Just some quick spoiler-free bullet points about the first five-ish hours of Sekiro, the latest game from From Software.
- It looks like a slightly-improved version of the Dark Souls 3 game engine. It has basically the same bleached-film aesthetic.
- I’m playing with mouse-and-keyboard to save my thumbs. The implementation is slightly better than Dark Souls 3, which was better than Dark Souls, but it’s still probably going to be “best” with controllers. I’m regularly cursing how inefficient it feels to find the right keys and buttons, and this is after spending a good 10 hours practicing with mouse and keyboard in Dark Souls 3 The Ringed City.
- There’s no character creation and very few stats.
- There’s only one weapon and combat style (so far).
- The combat is very different from Dark Souls. There’s a focus on “deflection” which seems to be a hybrid of blocking and parrying. I’m terrible at parrying in Souls so this is not good for me. There’s no stamina management, but “posture” management. Timing is everything, and there’s very little room for error. I don’t quite have a handle on it yet. Experience with Souls is not necessarily helpful here.
- There are no player messages or multiplayer components (yet?).
- I get the sense they simplified the UI from the Souls series in a deliberate attempt to make it more accessible. There’s only one equipment “slot” to manage, as opposed to the four (item, spell, left and right hand) in Souls.
- There’s more “environmental storytelling” (in the form of overhearing conversations and such) than any Souls game.
- There’s a very prominent stealth component that isn’t in any Souls game. It’s skating around the edges of being a full-on stealth game, if you want to play it that way. You can also charge headlong into every fight if you want to (and frankly I have more success that way).
- The grappling hook is a bit more limited in its use than I expected. It works like what I remember of Far Cry Primal, where you can only grapple to pre-determined points around the environment. Sometimes you’ll see places you *should* be able to reach, but can’t because the game didn’t put grapple points there.
- The death penalty seems more forgiving than Souls, because there’s a limited-use resurrection-in-place. You don’t necessarily have to go all the way back to the last checkpoint. (But there’s still a cost.) I don’t quite have a handle on this system yet either.
- In general, it seems like they made a conscious effort to pick and choose some but not all of the elements from the Dark Souls gameplay formula, then sprinkle in some elements from games like Assassin’s Creed, to make a new game that would have a more “mainstream” appeal.
- The default voiceovers are Japanese, and the Japanese voice actors sound more professional and interesting than the English ones.
The combat is pretty frustrating for me so far with mouse and keyboard. I’ve hit a pretty hard roadblock merely 5 hours in. I get killed over and over and over again, I’m early or late on every deflection, I dodge right into every attack, and I feel like my Wolf is hitting with the strength of a wet noodle. I think my Souls experience is getting in the way of doing well in Sekiro.
Note that I haven’t read much of anything about this game yet. It’s possible there are readily-available answers to any of the problems and questions I’ve raised above, but I’m not reading wikis, previews, or reviews, and I’m not watching videos or Twitches. Not yet, at least. From Software games are most enjoyable to me when played completely and utterly blind, with no outside help whatsoever. I’m still on total blackout for Bloodborne, believe it or not.