Let me get this out of the way right now. Sekiro Shadows Die Twice is a colossal disappointment. The newest game from a developer I like a lot, From Software, makers of Dark Souls and they have made probably their most piss-poor effort since Dark Souls 2. I haven't finished the game yet, but I have certainly played enough to have a firm judgement on the game.
What do I like? The pure combat itself, I do at least like that. It is fast, visceral as hell and when you are flowing it together, it feels like a damn dream and you feel like a badass. Too bad that feeling doesn't last too long. I also like the art style, so they at least kept up that tradition.
What do I not like? Well, almost everything else. I will be comparing this game to Dark Souls a lot since it is from the same devs and it uses the Souls games as its framework. So far, Sekiro's design is a fucking disaster. Is it different from the Souls games? Overall, yes. Is it worse than the Souls games. By. Far. This game is far more linear than Dark Souls. You go from point to point, only deviating slightly throughout. While I can go to different areas, my choices are extremely limited. The locations are not memorable either. It takes place in feudal Japan and while the art direction is nice like I said, we have seen this kind of shit a million times in so many other pieces of Japanese media. There isn't an ounce of creativity in the setting. Nothing here is particularly memorable, whereas I can remember every single location in Dark Souls 1. Maybe there is later in the game, again I have not finished it, but I doubt there is anything even close to Anor Londo or the Painted World.
Dark Souls 2, the weakest of the franchise was heavily criticized for its use of quantity over quality in its bosses. That exact same philosophy was applied here and as a result, not only are a lot of the bosses terrible so far, the pacing is a nightmare. You could spend an hour learning how to beat a boss, take them down and within 5 minutes you may encounter yet another boss. Another problem is that a lot of bosses have regular enemies either close to them or around them, so instead of just fighting the boss, you may have to spend some time clearing the area first and THEN you can fight the boss. Every single time you die, you have to do this. Dark Souls, it is almost always a one on one fight, you and the boss, and it was just a battle between you and them. Nobody else. That logic was thrown out the window here. Another thing Dark Souls had was a true feeling of accomplishment when you took a boss down. Not only was it immensely satisfying on its own because the bosses were better designed and way better paced, you usually got really nice rewards relative to your place in the game. You would always get a good amount of souls and you then get access to new areas which usually have new items, weapons and armor to check out. Sekiro offers maybe 10% of this. Not only are the bosses not as satisfying to overcome here, the rewards you get are often boring as hell. You might get one item that increases your health but you need 4 of those to do it and that's about it. Most of the time you get nothing worthwhile, nothing fun, nothing interesting. Sure you will get access to new areas, but in actuality it is more like access to continue on the linear path you were already going on, before yet another random boss stops you in your tracks. I am already at the point of rolling my eyes any time a new sub boss pops up, because there have already been so many that I simply don't care.
Another huge issue I have noticed is that some of the bosses make no goddamn sense. A few times I have fought samurai generals that have a huge sword and armor from head to toe. these guys I can see being mean mofos. Then we have an old lady grandma who is one of the game's main bosses and is a monster. Okay, fine, I can live with that, she was at least built up a bit and got a nice intro and such. Plus her arena is cool. THEN, I way later face a *sub* boss, named....something Snake Eyes, already can't remember the name and for no fucking reason this is one of the hardest bosses in the game. She isn't some behemoth, or samurai warrior, nothing like that. Picture this: She wears no armor, just standard clothes with some straw hood and her weapon of choice? Not a big sword or kunais or anything. It is some makeshift gun (why?) that looks like it was made out of two sticks and it happens to have a random blade attached to it. How strong is she? She can kill me with two hits. TWO. FUCKING. HITS. That's it, and this is with TWO health upgrades so far. Most of these samurai generals couldn't do that. Lady Butterfly couldn't do that despite being a main boss. Instead some dinky, shitty looking sub boss can absolutely destroy me if I make the slightest mistake. Again, going back to Dark Souls 1, almost every boss feels justified in how they are. Most of them do indeed seem like characters that could wipe the floor with your character, mainly because actual thought was put into them. Even the very first official boss of Dark Souls 1, the Taurus demon, is intimidating in his look and feel. Sekiro? Random ragtag sub bosses can wreck your entire world even after several upgrades and practice. This drastically diminishes that feeling of triumph of defeating them when their design doesn't make any sense.
All of this contributes to this feeling that you never get any stronger. You might improve as a player, but your character will always feel weak, feeble, pathetic. You never feel like your character has acquired newfound strength as you overcome these challenges. Any upgrades you get are soon made worthless by the next sub boss just around the corner. Dark Souls has a level up system and other weapons that you can also level up and upgrade and as you do this, you do eventually start seeing the effect. Sekiro has no weapon variety. You will always use the same sword you started the game with and all you get are sub weapons that have limited uses between statues anyways. So you never feel like you really are getting stronger and you get to experience no real variety in the weaponry. This will drastically hurt this game's already low replayability for me, whereas Dark Souls 1 has had me addicted even after beating the game 5 times.
Early on, I was digging this game a lot. Its visceral combat, when you get it down, it feels so good, but this is only on regular enemies, as bosses are over-saturated beyond belief here and they will always wreck you until you get them down and in the end, it never feels worth it. And the devs have the gall to introduce a mechanic like dragonrot, punishing you even further for death, in a game about trial and error. Why? Just to make sure it is different from the Souls games? Just because it is different does not mean it is a good idea. This game already punishes you more than Dark Souls for dying, as a true death (that is dying after ressurecting if you did so) will automatically make you lose experience and money and you cannot recover it. Eventually I just stopped caring. I don't give a shit about the money, I don't give a shit about the XP, both of those things don't have a huge use anyways, there isn't much to get. That also means that enemies eventually turn into a chore, especially in areas populated to the brim with them, because they give you nothing worthwhile. I also don't care about the dragonrot bullshit. Oh no, NPC's are getting sick because I am dying to bullshit bosses. Wow. I don't give two fucks about that. This game apparently has multiple endings, 4 I believe, and I simply don't care. I don't see myself playing through this game a second time. Again, back to Dark Souls 1, it is a game that despite having a long playthrough, I have started a new character immediately after beating it to try a new weapon and play style. There is nothing like that in Sekiro. So I don't care. This is assuming I even finish Sekiro in the first place, as my motivation is quickly diminishing.
I hope this game gets better. I don't like talking this much shit about a From Software game, because like I said I am a big fan of their work, but I can't have some denial glasses on while playing this. There's simply too much wrong with the overall execution here that it brings it all down in the end. Not that my opinion even matters in the first place.