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random games

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Author Topic: random games  (Read 8697 times)
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« Reply #1545 on: 24 April, 2019, 10:41:04 am »

Ok, Sekiro final thoughts. Long read.

I've been feeling like this is probably my favorite first playthrough of a From game, and I've been thinking about why that is. I would say I had a similar experience with Dark Souls III where I moved through the game relatively unabated. By the time I played DSIII, I think I understood what was expected of me based on playing Demon's, DSI, and Bloodborne. Those games taught me how to approach gauntlets of enemies and challenging boss fights, where every death is a lesson and, on a smaller scale, so is every hit you take. Playing through DSII and then replaying Bloodborne and DSIII helped me refine all of that and discover a play style that's a lot more like dancing, going toe to toe with enemies of any size.

Sekiro is that style of play, but on a level that is even more engrossing to me. I already said I think it might be the best pure swordfighting game I've played so far. There's so much give and take in every battle, and there is a way to master the combat such that whether you're attacking or defending, you're always winning. Where the Souls games tend to be about avoiding an enemy until they do certain moves that you can punish, Sekiro lets you turn every action the enemy takes into an opportunity. Some attacks present a better opportunity than others, and you can pick and choose based on what you're comfortable confronting, but each enemy gives you the potential to download and dominate them. It's a feeling I think I'll miss the next time I revisit one of the previous games.

Clearly Dark Souls gives you greater variety of weapons and movesets, and that altars the design of the game on a fundamental level, but it's hard for me to imagine them not taking some of the ways that Sekiro has evolved combat forward. Even a game with a more limited weapon set like Bloodborne, if it had the interplay of Sekiro, would be exciting.

Beyond combat, it feels like From has leveled up their other disciplines as well. The movement tech allows them to do really cool stuff with level design, and the environments in this game all feel grounded in the setting but suitably unique. This game also reuses areas really well, which is sort of backtracking done right. They get the most out of their assets without making the game feel padded. Stealth also makes traversal faster and eases the pain of runbacks that would be annoying in a Souls game (though there are plenty of cases where the devs just give you a checkpoint right in front of a boss, which is also fine).

Playing a named character that speaks made me feel closer to the story, but it still felt like there was plenty of the more traditional lore and world building of a From game. The fact that enemies were often other humans that could be overheard and that spoke to you contributes a lot to this.

Anything else? The music is pretty great, both in boss fights but also environmental music. That's something From hasn't done a lot of before. It's a byproduct of the stealth design where you need something to escalate the tension when you're in and out of stealth, and it works really well. They have unique music for each area, which helps color the different enemies and the types of encounters you have (I hate Mibu Village for the battle music even if the enemies are almost completely unthreatening).

I'd say my only major issue with the game is the way prosthetics work. They can be really cool, and one article I read talked about how there's almost this Mega Man lock and key vibe where if you find the right prosthetic for a boss or enemy, suddenly it just breaks that encounter in your favor. I think the firecracker might have been too universal in this regard, but the way Sabimaru cuts through enemies in a later area of the game, or the various applications of the umbrella shield are all pretty cool. I liked the Spear a lot early on but didn't feel like it had enough applications. Shurikens are another one that's pretty universally satisfying. Flame cannon is awesome but impractical. And I think the whistle is pretty niche but you can definitely use it in more cases than you might think.

What holds all of this back is the spirit emblem system, which I don't really understand. On one hand, if you don't have trouble getting through an area and you're just killing things, you'll wind up with plenty of these in stock. There's the potential to earn back as many emblems as you use while moving through regular enemies.

But with bosses and minibosses, you might blow through all your emblems and still have more than half a fight ahead of you. I'm not sure I even realized this was happening, but it led me to not invest a lot of spirit emblems into boss encounters. Part of that had to do with how I would learn a fight, where I go in and don't do anything for the first run or so, just observing attack patterns and learning deflect timings instead. But I think I also didn't like the idea of using prosthetics to get part way through a fight only to have to finish it without them. And I also never wanted to run out. As a result, I probably underused a lot of tools. When I beat the game, I still had more than 400 emblems in storage.

I've heard about people who run out of emblems and then can't buy more because they're too expensive or they've also died enough to lose all their gold. I wind up saying to these people "ok well technically, you don't need to use prosthetics to win that fight," but it makes me wonder if it would just work better if you just respawn with full emblems? That would also make the emblem capacity upgrades more tempting (I only ever took one of those and then got another from beating a miniboss). And it would still work where you can regain emblems between idols from killing enemies. And you would never worry about burning your whole stock on one boss and having to go grind to get more.

I can't say whether that's the main reason I'm seeing a lot of people bounce off of the game, but a not insignificant number of my friends have now. I don't know whether it's the emblem thing or if they aren't letting go of certain tendencies from playing other From games or if there's something else that doesn't jive as well. Maybe there's some other underlying thing to address, though. For my part, I consider this a special game, and I can only hope others come around on it.
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"What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously.

But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured." - Kurt Vonnegut, jr.
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