The Virtue of Choice

Ah, I recall making a vague promise to update this blog once a week. I know I mentioned Tuesday as my day to relinquish my fresh, hot-off-the-press updates. I’m afraid that, you know, plans and things are subject to change. Although I haven’t kept my word regarding regular updates on Tuesday, I said I would post at least once a week. Consider this week’s post, well, started, at the very least.

Anyway, rambling introduction aside, this week is all about Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Let’s just shorten that to Sekiro for the rest of this piece. I haven’t finished the game, and I don’t really want to spoil any story elements, but I believe I can get away with discussing combat and movement – you know, gameplay elements.

Sekiro is hard. Much of the difficulty in the game stems from a few factors, namely, the relentless attacks of every single foe you face, and the relative frailty of the main character. While every combatant you alert to your presence rushes in and doesn’t give you a moment to breathe during their onslaught, you are also encouraged to rush in, katana gleaming, and cut fools to ribbons. This would be a great thing if you weren’t as durable as a measly ribbon. Foes hardly have to cut you to ribbons because you’re already fragile as tissue paper. Many enemies can dispatch you in three to four hits, easily, and stronger enemies only need two swipes to put you in the ground.

I won’t sugarcoat it: this imbalance initially struck me as a frustrating hindrance to my fun video game times, but I’ve come to appreciate the truck-like force behind every enemy’s attacks. It sounds unfair, I know, but it makes for some intense fights. Keeping up a relentless assault while blocking, deflecting, and avoiding your enemy’s strikes is immensely satisfying.

Oh, there’s also jumping. And grappling. Have I discussed in-combat options yet? No? Let’s take a gander at the dizzying amount of shit you have to remember to be at the top of your Sekiro form.

1. You can jump.

Oh boy, you’d be surprised by the sheer number of options this opens up in combat. You can attack in mid-air, and if you take certain skills, you can even utilize your special moves and your prosthetic arm (more on this later) in mid-air as well. Mostly, I’ve used jumping as a last-ditch effort to evade an incoming attack, but it can be used with elegance. There is a context-specific counter whereby you jump-kick an enemy after they fail a sweep attack and you do massive posture damage. Does that sound complicated? Well, it is, and it’s only one of the things you’ve got to remember in the middle of frenetic, non-stop combat.

2. There’s more than one way to deflect and counter.

As I mentioned above, jump-kicking in response to a sweep attack is one specific counter method available to you in Sekiro. There’s also the step-dodge, for attacks you can’t exactly block, and there’s even a specific deflection move for warding off an enemy’s thrust attacks. It requires very precise timing, but it’ll mess up your enemies if it hits. These special deflections, dodges, and counters are all there as options in addition to your default block and deflect maneuvers. You’ve got to learn what certain types of attacks look like, so you may choose the correct response and use it to let your enemies have it. Rip ’em apart.

3. There’s a grappling hook.

And it can be implemented in combat, if you take a certain skill along the way. Not only does this handy tool have combat versatility, it increases the momentum in the game by a factor of ten. Grappling all around the environment and traveling by air is just a cool way to get around and get the jump on your enemies.

4. There are stealth maneuvers.

That’s right, you can sneak up on your enemies. And backstab them. And run away as far as you want just to hide and sneak up on the next fool. While running and leaping into battle is a badass way to live, er, play, there’s also beauty in biding one’s time and playing the more methodical game of cat and mouse.

5. You have a prosthetic arm.

This prosthetic arm opens up all kinds of options for you, because it becomes the bearer of all your sub-weapons … tools … fun stuff? All of the above. You have your trusty katana at all times, it is true, but your left arm is made of iron and bone, and it can handle handfuls of different augmentations that change it into cool stuff. Wanna throw shuriken? Load ’em into your arm. Wanna shoot fire at a dude? Load it into your arm. Wanna toss a bunch of firecrackers at the ground? You know what I’m about to say. So keep loading cool stuff into your arm, and amaze your enemies and friends with your combat prowess/party tricks.

So, yeah, that’s my quick, sleep-deprived rundown of the options I’ve encountered in Sekiro. While traversing the world and during combat, you’ve got all of the aforementioned tools and skills at your disposal, and you get to decide how to use them all to achieve victory. Enemies are fast, and relentless. But play the game right, and so are you. You’ll encounter all kinds of threats, but you’ll have an answer to every single one of them. All you’ve got to do is think and react faster than your enemies. The sharpest mind, not the sharpest sword, will prevail. Or something.

Keep running and cutting, folks.


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