Why me and Sekiro never became a thing

2023-06-14 by Callum Andrews

So much love to give

So let me start by saying I love FromSoftwares Soulsborne games. I LOVE THEM! Seriously, I do. Do you know how I know that? I know that because when playing those games they put me in the same sort of state I was in when I fell in love with my wife. Well, almost, minus the frustrating moments and I mean the frustrating moments with the games. Not my wife(let's hope she never reads this).

To me they are all-consuming, they are everything I think about. Even when I'm not playing them. I get fixated, almost to the point of it being unhealthy. And I can bet that I am not alone in this because, from my experience, the Soulsborne fanbase is one of the most diehard fanbases there is. Those games, change people. They certainly changed me. Changed the way in how I approach games and how I play games and how I think about games.

But like almost all relationships there are hiccups. Like all relationships have ups on downs, my relationship with the Soulsborne games has had some as well. We all know the controversy that was when Dark Souls 2 came out. Bloodborne wasn't love at first sight for me. And Sekiro, well let's just say it was never meant to be.

Trouble in paradise

I'm not really sure from which game FromSoftware got most of its Soulsborne fanbase, but I'd guess that it would be the first Dark Souls. Even today, it's very much talked about. I would consider myself however more of an early adopter as my first foray into these games was with Demon Souls. Having heard about it from some friends and also seeing how it was Game of the Year on Gamespot for 2009, I decided to give it a shot.

Now you might be thinking, it was love at first sight and to that I say, HELL NO!!! It was pain and suffering and an unending amount of frustration. Anyone who's played these games knows how hard they can be initially. Now just try to remember your absolute first time playing these games and how hard they were then. Today, it seems that most of us, have played them in some form or another. We've been around the block and are familiar with the mechanics and know how it all goes. Trying to remember your first time however and I think you'll come to some kind of realization. I did however press on and managed to beat the game twice all by myself. I had gotten the game a bit later after release so there weren't many people to summon anyways. But after beating King Alant on NG+ something in me clicked and that's where I realised I loved that game. To this day I consider that boss fight to be my best one ever. In any game, I ever played. Why? I'll tell you about it later.

Then came a good couple of years with the release of Dark Souls 1, Dark Souls 2, Bloodborne, Dark Souls 3 and eventually Sekiro. Sekiro came out ten years after Demon Souls. By then my life had changed somewhat. I didn't have the same amount of time to play these games as I used to. Also, I had changed somewhat I didn't have the same patience as I used to(or so I tell myself). So, I couldn't be bothered with the task of having to learn a new mechanic in order to enjoy a game. I couldn't be bothered with having to grind and replay the same area or the same boss over and over again so that I would in the next moment get it and start to enjoy the game. Another thing is that you either learn the mechanics of Sekiro or spend vast amounts of time being frustrated. I'm going to say that I did try. I'll admit I gave Sekiro a chance. Maybe I should have given it more of a chance but I feel I just can't be bothered. The new mechanics with a greater emphasis on deflecting attacks rather than dodging them or blocking them didn't click with me. Maybe I'm just too old and don't have the reflexes. However, compared to the other games before it, none of them locked you in, in this sort of manner. You could argue that Bloodborne did this also to an extent by taking away blocking. However, there is a huge difference in that Bloodborne has a much greater weapon variety and also various armors. Letting players choose the style in which they want to play. Yes, the core mechanic of quick combat, dodging and pairing is still there but there are several ways in which they can be tweaked to suit the player's needs more.

My feeling about Sekiro was that it didn't have this. Instead, you either learned to deflect enemy attacks or you were screwed. There was also no way in which you could strengthen your character in the form of having different armor or apparel. There were other ways to upgrade the characters and earn abilities to help you in combat but it was way more restrictive than the games before it. That, I would say is my main issue. The thing is that compared to other Souls games, if you get stuck there is no way around it other than playing until you get better. The previous games however let you change things up. Let's say your tank character isn't able to withstand the damage a certain boss deals and is too slow to dodge them. Then you could just switch it up and remove the armor and equip a faster weapon and give it another go. Hence changing your playstyle to a faster character or you could try damaging the boss from a distance with some magic and then getting close for the kill. This is one of the reasons why I fell in love with the series. This was also precisely what happened to me.

