How Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Will Stand Out From Dark Souls
To everyone's delight, FromSoftware had a great presence at E3 this year. They had the opportunity to highlight their upcoming samurai game Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice at the event with a trailer filled with some crazy gameplay and more details about the game's story.
You may immediately believe this new intellectual property will operate on the same level that Bloodborne did where it will move, fight, and pretty much feel just like Dark Souls, except with a unique skin over it. This was not the case! Here's how FromSoftware have taken certain steps to ensure the game feels like Dark Souls, but comes up with plenty of its own flavors, too.
If you haven't already checked out the trailer FromSoftware released at E3, here it is:
The Impressive Color Palette
If a person whose played Dark Souls before was asked what notable features about the game stood out to them, the vibrant colors would not be one of them. FromSoftware always had a distinctly drab and somber tone to their environment, making it seem as if it were a far-away myth retold by one generation to the next.
The environments in Sekiro are filled with dynamic hues and enticing details. While you're wandering around, taking in the beautiful environments FromSoftware are known for, you won't think you accidentally slide the shadow meter further down than you should have. There's a pop in the graphics you normally wouldn't find in a Souls game.
Not only that, there's still the noticeable grotesque nature of art in Sekiro that sends a shiver up your spine when you see it. Plenty of what's in Sekiro gets grounded in realism, so the art team had to work in these believable metrics. If they went too far in the supernatural direction, then you might get bumped out of the experience, thinking you're playing Dark Souls in a far-off fantasy land.
But, as the trailer shows, the team was able to add in a certain layer of grime to make the characters and bosses seem as if they were once alive during this time of 16th century Japan. Though their exceptional characteristics were fantasized to seem as if they were taken from myths.
For example, in the trailer there's a moment where the main character walks up a burning environment to a small group of people waiting for him to approach. A big guy approaches the main character, likely the leader of the small entourage. He's not at the small level of disgusting as the Asylum Demon, but his overall size and dirty attire make him look opposing.
Originally, Dark Souls took its inspiration from a mixture of horror and fantasy lore, whereas this game leans much more on the depiction of ancient Japanese culture. Because of this dramatic influence shift, it makes sense the art team felt they needed to take a step back. FromSoftware have taken a different approach to how this game looks, and it certainly reflects the unique setting they've chosen for Sekiro.
You Play As A Named Character!
This aspect definitely sets it apart from Dark Souls and Bloodbourne. Normally, you'd find yourself beginning your long journey at a character selection screen where you get to choose all of the unique physical features of your character before you cover them all up in armor. This time around the main protagonist in this story comes with a name, an ambition, and a known history.
Though FromSoftware have not given up too much about this main protagonist, we know his name is Sekiro and he is a shinobi warrior. He was tasked with guarding a lord, but a rival samurai attacked them. The rival samurai was able to kidnap the lord and defeat Sekiro in combat. Sekiro lost his left arm during this fight. Following the battle, he rises from the near-death experience to continue on his journey to rescue his lord from this samurai, while also seeking out revenge.
That's not a whole lot of information to go on. But, that's still more than most would receive from a description of Dark Souls! This already makes the game stand out. It's only naturally we'll learn more about the main character as we progress through his story.
A Lot Of Gameplay Differences
The diverse game mechanics in this game have not been utilized in other FromSoftware projects. This section alone deserves its own article, but we'll keep to the highlights!
The most noteworthy change involves Sekiro's prosthetic left arm and the grappling hook attached to it. You can use this grappling hook to climb up the side of buildings, granting you the ability to use the vertical environment to your advantage. While the grappling remains a constant part of the game, you can switch out a variety of different weapons attached to the prosthetic limb to vary your attack style.
For example, you can have an axe attached to it to use as a heavy strike to shatter an enemy's shield. If you need additional light, you can place a torch here while still wielding your katana in your right arm.
This idea of a versatile prosthetic left arm likely originated from the success of Bloodborne's key mechanic where players would have a gun in their left hand to use as a parry. How many different weapons you can place in the prosthetic left arm remains unknown, however, the cover art does feature Sekiro with a flamethrower on his left wrist, so look forward to that!
A unique aspect to this game lies in using Sekiro's arm to scale buildings, which you can do to reliably sneak up on your enemies. That's right: stealth. FromSoftware have included stealth and you can use it to your advantage. Take your time scouting out enemy patrols and thin their numbers before taking on a much larger group. What sort of benefit or difficulty this new mechanic has remains unknown, but the fact they're including it shows how far off from the Dark Souls reservation the developers have gone.
Death Becomes a Strategy
Death works substantially differently. When you died in Dark Souls you'd find yourself stripped of all your souls and you return to the last bonfire you rested at. This served as a great risk-reward balance in the game where you had to stop yourself from continuing on and decide it was a good idea to go back to level up; everyone whose ever played a Dark Souls game can tell you a story where they lost thousands of souls to a simple minion because they weren't paying attention.
Rather than teleporting back to a checkpoint or losing all of your currency, when Sekiro falls to an enemy the screen goes black and white. A red Japanese character gets displayed in the middle of the screen and the word "Death" in English goes underneath it. You can clearly see the enemies beginning to pull away from where Sekiro fell and then, after a little bit of time, he stands back up. From there he continue the fighting as if nothing ever happened.
This unique execution of death was crafted by the developers to encourage players to sometimes feel they had to choose when to call it quits and perish at the hands of their enemies. If a player planned it correctly enough, they could die off to the side of the map and then use their new starting position to take out a handful of minions before continuing the boss fight.
Though, not everything was revealed at E3. The developers do not want you to always use the death strategy over and over again. FromSoftware still have more to show of the death mechanic, and what they have yet to show will place a careful balance on how many times you can die in Sekiro. The developers teased death in Sekiro would hold the same amount of tension as a death you'd experience during a Dark Souls run.
This Is Not A RPG
Though you're not going through a character selection screen, you'd expect to have a leveling up system to give Sekiro some stat boosts to craft him to fit your game style.
You don't get to level up in this game. You don't get to choose what stats to boost up. And you can't stay in an area to farm enemies for souls so you can level up to prepare for the next boss fight.
What stands in its place? So far, FromSoftware have been keeping it tight-lipped on to what to expect in this game. And that's okay! We have plenty of time to until the game's release.
Right now FromSoftware only want to give gamers a taste of what their next game will look like. We may learn more about specific features in this game as we approach Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice's release date, which is in early 2019.
For more information about Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, keep it here at GameSkinny.