'Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice' Hands-on Impressions: Ninja 'Dark Souls' is Pretty Accurate

The prosthetic arm in Sekiro can be customized with several different add-ons like this ax FromSoftware

You've arrived on the roof of a building surrounded by beautiful, blossoming cherry trees. Things seem quiet, but in the distance you can see guards patrolling the area. A quick jump across the level with your grappling hook places you on a perch high above your first victim. One jump down and your sword hits flesh, and in a flash, you've already disappeared into the nearby weeds. Things are going well, until you find the guard twice your size with a weapon bigger than you. Get ready to die, because you'll be back. Welcome to the world of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.

Environments in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice are often dramatic and beautiful FromSoftware

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is currently available to demo at gamescom and Newsweek had the opportunity to get a hands-on ahead of the German convention. After about a half hour with the game, we left frustrated by our frequent deaths, but wanting more.

Developer FromSoftware has created a niche for action-packed, but punishingly difficult games with the Dark Souls and Bloodborne series, and that continues with Sekiro. Controlling a samurai, players hack their way through countless minions and several towering bosses and beasts. Basic combat is fairly simple, with pretty much one attack and one block button. However, once you start digging into combat, you'll find considerable depth.

Combat in Sekiro isn't a race to deplete your opponent's health. Bigger enemies have two bars to keep track of. There's the health bar and the style bar. Reducing the health bar is helpful, but the major goal is lowering the style bar in order to land devastating blows. I never quite adjusted to that during my demo, as the conventional wisdom of gaming had me focused on the health bar. Lowering the style bar requires a more patient, parry-focused approach to fighting.

As you would expect in a FromSoftware game, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is difficult, but felt fair for the most part. Generally, my deaths (and there were a lot, even in my short demo) came down to poor timing on my part, though there did seem to be one or two unfair kills in there too, where a sword swing looked like it completely missed me. Even the developer guiding me through died a handful of times, which shows how tricky things can get.

Outside of standard samurai melee fighting, players also have access to a number of side weapons and gadgets thanks to the rudimentary prosthetic arm of the main character. The most useful is the grappling hook, which affords the ability to quickly zip around the level, reaching high locations to stay out of sight. Getting above an enemy also makes it easy to land devastating blows, allowing you to quickly kill basic baddies and take large chunks of damage out of bigger foes.

There's plenty of action to be had when getting into sword fights with bigger enemies FromSoftware

The most unique aspect of Sekiro is the ability to resurrect yourself if you die. This can't be used every time, but adds a crazy element of strategy when used sparingly. Enemies will sheath their swords and walk away once you fall, allowing you to regroup before trying to beat the enemy again, or spring back to life and resume the attack. It's a cool feature, and allows you to go a little further with each life instead of immediately resetting to the previous save point.

There are light RPG elements to Sekiro as well, but our demo wasn't long enough to really dig into the different ways you can create character builds.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is now available for pre-order and releases for PS4, Xbox One and PC on March 22, 2019.

So what do you think? Are you excited to try Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice for yourself? What else do you want to know about the game before it releases? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.