Dark Souls director Hidetaka Miyazaki said that the series was done after the last Dark Souls III DLC was released, but not everyone believed him. But any doubts should have been swayed by developer FromSoftware’s showing at E3 2018. It wasn’t a new Dark Souls, or even a new Bloodborne game that was announced – instead, we got Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.
This new supernatural samurai game has no classes, stats, or collectable souls (or an equivalent), which has led FromSoftware to describe it as an action adventure game rather than an action-RPG, as with the Soulsborne titles.
But that doesn’t mean Sekiro is devoid of Dark Souls influence. While it may be a bold deviation from the RPG formula that has seen FromSoftware’s reputation rise rapidly in recent years, there are certainly lessons from Dark Souls that the studio can translate to this new genre outing to ensure long-time fans are sated.
An interconnected world
One of the few gripes fans had with Dark Souls III was that it ditched the interconnected world of the first game for a more segmented design. Some of the most memorable moments of exploring Lordran came when you discovered an unexpected shortcut. Most players will remember opening up a new path to Firelink Shrine for the first time and learning that the entire world was connected. Miyazaki has said that Sekiro’s world design will be laid out like it was in Dark Souls so it sounds like FromSoftware has taken fan feedback on board.
A sense of scale
Who could forget being dropped off above Anor Londo in Dark Souls? Or exiting the labyrinthine Catacombs of Carthus to be greeted by a stunning view of Irithyll of the Boreal Valley in Dark Souls III? The series is rife with beautiful vistas that make the player feel part of something larger than themselves, but these views also serve as harbingers of the challenges to come. Yes, the view of Irithyll is beautiful, but you’re eventually going to have to travel through there. In that way, the beauty of the series can also be oppressive and foreboding. If Sekiro wants to stand alongside Dark Souls, it should offer players a similar sense of scale as they make their way through the world.
Creative enemy design
A lot of the enemies seen in Sekiro’s first gameplay trailer lacked the brilliance and variety we’ve seen in Dark Souls. Most of them are humanoid and look similar to designs we’ve seen from FromSoftware before. Perhaps the developer wants to focus more on the combat and story of Sekiro – fair enough. But it’s not truly a FromSoftware game without some staggeringly frightful monster designs. Bosses like The One Reborn and The Demon of Song have been burned into our memories and therefore set a high bar for Sekiro’s villains, even if this isn’t a Souls game.
The Soulsborne games are notorious for their convoluted plots. In fact entire YouTube careers have been built around unravelling these knotted threads (VaatiVidya is basically YouTube’s Aesop at this point). Far from frustrating, the ambiguous nature of FromSoftware’s storytelling has become one of its games biggest selling points. Rooting around in item descriptions and combing every square inch of an area for clues to a character’s past instills a sense of participation in you, as if you’re truly uncovering the secrets of the world. Let’s hope Sekiro’s plot can match the expectations that will be thrust upon it.
A reason to keep pressing on
Dark Souls is known for punishing players. A poorly timed swing or a brief lowering of the guard can be the difference between success and failure. It would be easy to give up when faced with such adversity, but time and again, fans pick up their Kirkhammer, dust off their Silver Knight Shield, and get back into the fight. What is it that keeps them coming back to face the abuse? The thrill of victory? Bragging rights? Learning the ins and outs of each weapon and its moveset? Whatever the case, Sekiro will probably need to tap into FromSoftware’s wellspring of incredible design and polished gameplay. If our first look at Sekiro is any indication then it is on track to do just that.