In a recent interview between Hidetaka Miyazaki and Playstation Blog, we learn more about the lore behind the upcoming Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Also in a separate interview with Edge magazine, the director of Dark Souls series and Bloodborne gives important tidbits on Mechanics and Death.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Lore Revealed in Interview with Miyazaki
The PS Blog interview with Miyazaki delved into the depths of the lore of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, which up until now has been covered mostly by fans. Miyazaki discusses his recurring theme of death and his approach to storytelling.
One key question asked is about why Sekiro is set during the Sengoku-era in Japan. Miyazaki goes on to explain the pivotal eras that existed for the time of ninjas:
If we’re going to do something with ninjas, there are two key areas that are relevant: the Edo period and the Sengoku period. For context, the Sengoku period was a bit earlier than the Edo period.
We ended landing on the Sengoku period [because it] was dirtier — it was grittier and bloodier. It had more of a feel of the type of world we’d want to create…
Thus we learn that Fromsoftware picked the Sengoku period due to it’s less modern and “medieval” feel compared to that of the Edo period. It seems Miyazaki wishes to add a “mystical” element as this is a time that the influence of gods had a strong presence, which in turn will enrich the lore.
History-inspired yet Fantastical Setting
Sengoku is a popular setting for Japan-focused games such as Nioh, and they usually lead towards the famous Battle of Sekigahara (although that is unlikely to be the case for Sekiro). For this game, the FromSoftware team seek to delve into the fantastical and include non-humanoid enemies and larger-than-life structures into the environment.
“Of course it’s important to retain a sense of faithfulness, but we’re not trying to make a historical depiction of the Sengoku era. While we explored more drastically fantastical elements in our previous games, we want to approach this with a little more dignity this time – a little more carefully maybe.”
“But, rest assured, you’re not just going to be fighting humanoids the whole way through. There are going to be some things beyond human, even a little supernatural, hidden within this world. In order to make these fantastical, mystical, or even grotesque beings seem even more so, the initial groundwork is a lot more realistic.”
During the E3 demo and trailers, we have been shown some yokai-like enemies including a giant centipede, so this revelation is not particularly surprising. That said, it is important to reiterate this aspect as many players are likely looking for their fill of unexpected creatures and both enemy and environmental variety.
Death, Death and More Death
One key theme that continues to come up in Miyazaki’s games is death, whether it’s Dark Souls or Bloodborne: this is recurrent throughout his works. When asked about how Sekiro handles the “second chance” revive, Miyazaki replied:
My idea of a ninja fighting rather than, say, a knight fighting, is that ninjas can’t take a lot of damage. They’re taking a huge risk, they’re very vulnerable while they’re fighting. It’s this idea of fighting on the edge, it’s a risky situation where if you screw up by a hair’s breadth, it’s over. With a knight, there’s more back and forth, there’s armor and all that. The idea of that type of fighting is where the idea for resurrection came from.
With that image for the combat, that it’s risky, a slight mistake and you’re dead, if you had to go back every time you die and walk back to where you were, the tempo of the game would not feel very good. The idea of resurrection is that it helps the flow of the game. Yes, you have this battle, but you don’t necessarily need to go back every time you die, this helps to balance that out and allows for that riskier “edge of the knife” type gameplay.
A lot of thought seems to have been given to the role of death as well as resurrection which is a important in gameplay, but it’s interesting to see Miyazaki’s perspective and reasoning. While he doesn’t completely give away the lore behind resurrection in the game, he does hint that the main character will have “mystery surrounding him” and that resurrection will be related to both him and the young lord. If you recall from our Sekiro Screenshot Translation Article, the game sets off as the antagonist seeks to harvest the mysterious powers of the Young Lord’s ancestry.
From Miyazaki’s comments, we further take a mechanics element to death:
…a ninja is so resourceful that he can even make use of his own death to gain an advantage.
While it might make it sound that this component will make the game easier Miyzaki assures that the resurrection system can add further challenge.
If anything, it actually can make the game harder because it allows us to push the edge of risky combat where the player can die at any moment.
In his interview with Edge Magazine, Miyazaki talks further about the weakness of the character that brings balance to the game:
They’re not a knight in armor; they’re exposed, weak, vulnerable. They need to be constantly on edge.
The protagonist will die but will not necessarily respawn at a save point but rather resurrect at the same spot. The mechanic will help with the overall “tempo” of the game as well as add a “sense of trepidation”, however during E3 interviews the FromSoftware team specified that such resurrects “come at a cost”
The Prosthetic Arm
The special prosthetic is a unique and versatile characteristic of the game. It was featured in the teaser trailer known as “Shadows Die Twice” a year ago before the project name was revealed and quickly became the subject of great speculation. When asked how the arm will affect gameplay, Miyazaki replied:
There were two things we really liked about using a ninja, in terms of game design. We’ve always designed stages with verticality in mind, we consider it one of our strengths. What really appealed to us was being able to explore that dynamically — not relying on ladders and other ways to move around these stages, but being able to just boom, I’m there.
…So, the two key aspects of this shinobi prosthetic are that you can explore with verticality, and you have a variety of moves that you can use in combat.
The arm looks to not only give a certain sense of accessibility when it comes to the protagonist but also is more fitting to role of a ninja, providing “ninja Tools” that increase the ways in which objectives can be completed.
Lore vs. Story
The differentiation between lore and story has been a key focus of development of the Souls series. While story is key to progression of the game, lore adds depth and a richness to the world. Miyazaki helps to explain his views on both these features:
In Sekiro, the story is actually centered around the main character. He’s a character in the story, who exists in this world. Previously we had nameless characters who weren’t as involved. Thanks to making the main character part of the story, the beginning of the game is probably easier to understand than our previous games.
Aside from that, not too much is different. This isn’t a game where you go through one area, kill a boss, watch a cutscene, then the game tells you where to go next. The story trickles in as you’re playing the game, you’ll find things that will give you more information on the world — the lore, if you will — along with actual story information as well. In that way, it’s similar to our previous games.
His answer helps confirm that this is more of an open-world structure than a single path adventure. Those who are interested in learning about the history and universe that Sekiro is apart of will be able to do so in their exploration.
Miyzaki has a particular way in which he tells his stories, avoiding a straight forward narrative. He explains his inspiration in his story telling style:
I’m a fan of stories that require you to use a little bit of your imagination in order to really understand the whole thing.
When I was young, I used to enjoy reading books that were too hard for me, where I could only read maybe half the kanji, and using my imagination to fill in the gaps. I wanted to see if I could bring that kind of experience to a video game, where you use your imagination to bridge those gaps.
While Sekiro won’t follow the tried and tested formula of the action-RPG, becoming instead an action-adventure gamewith RPG elements, Miyazaki assures there are a lot of things to look forward to including “new story format”. While the direction is a little different from Soulsborne, it will include elements from previous titles such as “…dynamic exploration, the violent swordfighting, and the huge number of strategic options”.
Excited for FromSoftware content? Check out our Sekiro To Have Eavesdropping: Famitsu Interviews Miyazaki – Translated, and our Dark Souls Remastered Review. You might also want to go check out the Sekiro Shadows Die Twice Announcement Trailer.
And of course, there’s the Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice wiki.