Sekiro Shadows Die Twice was originally set to be a new installment in the Tenchu saga. FromSoftware’s newest casts you as a vengeful Shinobi armed with a Katana and Prosthetic Arm filled with Prosthetic Tools. If that piques your interest and you are excited because you loved the SoulsBorne franchise, then here is a quick guide on some of the essential things you need to know about Sekiro.
Things to Know before Playing Sekiro
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice opens in a war-torn Japan during the “Sengoku” era where the fictional Ashina Clan has defeated their adversaries and risen to absolute power by means of a coop.
A young orphan boy enters the battlefield to scavenge and is taken in by a man known as the Owl. The boy grows up to be known as the Wolf who is a great Shinobi as well as retainer and guardian to a child known as the Divine Heir.
The Wolf loses everything at the start of the story.
He loses his arm to an Ashina clan samurai in a duel, his lord is kidnapped, and the Shinobi is seemingly left for dead until someone known as the Sculptor saves him and gives him a Prosthetic Arm along with the name “Sekiro”.
From there, the rescue mission begins.
The combat felt like Dark Souls but with event more verticality and movement. It is also way faster that Bloodborne.
The combat is extremely responsive, tight, weighted which is common in other FromSoftware titles. However, the Lead Game Designer, Masaru Yamamura, clarified that the combat is entirely new and not like Bloodborne or Dark Souls.
Unlike other FromSoftware titles where you could create a character build to fight in the style of a mage with spells or a hulking-armor-great-weapon-wielding knight; you cannot do that in Sekiro that instead focuses solely on one fixed protagonist and class as well-the Shinobi.
You have to measure your opponent to know when to deflect and counter-attacking. Deflecting an attack perfectly while your opponent’s Posture is low will allow you to perform a Death Blow – essentially an execution.
The timing is very precise on this since you are subject to the same Posture Meter as well and if your swordplay is not up to snuff, you may need to back off to regenerate your Posture for fear of a Deathblow being inflicted on you.
Shinobi Prosthetic and Prosthetic Tools
Sekiro’s Prosthetic Arm gives the Wolf a serious edge in battle.
Its Grappling Hook allows you to vertically traverse the environment with great ease or deploy weapons like the Axe to take down enemy shields, Firecrackers for stunning enemies, and even something that engulfs his katana in flames.
A Metal Fan can also be used as a shield. After several of these tools are found, a loadout can be equipped and then freely cycled through.
These tools consume White Spirit Emblems with each use. Sekiro’s ability to use these tools is nothing short of supernatural due to the ideas of mysticism that are tied to the legend of the ninja.
Beyond item usage, the protagonist is also a master of stealth and swordplay. However, even a master can continue to learn and stealth, swordplay, and items can all be upgraded over time.
Dark Souls and Bloodborne are generally straightforward when it comes to customization. You can upgrade certain stats, build towards a weapon with a particular skill, equip the required items, and use them.
In Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, most upgrades are earned by one of two methods i.e. either by earning enough XP from killing enemies consecutively to gain a Skill Point to then be spent in the Art Trees or from exchanging collectibles like Prayer Beads and Gourd Seeds.
These can be spent in three dedicated skill trees namely Combat Arts, Shinobi Martial Arts, and Latent Skills. However, to upgrade a Skill Tree, you need certain items from the game to unlock it.
Special Combat Arts
Combat Arts are mostly swordplay abilities like the Whirlwind Attack and many more. These are special as they do not require a resource to use, but the catch is that only one can be equipped at any time.
In contrast, Shinobi Arts range from things like Active Abilities or Passive Abilities.
Take “Sculptor’s Karma” for example which provides more Spirit Emblem charges for more prosthetic uses to “Chasing Slash” which as a dash attack follow up to a shuriken throw or “Suppress Presence” which improves stealth and many others.
No Corpse Run
One common irritation that players face in SoulsBorne is losing all their Souls/Blood Echoes, respawning, and frantically running back to get them.
Hidetaka Miyazaki has said that this is not included this in Sekiro as they wanted to avoid doing the same thing again. However, the fear of death is still present and will take on a different shape this time.
Instead of returning to a bloodstain to retrieve your lost XP, Sekiro uses a more traditional system wherein after a full death there is permanent loss of XP and materials.
However, there are blessings from gods and Buddha that can avoid this loss. Obviously, beyond the XP loss and where death can be used as a tool, is the mechanic of Resurrection.
This is because, after death, you can come back at a time of your choosing within a specific time limit. This is a clever way for you to use death to inflict death upon others.
Freedom in Exploration
According to Miyazaki, the world of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice offers much greater freedom in terms of what you explore and in what order than in previous games.
Grappling up makes exploration much more fun and during combat. You can traverse to vantage points to properly assess battles before. You may even overhear their weaknesses with the eavesdropping mechanic.
Enemies Attacking Each Other
You can create some situations in which enemies are baited to attack each other. Bait some demons toward enemy soldiers and pick apart whoever survives.
Dynamic Boss Fights
Due to the exploration aspect of Sekiro’s world as well as the new level of verticality offered by the grappling hook, boss fights are more dynamic as well.
You can roam around the arena seamlessly, advancing, and retreating as necessary to your advantage. However, certain bosses like Lady Butterfly use this to their advantage as well so be careful!
However, according to Miyazaki, not every boss fight can be won by using the Grappling Hook to zip everywhere or stealth kill every boss.
There may be fights where you just need to go toe-to-toe and use every piece of kit in your arsenal to win due to a lack of navigating room.
Stealth is Important!
Stealth is useful for eavesdropping and analyzing potential battles before jumping in, but a full stealth playthrough is not possible since bosses have to be defeated to advance.
However, like Dark Souls, there are still some speed run elements to take advantage of when going through an area.
No Multiplayer Elements
Sekiro players do not have the luxury of playing online with each because the game focuses purely on being a story and character driven singleplayer. Therefore, if you are looking for some kind of PvP experience at launch, you are out of luck!
One aspect that does carry over from the SoulsBorne series is multiple endings. Miyazaki revealed recently that these will be “even more rooted in the story”. It should be interesting to see what choices players can make to influence the ending.