Hidetaka Miyazaki is one of my favourite Japanese gaming minds out there, alongside Hideo Kojima, Suda51 and Toshihiro Nagoshi. He was the director of both of my most beloved PS3 and PS4 video games: Demon’s Souls and Bloodborne. The amount of joy, frustration, empowerment, “You Died”s, and asphyxiating pain they gave me were an invaluable treasure. I could tell you why I’m so keen on these experiences, but I’ll leave that for another time – foreshadowing another article? Who knows?
Remember when we watched that cryptic FromSoftware teaser at last PSX? We only saw a prosthetic arm, but it was enough to start the hype train – destination: Bloodborne 2. I was a skeptic at first – I really thought it would be a new Tenchu or something in that spirit. Then, rumours started leaking… it wasn’t long before we discovered, during Microsoft’s last E3, that the phrase “Shadows Die Twice” was the actual subtitle of a new IP: Sekiro. You may have been disappointed at first – I know I was, kind of – but… today I feel completely confident that this was the best move Miyazaki could have made. And, with guidance from my Irish Himalayas-climbing partner Cian Maher, I will tell you why.
New IP = No Strings On Me (Mom, I Can Jump Now!)
Let’s be honest for a second, shall we? I love all of the Souls games – yes, even Dark Souls 2, that uninspired black sheep. But are they all that different? I know hardcore fans will argue that there are a lot of differences between Dark Souls I and III (and hey, they will probably be right). But, for those less experienced with the franchise, it could be difficult to notice any substantial changes, aside from graphics and improved/faster character mobility. Nevertheless I will say that there was a very important leap from Demon’s Souls to Dark Souls, and a more refined and stylish one from Dark Souls to Bloodborne (I would say this was a leap to perfection, but remember – I’m a fanboy). If we imagined what Bloodborne 2 would be like, we could have theorised about new content, like new orgasmic bosses, and an outstanding Lovecraftian world. Also, some gameplay improvements…but drastic changes? Not likely.
Sekiro, on the other hand, clearly has Souls DNA in it (that trick weapon looked sick) in addition to juicy new mechanics. For starters, we have a jump button. No, we haven’t seen the protagonist jump by himself (without the hook), but there is already information confirming this. Instead of a stamina bar, we will have a “posture” system. Each time we land an attack, the enemy will defend themselves and lose posture. When they have none, we can make a “finishing” move.Our defense works in the same way, with the option of blocking at the perfect time – like a parry.
This will leave the enemy defenseless and ready to be cut in half, without the player losing any posture. The posture system helps to create a degree of immersion, drawing inspiration from the historical concept of the shinobi, Japanese warriors of legend who fought with skill and respect.
Another new and interesting gameplay mechanic is the grappling hook. The possibilities of hooking onto ledges and enemies introduce an exciting new dynamic to the combat. For the first time, we won’t be fighting on the ground alone, and maybe we will be able to execute some kinds of aerial-combos, or special movements. The last additions to gameplay, so far, are the stealth mechanics – hey, so it is Tenchu in a way – and the “cat-and-mouse” sequences: apparently there will be huge enemies which will pursue the player across the map. It isn’t clear how these situations are going to play out, but they sound more interesting than what we are used to (trying to find a boss, fight it in its arena, then continue to the next zone, repeat, etc.)
Hey, I Know That Guy! (No Classes To Choose)
Hey, the long hours of checking every option in the customization menu for our character – usually ending in a horrible unique design – are gone! (there were some dedicated people who made Piccolo, as well as some other impressive characters). Sekiro has a predefined protagonist, and that’s it. In addition, no more “crucial decisions” to be made about selecting a mage or a thief.
It’s still uncertain whether we will able to use magic, or similar abilities, or even what kind of level progression system there will be; however, it looks like our protagonist is “just a warrior”. One may argue that the previous possibilities of giving personality to a character, making them a rather personal and special individual, have been lost – and they could be right. If you are the kind of RPG player who loves recreating himself/herself on the screen, this may seem like bad news. However, I’m really excited for this.
For the first time in almost ten years, we might have a compelling protagonist. One with feelings, desires, attitude, likes & dislikes, a past, maybe a toxic ex or even some drinking problems. I never felt any real connection with any of my Souls created characters – besides the frustration of dying over and over again, I believe – and perhaps that was never the idea. Change of plans. Our guy has his origin and his hopes and dreams. Thinking about the bigger picture, I’m starting to consider if…
…Action Adventure Game Means More “Focused” Story?
A more accessible story? No more hearing the sarcastic and depressive dialogues a hundred times, trying to connect some lore. And last, but not least: no more item-reading bullshit?! Maybe the days of wandering around without any idea of what the hell is going on in our fantasy lands are over. We could finally stop checking VaatiVidya for lore explanations every ten minutes (not really, I love that guy). Although I have no problem with the iconic mode of storytelling the saga has used to date, I find it very refreshing to see a more classic approach to structured tale design. I’m looking forward to seeing what FromSoftware can achieve with these tools after all of the climactic and touching moments they have crafted across five games without them.
The Loneliest Journey (No Multiplayer “Of Any Kind”)
You are far away from the last bonfire, lacking any Estus Flasks, and the map is still making you run in circles.
“Phantom xXx_trololol_xXx has invaded”.
“OH, FOR SOLAIRE’S SAKE!”
That’s gone. We are safe. We won. Gwyn bless Japan.
No more summoning yellowed friends doing the “praise the sun” gestures.
I feel this is the second most important change in Sekiro. The absence of multiplayer is a total game-changer, and I know it is filling everybody with doubts. Nevertheless, I have +60 Faith, and I believe that this won’t be a bad call. There should be improvements in the single player experience that make us forget we even lost the possibility of MP. Also, we have no idea about whether or not dead enemies will come back as red phantoms, and the role (or even existence) of NPCs, is yet to be confirmed. As for the first big change…
A Hard Goodbye To An Old Friend (No More “You Died” Screens)
“Shadows Die Twice”… does it ring a bell? Apparently, with no further explanation, we will be able to “revive” every now and then. No, I’m not on drugs. I really mean revive. Like when you come back from Hell after being punished by the gods – or, just hit “retry” at the screen menu, if you are a mortal gamer – like me – and not some angry bald dude. In Sekiro, our protagonist can stand back up and try to kill his killer. Imagine how many times you have died just before giving that last hit to Flamelurker, or the hours – come on, don’t lie to me – spent trying to kill Ludwig.
I know what you’re thinking: this sounds like the game is going to be ea*ier – I’m sorry, but that word and the Souls saga (except Dark Souls II) cannot go together, so I’m censoring it. Normally, I would agree. But Lord Miyazaki has already said that Sekiro will be even “more challenging” than the previous games. So, let’s try to be a little optimistic here. FromSoftware has already delivered – in a huge way – in this regard, and we all know it.
There is no further information about this “revive system” available at present, but what we do know is that there will be a limited amount of times we can revive the character. We can only wait to see what comes next from a studio that meant so much for the gaming industry.