Sekiro is a ton of fun!

It’s been a while but I started playing Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and have really been enjoying it. I think there are a lot of reasons as to why I’ve enjoyed it so much so far… Hence, I’d like to talk about that today. So, I haven’t played a lot of Sekiro yet and I doubt that I’m anywhere near the end of it but I already got through my fair share of boss encounters! I’m currently 15 hours into the game and defeated the Horse Guy and Lady Butterfly already… I passed the Snake and did fight a fair few minor bosses… meanwhile I’m currently stuck at Mr Bowguy… and when I say “I’m stuck” I mean that I stopped playing since I’m frustrating and since I’m not good enough at this game.

Sekiro is a challenging souls-like Action-Adventure by From Software. In Sekiro, you follow a Shinobi known as the “Wolf” on his mission to take revenge on a clan of Samurai that attacked him and kidnapped his lord. After escaping death once, you’re given a second chance with a shinobi-tool arm-prosthetic that allows you to do new things… and all in all, it’s an interesting story that offers you a lot of challenge and lots of areas to explore. I personally really enjoyed it so far for a plethora of reasons:

Gyoubu Oniwa, a man on a horse wielding a naginata, is storming towards "the wolf" aka Sekiro's protagonist.
GYOUBU ONIWA! MY FAVOURITE BOSS SO FAR!

For starters, it’s very hard and frustrating but in a good way. Sekiro doesn’t feature stats or a stamina bar like in Dark Souls. Gear isn’t a thing and items don’t matter as much. It’s all about skill and mastery. Your enemy is your goal and to beat him is your mission. There are a bunch of attacks you can utilize from heavy and swift blows to special attacks you learn via the skill tree but overall, you mostly need to master the parry and the dodge skill in order to damage the enemy’s posture and bring them down in one fell swoop. As the wolf, you’re given a second chance after your first death, so don’t give up easily and fight on.

I personally found this very enjoyable. I never felt like an enemy was unfair. I never felt like the game was being unnecessarily hard on me. Instead, I’d rather have to learn patterns and tread carefully. Posture is important, something that is quite accurate in Iaido, the way of the sword. Alas, I enjoyed Sekiro’s combat and the way that From Software shaped the combat around “Samurai-culture”. From the design of all the characters and enemies to the stances and poses they take and even the sound design in the menu, the game feels rather polished and cohesive. There are instances of mythical creatures and ominous elements in the story that didn’t seem realistic, but Sekiro never claimed to follow a true story or anything like that. My point is that it combines real elements and values of Iaido and Iodo with mystical and magical elements and creatures and it… feels good. It works well. I, as a geek on that topic, can’t complain. I doubt anyone else really cares. The bamboo sounds in the menu, the stances that characters take in combat, and the different schools of sword fighting… Even if it’s only inspired by things that I loosely remember at this point and even if it’s not supposed to be “realistic”, it feels kind of authentic in a way, which is nice.

Anyways, I love Sekiro. And I’m currently stuck in this fight with General Bow-Guy (not his actual name). I get very close to the end but ultimately fail because I’m not good enough at the game yet. It’s not a matter of the fight being too hard… it’s a matter of me not being good enough and no matter how much I try, it never feels too bad really to fail because you have a chance! You immediately know what you’ve done wrong. That’s something that I love in this game.

Sekiro's protagonist aka the wolf is standing alone in a hall that is caving in and burning right now.

In Dark Souls 3, on the other hand, there are points where you can decide to grind to make the game easier for yourself… You need souls to advance your level and your stats. With stats, you’ll be able to dodge more as you have more stamina or to deal more damage due to your dexterity or strength going up. It’s nice and works well for an RPG but Sekiro is not that. Sekiro doesn’t need that. Instead of grinding for a certain weapon or for the next level up, you’re only relying on one thing and one thing alone: Your Skill.

Sekiro’s philosophy could be summarised using the words “If you suck, just get better”. It’s not about grinding the same area for ages but rather it’s about making the best out of the weapons that the game gives to you and mastering them. It’s about skill and mastery over grind and frustration. It’s about reflecting on your mistakes and instead of cursing the game… okay, you can add a bit of salt into the mix, too, which is understandable. Everyone gets frustrated at times, but what counts is that you have fun and for me, the fun comes with getting better and getting that super clutch kill all of a sudden after you lost your lives already in Phase 1 against Lady Butterfly and still managed to kill her not once but twice thanks to an incredible amount of luck and thanks to some form of transcendence that you’ll most likely never achieve again. Oh gosh, I hated that fight in so many ways!

Sekiro can be frustrating but it doesn’t have to be. If you die a lot, just don’t get hit. If you suck at the game, get better at it. If you don’t want to get killed, just kill the enemy before they have a chance to kill you. And I personally just love that about it. You can’t really avoid fighting. You’ll fight those bosses and you’ll murder them unless they’re optional. It’s fun. It’s hard. It’s rewarding.

General Bow-Guy asking Sekiro's protagonist how "grandfather" is.
There he is… General Bowguy!

