Sekiro Demo Preview: Is it Souls?

Activision and FromSoftware revealed their upcoming title Sekiro, making Souls fans eager for a possible souls-like. But with limited information available, speculation goes rampant about whether the game will have a souls feel or not. This Demo Preview will shed some light on what we know and what to expect.

Sekiro Demo Preview: Is it Souls?

The most important thing to consider during pre-release information is that plans change. Once upon a time, Nioh had no multiplayer. Once upon a time, Dark Souls Remastered had HDR. So as you read through this, remember that whilst most basic blocks may not change, there are usually tweaks and changes to what deployed with the final release, and what is considered for DLC.

Sekiro is an action-adventure game with RPG elements. What does this mean? According to the interviews by From staff, a lot of the systems that would make for an RPG have been entirely removed: for souls players this means that traditional “builds” are no longer a thing.

FromSoftware says that there are no stats or levels, leaving us to focus on perfecting our deadly craft with a katana on the right hand and several tools for the prosthetic ninja arm on the left hand. The upgrades found through progression can still be ingeniously used to create interesting takedown situations, but builds and leveling are an important part of souls that is – according to From – not going to be available.

  • On that note, currency systems are not tied to your death and are not used to ugprade your equipment, which is rather found by progression like in most adventure games. This departing from the Souls approach would likely be the most impactful to consider.
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  • There are apparently no classes or a full-on character creator, albeit whether the character can or cannot be customized is still unknown (nioh introduced skins, disguises, and hair style selections to counter the lack of character creation).
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  • Death and respawn mechanics seem to be radically different, and whilst we don’t have all the details it seems the game wants to focus on progression rather than punishment. However, Miyazaki’s interviews promise the return of that feel of perseverance and triumph over an insurmountable challenge, so don’t give up yet skeleton!
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  • Another important difference to note about the game is that story-telling is rather more forward than in Souls titles, even though it retains a fantastical imagining of Japan. It felt like Nioh in the mix of folklore, shinobi tools and ronin roaming about the areas visited.

sekiro-japanese-ninja-prosthetic

A prosthetic received from Busshi of Aretera, it is a bare-bones craft but hides Karakuri, making it a special ninja hand. “Let’s make a fang worthy of Sekiro the Wolf”. Transcending the fight, the smell of blood and fat is embeeded deep within

Should Souls players be excited for Sekiro?

As a souls player, the lack of multiplayer (again this is something that could be added on later – like Nioh did, but don’t hold your breath) and character creation / builds may be very off-putting. You may, however, want to stick around and consider that perhaps you could enjoy From’s combat without having to worry about getting to X weapon for Y stat. And here is where the game does look glorious and tempting in every way: the combat!

From what has been shown, Sekiro approaches combat with the concepts of Poise (“Posture” now and slightly different) and Parry at the forefront of design. A strong Bloodborne feel comes from the combination of swordplay with the accessories on your prosthetic arm (as we mentioned previously, from and axe, to shurikens, and even a torch or explosives). This is further reinforced by the GOW-like opportunity to break down or parry an opponent and initiate a finisher for that extra “awesome” feel to your kill. Be warned though, enemies can do it too!

Enemy movesets are varied and interesting, and learning them will be key to progress. Again much like God of War did, the game also has a mechanic to warn you when an enemy is about to perform a special attack, this time with a large written warning rather than a subtle cue. This does not neglect combat learning and experience, as there seems to be a myriad of combinations they might use to get you.

There is some sort of healing item, although the name for it was not revealed – so you can regain health in combat to stay in the fight. There’s also “in combat revive” as shown in the teaser, that can be used to disband crowds and get back on stealth if so desired. FromSoftware says it comes at a cost, but we do not yet know what it is.

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Secret equipment for the Ninja Arm. Varied accessories from an axe capable of breaching a shield to shurikens to throw at fast enemies. If there’s an enemy to kill, there’s a way to do it

The Level Design of Sekiro

The world of Sekiro is a fantastical re-imagining of Sengoku Era Japan. The 1500’s look beautifully realized in the game, and progression seems fluid and inviting. From says that the levels are inter-connected and somewhat seamless, which is something we really appreciated about Dark Souls.

