Following the release of Bloodborne in 2015 and Dark Souls III the next year, developer From Software largely went quiet. A direct sequel in the Souls series seemed unlikely, with a potential Bloodborne follow-up among the most frequently predicted games the studio was working on, but neither turned out to be director Hidetaka Miyazaki’s next major project.
Instead, the studio partnered with Activision to create Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Lifting elements from the Souls-like genre without fitting its mold exactly, Sekiro is a brutal and adrenaline-packed action game that represents the next stage of From Software, and it’s shaping up to be one of the studio’s best games. Here is everything we know about Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.
Set in 16th century Sengoku Japan
Rather than take place in a fantasy world like Bloodborne or the Souls games, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is set in 16th century Sengoku Japan, a period characterized by war. As the “one-armed wolf,” you’re sworn to protect the young “descendent of an ancient bloodline,” but ultimately fail to stop her capture. With the Ashina clan threatening your life, you must rescue her.
The “one-armed wolf” name comes as a result of your character losing his arm during the kidnapping, and it’s replaced with a prosthetic limb that gives him access to a number of different tools and abilities.
Despite taking place in Japan, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is far from a realistic game – instead, it blends fantasy elements into the historical setting. In the gameplay footage we’ve seen thus far, many of the enemies you fight are monsters, similar to the enemies in the Souls-like Nioh. Among them is a giant ogre creature capable of crushing humans beneath its feet, as well as an enormous snake.
The protagonist himself is also supernatural, and this is what the Shadows Die Twice name is referring to. Upon death, he’s capable of reviving himself on the spot and continuing to engage in battle. The exact reason behind this is unknown, but the feature was subtly revealed in a trailer before the full game title was even announced.
One area we know more about is called the Dilapidated Temple, which will act as a hub region in Sekiro – think of it like the Hunter’s Dream in Bloodborne or the Firelink Shrine in Dark Souls. According to Game Informer, the location will be where you go to progress your character as well as increase the uses for your “Healing Gourd” – the game’s substitute for Estus Flasks.
You’ll be able to go the Dilapidated Temple by visiting sculptor’s idols, which are like bonfires, which should make getting from destination to destination easier. The last one you have rested at will act as a checkpoint, but you will not have to go retrieve your body if you happen to get killed while out in the world.
Tough but flashy combat
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is still rooted in the reaction-based, tough-as-nails combat of From Software’s other games, but there are far more options at your disposal. You can jump this time around, allowing for you to reach higher obstacles and get the drop on enemies. There are also stealth mechanics, with the ability to grab an enemy from the around the corner and silently kill them without anyone else noticing.
The “Shinobi prosthetic” you’re gifted at the beginning of the game is the tool you’ll use to get an advantage over enemies. It can function as a grappling hook, a secondary bladed weapon, or even a flamethrower, depending on the situation, and is used alongside a standard katana held in your other hand. The katana will be your primary weapon for dealing with most enemies.
You’ll still be dodging and timing your strikes against enemies in Sekiro, but the flow of combat is different than in the Souls games. You’re not merely trying to lower their health bar, but rather break their “posture” in order to get in one powerful blow. The enemy can also lower your own posture in order to damage you, so you must be mindful of this while planning your attacks. You do also have a health bar displayed in the lower-left corner of the screen, and you can make use of healing items in order to keep it topped off.
Against weaker enemies, one killing blow will be all you need to end a fight, but certain types of enemies, including mid-bosses, require more – the Samurai General enemy type takes two, for instance. Larger bosses with even more health are also in the game and feature their own health bars alongside their posture.
These baddies are more likely to kill you, as well, which is where Sekiro’s death mechanic comes into play. You’re allowed to revive yourself once after death, letting you continue a battle where it would typically end in another From Software game. Die again, and you’ll be sent back to the sculptor’s idol, but the mechanic should help you squeeze out victories against certain bosses. Perhaps to offset the advantage you get from this ability, Sekiro will feature no online multiplayer, so you can’t simply have another player beat bosses while you sit and wait.
Not a role-playing game
In stark contrast to the rest of From Software’s work, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is not a role-playing game. You won’t be able to customize your gear or allot points into different statistics. According to Game Informer’s February cover story, you’ll instead fill up an experience bar as you make your way through the game, and you’ll be rewarded skill point to spend in a skill tree each time it is filled completely.
There will be three branches of the tree, focusing on katana attacks, prosthetic arm attacks, and evasive moves. The abilities available to your prosthetic can vary depending on items you find in the environment, and certain items can also permanently increase your health and posture, as well.
Finding the different attachments for the prosthetic arm will be crucial to having success against even the weakest enemies. One enemy we’ve seen in gameplay demonstrations uses a large wooden shield that is immune to almost all attacks. However, the axe attachment cleaves the shield in two, making the enemy vulnerable to a wide array of abilities.
When can we play it?
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice will be available on March 22 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. The game will release with a $90 collector’s edition, which comes with a seven-inch statue, steelbook case, map, digital soundtrack, three coins, and an art book.
Those who pre-order the game will be sent a code, which offers an unrevealed bonus, and GameStop pre-order customers will also be a katana replica letter opener for free.