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Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Mengtzu

Another Kill Team...
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I don't wanna sound like an ass, but if you're not reading responses, why are you posting these in a discussion thread about the game?
The problem being Isator won't read that either 😅

I might just need to cultivate the discipline of avoiding the thread for a while; I do enjoy reading peoples' experiences with the game but a blind playthrough blogged into an ostensibly interactive forum thread is a uniquely frustrating version.
 

Isator Levie

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Now then, before going for a rematch with the Guardian Ape, I did want to explore the other end of the valley in search of that other fruit. It was nice to finally see some monkeys that could fight worth a damn; those white-haired duel wielders had such a good showing that I made one into a puppet to fight the rest.

I know that mercury fulminate is an actual material used in actual firearms, but I can't help but think that phrasing it as fulminated mercury was a little Breaking Bad reference. In any case, I enjoy how that item's description continues to convey the point that Ashina is under siege by the central government (presumably Toyotomi's regime or the Tokugawa bakufu).

Speaking of those two, I actually noticed how one of the idle animations for the gun-wielding monkeys is that they curiously stare down the barrels, which is cute.

There actually being another giant snake down there was a surprise, and I found the cave leading up to its shrine appropriately tense with the darkness and the inexplicable spectres popping out of the goddamn walls. I also quite liked the framing of the approach and converting the monkey into bait, although I do feel a bit sorry for it cowering down there. It was a nice touch to place the exact number of spirit emblems needed to do so in the spot, in the event that one had run out while heading up.

So now I have two snake guts and not really much idea of what they're used for. :D

I believe that I stated my decision to give that extra Monkey Booze to Emma. Given how aloof that character felt at the start, I enjoy having this process for getting her to open up and relax a bit, even if she's reflecting on personal hardships. I give it about 50/50 on whether or not she shared onigiri with a literal monkey or a ninja (possibly the Sculptor).

Then there was the instance of eavesdropping on Isshin; I never expected that mechanic to be employed with a directly engaged character, and I'm intrigued by its potential, and any foreshadowing it might convey; who exactly has a black blade?

Speaking of Isshin, compelling backstories and tragic pursuit of strength, Genichiro's memory resolved a question I had about him; namely, if he was Isshin's grandson, what was the status of the intervening generation? It makes sense that the guy would have been adopted in, and for him to have come from a humbler background lends an additional edge of pathos to his desperation to save the country. I only went for the one memory because I'm still a bit fixated on overpowering myself.

I wanted to see if anybody around Senpou would have any further insights into the purpose of the viscera, but that was a dead end (perhaps it's something to do with Dojun, although I may never know if I can't find him a test subject...). Still opted to not yet spirit away Kotaro, and when I went to get more rice from the Divine Child she was snoozing and woke up a little flustered and embarrassed. I've got to say, I never would have expected a From Software game to contain an instance that was... cute.

Rather than let resources go to waste beating my head against a boss, I wanted to gather up some more cash and spend it on something expensive. I initially thought to try Badger (couldn't remember what he had, thought it might be another prayer bead), but he wasn't where he was before in Ashina castle, so I'll have to seek him out. I instead went to buy Lady Butterfly's kunai from the information broker.

That's a basis for expanding the inventory of a character that I find really neat, of him asking for tips that he might profit off of and buy up more inventory, and discovering them through eavesdropping. I had suspected that the samurai talking among themselves at Ashina castle about their salt shortage would be the ticket; I'm gratified that it's such a mundane but resonant thing, I even went out of my way to not kill the ones talking about it. I'm getting a fun sense off of that broker as a kind of guy to love to hate in how he's an actual war profiteer; I wonder if he's voiced by the guy who did Patches in the English track.

Oh, his name is Anayama? I had missed that. I haven't yet bought any of his new stock.

Although I did also buy the Sabimaru Memo from Fujioka, that former Memorial Mob who I found at the castle and relocated to the temple (I'm surprised more characters haven't done that); that's another way for the game to convey hints that I find endearing. I spent a while killing my way around the castle before realising that I had never seen if there was anything below those walkways hanging over open air. I've not given the Sabimaru to the Sculptor yet, but I'm excited at the prospects for more enemies it holds. I also quite liked seeing more of the castle interior and how it fit together, such as opening the front door.

By that point I was really close to having enough XP to go up another skill point, and it felt more sensible to be on that end of it rather than having a large stock eaten away in a boss fight. I wasn't really sure of any high yield enemies, so I fell back on returning to Senpou to fight those blade-wielding monks outside the main hall.

And, errr… got killed by them. I desperately prayed that Unseen Aid would save my gains, but I suppose Buddha was not listening that day. I've mostly been going with the flow, but if ever somebody is farming to try and get that very last amount towards another skill point, it must be a real pisser to slip up and have a 70% chance at best of your material going down the drain. Took me about twenty minutes to get it back up again. Still, was my own damn fool fault; I've been too enamoured of the puppetry and thought it would be fun to make them fight; things went more smoothly when I just kept quietly backstabbing that trio. I tried using the bell demon to make it go quicker, but apparently it doesn't increase XP rewards.

With that done, it was right back to the Guardian Ape, who all things considered had a worse bark than bite. The main thing that I needed to do was maintain a level head about how, despite his size, blocking his attacks was still possible and better than dodging, and remembering to deal with his grab attempts by jumping rather than trying to dodge back.

I'll tell you what, it was pretty funny to have the fakeout of decapitating the guy and getting Shinobi Execution and waiting for a trophy or a reward or something and then the body gets up, picks up the head and sword, and it's on to round two. Still, other than the Terror-inflicting AOE (which never managed to kill me), he was probably more dangerous in the first round when his movements were more erratic.

All in all, I found that a pretty great boss fight; it was very dynamic, with lots of continuous motion and a strong sense of impact. It's the kind of thing I'll often want in a large monster fight in these games. I also like how it's still a bit playful, with the farts and turd throwing. Plus how he was guarding the sacred flower because it would attract a lady ape.

Now that I have two, I wonder what that slug bait stuff will be used to attract.

Before I return to report in and get the next stage of the quest, I want to try my hand at killing at least one Headless. Maybe cash in my two monkey memories to have a good attack power for it. That, and another crack at the Shachichen Warrior.
 

Isator Levie

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While I'm here, I want to say that probably being a bit more than halfway through the game has gotten to be enough time for me to really appreciate how on point the enemy, boss and level design is. Between those, how gorgeous everything looks, the particulars of the lore and characterisation (now that I know a bit more about both of those things) and how tight the gameplay is, it really is up there with the best that From Soft has ever done. In some respects, it even exceeds Dark Souls to me.

I'm always going to love that premise that you've got a cast of supporting characters, and coaxing out their life stories and general world view is done by treating them to several varieties of sake.

It's actually pretty gratifying to see From Software and Miyazaki try something that is rather different in several respects while still building on that solid gameplay and presentation foundation established back with Demon's Souls, and pull it off with such aplomb. I would not have expected the skeleton of Dark Souls to lend itself so well to a much more narrative and character heavy story. That actually makes some of the parts where things are still ambiguous even creepier; there's the contrast between the normal people and the scary weirdos babbling to themselves.

And I want to reiterate how I quite like them capitalising on the relocation to a more specifically Japanese setting to incorporate things like folklore references, cultural mores and some of the country's history with regards to consolidating territories and ethnicities under a centralised banner. I'd go so far as to call that a bit daring of them.
 

Q99

Genderpunk
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Hmm, I must have had my first period in Sekiro that made basically no progress.

Guidance:

If you're going to do a playthrough like this, you should spin it off to your own thread rather than use this discussion thread.
 
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