For those who believed that Dark Souls bosses were the pinnacle of video game boss design, From Software says just wait for Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Sekiro publisher Activision recently hosted Game Informer for a hands-on demo and interview, proffering some interesting new details on the upcoming action-RPG, including its boss battles. The comparisons between Sekiro and its predecessor series Dark Souls were particularly interesting, and are likely to raise expectations for From Software’s next big thing.
As most are likely aware now, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is an action-adventure game whereas the Dark Souls franchise would be better considered an action-RPG. It’s this difference, along with the decision to feature a single identifiable protagonist rather than a character creation system, that divides the two games. It also enables From Software to elevate its boss battle design to the next level.
From Software community manager Yasuhiro Kitao clarifies this, acknowledging how Dark Souls‘ open-ended character progression system was limiting:
“We have to restrict ourselves, and how far we can take that balance and that tuning, in order to cater to all these playstyles. Sekiro, with a fixed protagonist, allows us to hone in on that single-player experience, and tweak the boss battles and the encounters to accommodate for all of these tools at the shinobi’s disposal. So we want players to eventually use every aspect of their arsenal and really use their cunning, and use every aspect of their skillset, to take on these really challenging foes.”
In other words, having a very specific set of abilities and more focused gameplay overall allows From Software to design boss battles with a specific intent. No longer do they have to account for both heavily armored and lightly armored characters, for spellcasters, agile melee attackers, and two-handed sword wielders at the same time. They know exactly how players will come into a fight and will design encounters around that.
One of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice‘s early bosses is named Lady Butterfly and is a great example of what players can expect. Lady Butterfly is a quick and mobile boss that constantly pressures players either with ranged attacks or rapid melee attacks. To beat her players must, in turn, apply equal amounts of pressure. Where Dark Souls would have to allow players room to roll away, Sekiro can demand aggression. The game knows players have a specific way to defend against attacks, so it will require them to use it.
Befitting the game’s title, once players have landed a “death blow” on Lady Butterfly, she returns for another go only more powerful than before. Many Dark Souls bosses were similar in nature, changing mid-fight to mix up the tempo of the fight, to demand players prove their worth in Sekiro‘s challenges. And fans would be correct in assuming that From Software will use these mid-fight phases to pull the rug out from under players, as From notes that bosses are “devious” and are fine pulling “really dirty tricks.”
Considering boss fights are one of the most compelling elements of From Software’s past games – whether that be Dark Souls, Bloodborne, or even From’s King’s Field franchise – it’s exciting to hear the company is proudly moving forward.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice releases March 22 on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
Source: Game Informer