Shortcuts, passages and secret locations seem to be available from apparent (but unexplored) secret doors. Fromsoftware says there are many such corners to explore, which should be a welcome feature for most souls players.

Some unfamiliar but certainly appreciated change is the addition of stealth mechanics as a means to resolve progression. It is possible to sneak up on enemies and take them down in one carefully planned attack, giving players an option to opt for smarter combat. This isn’t Metal Gear and you won’t be sneaking past the whole level, but you may thin out enemies before engaging, or take out a guard before they can call more and surround you.

The most disruptive mechanic introduced into the game is the grappling hook in your prosthetic arm. Verticality is something Souls players have not quite experienced before, but proved an excellent addition to other adventure games such as Uncharted, and certainly does not disappoint here. Accessing the higher points of the maps, rooftops, tree-branches gives the player a sense of ownership over the battlefield and an opportunity to carefully plan attacks and progression.

Further, a Famitsu interview revealed that you can eavesdrop on enemy conversations and use the information for your battle preparedness.

Lastly, a mechanic that has been absent from Souls but is important to gameplay: A jump button. The combination of grappling hook and jumping makes for an entirely different approach to exploration, that focuses on finding hidden areas and perspective points.

sekiro-japanese-kanigawa-grappling-hook

A special grappling hook for the Ninja Prosthetic Arm. It has a sharp hook on its tip, that can pierce and entangle on your target and allow you to reach places without roads. The ground is the realm of the Samurai. Excellent Shinobi shall not be grounded, and will afford themselves the benefit of height and watch the battlefield as a bird of prey.

To Hype or not to Hype

Seeing Activision show as the publisher has many gamers concerned, however FromSofware says they used the reach and technical capabilities of the publisher to streamline the game with data-points that they would otherwise not have for “player understanding”

Those who have been fans of FromSoftware since before Souls are probably aware of their varied repertoir: games like Kuon, Tenchu and Armored Core all share a “something” while being very distinctly different from each other. In Sekiro’s case, the change of focus from classes and stats to a fixed progression of polished combat gives and opportunity to get a feel of “Tenchu Souls”, a shinobi game with that beautifully fluid and trickster combat we got from Souls and Bloodborne.

The excitement does grow when seeing FromSoftware’s trademark enemy designs and boss battles are there to be enjoyed, just in a different way. And there is even a pursuer-like enemy that has been introduced to play with the stealth mechanics – although we haven’t seen how that pans out.

I enjoy a variety of games, from Devil May Cry to Divinity Original Sin, so for me the change of pace is not unwelcome, and I am excited to see how FromSoftware delivers subtle cues of similarity whilst completely changing your approach and expectations.

sekiro-japanese-ninsatsu-ninja-skills

Be it by blade, ninja tool, stealth, or a sudden exploit, all kills are ninja kills. The method does not matter. All that matters is the kill.

If you are looking for your next RPG, Sekiro probably isn’t it – but Bethesda has you covered with Fallout 76, Elder Scrolls IV, and much more in our E3 2018 coverage.

Excited for FromSoftware content? Check out our Demon’s Souls rumor theories, 10 Changes we Want for the next souls, and our Dark Souls Remastered Review. You might also want to go check out the Sekiro Shadows Die Twice Announcement Trailer.

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MMO raider by day and guide writer by night, Fex enjoys multiplatform gaming, good books and animes, and streaming with a cold beer.

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7 comments on “Sekiro Demo Preview: Is it Souls?”

  1. Avatar skarekrow13 says:

    I’ve several times challenged From to branch out. I’m excited for this game.

  2. Avatar announakis says:

    I am happy for their emancipation…but immensely disappointed at their decision to abandon multiplayer and character customization. The lack of level would be fine in multiplayer as well frankly.
    Multiplayer has been what has set souls well above the rest for me…. if I wanted to play real good single player action games I would still play Bayonetta and devil may cry….
    I will play this game when it comes out but probably not more than once or twice and then shelf it like all single player games and never look back.

