First look at Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

That mysterious FromSoftware title we've all been wondering about? It's not a Souls game, nor Bloodborne 2. It's Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and it received a trailer at E3 2018 but not much else in the way of information. All we could tell is that it was about a mysterious sword-fighter in historical Japan with a prosthetic arm and an awful lot of enemies.

I was fortunate enough to watch a demonstration of the game's early, in-progress gameplay at E3 2018 and listen to one of the creators discuss more details about the game. From that, here's everything we know so far about Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.

What is Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice?

Sekiro is an action-adventure title by FromSoftware. Though it's made by the same developer as the Souls series and Bloodborne, it's not a Souls game. That said, it does have some similar sensibilities, such as a dark story and world and combat that leaves a sense of accomplishment when victory is achieved.

The story takes place in the 1500s in Japan's Sengoku Period. Don't expect 100 percent historical accuracy, as this will be FromSoftware's reimagining of the time. That said, the Sengoku Period was a time of military conflict and political upheaval, and much of what makes that period historically interesting will be a part of the story of Sekiro. Expect brutality and violence throughout.

But also expect beauty. FromSoftware, with Miyazaki at the helm, wanted to juxtapose the period's brutality with gorgeous vistas and the beauty of Japanese architecture and nature. During the demonstration I watched, I saw plenty of gory take-downs of enemies. But I also saw a beautiful, classic bridge coated in flower blossoms over a still lake and incredibly detailed, traditional buildings.

What's the story?

The story centers around the main character's devotion to a Young Lord who has "something special" about him that the team would not disclose. Because of that specialness, the Young Lord becomes a target for a samurai. The main character, a cold and powerful ninja, tries to protect him, but fails and has his arm cut off. When he awakens, he has been fitted with a "Shinobi Prosthetic" with a grappling hook attached. With this assistance, he must take back the Young Lord and get his revenge.

How do you play?

With this grappling hook comes great mobility and verticality. Your main character can use the hook to pull himself from rooftop to rooftop or across cliff faces and other points. This incredible mobility makes at least the area I saw feel more open than any of FromSoftware's other worlds, and it also allows for stealth. The team was careful to point out that this isn't a stealth game; rather, stealth can be used as an important tool to get the jump on certain enemies.

And get the jump they did. I watched the main character hang from the edge of a rooftop until an enemy approached, then reach up, quickly kill him with his sword, and drop him to his death. He then lept from the roof, Assassin's Creed-style, and performed a second kill from the air. At this point, all enemies around him were alerted and he was thrown into full-on combat.

Combat in Sekiro involves a system called "Posture." Miyazaki wanted to create a "clashing of swords" feel to combat, so instead of just wailing on enemies, you must first deplete their Posture to score an opening. You do this by parrying attacks or attacking in such a way that your attacks are not parried. Then, once the enemy has no Posture left, you can strike a proper blow--though they can do the same to you!

One other major element in Sekiro's combat is its resurrection system. Though I didn't receive details on how it works, it seems that under certain conditions the character can revive when defeated in combat and continue the fight. In these situations, enemies walk away once they think you are dead, so you may have a second opportunity to catch them off-guard. Don't get too comfortable, though. I was told that this resurrection system is not unlimited and will not make the fights any less challenging.

What's the world like?

In the demo of Sekiro I watched, the main character grappled across rooftops, took down several guards, and cleared a path toward a distant castle where the Young Lord was being held. As he neared the castle, a broken bridge forced a detour onto a rocky cliff face, but an enormous flying serpent patrolled the area. The hero was forced to play a cat and mouse dodging game around the rocks, sneaking beyond the enemy's sight, before slipping through a hidden "Shinobi Door" and into the bridge and garden area I mentioned earlier. There, he encountered a terrifying boss fight that ultimately resulted in a loss.

It was just a snippet, and for now, there's still a lot left to wonder about. Sekiro doesn't seem to be an open-world game just from my first impression. In fact, while there are multiple ways to accomplish objectives from what I can tell, the path taken in the demo seemed fairly linear. That may have been a limitation of the presentation style, though.

What I can say is that Sekiro looks beautiful and feels like a true challenge, even for FromSoftware veterans. The combat is fast-paced and very focused on timing attacks well rather than blocking and dodging constantly, though with the ability to jump and grapple comes other options for taking down enemies. Details are scarce, but for this early of a reveal, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a game to keep on your radar.

So when can you play it, and on which platforms?

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is expected to be available for Xbox One, for PC via Steam, and for PlayStation 4. It should be released at some point in early 2019

Any questions?

There are still a lot of questions surrounding Sekiro, but throw any you have in the comments and I'll try to answer!

Reb Valentine