I’m nearing the end of my Sekiro journey and I don’t want it to be over. The whole game is a wonderful evolution on the Dark Souls/Bloodborne game design model, but I’ll save that for another day. I wanted to talk about how challenging it has been for me to physically play the game.
It is the hardest game I’ve ever played, even now, when I think I know how the systems work and how the game wants me to play. The lack of RPG elements makes beating technical bosses very hard. Very hard. You can’t work around mechanics that just require lightning reflexes.
I beat one of the hardest bosses last night (the second trip to the top of Ashima Castle), where the only way to damage him is to exploit split-second gaps and execute frame-thin counters. If you attack once more when you meant to roll or counter or jump away, you will take a lot of damage. The fight took me about 6 or 7 minutes to finish, which is a fucking long time to hold precise execution and strategy without a break. And it took me about 2 hours to train myself how to kill him. And I know there are at least 2 more fights ahead of me that are more difficult than this was.
The game is built around attacks and counters, posture breaking, and understanding when to attack and when to defend, what to avoid, and what to exploit, and this fight is the driest and most technical representation of that philosophy. A good player can probably finish it in under 5 minutes, and a very good player can do it in under 3 minutes though that would require picture-perfect counters and execution of attacks and dodges. The best-timed kill I’ve seen is in 2 minutes which is pretty fucking insane.
Point being, after 2 hours of fighting him, I finally killed him, and then quickly got to the next boss who isn’t as hard, not nearly, but as I started to learn her patterns, my hands were in so much pain that I just stopped and went to bed. If I hadn’t killed him, I’d have gone to bed and had to re-familiarize the fight again, so that my muscle-memory was triggering based on sight reads without any thought on my part which would have taken another maybe 30 minutes or so before I got back to where I was as my hands started to cramp.
So my aged hands now start to hurt faster, and my aged mind takes longer to see things and react, and my aged nerves react slower than a nineteen-year-old streamer who can execute the kills in 2 minutes. Fair enough. And maybe some of these guys are in their forties and fifties doing it better than me, I don’t know! I’m sure there are people my age and older, still playing and executing better than I can.
This is the first time I’m running into physical limits of what I can do while gaming. I don’t know how long I can keep playing games this tough, but it’s gratifying to know I can get most of the way through so far, even if I’m slower and it takes me a lot longer than the young wolves surging ahead of the pack to bring down the kills with vicious fangs and flashing claws.