  3. Avatar brakkaf says:

    I think this is the right aproach. Hope they can pull it off.
    The lack of leveling will take away the somewhat fluid difficulty, so enemy and level design have to be spot on to keep it from getting monotone or super frustrating, I dont think the more varied gameplay will carry it alone.HINt: just give it some fluidity and variability from the get go….just not the resident evil 4 way of getting easier if you suck so you get the maximum monotony out of your expierence.
    It would also take a lot of annoying stuff from pvp(duels) and focus it entirely on skill but whatever.

    Lack of different right hand weapons is dissapointing but if the left hand weapons are tied to the moveset of the sword it´s somewhat understandable. Why not go at least dagger/sword/bigsword though.

    Pursuer style enemy hopefully means someone finally took notice of alien isolation and it´s possibilities. Though i doubt the a.i. will be anywhere near that level and it probably gets scrapped again anyway.
    In the same vein, letting players take over enemies could do the same thing and with taking over they could force you into a certain playstyle that fits the moment. Could also be interesting for coop actually. Give me a completly different objective or minigame that changes the world for the main player somewhat. Anything really, there´s a lot of potential there. Hell let me be a cat and take a dump in someones world. If he/she steps into it buff their item-discovery. And dont tell anyone the other player is there.
    All in all the general unpredictability and weird random stuff with multiplayer will leave a big hole in the expierence if it´s gone completly. Could be done with other means though.

    Soulsstyle lore is hopefully there to augment the main story and create the world around it. If not that would be a major dissapointment for me.

    Grappling hook and jumping……YAY!!!

    All in all it could be the game i´ve been hoping other developers would make after taking inspiration from souls, but since this is the videogame industry inspiration means making a clone, so i´m glad they just do it themselves(Assuming enough of it is still there)
    I hope the choices were made with a good reason and as a challenge for them, cause how it sounds now, it has to be a lot better than dks2 and 3 just to work.

    i always wanted a game similar to tenchu without the stupid story but with better fighting/mechanics and a more open world. Think classic japanese movies instead of cheap japanese action cliché.
    Guess i´m moderatly hyped.

  4. Avatar eremHaNeoN says:

    So, a game more comparable to, say, 3D Shinobi, 3D Ninja Gaiden games, Onimusha or even the company’s own Otogi series? More that than Soulsborne, anyway? I don’t see the problem here. When people talk FromSoft, it’s pretty much the Souls games, Bloodborne and nothing else. Sure, those are the titles that put them on the mainstream map, but their legacy goes so much further back and is far more varied than what some would assume. I guess games like King’s Field and Shadow Tower have been given slightly more spotlight as a result of this, but more for people just to meme them as quaint, dated dungeon crawlers with bad graphics and gameplay and just a bunch of funny skeletons to swing at. I guess Armored Core is generally well-liked, 4/For Answer mainly (either for being the most recent Armored Core games – V aside, that one wasn’t too well-received – and/or for those being Miyazaki’s first directorial efforts), but they have a legacy with survival horror with two Echo Night games, Kuon, and apparently the second Shadow Tower game, JRPGs like the Evergrace series and Enchanted Arms, aforementioned Otogi games (seriously, those games need a resurrection – they were exclusives for the first Xbox that nobody bought – me included – but my Xbox was wearing down badly to a barely functioning state, so it had to go before I could seek out any more games for it), proto-Hands of Fate-like(???) card-based action-adventure games Lost Kingdoms 1 and 2, novel and cutesy platformer Cookie & Cream (in one-player mode, you control two cartoon animal characters on two sides of a screen, and use each side of the PS2, or DS for the DS version’s, controller, to maneuver both through various levels), a Kinect sequel to Steel Battalion which was apparently unplayable (what else do you expect from Kinect) and one Ninja Gaiden-lite action game called Ninja Blade, the first FromSoft game I’ve played in full (well, as in the full game and not a demo, I never finished it). It had those neat mechanics you find in similar 3D Ninja games like running across walls and so forth, levels were a bit too long and the game was broken up in one of a few sections: fight a horde of enemies for however long until you progress to the next horde of monsters, a boss fight and the most infamous element of the game: QTE sequences. I think 50% of the game were QTE sequences. They weren’t fun, and broke the game’s flow very badly. What caused me to quit was its absolute fucking STUPID save system, which I won’t go into right now. I’m hoping Sekiro is at least a better game than Ninja Blade was for me.

