Some days, I lament that FromSoftware — once known for Otogi and Armored Core — are now (near) exclusively the Soulsborne studio. Then I watch today’s near-launch ‘overview’ trailer for Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and suddenly don’t feel so sad, because it looks fab. It’s a more agile and aggressive game than even Bloodborne or the similarly Sengoku-era styled Nioh, blending the familiar high tension combat of Dark Souls with everything we associate with ninjas. Check out the hacking and slashing below, with a dash of stealth and a very snazzy grappling hook.
While the over-the-shoulder and lock-on centric combat of Sekiro is obviously based on Dark Souls and its spinoffs (especially Bloodborne), it reminds me a lot of their older games, especially Otogi and their past work on the Tenchu series. Fights look like they can get big, messy and complicated in Sekiro, with one or two mini-bosses hunting you down along with a half-dozen grunts. The player’s high agility, including a jump button and the ability to grapple to rooftops, allows you to work like a proper anime ninja, picking off stragglers as you work towards the core of a group.
It looks to be a lot less of an RPG than the loot-hoarding Nioh, with progression happening via a rigid skill tree, new gadgets unlocking for your prosthetic ninja-arm over time. The flow of its fights reminds me a lot of the most intense, mobile boss battles in Bloodborne, only stretched out to an entire game. Death seems to be a major part of the experience as well, the player granted a single extra life per stop at a checkpoint or stealthy assassination move. Two deaths in a row can lose progress and resources, so reason to be careful, but the bouncy ninja pace of the combat already has me wanting to take risks.
Sekiro launches this Friday, March 22nd. You can find it here on Steam for £50/€60/$60, with no season pass or DLC plans announced. It’s published by Activision in the west, but FromSoftware themselves in other territories.