Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice release date, how it's different from Dark Souls, and everything else we know

From Software excited Dark Souls diehards and Bloodborne acolytes back at E3 2018 when it unveiled its latest adventure, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. It’s the samurai vs. oni demon matchup only the likes of Souls series director Hidetaka Miyazaki could hope to bring, but hold onto your grappling hooks. From Software themselves are saying Sekiro holds some major changes that will give fans a run for their money, hopefully making Sekiro its own unique challenge. We’ve scoured our past reporting and the rest of the internet to bring you absolutely everything we know about Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.

 Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice release date

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is releasing on March 22, 2019 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One for $60. PC players can currently pre-order it on Steam. GameStop, Amazon, Best Buy, Newegg, and Target.

How fancy is that collector's edition?

The Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice collector’s edition is available for $89.99. It includes a digital copy of the game, a 7-inch statue of the “one-armed wolf” player character posing in a combat stance with one of his blades, a steelbook case, a collectible artbook, a cloth/paper map, the digital soundtrack, and some fancy replica game coins. 

It looks like the collector’s edition is only available at GameStop for now, but interestingly enough their version also comes with a letter opener that looks like a katana. There’s no info on how big it is, but most letter openers are three to five inches long, so don’t expect something you can hang over your mantle.

Will there be a demo?

Don’t count on there being a demo available for Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Neither Dark Souls nor Bloodborne had demos that were ever playable outside of press conferences or exclusive coverage. That said, From Software has generally been generous with those, so you can expect plenty of hot takes from media types like us. Even better, 2019 has already been a peculiar year for demos from games you wouldn’t necessarily expect, like the Resident Evil 2 remake, so anything is possible.

Trailers, and plenty of them

The first trailer for Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice was a mercilessly brief teaser shown at the December 2017 Game Awards. Literally all we got to see was (what we now know to be) the prosthetic limb attached to the one-armed wolf, who you play as, and things looked very Bloodborne-ish, what with all the... blood.

Then came the E3 2018 trailer, which finally showed off From Software’s take on 1500’s warring Japan. Spot the clear allusions to Bloodborne’s final boss battle with that moonlit wheat field.

Then came this trailer in August (which makes it weird they labeled it a “reveal trailer”), which offers some insight into who the one-armed wolf warrior is, his connections to the characters around him, and some badass grappling and sword swinging against a pudgy oni demon-looking guy and a war lord riding an uncomfortably large horse. Seriously, how did that thing fit through the doors?

The 2018 Tokyo Game Show brought with it a fresher trailer, this time with a wider look at the world of Sekiro, some of its major characters, enemies, and some jaw-dropping vistas, like a towering castle. 

The story of Sekiro

The world of Sekiro is set during the late 1500’s Sengoku period of Japan, which was also conveniently referred to as “The Warring States period.” Basically every regional leader was self-promoted into a “daimyo,” (Total War: Shogun fans will feel right at home), and peace wasn’t restored until the Tokugawa shogunate assumed power. The real Sengoku period of course didn’t have giant snake monsters and blood magic, we hope.

Like a lot of From Software games, our protagonist, the aforementioned “one-armed wolf,” is rescued from near-death. Sounds great, until he realizes his young lord has been captured, and the boy is sporting a bloodline that’s pretty important to the bad guys. Outfitted with a weapon called the “Mortal Blade” and a fancy prosthetic left arm, the warrior will find himself traversing an entire kingdom to reclaim his honor. He’ll just have to contend with an army or two of samurai cutthroats and giant demonic entities standing in his way.

Most notably, Miyazaki confirmed to Game Informer that he’s handling the overall story, but will be handing off item descriptions and dialogue to other team members to “create a fresh experience and something that we hope users have never seen before,” From Software manager of marketing and communications Yasuhiro Kitao told GI. That means you can even listen in on certain enemies to learn more. You can still expect to learn about the world mostly through environmental clues, items, and background lore, but overall Sekiro will focus much more on telling the singular story of the Wolf. 

Gameplay, and how it's different from Dark Souls or Bloodborne

The most important thing to realize about Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is that From Software has made a concerted effort to differentiate its combat and exploration from what you might be used to in Dark Souls and Bloodborne. For every one feature they’ve removed, though, they’ve added in something pretty special. You can still expect fog doors (of sorts), huge bosses, and 

Let’s start with the obvious difference: Combat. In Dark Souls, you probably used a shield to block enemy swings, and in Bloodborne, things moved so fast that you just leapt out of the way. In Sekiro, it’s all about actively deflecting with your Mortal Blade, which makes combat even faster and more shrewd, especially considering your glass cannon nature. From’s Yasuhiro Kitao told us Miyazaki wants to capture the feeling of “swords clashing.” TL;DR:  James says it feels more like Hotline Miami than Dark Souls.

Combat is aided by a much wider range of traversal than any Souls game or Bloodborne, thanks to your helpful grappling hook. You’re not only able to zip up to the roofs or windows of buildings, but you can use the hook to close the gap on an enemy or boss when they’ve left themselves open. This can lead to some really fancy throat-slicing flips, even on bosses twice your size. Some trailers and gameplay footage have even shown off stealth sequences, where the Wolf can pull enemies off a ledge or hide against a wall before attacking, lending Sekiro a very Tenchu vibe.

“The deflect isn’t really like a parry in fighting games or previous Dark Souls games where you have a large window of leniency. It’s very precise,” lead gameplay designer Masaru Yamamura told Game Informer. “In order to teach players this, we need the enemy animations and attack animations to be very precise. We need them to see what’s coming and to learn these movements, and to react accordingly. So when it comes to tweaking these attacks, we can’t just do it on a parameter level. We have to actually tweak frame by frame the animations and remove frames, add frames, to make sure the user can react to that intuitively.”

