By almost any metric, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a terrific game. FromSoft risked a big departure from the settings, systems, and nearly stealthless, nearly jumpless, stamina-defined gameplay that had made their name across the preceding decade. And the risk paid off! They turned out an exceptional game that really doesn’t slack in any of the conventional categories by which games are judged: it plays well; it looks good; it sounds good; it tells an engaging story. It’s fun! So . . . if that’s all that needs to be said about From’s action-stealth hybrid, then why don’t I love it? I do like it a great deal. But why do I have this nagging feeling that Sekiro, despite its incredibly high quality, will never be listed among my absolute favorite games?
For starters, you can rest assured that the answer to those questions has nothing to do with the game’s difficulty. If you’re here for the next chapter in the ongoing saga of people opining about challenging games, you’ve come to the wrong article. But if not that, then what? Well, perhaps a promising way to go about this is to do what I’ve done in the past when there is an arguable flaw or set of flaws that I think is worth discussing within an otherwise excellent game: draw a clear line between what I like about the game and what I don’t like, in the simple layout of a pro and con list.
Now, when this discussion gets to the cons—to what I consider to be the flaws of Sekiro—they will not be flaws that most people care about. Even calling them flaws will be contentious. But you have to remember that, not very long ago, there was a stretch lasting over half a decade (beginning with the release of Demon’s Souls) during which the majority of the games FromSoftware released were among the greatest games of all time. This article is about gauging how well Sekiro measures up to that very high bar FromSoft set for themselves.