I would love to believe all the other FromSoftware Souls games were just half-baked entities that I couldn’t grasp onto for lack of a finished sheen. In reality, I’m just bad at those games. They are complete ideas, every corner of their design filled with whatever dark, grim, roiling color it is they paint with over in their Tokyo offices.

That, however, is where Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice steps in. These Souls games are simply variations on the same theme, but they are always a whole and uninterruptible concept. I couldn’t hang with the slow, plodding combat of Dark Souls. I never meshed with the relentless bloodletting of Bloodborne. But Sekiro, built on this fascinating thesis of aggression, is right up my alley.

It demands that you are in constant tactical motion, not just always strafing left or right and trying to not get stuck in a corner or some geometry, which is easily the least interesting part of Souls combat to me. Instead, you are closing distance or dodging to the side or leaping over an attack before striking hard. And it’s all thanks to that posture.

It’s both a gauge of your progress and a ticking clock. That endless, imperceptible click that forces you to get in there and fuck it up or get fucked up because the only thing less acceptable than dying is letting your opponent regain their composure. Nothing is as potent a fuel this year in gaming as seeing an enemy’s posture bar begin to refill.

What enables this to be engaging and not frustrating is the boundless maneuverability of the game. Sekiro can jump and clamber with the best of them, but his Shinobi Prosthetic further enables him to grapple around at will, getting in and out of combat scenarios at will. And not just in terms of fleeing; you can also reposition yourself just as easily to get the advantage in a given encounter (though you can also find yourself in a more precarious one if you’re not careful).

FromSoftware also seems to have perfected their oddball sense of humor. There are so many instances where I can recall an enemy lumbering out from behind a wall to kill me in a Dark Souls run that leaves me endlessly frustrated, but here in Sekiro, they manage to make those goofs genuinely laugh out loud funny. The absurdity couched within such a dire and committed environment is impossible to understate.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Take, for instance, the screaming sky foe, commonly referred to as Woo Guy. He comes literally out of nowhere to wreck your shit with the most unhinged battle cry in any of these games and all you can do is laugh. He is perfect, and the perfect representation of how FromSoftware is fully understanding the genre they created.

There’s also Screaming Horse Guy, who I refuse to call by his proper name even though that’s, like, the first thing he screams at you upon his gigantic horse.

So Sekiro is a fantastic game, basically, and you should play it.

Tim Poon

Computer scientist turned journalist. Send tips to tim@workingmirror.com.