Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice review: Where I died more than two times

I won’t be the first person to make this joke, but here goes: I died more than twice during my time with From Software’s farken hard Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. A lot more than twice.

I actually lost count how many times I died but I got very familiar with the death screen. I saw that a lot.

Sekiro™: Shadows Die Twice_20190328001631

Sekiro, set in feudal era Japan with samurai, katana swords and … giant chickens, has a lot in common with From’s previous games Bloodbourne and Dark Souls. For one, they all revel in the brutality of the combat.

Secondly, patience is a virtue in Sekiro. Rush in and chances are you’ll get overwhelmed by foes and end up on the wrong end of a spear or crushed to death and body slammed by an angry ogre.

And thirdly, learn how to deflect enemy blows every time. Deflecting enemy strikes is often the difference between life and bleeding out the rough ground of a Japanese temple. Deflecting blows successfully means you’ll have more chances to deliver fatal blows and deliver deadly finishing moves.

While the Souls series has its bonfires, Sekiro has its sculptor’s shrines which do the same thing: You can rest, you can upgrade your skills and you can travel back to the Sculptor with upgrades to your prosthetic arm, practice some combat with an undead ally or teleport back to locations you’ve already visited.

Every enemy you kill earns skill points, which can be used to upgrade your combat abilities, and when you die you sometimes get the option to resurrect yourself to get back into the fight. It’s a good feature but it does come with one caveat: Every time you use resurrect, villagers in the game world get more inflicted with a rot that has befallen the world. Nasty.

As Sekiro progresses, he finds weapons that can be added to his prosthetic arm (installed by the mysterious Sculptor at a run-down temple that acts as a world hub): A shuriken-throwing appendige, a flamethrower and an axe that can splinter enemy shields. You’ll need to all as you work you way through a variety of enemies that range from cannon fodder to downright nasty.

So, how did I get on with Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice?

Look, I’ve never got on well with From Software games. Bloodbourne and Dark Souls just destroyed me and I’ll be completely honest about Sekiro. I got frustrated a lot and while I didn’t once throw my Dualshock 4 controller at my TV, I found myself switching the game off after dying for the umpteenth time while facing the same mini-boss. It is a frustration-inducing game.

Here, watch this video of me getting my arse kicked by an angry chained ogre. Warning: While it’s not really spoilery, and it’s very early on in the game, if you don’t want to see the angry ogre, turn away now (or just don’t play the video)

I found the game bloody hard (I can hear the cries of “Git Gud” ringing out right now) and frequently became overwhelmed by foes, backing myself into a corner and spamming the deflect button. I learned very quickly that doesn’t work too well. You have to time the deflect to perfection: Spamming does nothing. I often found the best defence against multiple foes was actually running like hell and avoiding them until I could find a safe rooftop and jump up and have a rest.

Do you see the bastard chicken in the background?

Sekiro is one of those games that one moment you feel like you’ve got to grips with things, using the prosthetic arm attached to your arm to propel you to the top of temples and high stone walls, locking onto an enemy then jumping and delivering a death-blow (complete with spurting blood!) Then the next, when you thought you’d mastered the skills needed to progress, you’re surrounded by giant chickens, which crow your position to nearby soldiers, which then pelt you with by flaming arrows … then you’re pecked to death by said giant chickens.

I can hear the hordes, yelling in the background now: “Git Gud,” “Git Gud,” “Git Gud”.

The way I’m feeling about Sekiro right now, I’d love to say I’ll stick with the game, but being honest, I don’t really think I have the stamina – or patience – to make it through. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is actually making me feel like I’m a bad video game player, and I don’t think I am.

Fans of games like Bloodbourne and Dark Souls will probably revel in Sekiro, but that’s not me.

Excuse me, while I search for the confidence that Sekiro has robbed from me.

Thanks to Total Interactive in New Zealand for the copy of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. 



The GameJunkieNZ PC build project: Part one














Seven years ago, I build my first PC.

It was 2012 – and in real-world computing terms, that makes my PC ancient now.

What seemed la daunting experience actually ended up being a relatively smooth experience considering it was my first attempt. I got all the parts together and over a weekend, assembled the PC and hoped for the best (and, relatively speaking, it was pretty trouble-free).

It was based on an Intel DZ77GA-70K motherboard which I paired with an Intel i7 CPU, 8Gb of RAM, an SSD drive, an HDD drive and a Gigabyte GTX660Ti GPU, all housed with a Fractal tower case and juiced by a 500W Enermax power supply. It was the bees knees as far as was concerned back in 2012 and has served me well over the past few years, playing games, writing blog posts and doing general computery things.

But as the GTX660Ti got less and less relevant in terms of graphical power, my game playing gravitated towards my PS4 – the PS4 Pro (and to a lesser degree, Xbox One) – but I always had a hankering that one day I wanted to return to the “PC Master Race”.

