The Shinobi Way

User Rating: 9 | Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice PS4

When Sekiro was first announced, I wasn't interested in the game as I had just finished Bloodborne and I thought I'd had my fill of difficult games for some time. The months passed and I watched some gameplay, Sekiro looked so unique and interesting. I ended up getting the game and was instantly hooked on it. Sekiro is a game about stealth, aggressive combat, and victory before honor.

You play as wolf, the quiet Shinobi serving his master, Kuro. At the beginning of the game, Wolf is a broken man. We are never told why specifically, but as you progress you get a sword and you learn that things aren't so quiet or calm in this section of Japan. As you leave to guide Kuro for the first time, I stealth killed my first enemy and was charged by another one. Instinctively I hit the deflect button and the red dot popped up to deathblow the enemy. It was a lightning fast moment that captivated me instantly. These first few minutes are a very narrow definition of the game as a whole, but great examples nonetheless.

I fought numerous mini bosses, several large and challenging foes, and earned different prosthetic attachments that allowed me different ways to combat enemies. It was fun to experiment with various techniques and combat strategies. The vertical nature of the game adds a very fun method of traversal and strategies for stealth kills. Every enemy is more powerful than you are, so you must learn ways to conquer your enemies in any way shape or form. No technique is unfair, as a shinobi, such as Wolf, knows victory comes before honor. Several, if not all, mini bosses can be snuck up on for a deathblow, depleting half or maybe even all of their health. While regular bosses will always make you challenge them straight up, they are a true test of skill. The first boss I faced took me a lot of time to beat, it was the greatest challenge I'd faced to that point in a video game. I learned so much, though. Timing deflections, learning patterns, and the way the game would challenge me for the remainder of my time with it.

There are some minor hiccups with Sekiro, but they aren't enough to detract what is an otherwise magnificent game. Frame pacing on console is off and it can be jarring at times when you are moving around, but fortunately it never negatively impacted combat in any way. I always felt death was a result of my own failures. At the end of the game, there is a fairly significant difficulty spike with the final boss. While it is certainly doable and appropriately challenging, the first phase of the final fight works for cinematic purposes, but ultimately it makes the fight feel needlessly drawn out. By the hundredth time of the first phase, I couldn't help but wonder why the decision was to keep it in rather than eliminating it after the first time you pass it.

Sekiro may not be a game for everyone due to it's challenging nature, but it is certainly one of the finest games with the most slick combat in any game. Anyone looking for a challenge should pick it up and stick with it through the end.