I am currently at the end of Sekiro and my thoughts on it are a bit complicated. Let’s go back to the beginning of my From Software gaming history. A long time ago I played a bit of Demon Souls on the PS3, not really knowing what the genre was all about, just that it was hard. I was a bit naive to it all, which showed with the minuscule amount of progress I actually made in the game. I think I went to a harder area, thinking it was the critical path and just got my ass whooped over and over. I thought to myself, “this is what it’s all about? I’m out!”. So I left that game, skipped Dark Souls 1-3 and eventually wound up taking on Bloodborne. I thought I’d give it a shot and see how it went.
I thought Bloodborne was a masterpiece in game design. The level design is what other games in this style should study and replicate. There is a sense of discovery around every corner. When you realize this path your going on loops back to one of the earlier lanterns in the area is really amazing, it gives the world a sense of space and scale that you rarely ever find in these types of games. The combat in Bloodborne starts out feeling difficult and obtuse, yet slowly forms into a coherent system of attacking and dodging. The story is as cryptic as ever however, and is best enjoyed through a YouTube video explaining the ins and outs.
After demolishing Bloodborne and getting the platinum trophy in it, I decided it was time to take on Dark Souls 3. I ended up really loving that game also, the combat and level design are just so satisfying. I attempted to get to the platinum but gave up after seeing how long it was going to take me to farm the required materials needed. Perhaps I’ll try again later.
If I have to pinpoint what I love the most about Sekiro, I’d have to say it’s the level design. It does keep up the style that From Software is known for, and even adds a proper jump mechanic and grappling system. Although the ledge hang “system” can be frustrating as hell and cause a few unearned deaths.
The aesthetics of the game do seem very similar throughout which is a disappointment. The environment you’re going through at hour 5 looks very similar to the environment you’re plodding through at hour 35. There are little hidden areas hidden around, which usually end up being dark caves or something similar. I just wished there were more variety to make it seem like you’re really going places. It does get a bit more greener and a bit more colorful at the later stages, but only just.
I found the combat at first to be traumatically hard. Not so much with the general riff-raff of enemies, but with the mini-bosses and actual bosses. It basically slaps you in the face with a limp one and takes your lunch money. Especially if you take the “wrong” path early like I did. I tried to take out the horse boss before getting the proper skills and arm upgrades to make things manageable. I was able to back out of that fight and explore other areas of the world and pick up new skills which is one of the wonderful things about the game.
If you stick with it you do eventually start to find your groove. The little enemies start to become fodder for your sword. You either sneak up and one hit them or spam the R1 until you break their defenses and kill them. You start figuring out the pattern of blocking and dodging attacks, or trying to pull of a mikiri counter. When you do figure it all out, combat becomes a satisfying hit of dopamine.
When I play one of the “soulsborne” games, I love getting to a new area and defeating every enemy around, picking up every item and exploring for hidden secrets. It’s what these games are all about for me. Once an area has been fully cleared out once, then and only then are you allowed to rush through and skip enemies!
In every From Software game that I played, there’s always been a boss or tough enemy that I’ve just been in the moment with and killed the first try without dying. For this game it was the big flaming bull that you come across. I demolished this thing. Rewards like that make you feel like you’re progressing skill wise and help keep you going.
What stops that motivation are some of the bosses. Currently I’m sitting at the end of the game as I write this, I’ve done the shit ending since it was pretty easy. I made a backup save so I was able to reload to try one of the other endings. I continued on and tried fighting the Wolf again, this time in the burning room where the old lady and I once fought. That fight just turned into a fucking frustrated mess. So I bounced out and went down another path for the purification ending, I’m now stuck at the real last boss of the game.
And now I’m really struggling…
I’m struggling to find the motivation to learn the boss and commit to going through all the work to get the end credits and the trophies associated with them. I had to just stop and walk away, I’ll reflect on it and see if I have it in me to pick up the controller again and attempt the fight.
I can beat the first guy without getting hit on a good run, then a person grows out of his body and I can do really well on hist first phase also. Then he gets new attacks and I have to do it all over again for two more rounds, so that’s four total. I saw a strategy of just running around and taking pot shots at him here and there. I guess I’ll try this again. (I did this earlier today and fell off the map, killing me instantly. Why is it an instant-kill in this fight and not the rest of the game?).
I don’t want to give up on the game. I know I can beat these bosses, like I’ve said, I’ve gone through DS3 and Bloodborne and even the chalice dungeons in Bloodborne. So I know I have it in me. Some of the last chalice dungeon bosses I had to play one night for a few hours, rest the night and attempt the next day to beat them. That stategy worked wonders for me.
I feel like I’d be having more fun playing some of the other games I have on my system and that’s what it comes down to. Is it worth whatever accolades I’d get from beating the game “properly” or is playing some other games that I’d enjoy a lot more be a better use of my time. It’s hard because I really do feel like I need to beat this game, even though I kind of did.
The story in this game is serviceable to the gameplay. It motivates you to go around and do the things your doing, kill these people and explore these areas. It’s very basic which allows it to stay in your head and keeps the goal front and center. It’s nothing great, like most video game stories, but I also don’t need to watch any YouTube videos on what the fuck actually happened so that’s good I suppose.
Final Score – 9.2
Right now, with all my frustration with the last two bosses I’m stuck on, one on each of my saves, this is the best score I can give the game. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone that doesn’t want to break a controller or two, especially if they’ve never played a From Software game. If you’re coming into this blind be warned right now, a mini-boss will demolish you for hours if you’re not careful. If you don’t mind a bit of punishment for the reward of unbeatable gameplay, then give it a shot. Have patience and try to keep a level head, if you get stuck on a boss, look up a strategy online. It’s not cheating since you’re still going to need skill to beat it no matter what.
I do wonder if I’ll have this platinum in my collection in the next year or two…