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This week, Yahtzee reviews Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.


Transcript Edit

Now, obviously having played through Dark Souls more times than I've willingly vacuumed my own carpet, when I review a new game by FromSoftware, Dark Souls is going to come up a lot. But even I get bored of saying the name over and over again, so how about this: every time I want to say "Dark Souls", I'll instead say the name of a James Bond film, and we'll see if I can get through them all by the end of the video? That'll add some much-needed gaiety to the upcoming whinge! So then, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a new game by FromSoftware, the developers of Dr. No, set in a slightly-fantasized version of feudal Japan and which has been making Nioh, Team Ninja's version of From Russia with Love set in a slightly-fantasized version of feudal Japan, slowly sink to its knees and frustratedly bang its head on the floor. "Oh, but wait! Sekiro's not going to be anything like Goldfinger!" several correspondents informed me in the run-up to release. I wish I could remember who those people were, specifically, because I want to slap them across their big, fat, lying faces.

Yes, the combat is different, and there's a grappling hook and a stealth element and everyone's got feudal Japanese haircuts, but the broad experience is pure Thunderball: you explore a series of gloomy environments very fucking carefully, 'cos combat's built for one-on-one dueling, and if you pull more than two standard baddies at once, you might as well sit on a sesame-seed bun in preparation for the sloppy joe that will soon be rendered from your living buttocks; resting at checkpoints restores health, healing potions, and brings back all the baddies; and every now and again, you stumble into a new boss fight that you have to hurl yourself against like a fucking crash test dummy over and over again until you can keep your shit together long enough to finally kill the big fat bastard.

The plot is, you are Wolf, a lone feudal Japanese warrior who should be really fucking grateful there was no such thing as copyright in the days of lone feudal Japanese warriors, who was the personal shinobi to a little prince boy before the prince boy gets captured as part of a power struggle and the Wolf has to go rescue him after the power struggles also struggled one of his arms off. It's surprisingly easy to understand for a FromSoftware game; if this were You Only Live Twice, I'd have expected to need three playthroughs and an afternoon with the wiki to have grasped that much. But here, we find another way Sekiro's different to On Her Majesty's Secret Service: the main character is a character, so you can't customize them or change armor or sword, but on the bright side, they can actually converse with other characters and don't just gormlessly stand there while a highly suspect dude with a concealed face laughs maniacally about nothing in particular.

Also, Sekiro has no multiplayer component: no more messages from other players in their hilarious attempts to construct a reference to Gwynevere's tits from pre-selected words and phrases; no more summoning help in boss fights, which was the all-purpose Diamonds Are Forever parachute for when you've spent the whole afternoon using up 900 crash test dummies and simply could not be fucked anymore. But on the other hand, without multiplayer, we now have the ability to pause! Holy fucking shit, I'm going to relish the fuck out of this!! I'm going to get into a big fight and then pause right in the middle of it and go off to do my fucking laundry, and the enemy will have to just stand there the whole time with their arm up like a stupid twat. Now who needs to "git gud"?

"Oh, Yahtzee, you and your Live and Let Die; can we please stop banging on about The Man with the Golden Gun and start talking about Sekiro: You Only Shadow Twice by its own merits?" See, this is the thing, listener: I sort of have to compare Sekiro to The Spy Who Loved Me in order to understand why I, a card-carrying fan of Moonraker, don't like Sekiro as much. Shocked gasp, someone faints, questions asked in Parliament. And it's not because it's too hard; yes, it was busting my balls like a cranky neighbor enforcing his yard boundaries, but it's just a matter of learning a new set of muscle memories, like when you sprain both your wrists and have to figure out how to wank with a pasta claw.

My trouble is, where For Your Eyes Only had extremely versatile combat that allowed you to find your preferred approach to things - blunt weapons, sharp weapons, shields, magic, or the time-honored martial art of calling a friend to do it for you while you sit at the back eating crisps and shouting advice - in Sekiro, it feels like there's only ever one "right" way of doing things, and it's usually parrying. I was never one for parrying in Octopussy; I always went for rolling behind them and sticking a scimitar up their arse, in the technique that I like to call "The Spicy Armadillo". But in Sekiro, parrying is the only game in town, and if you can't get the hang of constantly parrying multiple times in a row, then you're on the midnight bus to Failure Country.

At other times, the enemy would do a thing that makes a big red Japanese character flash onscreen, and I would respond by going, "Boy, sure would be nice to understand Japanese!" in the brief moment I had before being creamed. In these cases, the enemy is either doing a thrust, a grab, or a sweep attack, each of which has a best response, but I found it very difficult to read which of the three they were winding up; a lot of the enemies are wearing loose-fitting feudal Japan outfits with lots of dangly bits, so in the heat of the moment and with the murky graphics, it's hard to tell what's a sword and what's a leg and what's a fully-primed stiffy.

I guess that's another thing practice might help, but what does feel iffy to me from a mechanical standpoint is the stealth. Sekiro has taken to "stealth focus" like a befuddled old grandpa who just discovered MP3 players and is now on a quest to share this wonderful new concept with the world, so it's got enhanced verticality, meaning unlike in Never Say Never Again, the jump controls are more intuitive and responsive than a dead hamster at the bottom of a sack of Christmas lights. You have a grappling hook to put yourself in ideal positions for back-stabs and drop-kills, and there are icons to show when an enemy is ready for one, as well as awareness indicators, so we can sabotage our lovely scenery with ugly icons just like all those other games you like.

