Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is teaching new tricks to the proverbial old dog of boss fights.
If you are a FromSoftware veteran, chances are you’re familiar with the likes of the Soulsborne games (for the uninitiated, Soulsborne refers to Demon’s Souls, the Dark Souls trilogy, and Bloodborne all rolled into a subgenre of action game that From pioneered).
In these games, players would face off against bosses twice, sometimes thrice, their size, rolling and ducking as said bosses swung their enormous weapons and hacking away at their lower body (Disclaimer: this description fits most of the bosses that featured in the games).
Moreover, the player character in the Soulsborne entries was custom-made, with equipment and accessories that classified them under the warrior-thief-mage-priest archetypes we’re now all too familiar with in your friendly neighbourhood RPG.
This should mean Sekiro shouldn’t be any different, right?
Well, in a way.
The team at FromSoftware is looking to change things up in their latest entry by basing the way boss fights are structured on the various tools the One-Armed Wolf has available to him. No longer will you have the freedom to create your own character, since the main character is fixed, but you will have options with which to approach your enemies still.
FromSoftware community manager Yasuhiro Kitao echoed this sentiment in his interview with Game Informer regarding Sekiro‘s lack of online multiplayer,
We have to restrict ourselves, and how far we can take that balance and that tuning, in order to cater to all these playstyles.
Sekiro, with a fixed protagonist, allows us to hone in on that single-player experience, and tweak the boss battles and the encounters to accomodate for all of these tools at the shinobi’s disposal. So we want players to eventually use every aspect of their arsenal and really use their cunning, and use every aspect of their skillset, to take on these really challenging foes.
From your trusty katana to the all-new grappling hook which adds vertical movement, Sekiro‘s bosses will have you thinking on your feet in a multitude of ways – while hardly giving you enough time to do so.
Game Informer recently had an exclusive preview of From’s shiny new boss fights, featuring the Wolf going toe to toe with a humanoid boss wielding dual kunai, named Lady Butterfly.
Not your typical monstrosity as seen in previous Soulsborne titles, her agile movements are a step up from previous humanoid bosses, such as Father Gascoigne in Bloodborne, and Sister Friede in Dark Souls 3, both of whom have given many a player a really frustrating time due to their sudden bursts of speed that can catch you off-guard.
Lady Butterfly is not much different from that design approach, but FromSoftware has since then evolved that formula and turned it into something more advanced and nuanced.
From a neutral perspective, the battle offers a scintillating view, with flashes of steel on steel filling the screen as the duo dance around in this burning warehouse. Lady Butterfly is one tough and speedy customer, leaping off the Wolf’s sword, darting across the screen with effortless grace while flinging a handful (or two) of daggers at the player.
Despite her speed, Lady Butterfly is not invulnerable to attacks, and as seen above can be damaged if struck by either projectiles (using the customizable prosthetic arm that can also spew fire as you see fit) or your blade. It also helps to learn her attack patterns, as erratic and varied as they may be.
(Credits for the above three gifs: Game Informer)
FromSoftware director and icon Hidetaka Miyazaki stated that, from a design perspective, it wouldn’t make sense for the enemies in the setting of Sekiro to be of entirely the same DNA as those of their previous titles.
If we made every boss [one where] you were able to use the grappling hook to zip everywhere or stealth kill every boss, it would just get monotonous and boring.
So there may be boss fights where you’re up against a huge creature and you need to use the full arena and get around very quickly and use that dynamism, but there may also be fights where you just need to go toe-to-toe and use every piece of kit in your arsenal.
The aforementioned Father Gascoigne and Sister Friede (as seen above) are examples of FromSoftware’s early iterations of this design choice. By combining their lightning-fast movements with the Wolf’s new movement mechanics and prosthetic arm tools, you have yourself a very flexible boss-fighting beast in Sekiro.
Sure, you may not be able to customize your character, but that’s not the focus of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.
Lady Butterfly is but one of many instances of Sekiro‘s nuanced new bosses. As Miyazaki explained, others will most definitely offer a wholly different challenge to players, unlike in the previous FromSoftware titles, where you can adopt a common quick-fix strategy to blaze through the game and speedrun it at record speeds.
Eventually, players will find out the best strategy to beat these bosses, given the thousands of battle-hardened Soulsborne players out there today, but the main idea is to ensure that even said tactics will be different for every boss.
Excited for Sekiro yet? We know we are.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice officially releases on March 22 for PS4, Xbox One and PC.
Marion has a serious RPG addiction. Sometimes it bleeds into real life; he forgets to sleep because he thinks he has a Witcher’s body clock. Forgive him in advance if he suddenly blurts out terms such as “Mind Flayer” and “Magic Missile”, because never once does he stop thinking about his next Dungeons & Dragons game.