Sekiro’s most frustrating moments made the victories, however small they were were, a lot sweeter, which is a nice thing that I enjoyed about it. I’m looking forward to getting gud again. I’m looking forward to beating General Bow-Guy in Sekiro.

Cheers.

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.

What is Mortal Shell?

Mortal Shell is a deep action-RPG that tests your sanity and resilience in a shattered world. Your adversaries spare no mercy, with survival demanding superior awareness, precision, and instincts. Possess lost warriors, track down hidden sanctums of the devout, and face formidable foes. 

And well,… the Beta/Demo of it arrived not too long ago and it’s still live until the 10th of July! You can grab it over here. It is an Epic Game temporary exlusive BUT the developer, Cold Symmetry, was at a critical stage of the development of the game and needed the financial support that Epic Games provided to them, so it should be understandable. Worst case, you’ll wait for the steam release and wishlist it over here. I have been excited about it ever since I saw the Trailer on April 1st this year… and yeah, I thought it was a joke as well… and luckily, I got a chance to play it!

Mortal Shell plays quite interestingly, in my opinion. The only souls-like I’ve played so far has been Dark Souls 3 and I don’t really have too much experience with the genre, especially as I just arrived at the Cathedral of the Deep… but Mortal Shell feels really different, in my opinion. Not only does it have some interesting mechanics like the Hardening-Mechanic that allows you to resist incoming blows by hardening your body, negating the damage of one hit or the Shell-Mechanic that essentially allows you to possess fallen warriors (aka Shells) and inherit their abilities. I also liked some other points so far but I first wanted to talk about the demo’s contents.

The demo features the tutorial as well as portions of two areas: The Fallgrim Outskirts, which is a rather open area with a few camps, smaller fry enemies and some stronger enemies, and the Abandoned Chamber, which is a bit of a narrow and maybe even claustrophobic area that features the first boss of the game! On top of that, you get to try out two different shells with a few abilities each (well, 10 in total but some are locked in the demo), as well as a few different enemies to fight and die to. Fun!

Shells are essentially fallen warriors who you possess and who each feature unique abilities. Your character is essentially the Foundling who is rather weak and can only harden its body. Hardening prevents the next attack from damaging you, though it leaves you in a frozen state and it goes on cooldown afterwards. I found it quite interesting that you can play around with this mechanic in a lot of ways like hardening in the mid of a devastating swing only to block an attack followed by your own slash! Your first Shell is Harros who feels incredibly sluggish and is more of a chunky knight. Your second one is Tiel who is really nimble and fast but features less health. Tiel feels like the right character for me to play, though I haven’t gotten to unlock him just yet. His abilities are centred around mobility and poison damage/resistances. When your shell dies, you slip out as the Foundling and can either fight on (though as a one-hit target) or slip into the Shell again for just another life. After that one, you get reset to your last checkpoint. 

And that gets us to something that I didn’t like: 

You don’t have those RPG-mechanics like levelling your character. Instead, you get these “characters” to play as aka Shells to possess and you get to customize your build/loadout instead. I ended up playing with Harros for quite a bit before eventually realising that he’s way too clunky and slow for me personally. It’s not based on your dexterity or whatever. It’s based on you being that specific character, right now.

The other thing is that I often felt as if I was too slow or too bad at the game. Dark Souls 3 is rather hard for me personally but it’s doable. Hollow Knight is really difficult, too, but I never feel like it’s too difficult or that it’s too hard for me. I always wanted to continue playing Dark Souls 3 or Hollow Knight (and yeah, I know, HK is not exactly a souls-like) but I never felt as if it was unfair. Mortal Shell doesn’t give me that feeling just yet, mainly since the swings of Harros are super slow and since I feel like the game expects me to learn how to parry… I personally just didn’t like it, as a Newbie to the Genre. And well, this is a Demo after all… I doubt anyone would really play much Harros after unlocking Tiel anyways. Maybe the game needs a bit of balancing in that regard or maybe I’ll just have to “gid gud”. 

But yeah, overall, I liked the game. Hardening and the Shells are interesting. You also can destroy the enemies’ morale by killing one of their allies, resulting in them seemingly cowering in fear and crawling away. I loved that about the game! And you also unlock more information and properties to some of the items the more you used them. Using an instrument a bunch of time improves your skill with it a bunch, resulting in you actually playing actual music! And when you get those parries and empowered attacks off, you also get to kill enemies in a really cool way with slow-motion and all of that goodness, which can be quite satisfying. 

I really feel like a lot of the game is great and I feel like I should like it more… but the sluggish Harros is just not my cup of tea. I’ll give him a shot again tomorrow night… Maybe I’ll have some better luck next time – and worst case: I’ll just wait for the full-release and watch other streamers play it so that I can enjoy it without feeling limited by our character’s Mortal Shell. 

And well, jokes aside (spot the joke): This game feels like more of a “hard-boiled Dark Fantasy Action Game with Souls-mechanics” to me and less like an RPG… which is a bit sad. I like collecting stuff in Dark Souls 3. I just unlocked a cool mage hat and I’m gonna wing it no matter what! And well, I hope stuff like that gets added to Mortal Shell, too. And if it doesn’t, then that’s fine. I just probably won’t play it.