Remember how I said that I would tell you why I consider the King Alant boss fight the best one ever. The points I brought up above are some of the reasons. I went into Demon Souls completely blind, not knowing anything about the game other than that it was somewhat hard and that it was good. I wasn't prepared for the experience I was about to have. Only the first level took me around six hours to beat. Nevertheless, I struggled through NG and NG+ packing on as much armor and carrying the heaviest weapon possible. I struggled more than I'd have to because anyone that's played Demon Souls knows that playing as a mage is basically easy mode. At the time I didn't know this, but I clawed my way through inch by inch. Until I reached King Alant and hit a wall. There was no way to beat him. He was too fast, I was too slow and he hit too hard. This was on NG+ mind you. I tried everything, looking into various ways even to cheese him with magic. There was some sort of method that you could stand at a certain place in the boss arena and he wouldn't take notice of you. From there you could cast poison or toxic cloud on him and this would damage and eventually kill him. However, being someone that had put most of my spec points into vitality and strength and some dexterity this took forever to accomplish. So I abandoned that plan. At a point, I contemplated just leaving it be and walking away. After all, I had already completed the game once. But the masochist in me couldn't. Like I said earlier I get consumed by these games and even when I'm not playing them I keep thinking about how to beat a boss or traverse an area. After some head-scratching and trial and error. I realized that throwing off all my heavy armor and weapons and putting on some lighter ninja armor and double-handing(double-handing weapons in Demon Souls made you deal more damage) an enhanced falchion was the way to go. I probably also strengthened it with some stones so that the damage output would stack better with my spec points. Instead of trying to block the damage I was going to avoid it all together. I didn't beat him on the first go after this, but after a couple of tries, I was victorious. After the fight, my hands were shaking and all I did was stare blankly into the screen. I couldn't believe it. I have rarely had moments like this afterward because as with most things the first time is always the best. But I have had several moments of elation after beating a boss in these games that I rarely get (or ever at all) when playing other games.

Better luck next time

So with that said, it put me off that I couldn't decide how I wanted to play especially considering how hard these games can be. I have also a friend who had an experience like mine but only that it was in Sekiro. Here he reached the final boss but instead of trying to persevere, he let the game go. In the end, there is only so much time one is willing to sacrifice for stuff that really doesn't matter a lot in one's life. Unless you're some kind of masochist like I used to be.

Seeing as the combat is the main reason for me not sticking with Sekiro, I would also say that the world didn't suck me in, the same way as the previous games. Using Feudal Japan as a backdrop for a game has been done numerous times in plenty of games. In Sekrio it's done with a somewhat paranormal twist. The story and locations also have real-world connections. Still, though, games in that setting have for the most part failed to interest me. Take for example another favorite game series of mine. The Total War series was developed by Creative Assembly. They have developed games that are both set in Japan during the feudal era and in Medival or Ancient Europe. My interest has always been higher in the games set in Europe during these two periods than the ones set in Feudal Japan. This can also be likened to why I might also like the Soulsborne games that came before Sekiro more considering that they also have a more Medival Europe (or in the case of Bloodborne Victorian) setting.

Even though the game failed to catch my attention in the same way the previous games had, I still wanted to experience what the game had to offer. So I decided I would at least watch a full playthrough of it. While I can understand why it is so highly regarded and well-praised I have just come to the conclusion that it isn't for me. Even after watching an entire playthrough of the game, I can say that I don't feel that I missed much. I'm not going to say that it didn't deserve the award for game of the year. However, I do feel that there have been much better games before it. I'd say that the first game that deserved to get such praise as Sekiro did should have been Bloodborne.

Now I still haven't played Elden Ring, the reason for this being life circumstances. But I'm also afraid that it'll consume me, maybe even more than the previous games did. Especially after seeing the widespread praise it has gotten. I have played through every Soulsborne (except Sekrio) game at least twice and I'm not going to make any exceptions with Elden Ring. So I need a pretty spare chunk of time in order to be able to do it. But ever since it came out, time for me has been harder and harder to come by, due to life circumstances. Hopefully now during the summer vacation, I'll be able to get through at least one playthrough.

I'm guessing that the "You have died" scene will be showing up aplenty during my playthrough, nevertheless there are still no other worlds in gaming that make me feel more alive than FromSoftwares Soulsborne games.