Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Xbox One X Review
Available Now on Xbox One, PS4 and PC.
Version Tested: Xbox One X
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is from the makers of the Dark Souls series, most would expect this then to be a bit of a challenge for almost every gamer on the planet! If you are thinking that then you are more than right! This game is hard and punishes you many times!
In Sekiro you will take the role of a Shinobi which is the name used to identify a type of Ninja. That Shinobi is named Sekiro or The Wolf as he’s often referred to. Armed with a Prosthetic arm (not from the start but it won’t take long till it is at your disposal) and the power of resurrection, the Shinobi are sworn to Iron code of protecting the Divine Heir with their life. With the Shinobi’s master Kuro kidnapped it will be your job to rescue your master and protect the powers of resurrection.
Exploring the world you will come across many different enemies all which carry a substantial challenge to defeat! Using your Katana you will need to defeat many enemies and take down some pretty fearsome bosses in the process, with all this fighting combat plays a pretty large part in Sekiro which is great because the gameplay and combat are Sekiro’s main strengths, although getting the swordplay wrong can leave you feeling pretty frustrated! Like Dark Souls one wrong timed move and you can expect to be in pretty big trouble with some enemies only needing two or three hits at most to completely wipe out your health bar.
Bosses tend to use bigger attacks and some warning will be given with a red symbol showing above your head just before it is going to happen, these attacks are something that will wipe your health bar fast so avoiding them at all costs is essential to surviving! The three different main attacks they perform are sweep, thrust and grab and all of them can’t be blocked so jumping out the way or dodging them is the only way to preserve your precious health bar!
With the combat being pretty unforgiving and punishing pretty much any wrong move. Dodging and jumping are essential but for the weak attacks so is blocking! Blocking will result in your posture decreasing which is shown by the bar along the bottom of the screen, once this bar is full your block will be broken and an attack will get through so sitting holding block for too long isn’t an option. The enemy also have this posture bar and lowering theirs is important to actually being able to defeat them, constantly hitting them isn’t something that you will be able to do successfully though as they will most likely counter one of the attacks and cause damage so you will need to time things and combine blocking and moving to counter them and continually decrease their posture or health until they have been defeated! Attacks will need to be continuous though as if the enemy is left alone for too long the posture bar will recover and all the hard work put in to dismantle it will be a complete waste.
There is an option to train up and improve your own skills, going to the Dilapidated Temple you will come across a path out of the area with a strange looking man called Hanbei The Undying . In this area he will give you the chance to train against him and learn new skills which will aid you in combat. As you work through the basics of the training other things unlock for you to practice which includes a free combat option giving you the chance to try out everything you have learned on Hanbei. The Sculpters Idol also has an option to acquire skills, this menu will give you the chance to spend your upgrade points you have earned through defeating enemies and unlock some different attacks and counters as well as upgrades to the Prosthetic. Upgrading and learning new skills is essential to combat and in some fights it’s barely possible without these new moves.
Death blows are something that you will be working towards with dismantling the posture but can also be performed through stealth attacks as well. Using stealth you can take out multiple enemies in one strike! Stealth is pretty essential to clearing some levels and it does make things easier because I’ve found that anytime I have ended up in a brawl will multiple enemies it usually ends in my death and me being resurrected at the last Sculpters Idol that I went to.
Being resurrected wouldn’t be so bad however if it didn’t respawn every enemy that you have just taken down, this is the punishment for dying so staying alive to clear the levels is essential! Enemies also respawn even if you rest at the nearest Sculpters Idol so being beaten by the boss at the end of the section can be really frustrating if you manage to clear the everything all the way there only to die at the end! Sekiro is very very unforgiving but it makes the game very addictive trying to master getting through the section of the level with minimal damage so you can face the boss at the end.
Sekiro can resurrect but only once after that you will be put back to the last Sculpters Idol with all the enemies you have just cleared being respawned. While your only real weapon is the Katana that Sekiro wields there are other items to aid your journey, healing gourds recover health and picking up gourd seeds will allow Sekiro to increase the amount of healing gourds he can carry. Preyer beads are collected to increase health Sekiro’s actual health bar and posture. Then there are new attachments to be found that can be fitted to your Shinobi Prosthetic as well as many other items to aid your journey like oil to throw at enemies to help ignite them when you use your Flame Vent.
