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, 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.
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.