reviewed Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
fun game that's horribly shackled by trying to be too many things at once. when you actually get to sit down and fight bosses, the thing the game was obviously designed around, it's very enjoyable. but most of the time, you're playing Dollar Store Tenchu, cheesing encounters and minibosses with the game's broken awful stealth system.
as an action game, it lacks the sort of depth, clarity, and consistency that makes games like DMC and Bayonetta great. it's fun and rewarding to conquer bosses most of the time, but things like there being only one universal indicator for three different types of attacks with mutually exclusive counters mean hits can feel cheap. you either play aggressive like the game wants you to and accept that sometimes you'll take random hits off the enemy's erratic, poorly telegraphed attacks, or pigeonhole yourself into an excessively defensive and boring playstyle where you constantly pass up easy damage because there's a 5% chance they cancel their recovery frames into a highly punishing combo.
encounters are far too "question and answer." the solution to animal bosses isn't to form a strategy around their attacks and properties to get the edge. the solution to animal bosses is the firecrackers, because animals are weak to firecrackers and lose a ton of posture from them. the solution to the Snake Eyes minibosses isn't skill, it's picking up sabimaru, because they're weak to sabimaru's poison and get stunlocked by the blade instantly. the solution to the mega hard optional endgame boss isn't mastery of the mechanics, it's the max whistle upgrade that stunlocks it for lore reasons. these types of easy solutions make sense in the (early) souls games, where action is much less of a focus compared to exploration and outwitting opponents, but in a game closer to Ninja Gaiden than Demon's Souls, it sucks.
and what's worse is, it's not even consistent. the game will hype up the spear, emphasize over and over that it strips armor from enemies, give you the spear, and then put you up against an enemy literally called Armored Warrior who can't take health damage because he's covered in iron. the solution? not the spear. the spear can't do anything to him, because that's not the "answer" to his fight. if anything, the axe is better against him, a weapon advertised for its use against WOODEN shields (and obnoxiously, the only real way to deal with said wooden shields). and once that happens, you're never gonna trust that any weapon does what it says, or want to experiment with anything. the spear IS effective against one of the hardest bosses in the game though, if you parry one specific attack, then use the spear while the boss is knocked down, for some reason. despite that boss not being armored in any way. and that's not even getting into the hyper-specific lightning reversal move, useful in exactly three fights, one of which is basically a cutscene boss where you can't fail the reversal, and the other two have one lightning move each.
Sekiro is fun, but it doesn't excel at anything it tries, and oftentimes outright fails at things it tries. if you want an over the top boss rush swordfight game, play Furi. if you want a ninja stealth game, play Tenchu. if you want a ninja action game, play Ninja Gaiden. if you want an exploration game in a big interconnected world, play Dark Souls.
Reviewed on Jan 13, 2023