The prosthetic is a pretty cool addition to Sekiro when he acquires it, Sekiro gains access to a grappling hook to reach places that were before out of reach! He can also equip attachments like the flame vent that can deal fire damage to enemies as well as inflicting a burn status to them. I found the flame vent essential to the chained ogre I faced early on in the game, sometimes you will come across enemies that can be eavesdropped on and they will reveal secrets such as the two I did that said the chained ogre feared fire. The fight with the chained ogre could be done without the flame vent if you didn’t have it but using it made things a fair bit easier! Sekiro is a game where you will constantly find yourself planning ahead and who to take down first, taking out archers is always a good thing to do first and clearing all the smaller enemies before attempting to take out a boss is a must!
Stealth isn’t something that can really help much with some bosses but the game does force you to use it in some sections because as I mentioned brawling with multiple foes tends to only end in one way. The strange thing about the stealth though is I feel it is one of the games weakest areas, mainly due to the AI of enemies. Fighting one of one is a real challenge but when moving around in stealth, which has to be said isn’t all that great, enemies tend to lose all AI! Often I would stealth kill someone and be seen only to run off and hide, wait a seconds for the pursuing guard just to give up and go back to his post, then go back and take him out, if you rinse and repeat the technique it’s pretty easy to clear some of the games sections with multiple enemies.
While taking enemies out in stealth can be fun it can also be pretty repetitive! Planning your route around can feel good when it comes off without being seen but the constant cycle of kill, hide, wait for AI to reset position, then do it over and over can can get repetitive. Enemies don’t really even react to bodies left laying dead on the floor which is a real let down, they acknowledge them and look around aimlessly for a bit but then just walk off like nothing has happened.
The stealth control in the game can feel clunky and awkward, hanging stealthily from a ledge and climbing up will take you out of stealth and leave you standing in full view and this is the same after you sneak up and perform a stealth kill. Dropping stealthily is also not quiet and this could mainly be your own fault as landing on something wooden or breakable will make noise and alert enemies close by in the process. The stealth area in the game is strange that the game emphasises so much on stealth but at the same time makes it really hard to actually be stealthy, only silly things like not staying in stealth after performing a certain action can cause major problems. The stealth isn’t terrible and far from the worst I have ever used but it could be better with a few small adjustments.
The camera most of the time is ok and the locking on system works well, just moving the right analogue stick towards the target you want to lock onto. The camera however in small spaces can be a bit hit and miss. I have been killed a few times because I have backed myself into a corner and the camera just goes mad leaving me with a pretty unhelpful view of the back of Sekiro’s head! It can be frustrating but it will make you plan the space that you are fighting in.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is possibly one of the hardest games I have ever come across and I died multiple times through my play-through, however I found myself always coming back and that is because the story was simple but yet left me wanting to play more. The fighting was fantastic and the strongest part of the whole game, I really had to perfect and master it to actually progress through the story and beating some of the games harder bosses left me with a great sense of achievement. Along with the main story there is also plenty of other side stories to keep you busy and to explore. The music and sound effects were perfect and the voice acting throughout I really couldn’t fault! The facial animations could do with some work but I can’t say I really paid to much attention to them. Graphically I was really impressed, the colours were bright, vivid and the game world had plenty of detail throughout with some really well thought up and scary looking bosses!
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a perfect game for any Dark Souls fan and even those who are not. The game will be frustrating for some but if you can persevere with it and learn the way it’s meant to be played you will really appreciate the combat! Great visuals and sound make the whole experience fantastic but the combat and storytelling are the main areas the game excels in. Stealth could do with some work as could the facial animations but other than that I have to say I am really impressed and Sekiro is a game I would happily recommend! Be ready to die many times if you do decide to buy it, Sekiro is about as unforgiving as you would expect from the Dark Souls creators!
8.9 / 10
This game code was sent to us free of charge for our honest review and has in no way influenced our rating of the game.