'Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice' vs 'Dark Souls': How Are They Alike and Which is Harder?

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a major departure from previous games developed by FromSoftware, including Bloodborne and the Dark Souls series. But just as Bloodborne feels like a spiritual offshoot of the Dark Souls series, Sekiro is loaded with mechanics sure to be familiar to players of previous titles directed by Hidetaka Miyazaki.

The look and tone of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is also likely to be familiar to players of Dark Souls and Bloodborne. While not as grotesque and horror focused as FromSoftware's fantasy RPG series and horror action RPG Bloodborne, Sekiro is still a dark game, full of blood and hostile environments. Just like in Dark Souls, NPCs are often wretched, strange characters, seemingly as doomed to inhabit their violent world as you are to fight through it.

But Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice also has very different inspirations, alluding to Japanese feudal history and samurai movies more than the medieval and Euro-horror flair of Dark Souls and Bloodborne . Here are a few of the other primary differences between Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and the Dark Souls series.

'Sekiro' Action vs. 'Dark Souls' RPG

General Tenzen Yamauchi will challenge your sword skills in "Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice." FromSoftware/Activision

While Bloodborne is more action focused than Dark Souls, it still remained an RPG. The same is simply not true for Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, which has diverged from the roleplaying aspects of its predecessors. In Dark Souls, you begin with a starting class, but are otherwise a blank slate, developing a character that's better at magic or swordplay or stealth. In Sekiro, you play a shinobi who pledges to guard a young lord. People react to you as a specific character, with known loyalties and old enemies or allies.

How Sekiro becomes stronger and better is also different in Shadows Die Twice than in the Dark Souls series. In Sekiro, you'll accrue both experience and currency (sen) from killing enemies. Both are used in improving your character, but there's no traditional levelling. Rather than piling experience into specific stats—like Dark Souls 3's Vigor, Attunement, Endurance, Vitality, Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, Faith and Luck—experience in Sekiro accrues toward Skill points you can spend on multiple Skill trees. Improvements to Sekiro's attack strength, Vitality and Posture come from carefully doled out power-ups, like Prayer Beads and Battle Memories won from specific bosses.

This substantially limits your ability to simply grind your way into a Sekiro victory. In Bloodborne or the Dark Souls series you could walk away from a boss and grind out higher stats, then come back with more Strength, Vitality or whatever category was previously deficient. This is a far less viable strategy in Sekiro . Sure, you could farm experience and unlock new skills (including passive skills like additional ammo for your Shinobi Prosthetic Tools), but all that does is give you new combat options—perhaps a new lunge or midair strike—which will also require practice. Unlike the RPG aspects of the Dark Souls series, there's no real way around having to master Sekiro's combat mechanics to proceed.

So while much of Sekiro will feel familiar to Bloodborne players, it soon becomes clear how much Sekiro is primarily an action game, not an RPG. Because there is no option to play as a bandit, pyromancer or cleric, as in Dark Souls, gameplay emphasis is entirely on shinobi combat. While Dark Souls features notoriously difficult combat, there's often a multiplicity of ways to approach each engagement. This is less true in Sekiro . One of the most dramatic examples can be found in the game's emphasis on Deflections.

Sekiro Deflection vs. Dark Souls Parry

Learning how to parry and riposte in the Dark Souls series is an essential advanced skill, allowing players to knock away blows and deliver powerful critical hits in return. But in Sekiro, this same mechanic is at the heart of the entire game. With Guard on one shoulder bumper and Attack on the other, Sekiro is balanced between the two.

In Dark Souls, it's possible to still be a little shaky at parrying, even late in the game. It's entirely possible to beat games like Bloodborne with only rudimentary parrying skills. This would be unthinkable in Sekiro, thanks to an emphasis on a new mechanic called Posture. Most fights in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice don't end when you knock down an opponent's Vitality, but instead when you break their Posture, overwhelming their defenses and leaving them vulnerable to a Deathblow kill. Rather than an advanced technique, like Dark Souls' parrying, Deflection is the central mechanic in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.

Like with so many of the comparison points between Sekiro and the Dark Souls series, differences may sound like mere variations in emphasis, but feel entirely different in practice.

Sekiro Elegance vs. Dark Souls Complexity

Sekiro feels built by watchmakers. Everything interlocks with an astounding elegance. Direct combat and stealth are equally viable approaches, each with their time and place. Each new combat skill could be the one that lets you eke out the next victory. The stats you'll track playing Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice are simple and explicable.

These are your stats in Dark Souls 3:

Your stats in "Dark Souls 3." FromSoftware/Activision

I beat the game, but still couldn't explain the purpose of Poise. This sounds like a criticism of Dark Souls, but it's really not. The shaggy dog approaches possible in Bloodborne and the Dark Souls series rewards replay and experimentation. Sekiro is elegant enough that only a focus on combat is ever really necessary. The Dark Souls series can feel like games with rough edges, the different mechanics coming together in exciting, sometimes weird, configurations. Sekiro feels like a curated challenge, with each second perfected toward maximum adrenaline and skill.

Which is harder, Sekiro or Dark Souls?

"Sekiro" vs. "Dark Souls": Which is harder? FromSoftware/Activision

Short answer: Sekiro, which may prove to be one of the most challenging games ever made. Don't just take our word for it—Forbes, Digital Spy, Gamespot and a bevy of other publications agree: Sekiro is harder than any of the Dark Souls games and Bloodborne .

A lot of this comes down to the singular focus on combat, eliminating the ways you could soften the difficulty through crafty roleplaying in the Dark Souls series. Sekiro makes you earn every inch. Sekiro also places less emphasis on exploration than the Dark Souls series. The distance between save points is smaller in Sekiro, but each new section is anchored by a super tough enemy or boss. Each new victory in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice feels even more impossible than the last, as you fight through progressively harder and harder duels.

While Sekiro may be different from the Dark Souls series, it's similar enough to strongly recommend to fans of previous FromSoftware titles. It may be more action than RPG, but Sekiro remains a singular hardcore gaming experience, just like its predecessors.