Within the first minutes of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, there’s no missing the fact that FromSoftware has built its Shinobi-focused adventure from the DNA of the Souls and Bloodborne series. But this new mutated strain is as much its own stealth-action experience, one that’s more focused, cohesive, and in some ways forgiving, despite retaining its predecessors’ trademark difficulty. As I rolled credits after 50 hours of pressurized-blood-geyser executions, fantastical monster fights, split-second swordsmanship, and sprawling, secret-filled areas, I’m left with a deep appreciation for this amazing journey and the skills it demands to master it.
To any Souls veteran, Sekiro’s timing-based lock-on combat of strikes and slashes is familiar, as is the way you weave through the same excellently designed levels that snake, interconnect, and double back on themselves to reveal new shortcuts between little bastions of safety to resupply. Functionally equivalent to bonfires from Dark Souls, or Lanterns in Bloodborne, the Sculptor’s Idols are where you’ll rest, recover your healing draughts, reset slain enemies, access your character progression, and of course, teleport between them for a snappy fast travel.