Since Dark Souls III launched in 2016, many fans have been curious as to what From Software would work on next, especially after series creator Hidetaka Miyazaki claimed that it was “time to move away” from the acclaimed RPG franchise. After an extremely brief teaser at the most recent Game Awards, speculation arose that the Japanese developer would return to the Sony-exclusive Souls-like Bloodborne, or perhaps dive even further back into the developer’s library of IPs. Back at this year’s E3, From Software revealed not one, but two new titles that were coming over the next eighteen months, including the previously-teased game that has turned out to be Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Set in ancient Japan, From’s next adventure puts players in the shoes of the titular shinobi with a grappling hook installed in his prosthetic arm, allowing for high-flying attacks and traversal.
Despite a similar camera perspective, Sekiro is more rightfully categorized as an action-adventure than the studio’s usual fondness for RPGs, with no character customization, classes or equipment upgrades. The necessity for focus and reflexes that characterizes the Souls’ combat still seems to remain important, but these missing elements has a portion of From fans worried that the studio is stepping too far away from what has made their recent titles so well-regarded. The Souls games have garnered a reputation for their impressive amounts of depth within their RPG mechanics, particularly in the variety of builds that players can create to best suit their playstyle, with each having their own pros and cons. While the hype for Sekiro certainly remains high due to the good will that the developer has built over the years, these concerns will likely remain until fans can get their hands on the game next year to see how truly separate From’s latest title ends up being from its more recent productions.
This shift in genre, however, isn’t necessarily a step in an unprecedented direction, as there’s a lot of untapped potential that From could explore with their modern take on the action-adventure genre. There’s still plenty of depth for From to dive into even without the RPG mechanics, plus fans who have felt pushed away by the complexity of those elements now have an easier path of entry into these notoriously difficult games. These new layers of depth will likely arise within Sekiro’s combat, as the katana and grappling hook abilities will be the primary means by which players can overcome their enemies. Without the need to adjust for a variety of weapons, From can instead come up with a plethora of unique combos that Sekiro can use to outsmart and outlive his enemies, while allowing the inclusion of a secondary weapon or prosthetic arm gadget to be a major game-changer during the later stages.
Potentially the most important outcome that has arisen as a result of this genre shift is the room From now has for greater experimentation within the gameplay. While the Souls games had minor stealth elements, the reveal trailer for Sekiro seemed to indicate a greater presence of this mechanic for players who prefer the silent approach. Additionally, the grappling hook offers unique possibilities for traversal, which has rarely proven to be a fundamental element of recent Souls games, allowing for more opportunities for exploration and secrets. With so little known about Sekiro, there are likely plenty of other surprises that From has in store for both veterans of the developer and newcomers alike. This room for greater mysteries is one key reason that makes the wait for the next From game seem so much longer, but it also helps to build the hype and keep the conversations flowing as fans near the 2019 release window for Sekiro on PS4, Xbox One and PC.