Underneath my yellow skin

Sekiro: the pain has gone


Ed. Note: I’ll be talking about the nitty-gritty details of the game and anything else on my brain. In other words, it’s all spoilers. 

It’s been a little over two weeks since I beat Sekiro, and I’m still obsessed with it. Now that I’m done with the game, I can watch anything about it that I want. I’ve watched a ton of shit about it, including the launch trailer. I refuse to watch FromSoft launch trailers before I play the game because they spoil so much. So many bosses and different areas of the game. Most of it is in the first half, but there was some late-game shit in it as well. Also, they really highlighted the fight with Genichiro atop the Ashina Castle, which is definitely a set piece in the game. I’m including the video below, and it really shows off how epic the fight is. Of course it looks better in the trailer than in the actual game, but not by much. I also have to laugh because at the end of the trailer, they show Wolf decapitating the Guardian Ape and leaving it with the Wolf being triumphant. What a massive troll! Well played, FromSoft. Well played.

As I said in my last post, I’m on NG+ just past Genichiro. Yes, I said I was going to put the controller down for good once I finished the game, but I had to see what NG+ was like, didn’t I? Then, I had to see how I’d fare against Madame Butterfly. Then, I was so close to Genichiro, I had to give him a go. That’s the excuse I gave myself, but the truth is, FromSoft games just suck me in no matter how much they piss me off or how shitty they make me feel about myself. It’s weird to look back to the first FromSoft game I played, Dark Souls, and how I had vowed I was done with it once I beat it. I’ve tried to figure out why I came back when I was Done with a capital D. I mean, I know the reason I went back was because the sequel came out, and I wanted to brush up by playing the original again before I attempted the sequel. In addition, since I would be playing it on PC, I decided to wait until Scholar of the First Sin came out rather than buy the original game. Ok, the real reason is because I’m cheap and I don’t like paying full price for a game. I will say that Sekiro is one of the few games I’ve paid full price for–and I pre-ordered it. I pretty much will play any Miyazaki game, even though I think they’re starting to be above my pay grade. I’ll expand more on that in a bit.

One thing about doing NG+ or another playthrough of the same game is that if I missed something on my first playthrough, I’m going to miss it again on subsequent playthroughs. I’m pretty thorough on my first playthrough, and I tend to go down the same beaten path every time after. I remember recently playing SotFS for the seventh or eighth time (or more), and I was in the Brightstone Cove Tseldora watching Pate and Creighton fight. Oh, spoilers for DSII, I guess. I think I chose to help Creighton that time (I alternate between them), and after we were done, I looked around the room and noticed a hallway I had never seen before. I was gobsmacked. I also saw another room in this area I hadn’t seen before while watching a YouTuber play this area. How cool is that? New rooms after I’d played the game so many times. I’m down with that. Or when I’m watching a YouTuber and they tackle a boss in a completely different way than I had. Or an area. I can always learn something new about the games, no matter how many times I play them.

Is there replayability in Sekiro? Yes and no. It’s not an RPG in the same way the other games have been, so, no, there’s no customizing your build to do a dual shield run. Hell, there are no shields in this game. You can’t choose a build, and there are no armors or weapons in the game. Yes, you can choose which skills you want, but that’s not the same thing. You can use different skills and Prosthetic Tools, but there’s a limit to what you can do. If I started another run, would it be any different? Probably not. In addition, I hated how underpowered I felt for much of the game. Well, all of the game. Starting over from nothing would not make me very happy, I’m pretty sure. I can barely handle the game when I have all my skills, tools, and heals. I feel like this is the FromSoft game where I’m the weakest at the start of the game, but, again, it might be because I’ve forgotten how difficult the other games are. It’s funny. I’ve been watching Day[9] play Sekiro, and he maintains it’s easier by far than the other Soulsborne games. He’s still in the early days (hasn’t beaten Madame Butterfly yet or seen Genichiro yet), but it’s interesting to see how different people have such different opinions. There were several people including reviewers who thought Dark Souls III was much harder than the original. I thought it was much easier in general than the original, save for a couple of notable bosses (looking at you, Nameless King) and the DLC.

