Sekiro, Sekiro, I have come to bargain! To start, this is a borderline impossible to play hardcore boss game. It's not something I'm particularly fond of, yet at the same time I can appreciate the game as being something for a niche audience. Don't expect an easy time, as you won't find that here.
This is a game for those that can handle death knocking on their door constantly. If you can get past that element of having your life taken, there's actually a really interesting story here. You're somewhat supernatural in the sense that you keep coming back, and you'll battle against ferocious enemies. You're playing as Wolf, a shinobi that is a guardian to one with a special blood.
You'll need to fight for him, against many creatures and obstacles. This is told through gorgeous cinematic moments that are slow, striking and just stunning to behold. There's quite a lot of gameplay here, but this is mostly due to your constant death. Still, a rather strong and intriguing story that's told in a very subtle way that works well.
The world of Sekiro is rather lovely, despite its deathly outlook. You'll mostly move through fairly large and open worlds, to then be funneled into a boss battle. Some tougher side characters are also present, but optional. These bosses are tough, I feel as though they cheat and it's generally hard to get a pattern from them. There's something about their movement, a random style to it and that sometimes their abilities to hit you feels off. They still do offer distinct ways to be defeated, and it's about trying many times over to find what works. You could listen to locals, but I feel as though they lie.
You'll need to use strategy, maybe some stealth and then strike at the right time. Regular enemies are nothing after you die a few times to them, but those bosses are just something else. The game is rough, it can be painful to play. I personally don't like these types of games, but I wasn't ever mad at this one. I was just like, oh I died again. Cool, then I tried again to fight them, strange as I typically am displeased with dying. I just felt that I wasn't in a fair battle, and that loss was a pre-calculated event for the majority of my experiences.
Even when I beat a powerful boss, I really didn't feel any pride or sense of accomplishment. Moving past that aspect of the difficulty, I wasn't happy with the performance. I played this on Xbox One X and the frame rate was all over the place, it was I believe to be the first regular gaming experience that I've felt sick due to the motion. It was similar to when I need to get adjusted to VR at gaming events. Again, not something I've experienced in other games. To build on that, I play a ton of games. In terms of the motion in this one; frame drops happen in titles, this one has ones that hit me poorly.
The combat is excellent here, you feel slick and it looks badass. The gush of blood as you strike an opponent, that powerful moment when you strike down a strong enemy. There are some neat mechanics here with that special arm, you can upgrade it as well when you complete activities in the overall world. There are other items to use, and you can quick slot them for usage. The world can be rewarding if you visit it, but death cuts down your rewards so I saw no benefits.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a gorgeous game with some striking combat, it's also brutally difficult and it isn't very accessible. While I appreciate the beauty of the title, and the distinct combative elements I just can't give this one a pass due to its performance. It doesn't run well and it made me feel sick while playing it, I tried it across multiple situations (different days). There's just something about that poor frame rate on Xbox One X that is unsettling.
I do look forward to visiting it on the next generation assuming it's backwards compatible, I'm sure it'll run cleanly then. Moving past that, I think this game is perfect for a niche audience. There are some players out there that like this sense of ridiculous combat, then this is perfect for you. I see that there's a skill to learning mechanics, but even then the game is too harsh. I didn't have any fun playing this, aside from the grappling. The arm hook to swing around is just an absolute blast, so much fun. You can even shoot from it, but I mentioned that element of modification prior.
It's really cool to slice through enemies, but not so much to get pounded by the same boss over and over. You'll even have to walk a bit to them sometimes, it just gets annoying. I wasn't ever mad while playing, it just felt like a tedious journey. It's a great game, it just has bad performance problems that hold it back and it's not accessible for most players to even try it. It might run better on other platforms, but it didn't where I experienced it. It looked excellent, but minimal in design and I feel that better optimization could have been achieved.
Read our Ashen Review
View our Game Hubs
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Review on Xbox One X
Review Code Provided by Activision