But doesn't this feel a bit at odds with the traditional A View to a Kill-style arena boss fights? I mean, the game does encourage stealth; some of the standard enemies can be right bastards if not caught unawares, and it's quite possible to stealth all the way to a boss and then have had absolutely bugger-all practice at the combat you are now going to get locked into and fucking sodomized in. Furthermore, a lot of bosses and mini-bosses have standard enemy helpers, so I'd stealth-kill one of them, alert all the rest, run off and hide on a roof or in a laundry hamper for five minutes until they all calm down, and repeat until only the boss was left, and when the boss was taking multiple attempts, this was about as fun as transporting several shopping trolleys up a gently sloping road.

So, is Sekiro a game that would appeal to The Living Daylights fans? Honestly, I'd almost recommend it more to non-Licence to Kill fans who don't have prior expectations. Your mileage may vary, but I didn't find it as interesting as GoldenEye, or as creative as Tomorrow Never Dies, or as fun as The World Is Not Enough. "Oh, Die Another Day, Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace! I'm sick of hearing about Skyfall, Yahtz! Can we please move on?" No, we can't! Spectre! All right, now we can.

Addenda Edit

  • Dog on a Hot Tin Roof: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • The real question is how his false arm retracts all the grappling hook rope after use; I suspect it's something to do with clenching your arse really hard
  • I hope the next Dark Souls game casts Idris Elba

Screenshots Edit

ZP - Sekiro SDT screenshot 1

Which has been making Nioh, Team Ninja's version of From Russia with Love set in a slightly-fantasized version of feudal Japan, slowly sink to its knees and frustratedly bang its head on the floor.

ZP - Sekiro SDT screenshot 2

I, a card-carrying fan of Moonraker, don't like Sekiro as much. Shocked gasp, someone faints, questions asked in Parliament.

ZP - Sekiro SDT screenshot 3

"Oh, Die Another Day, Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace! I'm sick of hearing about Skyfall, Yahtz! Can we please move on?" No, we can't! Spectre! All right, now we can.

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2018
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2 · Hellblade · Agents of Mayhem · Sonic Mania · Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle · Destiny 2 · Metroid: Samus Returns
Q4 Knack 2 and SteamWorld Dig 2 · Cuphead · Hob and A Hat in Time · Middle-earth: Shadow of War · The Evil Within 2 · Super Mario Odyssey · Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus · Assassin's Creed Origins · Sonic Forces · Star Wars Battlefront II · Hand of Fate 2 · South Park: The Fractured but Whole
2018
Q1 Top 5 of 2017 · Okami HD · PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds · Fortnite and Dusk · Doki Doki Literature Club! · The Inpatient and Doom VFR · Monster Hunter World · Subnautica · Kingdom Come: Deliverance · Metal Gear Survive · Hot Coffee · Hunt Down The Freeman · Ghost of a Tale
Q2 A Way Out · Far Cry 5 · Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom · Extinction and Attack on Titan 2 · God of War 4 · Yakuza 6: The Song of Life · Silent Hill 4: The Room · Conan Exiles · House Flipper and FAR: Lone Sails · Detroit Become Human · Agony · E3 2018 · Vampyr
Q3 Jurassic World Evolution · Resident Evil 4 · Totally Accurate Battlegrounds and Moonlighter · The Crew 2 · Octopath Traveler · Observer · Chasm and This Is the Police 2 · We Happy Few · Unavowed · Guacamelee! 2 and Not Tonight · Shenmue · Marvel's Spider-Man · Shadow of the Tomb Raider
Q4 Dragon Quest XI · Star Control: Origins · Star Control: Origins · Assassin's Creed Odyssey · Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 · Return of the Obra Dinn · The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories · Red Dead Redemption 2 · Call of Cthulhu · Fallout 76 · Hitman 2 and Killer7 · Darksiders III · Just Cause 4
2019
Q1 Top 5 of 2018 · Super Smash Bros. Ultimate · Gris and Ashen · Katamari Damacy Reroll · Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes · Resident Evil 2 · Kingdom Hearts III · Metro Exodus · Far Cry New Dawn · Anthem · Crackdown 3 · Left Alive · Devil May Cry 5
Q2 The Division 2 · Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice · Unheard and Outward · Yoshi's Crafted World · Mortal Kombat 11 · Katana Zero · Days Gone · Close to the Sun · Rage 2 · Observation · A Plague Tale: Innocence · E3 2019 · Blood: Fresh Supply
Q3 Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night · Judgment · The Sinking City · My Friend Pedro and Sea of Solitude · Acclaim Entertainment Hall of Shame · Wolfenstein: Youngblood · Horace · Rebel Galaxy Outlaw · Control · The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan · Remnant: From The Ashes · Blair Witch · Gears 5
Q4 Astral Chain · Contra: Rogue Corps · Ghost Recon Breakpoint · Indivisible · The Outer Worlds · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare · Luigi's Mansion 3 · Death Stranding · Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order · Shenmue III
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