I will say that the common enemies are easier in general than in other games. I remember trying to make my way through the mobs in Central Yharnam and getting overwhelmed time and time again. I had to use pebbles more often than I care to admit. Yes, there are mob enemies in this game, and a few early on that are a pain in the ass, but in general, being able to stealth and one-hit Deathblow enemies is a big help. In addition, being able to grapple the fuck out of trouble is money, yo. I can’t tell you how many times I was being chased by a half-dozen enemies, frantically scanning the area for that needed green circle high above me. Can I just say that I am elated that my fears about grappling were completely unfounded? One, FromSoft loves platforming. They put in every game, and in every game, it sucks. I’m sorry I have to say it, but it’s true. From the tree in Ash Lake in Dark Souls to the trees than lead you to Livid Pyromancer Dunnel in Ashes of Ariandel, I never knew when a jump would make it or when it would plunge me to my death. I was afraid that it would be the same in Sekiro, that the grappling would be more guesswork than anything else, but it’s not. Once you have the system down, it’s so damn smooth. Sometimes, you will have to do a leap of faith and press LT as you’re plunging to certain death, but if you have better reactions than I do, it’s not a problem. (In other words, I died more than a few times to this, but it’s because my twitch reactions are not great. More to the point, they’re non-existent.) The grappling is amazing, and I loved flying high above everything. I wish there had been more grapple points, but I do understand why they had to limit them.

It’s funny. I just watched part of a Jim Sterling video about why he didn’t like Sekiro. I haven’t watched much of his shit lately because I feel as if he’s bought into his own shtick way too hard. However, I knew that he loves the Soulsborne series to the point of being obsessed with the games, and the video was titled something about how he didn’t like Sekiro. I clicked on it out of curiosity, and to my surprise, he was talking about parrying and how he didn’t like it. He said in all the other games, there are other options other than parrying, and if given an option, he would take ‘not parrying’ every time. He said his problem with Sekiro was that it was meant to be played with the parry, and he simply did not enjoy his time with the game. I was literally writing about that just minutes earlier! Hearing him say that made it click in my brain as to why this game felt so much more difficult than the others. I mean, I already knew it was meant to be played parrying (deflecting) all the way, but I didn’t really understand how deep-seated that mentality was. Watching YouTubers and streamers play, the ones that have mastered the deflect system have so much less difficulty with the enemies than I do. I also agreed with Jim Sterling that in Soulsborne games (especially Souls games), there are so many different ways you can approach a situation/boss. I’ve beaten bosses in those games using vastly different methods, and it’s fun to try different things. In Sekiro, the options are much more limited. I was discussing with Ian the other day that it feels there are set ways to beat each boss with minimal variations. One of the main things to keep in mind when facing any situation is that it’s far better to be constantly attacking than to dodge away.

All of this meant that it took much more effort for me to beat this game than it probably did for most people. I absolutely adored the gameplay as I started playing this game, and the controls felt very natural to me. However, as early on as Madame Butterfly, I considered quitting because the game was not for me. As I have said, I am a turtler, and I wasn’t very good at adapting to the frenetic and aggressive style of Sekiro. Let me be honest with you. If this wasn’t a FromSoft game, I probably wouldn’t have persevered. That’s not to say it isn’t a good game–it is. It’s a brilliant game, and I think the innovations to the Souls formula are brilliant as well. Sekiro is a masterpiece, but it underlines the issue I’ve had with all FromSoft games–they are not meant for scrubs like me. I’ve managed to finish them because of sheer stubbornness on my side, but if the next FromSoft game is even more difficult than this one, I don’t think I’ll be able to play it.

Ian commented that I get this way about every FromSoft game in the second half–I bitch about how I suck and how I don’t know if I’ll finish it. Even though he commiserates with me at the time, he knows that I’ll finish the game because that’s the way I am. I know from the outside that it seems like I’m reacting in the same way every time, and while I am, the difficulty of the games has outpaced my reaction. I’ve gotten better at FromSoft games since I fumbled through the Undead Burg for the first time, but there is a ceiling to my abilities whereas the increase in the difficulty of the bosses is limitless. I felt the frisson of fear that I was reaching my hard cap during the DLC of DS II, and it has only grown through the DLC of DS III and the whole game of Sekiro. Yes, I was able to take everything Sekiro threw at me, but only just. The last three bosses put me through the ringer, and if there had been one more, I would have tapped out. Ok, probably not, but I knew I was at my limit when I was fighting Isshin.

Speaking of Isshin, I still have a weird feeling whenever I think of him. Like my brain slows down and becomes very quiet. I used the term reverent, and I think that’s what it is. None of the elation I usually feel when thinking about a boss I beat. None of the rage or redemption, either. Just, reverence. This is the boss who demanded everything I had and would accept nothing less. He was judge, jury, and executioner, and when I finally put my sword through him for the last time, he deemed me worthy. That was an interesting twist to this game, by the way. How many bosses said something as you killed them. Either complimenting me on my skills (Madame Butterfly and Isshin), being proud of me for what I’d become (Father), or thanking me for putting him out of his misery (Demon of Hatred). I really liked the ending of this game, and I feel very positive about Isshin, even though I felt he was unfair as I was fighting him, and I still do.

I think this game is amazing. I still don’t think it’s for me. I’m fine with this dichotomy for now.



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