Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a spiritual follow-up to the Souls series with a very different visual style and a range of new gameplay ideas. It’s a fast-paced, tough-as-nails action game and it’s every bit as good as I had hoped – but when it comes to the technology powering its games, From Software doesn’t exactly have the best track record. Games like Bloodborne and Dark Souls 3 are gorgeous to behold with complex geometry and remarkable art direction but on consoles, performance leaves a lot to be desired, while historically, loading times have been problematic. Sekiro manages to address some concerns, but others persist.
At its core, Sekiro is very much a successor to the Souls series – the bonfires and estus flasks are represented while the core progression and focus on a steep challenge are in full effect but this game goes a few steps further. The speed of the combat and focus on parrying, for instance, remind me of Team Ninja’s seminal Ninja Gaiden for the original Xbox – a game that shares a similar overall structure in terms of level design as well. The inclusion of stealth mechanics and the grappling hook remind me of Acquire’s Tenchu series. These new skills allow players to take a slightly different approach to combat – you can dispatch foes with stealth kills or simply get a leg up on a boss fight by hiding then surprising them with a stealth attack.
It’s faster than any game in the series and, mechanically, it might well be the most polished game From Software has produced yet, but what about the technology powering the game? Well, when you first load up Sekiro, there are plenty of visual similarities to Dark Souls 3 engine-wise but a lot of changes and improvements as well. This is most evident when it comes to image quality – Bloodborne’s off-putting chromatic aberration effect is gone, while its noisy anti-aliasing is far more refined. All four platforms produce a strikingly clean and smooth image, distant detail resolves nicely, and everything feels very stable.