release, although it’s hard to understand how flexible the grappling hook will be, based on the footage in the trailer. Will it tackle any surface, or just specific types? Will this help Sekiro get closer to all enemies, or just certain types?
Either way, it’s exciting to see From Software move away from the parameters of dark fantasy and horror they’ve traded over the past eight years. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice will be released in 2019.