Sekiro is secretly the best rhythm game ever made

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Sekiro is the pinnacle of FromSoftware’s combat philosophy. The delicate balance between movement, weaponry and reflexes is honed into a knife with a greater emphasis on kinetic maneuverability. It’s almost majestic to play, with our protagonist able to leap into the air and take down enemies with a mix of tricky stealth and aggressive hostility. Each encounter is a euphoric dance, so much so that it feels like a rhythm game far outside the established conventions of the genre.

Unlike Dark Souls or Bloodborne, it’s impossible to brute force your way to victory in Sekiro or summon a friend to lead you through boss encounters. Because of this increased difficulty, I can’t help but feel that it’s rarely held in the same regard, a crying shame considering this game is so much more focused and so much more satisfying to play than its siblings. You must learn, you must be aggressive, and you must not be afraid of failure. Because of this approach, it’s a scarier game to play, with the majority of enemies able to crush you in a handful of hits if you don’t stay on your toes.

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I’m serious – even lowly foot soldiers can flatten skillfully crafted samurai who waltz across the battlefields with overconfidence. You don’t have an arsenal of different weapons to choose from, but a strict selection of tools that our hero has been using for decades. At the center of it all is the samurai sword, a sharp and precise blade that can deflect even the toughest blows. Do it with rhythmic expertise and you’ll eventually whittle down an opponent’s stamina, opening them up to deadly finishing moves that are always satisfying. You can still win Sekiro without ever using this mechanic, but that means you’re not playing the game right and you’ll be defeated time and time again.



sekiro

I was and still am the type of player who will summon allies to help me achieve victory in Dark Souls and Bloodborne, and will no doubt maintain the same playstyle in Elden Ring, but Sekiro forces me to think differently and working on my shortcomings in a way that I can’t help but admire. Confrontations that once seemed impossible slowly became surmountable with growing knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses as I took the time to distance myself, practice against weaker enemies, and accumulate all items and resources what I needed to win.

It was a gradual process, and doing it over and over again meant that I naturally began to master everything Sekiro expected of me. The temples and mountains I was once afraid to venture into have become bloody playgrounds for my own curiosity. Sometimes you feel unstoppable, but you never step into the realm of complacency and believe this world is yours. There is always a new challenge waiting around the corner that will meet your expectations.



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There are fewer ways to navigate your way through it all, so it may be easier to walk away and never look back as the climb seems too steep, but the persistence is worth it. The rhythmic quality of Sekiro’s combat doesn’t come into full effect until several hours into the campaign, when enemies begin to emerge that depend on a steady stream of blocks to impede their resolution. If you fail to block, you’ll be dead in seconds, environments far too small to trick enemies into a corner and wail them. Encounters like this took me a dozen attempts as I drifted into oblivion time and time again trying to pinpoint the exact moment to drive my sword into these beasts without so much as a scratch on me.

It took hours, but when it finally clicked, I felt like a goddess. I’ve always favored more intimate human encounters in games like this over set pieces against otherworldly monsters. Such fights always feel more cinematic, as every move or strike could be your last as you seek to outwit an opponent who is your absolute equal. Sekiro is completed with moments like this, the best boss battles and environmental sequences pitting you against enemies that seem unstoppable, but with the right approach, you can still make it out alive. It rarely seems unfair, only that you haven’t yet acquired the essential knowledge to proceed. Games like this won’t be for everyone, but for those who like an experience defined by melodic patience, there’s not much better than Sekiro.



sekiro

Elden Ring is set to build on those attributes, with the Tech Test taking its predecessor’s approach to stealth and movement to build on the Dark Souls formula in unparalleled ways. You no longer feel like a lumbering knight or nimble pyromancer with a number of abilities in your repertoire, but a multi-faceted legend ready to take on The Lands Between from countless directions. With each new game, it feels like FromSoftware is always learning more and improving upon everything that has come before it, while never being afraid to experiment and leave things behind to avoid stagnation. Sekiro rules, so play it if you haven’t already.

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