    Also FromSoft has quite the catalog of mecha games. Armored Core is the big daddy of the bunch, yeah, but besides that misconceived Steel Battalion game, there’s Chromehounds, Metal Wolf Chaos (THANK YOU Devolver for bringing it over to the U.S. at last! And it’ll have a GOG release too, making it probably the first FromSoft game to make it to the GOG store, which is cool), Murakumo: Renegade Mech Pursuit, and a Dreamcast game called Frame Gride, which is a mech fighting game of some kind. Holy crap do they have a lot of Armored Core games listed in their… gameography? Ludography? (As much as I acknowledge the legitimacy and usefulness of "ludo" and variants why is it the only people I see use it are a-holes?).

    I thought they also did 3D Dot Game Heroes, but they only were its Japanese publishers, apparently.

    Point being, Souls has become ingrained so heavily into FromSoft’s identity that now people expect every game they make now to be just those. Besides a little bit of Otogi and a few levels of Ninja Blade, I admit that Souls is all I’ve played from them. If I went through their entire video game back catalog it’s likely I’d end up concluding that the Soulsborne games are their peak achievements, their games before that were generally critically mixed, sold to a super-niche crowd and were even less accessible than what people claim Souls games to be. Regardless, I am glad to see them try and move out of that bubble they unwittingly trapped themselves in (well, they and the hardcore Souls fans are both at fault here) back to their more eclectic (or mech-oriented, whichever) territory. Sekiro seeming to wash away most of the elements that distinguished Souls games as being Souls games out of the project, their showcasing of a melancholic-looking first-person VR fairy tale/adventure game in a boarding school where you walk around and solve puzzles, and Devolver’s bold announcement of their Metal Wolf Chaos remake (I have only seen a couple posts in question, but apparently their hashtag raised the ire of many – what a time to be alive. People have no sense of tongue-in-cheek humor anymore, any mild pisstake on Trump slogans not foaming-at-the-mouth declarations of fascism and white supremacist violence are to be shunned, and people don’t care to understand even the context of the humor, which is how over-the-top MWC is in its pro-American patriotic antics, too excessive for even American audiences the time of its release I imagine – anyway, just fuck 2018 politics, that is all on that, and I can’t wait to play both Sekiro and Metal Wolf Chaos XD – the VR game I’m not so sure about, only because I don’t want to invest in a VR headset to just to play any one game – I’d definitely be more willing if there was a non-VR version I could play).

  5. Avatar lordnoah says:

    it shocks me is how selfish the community is, they literally don’t care if from gets rid of all that for good as long as the parts they like are intact

  6. Bonaduce80 says:

    So… From is doing Zelda then? Carry on, I’m interested.

  7. Avatar Grehym_Blak says:

    I’m a little disappointed at the moment…reveal trailer looks like God of War : Samurai Addition. It’s hard for me to get excited about a game without attribute points/character building, item discovery, cornucopia of weapon/armor sets and play style. That being said, I will give From the benefit of the doubt because they have never made a game I didn’t love. I had similar doubts when BB was first revealed and BB is a strong contender for favorite among all of them for me, so here’s hoping that From can wow me again.

    Plus Vaati’s latest vidya suggests that Sekiro isn’t the "Souls-like" game that From has been working on that was referenced in a previous interview way back when they were quoted to be developing 3 new titles. A game that is in line with the soulsborne series, a new IP and a "weird" VR game. We definitely know what the VR game is, and it would appear that Sekiro is the new IP, so that leaves the dyed in the wool souls game.


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