The real Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice was the friends I made along the way

A lot has happened since I last wrote about Sekiro, where I'd survived the brutal encounter against Genichiro Ashina and learned how to actually play the game. Not only did I finish From Software's latest—after, I'd say, 30-40 attempts to kill Isshin the Sword Saint, the game's final boss—but I've reached Isshin again on New Game Plus. I've killed the Demon of Hatred, the optional, bullshit boss, in both playthroughs. I've killed Owl (Father) in the alternate version of Hirata Estate. I've killed every anus-snatching Headless, and every bullshit purple warrior guy, mostly because I took someone's advice and bought the Lilac Umbrella. I can now bully most of the bosses who used to bully me. This was the first From Software game I ever played for more than a few hours. I adored it.  

I probably won't play it again after this, because it's been over 70 hours and I'm ready for something else. The experience of mastering Sekiro has been incredibly rewarding, though—not just learning how to parry perfectly or take apart complicated bosses, but in my interactions with other people who are playing the game on Twitter. Even though I've seen a storm of elitism on the internet around Soulslike games, captured in depressing detail by the internet garbage 'You cheated not only yourself' meme that followed James's Sekiro mod piece, in my bubble, at the very least, I've had so many good interactions around Sekiro.

Photographer Gareth Dutton, who makes the Making Games is Fun podcast, has been one of my Sekiro dads. He coached me through the Lady Butterfly fight, arguably the game's first big hurdle. 

He weighed in every step of the way after that, too. And so did my other Sekiro dad, Sam Smith, who I once hired as a writer on an old PlayStation magazine, and who used to bang on about Dark Souls in the office. 

When I beat the Demon of Hatred—a giant boss with wide sweeping attacks who's probably the hardest in the game—Gary advised that I 'Don't get upset' fighting the game's final boss, which showed he knew exactly who he was dealing with. 

I've built up a solid little community of old friends and Twitter peeps coaching me through the game—one of my followers, AlexofAlexia, taught me how to take down some of the tougher magic sub bosses in the game. I've been running a parallel journey with some players, like Patrick Carlson of Hinterland Studios (and former PC Gamer writer), who's been moving through the game at the same pace as me. 

At least this thing is a piece of piss to beat. 

A whole bunch of people congratulated me when I finally defeated the end boss. It's the most positive experience I've had on both Twitter and in games for the longest time. It even made me think I should've streamed Sekiro and taken it that one step further, but in retrospect I'm glad no one saw my tantrums during hour four of my attempts to beat the Demon of Hatred. 

When I reflect on playing Sekiro, sharing that journey with people has enhanced the game for me. That kind of 'we're all in it together' spirit has had me interacting with people I would never normally chat to on social media, and exclusively in a pleasant way. The 'Git gud' thing is commonly associated with the Dark Souls crowd, and I'm in no doubt that elitism exists—but there's also so much room for encouragement, advice on getting the most out of the game, and coaching people through games they otherwise might not believe they can enjoy. Sekiro's Reddit community is rife with posts that echo this: curiosity and honesty is rewarded by thoughtful answers from people as fascinated by the game as they are. 

I went from being utterly convinced Sekiro is not for me to loving it. Maybe I'll finally move on to Dark Souls next time.