A couple of years ago, I won an MSi GTX950 GPU that I thought I’d throw into my rig. Nope. Turns out the DZ77GA-70K motherboard won’t accept newer GPUs, even with a BIOS update. To make matters worse, Intel has discontinued the board, too, meaning it’s essentially a paperweight now. I still have the GTX950: I’d like to at least give it one go, despite being several cards old now.

For years, my PC was doing all the right things. Until now, that is.

For the past few weeks, my once trusty PC has started Blue Screen of Deathing on an almost daily basis, throwing up disk errors and restarting by itself.

Now it won’t even display anything on my monitor, despite the CPU fan, the case fans and the GPU fans running. I’m at a loss but I think it’s past its use by date. I think it’s dying, if not already dead. I think the drives have given up the ghost.

So, I’ve decided it’s time to consign the old Intel board and GTX660Ti to the PC parts graveyard in the sky and build myself a PC for modern age, especially with games like CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk coming out sometime in the next few years. It’s a game that I think I want to play on PC, not console.

I also want to get back to playing Astroneer, Deus Ex Mankind Divided and all the other PC games in my Steam library that I need a PC to play.

Now, I’m not a risk taker. I’m not a person who rushes out and buys the first shiny thing that tickles my fancy. I do my homework. I read hardware reviews, I talk to people, I get opinions. The past few weeks have been what I like to call the “Do you homework” phase.

I initially contemplated buying a pre-built system from one of the numerous PC retailers around but I decided against it. They seems to be overpriced for the components they have (many of them outdated) so I’ve decided I want to build my own again. There’s something about building a PC from scratch that’s just so satisfying.

My plan is to use the existing Fractal case and PSU (500W should be enough), so need to buy a CPU, motherboard, RAM and storage, probably an SSD for the Operating System and a traditional HDD for everything else. I’m not flush with cash, though, so plan to buy one thing a month (well, that’s the plan), and I’m thinking of going for an nVidia GTX1060 6Gb GPU or whatever the budget allows.

The right brain

Perhaps the toughest decision I had was deciding what CPU to pick. Did I go with Intel, which I have for every PC I’ve owned, or AMD who seem to be making waves with its Ryzen line.

After watching lots of YouTube videos, talking to IT colleagues at work and having general discussions with online friends, I had it down to two choices, given my budget: Intel’s i5 8400 or AMD’s Ryzen 5 2600. Both had pros and cons, with the i5 pricier than the Ryzen.

Based on my research, AMD’s Ryzen 5 is cheaper and good for streaming and video editing, but Intel’s i5 seems to be faster when it comes to gaming, and that’s what I’m going to be using my PC for, mostly. Sure the i5 was dearer but when it came to game playing, it seemed to tick all the right boxes. Decisions, decisions …

Gentlemen, start your engines …

So yesterday, after weeks of tossing up between what CPU and motherboard combination to get, this suddenly happened:


I went to a local retailer that I’ve bought PC parts from before in the past and bought an Intel i5 CPU, an Asus Prime B365M motherboard and 8GB of RAM (memory prices have dropped dramatically over the past few months so it’ll be relatively cheap to move up to another 8GB if I want to). Just like that. All for princely sum of $NZ546, which I thought wasn’t too bad at all, actually. Although, I have already broken my “Buy one part a month” plan.

I was actually intending to go to another local retailer that was having an End of Year sale but, frankly, its pricing was $40 to $50 dearer than the other retailer I bought the parts from, even “on sale”. Go figure, eh? The guy where I bought the parts from even installed the CPU for me, meaning I didn’t have to worry about screwing that up!

OK, so the next step is to start researching SSDs and HDDs and graphics cards, although the GTX950 I have could fill in until I get Home Office approval to buy something more modern.

Any suggestions?




My The Division 2 review will be delayed: Here’s why

My review of Ubisoft’s The Division 2 will be delayed, and I’m not sure when I’ll get back to wanting to play the game, to be honest. I will post a review at some point. I just don’t know when that will be.

My reasoning for not going back to The Division 2 right now is simple: Following the tragic events that happened in Christchurch, New Zealand last Friday – my home city – where a deranged hate monger killed 50 innocent people and injured numerous others using semi-automatic weapons – I’m just not in the mood to play a game where shooting people with a variety of weapons is a core component of the game play.

I’ve played about two hours of the game but haven’t touched it since Friday’s event. I’m just not in the right frame of mind.

This is not a political statement about video games: I still love video games and will continue to play them. It’s just that I don’t feel comfortable playing The Division 2 right now – or any shooter, actually – when the events of last Friday are so raw and so real to everyone in Christchurch.

