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Review: Sekiro (2019)


Title: Sekiro

By: FromSoftware, Activision

Genre: Action-Adventure

Key Creators: Hidetaka Miyazaki (Director), Yuzo Kojima (Producer)

Grade: A

In a Nutshell:

You are a shinobi named Wolf, and with your trusty sword and swiss-army-prosthetic-arm, you seek revenge on the samurai who has kidnapped your lord.

The Critique:

In one or two sentences: Sekiro lives up to the hype. It is a very good game.

As much as this conversation annoys me at this point, it’s important to say something about this game in relation to that game that is so constantly mentioned in reviews: Dark Souls. While it does bare a fair amount of family resemblance to every other member of the soulsborne family (bonfire checkpoint and estus flash healing systems, etc.), I want to make it abundantly clear that this is not Dark-Souls-In-Japan. It does its own thing and breaks away from the exact same (wonderful) formula we’ve seen four times now.

I’ve enjoyed Sekiro immensely. It’s a challenge, and even being a soulsborne veteran won’t necessarily help you as the instincts you may have from those games will often lead to doing things that won’t consistently work out in this. I’ve seen the boss fights be called more of a puzzle than a fight, and I disagree. Given, there are gimmicks and weaknesses that all bosses have, but in order to take advantage of those you generally have to just be able to straight up fight in the first place. While there are some fights you cannot win without figuring out and using the boss’s unique Achilles’ heel, there are others you can simply just bash your head against until you get it right. As a notable example that doesn’t spoil anything: some bosses are easier to kill with items. However, if you run out of items before winning, then you just have to do it without (as I did with Lady Butterfly, because I suck). One of the major bosses doesn’t really have a gimmick to take advantage of until the third and final phase of his fight, a phase that personally took me literally hours of failing against him to learn his patterns well enough to even consistently get to that third phase. Sometimes, unfortunately, the solution to the puzzle is to “get good.” Especially with a couple of near-end-game fights.

As with the soulsborne games, the gameplay often feels like a wall that you have to break by repeatedly smashing your head into it until it breaks. Fortunately, most fights have a weaker part of the wall that takes less bashing if you find it. It’s hard and it makes me angry and feel incompetent until suddenly it makes me feel amazing and on top on the world.

The world has a wonderful, weird atmosphere and it’s a joy to explore the place while sneaking up to unsuspecting guards and creatures and ramming a sword down their throats (a gruesome sight that you get used to after doing it ad infinitum).

Personally, I enjoyed this game the most between fights rather than during its bits of infamous difficulty. As admittedly enjoyable as the well-crafted boss fights are, it can get a bit old after a few hours of failing and it can start to feel a bit grueling as you slowly improve with the few hardest fights. Ultimately, the struggle is worth it, but I found myself looking forward to exploring the new progressively weirder areas much more than the challenging fights.

Overall, it’s a good time.

Buy it Now, Wait for a Sale, or Just Watch a LetsPlay:

As much as I hate comparing it to Dark Souls: if you enjoy the games in the Soulsborne series, you’ll probably enjoy this. If you enjoy that type of difficulty in a game, then buy Sekiro.

If you don’t enjoy that kind beat-your-head-against-a-wall difficulty, then maybe just watch a LetsPlay. It is a pretty game, at the least.

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