And speaking of Tenchu, Sekiro’s “death blow” mechanic takes inspiration from Tenchu: Fatal Shadows’ “hissatsu” moves that allowed for extra brutal stealth kills. In Sekiro, it’s tied into your stance and the enemy’s. Deflect their blows well enough, and you’ll knock their posture off balance, leaving you room to swoop in for an incredibly damaging special move.

Enemies have their own tricks though, including sweeping attacks that can’t be blocked. Your only option in this case is to jump. Yes, a From Software game with a jump button, if the constant leaping in the trailers didn’t already clue you in. You’ll rely on Kanji symbols that appear above your head to know how to react, as well as enemy animations. 

Lending a prosthetic hand

While you’ll always be carrying your katana in your right hand, your prosthetic arm can morph into plenty of helpful tools. There’s the grappling hook, an axe that breaks an enemy’s guard, a bright firecracker that can stun enemies and scare their mounts, throwable shurikens, and it even spreads out into a shield that resembles the wide-brimmed samurai hats of yore.

Character progression

Character progression is significantly different from predecessors, too. According to coverage from Game Informer, character customization will focus strictly on your roots as a shinobi warrior (no going full wizard here), but you can specialize your fighting style. There’s far fewer (if any) stats to monitor here.

You’ll still collect experience points (and now gold) from defeated enemies, which give you a skill point, but you won’t be able to unlock certain skills trees until you find a related item somewhere in the world. Once you do, you’ll upgrade yourself at Sculptor’s Idols, the Sekiro equivalent to Dark Souls’ bonfires.

Here’s where things get interesting. You can choose to upgrade one of three skill trees: the stealth-focused Shinobi tree, the combat-focused Samurai tree, and a tree focused solely on your prosthetic arm that will eventually have you making Inspector Gadget look like the amateur he is. There’s passive buffs, too, and special “combat arts” moves that you activate with both shoulder buttons and must be swapped out separately. This is meant to let players invest in a particular play style “just to give you something to make you feel like you’re roleplaying in a certain way,” Kitao told Game Informer.

There’s plenty of upgrades to be found outside of the menu, though, including health-upgrading prayer beads, and those prosthetic arm upgrades will come with enough exploration and finding the appropriate add-ons.

“This is actually using Miyazaki-san’s own words – You could think of the previous Souls games as more expanding laterally, and adding breadth to these various options and builds,” Kitao told Game Informer. “While you are a fixed shinobi protagonist, you do feel like there’s a sense of progression, there’s a sense of building your own character and finding your own playstyle, and experimenting with this throughout the game.”

Is death game over?

For a game called “Shadows Die Twice,” From Software, Miyazaki, and Kitao are being surprisingly quiet on how death will play a role in Sekiro. Miyazaki told Game Informer that death will in fact have a detrimental effect, but wouldn’t get specific. What we do know is that you’ll rely on checkpoints much less, as you can die in combat, resurrect yourself (a limited number of times, it seems) and since the enemy think they’re job is done, you can get in there for a few quick kills before the fight picks back up. 

Big world, bigger monsters

Mutant roosters.

No, they haven’t released assets of it, but they’re there, according to the Game Informer Show.

Aside from petrifying poultry, Sekiro’s world is a pretty vast one, including multi-layer fortresses, castles, peasant villages, and other classic Japanese samurai locales. There’s plenty of fodder and big bads ruling over the place.

Standouts include a big oni demon-looking guy who likes to spew acidic puke all over his giant sword. There’s slightly smaller giants that performs Batista Bombs. There’s a skeletal monk that stands similarly tall and pokes at you with a naginata (think a spear with longer blade), then splits into three copies of himself and turns everything to shadows. From the first reveal trailer, we also see a giant samurai riding an equally massive horse, and then an actual human-sized assassin who uses razor-thin wires to climb around a crumbling temple.

A personal favorite has to be a giant snake that makes all those other guys look like ants. As seen in some gameplay footage below (at the 6:50ish mark), there’s a mountain-sized snake (God of War’s World Serpent’s long lost cousin, I guess) that patrols the underside of the mountain where your young lord is held captive. It slithers along the mountain, periodically stopping to look out for unwanted guests, and that’s where you’ll use the long grass to stealth your way through, or become a crunchy snack.

That illustrates one point From Software are making with Sekiro’s bosses, and you can even see it listed as a hint in loading screens in some gameplay footage. You’ll want to think about the environment as much as you think about a boss’ weak point. Sure, you could use the environment to cheese monsters in Bloodborne or Dark Souls, but here it’s a much more integral part of getting the upper hand.

In the way of smaller enemies, besides humanoids, dogs are returning too. 

Is there multiplayer?

Nope. None of any kind, including Dark Souls’ invasion mechanic. Kitao is pretty clear in his lone answer to GameSpot: “No online components.”

Will there be difficulty options?

Nope, and From Software’s reasoning is pretty altruistic. They want everyone to experience the game the same way, although they don’t seem to rule out any changes in the future.

“We want everyone to feel that sense of accomplishment,” Miyazaki told GameSpot. “We want everyone to feel elated and to join that discussion on the same level. We feel if there's different difficulties, that's going to segment and fragment the user base. People will have different experiences based on that [differing difficulty level]. This is something we take to heart when we design games. It's been the same way for previous titles and it's very much the same with Sekiro.”