I also work for the New Zealand Emergency Ambulance Service so the tragic events of Friday are very close to home for me on a daily basis as I interact with the heroic ambulance officers who did what they were trained to do in a horrific environment.  

I will go back to The Division 2 at some point but I’m not sure when that point will be. Now is not the time for me. I’m sure you understand.


Remote Play iOS: A nice idea but give me a controller any day

If you’re a PlayStation owner and also own a PS Vita, you’ll [hopefully] know all about  the Remote Play function.

Remote Play functionality is a feature that’s been around [if my memory serves me correctly] as far back as the days of the PlayStation 3, although it wasn’t supported by a lot of games.

Essentially, what it does is let you stream the game you’re playing on your PS4 to your Vita’s screen while the TV that your console is connected to is being used by your better half to watch another six-hour instalment of the latest reality dating/marriage/building/cooking reality fresh from Australia (thanks, Trans Tasman neighbour for sending all these great shows to our shores!)

Any way, I digress: Remote Play functionality is a great idea but it does come with some caveats.

Firstly, games that are really graphically intensive games [Red Dead Redemption 2, Metro Exodus] can be laggy if you’re got a slow internet connection and often the Vita’s rear touch pad needs to substitute as the Dualshock 4 controller’s trigger buttons, which can be finicky at times. I also find that text is impossibly small to read when it’s displayed on the Vita’s screen, even when I’m wearing my reading glasses.

OK, so why am I talking about Remote Play now? Well, the latest PS4 firmware update that was out this week lets you remotely play PS4 games on iOS using PlayStation’s own Remote Play app.

So in the interests of gaming journalism, I decided to test out the new app and see whether it was something I’d use on a regular basis.

My game of choice was the third edition in Rocksteady’s most excellent Batman video games, Arkham Knight [which I’ve just started re-playing]. I downloaded the Remote Play app onto my Apple iPad (9.6-inch screen), keen to see of the functionality worked on a 9.7-inch screen as opposed to the Vita’s 5-inch screen.

The title screen of Batman Arkham Knight. The virtual Dualshock 4 is overlaid onto the screen when you’re holding your iOS device in landscape mode.

Set up of the Remote Play is simple enough: You click on the app icon then it establishes a connection between the PS4 and the iOS device. Once a connection is established, the PS4 home screen appears on your iOS device’s screen. If you hold your device in portrait mode, the screen is divided in two: The top half displaying what is on-screen, the bottom half displaying a virtual layout of the Dualshock 4 controller. If you hold the device in landscape mode, the virtual controller is overlaid across the screen image.

The biggest caveat of any remote play solution is that you’re reliant on the stability and strength of your wi-fi connection. I was playing in a room where I was about 6 feet from the router, so the connection remained pretty stable [there was the odd, noticeable stutter] but, of course, your mileage will vary depending on how far away you are from your internet router and how strong the wi-fi signal.

OK, so what did I think of the Remote Play iOS app? I think it’s a neat feature but it’s not particularly suited to action games like Batman Arkham Knight, where precise movement and quick reactions are the difference between life and death, literally.

I was most interested to see how the on-screen virtual controller worked for driving sequences. Driving the Batmobile almost proved impossible: In tight environments, like the tunnel system in the Gotham Police Station, I was hitting walls and barriers, and in more open roads, the vehicle was sliding around uncontrollably. It wasn’t a pleasant experience.

The next game I tested was Marvel’s Spider-Man, from Insomniac.

The on-screen overlay allows for a bit more fluidity but ultimately, the virtual thumb sticks just can’t provide that precision movement and fluidity that you get with Dualshock 4. Swinging between buildings and around the city worked well using the on-screen overlay but in the end, nothing beats a physical controller.

Remote Play on iOS is a great idea but I think that despite its smaller screen, the Remote Play on the PS Vita is a superior experience given you’ve actually got physical button’s that provide that tactile feedback.

That’s not to say I don’t see a place for Remote Play on iOS but I think it would have to be a platform game or something that wasn’t as demanding as a game like Red Dead Redemption 2, Arkham Knight and Spider-Man. A physical controller is a definite advantage over a virtual one.

Something I would like to see in a future update in the Remote Play for iOS app is the ability to connect a physical controller, perhaps via Bluetooth to your iOS device. If that happened I think the Remote Play app would be a no brainer.

Now, if only there was some way I could merge the screen of my iPad with the body of my PS Vita, I’d have the perfect remote play device …



Sekiro Shadows Die Twice is almost upon us

Sekiro Shadows Die Twice, from the same crowd that bought us Bloodbourne and Dark Souls, is out later this month (March 22) and Activision have released a truckload of new screen shots.

Feast your eyes, gamers.

I wonder if Sekiro will be as difficult as the Dark Souls series: Those games kicked my arse severely.