Hands-on: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is so good uuuuuulgh

Hands-on: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is so good uuuuuulgh

It took me a little bit to convince my bosses to let me go to Gamescom. I begged them, tried using our new gadget site as an excuse, and made the whole thing as cheap as possible for them. I told them I would be checking out like twenty games and write previews for all of them. It was all an elaborate ruse – I just wanted to go so I could play Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.

There aren’t a lot of games I really nerd out over anymore. Sure I’m excited for the new Red Dead Redemption and I will probably put my social life on hold when Spider-Man comes out next month, but I rarely get truly excited anymore. Too jaded. There’s an exception though, and that’s anything that From Software ever puts out.

Boy, I love me some Dark Souls

I’ve been hooked on the -Souls games ever since the first Dark Souls back in 2011. The brilliantly balanced difficulty, the unforgivingness of it all and the mystique behind every aspect of those games put a spell on me like no other series has ever done. Suffice to say, I’m really fucking stoked that From Software is working on a new title and I’m even more stoked that I got a chance to get my carefully manicured gaming hands on it here at Gamescom.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a big departure from the type of games From Software has cranked out recently. Everything from the structure to the pace feels entirely different from the Souls games. The first thing you’ll notice is that Sekiro is a lot more vertical than a game like Dark Souls. Thanks to the grappling hook (bound to the left trigger), you’ll zip around the environment and easily climb ledges that would normally be out of reach. It feels great and it comes with a whole host of tactical options that I can’t wait to try out in the full game. You can easily escape nasty combat situations by zipping to a nearby roof, or get the drop on unsuspecting enemies by jumping on their neck from a tree branch for instance.

Something old, something new

That’s not to say that the combat is completely unlike the previous From games. You’ll still be blocking, dodging, and parrying your way through tough encounters against enemies that can knock you out with a punch or two. You’ll die a lot, but the pain is softened a bit by the resurrection mechanic that lets you revive yourself once when you die. Hence the subtitle.

Interestingly enough, the revive mechanic doesn’t make the game any easier than its predecessors. The game’s director said the mechanic allows them to make the game even harder by pushing the player to the limits of his skill.

Sekiro, the main character, has this weird prosthetic arm that can swap between a bunch of different modes, giving you some powerful new tools to tackle combat with. You can turn the arm into an axe for a powerful melee attack, a thing that shoots shurikens to attack enemies in the distance or a flame vent to set your opponents ablaze. The half hour I played the game wasn’t enough to truly master these new skills, but I can’t wait to get some quality time with the final version of the game to unlock the true potential of these new tools.

Git gud

Even with the revive mechanic, prosthetic arm, and grappling hook, Sekiro still feels tough as nails. The half hour demo was barely enough to get the basics down but I’m really excited to see how the gameplay shakes out once I get the hang of all the new systems Sekiro introduces. It feels like a huge evolution from the previous From games, while feeling familiar at the same time.

Sekiro takes all the best stuff from the Dark Souls games: it’s still difficult but fair, it’s still has a really high skill ceiling and it still makes you feel like an absolute badass when you finally kill that one enemy that’s been giving you a headache for an hour. Sekiro comes out on March 22 on PC, PS4, and Xbox One, and it’s looking to be a must-get for anyone who’s ever enjoyed a Souls game.

Read next: The pros and cons of using VPNs