Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice had its own area at ACGHK 2018 – a small room where around 9-10 people at a time could go inside and watch the latest gameplay footage of the upcoming From Software game. Unfortunately, both video recording and photo taking were restricted, so here is a recap of what can be seen in the gameplay, and what can be gleaned from it.
- The gameplay starts off with the main character standing on a tree trunk. Using his grappling hook hidden in his arm, he swings over to a rooftop, and slowly approaches the line of enemy samurai below. Finding a straggler, he leaps down to perform a jumping stealth kill, but is discovered afterward by one of the others.
- One thing surprising to note is how much of a stealth element there is in the game, which wasn’t highlighted much in the reveal trailer. Apart from stalking enemies from above, the main character can do stealth kills from a higher area, or by killing an enemy on the ledge just above him. It felt something out of an Assassin’s Creed game.
- The two engage each other, and combat is resolved quickly, with the main character blocking several times, then parrying and counter killing the enemy. Grappling up to the upper floor of a courtyard, he presses his body to the wall and peeks over. There’s an oni in captivity, plus several enemies patrolling the area. He flanks the courtyard, and kills a monk-like enemy there, then jumps down to take on everyone.
- It is here that we are introduced to the mechanical arm’s ability to switch out different weapons. The main character swapped out throwing knives, and hurled them into one enemy, then rushed up to deal the final blow. He quickly then changes the arm into a handaxe-like form that quickly chopped into the other samurai who had caught up. At this point, the oni broke free of its restraints, and started to attack the player character as well.
- While the handaxe form and the grappling hook were shown off in the reveal trailer, this was the first time the throwing knives have been shown, as far as I can tell. The arm seemed to swap between throwing knives –> handaxe –> grappling hook, so perhaps there’s a limit to how many can be equipped at once. However, the hook seems to be required, as I’ll explain below.
- Jumping backwards, our character takes out a flask and drinks the potion inside, replenishing his health. He parries several hits, including a kick from the oni (which proves that parrying can stop most hits), but it seems there is a limit to how much you can parry at once, as he staggered backwards. The oni attacked, and our character died. He then went through most of the courtyard sequence a second time, and this time, instead of facing the oni head-on, he grappled to a higher point to do massive damage with a strike from above. Finally, he finished off the last enemy using a smoke bomb to obscure the surroundings, and taking advantage of the confusion.
- Something that I noticed was how everything shown so far to be grapple-able has been made from wood, including crossbeams jutting out from roofs, and various tree trunks. This should be a handy visual indicator for those who want to consider different options in battle.
- The game uses various kanji to represent different actions. The game shows a ‘死’ when you’re dead, ‘回生’ when drinking a potion, and will occasionally flash ‘危’ when at low health. ‘煙’ is shown when using a smoke bomb.
- Right outside the gate on the opposite side of the courtyard was a beautiful view of a Japanese castle on the cliffs of a mountain. However, as the main character tried to find a way across, a giant white snake came looking for something to eat. He had to grapple over to another ledge jutting over the cliffside, where there was some grass to hide in. With a cave entrance in sight, he grappled over and ran inside, which was just in time for the snake to barely miss him.
- Inside the winding cave was a ninja wall, which the main character quickly circumvented. After that was more cave, but it opened up into a Japanese garden in autumn, with maple leaves streaming to the floor. Across the bridge was a yokai wielding a naginata, guarding the entrance to the next area, and it was clear that defeating it was the only option.
- While the main character spent most of the time parrying away attacks, he was able to take potshots here and there after several missed heavy attacks from the enemy. However, mist started spreading everywhere, and the yokai disappeared within. The yokai made two surprise strikes from around the main character, and the main character died again, thus ending the gameplay footage.
From what was seen in the gameplay, combat situations can partly be solved with the use of stealth attacks. However, it’s hard to avoid having the enemy know you’re there, and thus most of the gameplay still revolves around the combat. While not Arkham-style, Sekiro will have players take on up to 7 enemies at once, if none are taken out by stealth beforehand.
Meanwhile, how stamina works (if it exists in Sekiro) has most likely been changed, and it never felt like there was an end to the combat. The main character did stay back to block a few times, but it seemed like he could parry quite a few hits then retaliate with several hits.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice comes out for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC in 2019.