It's safe to say that the Souls series is easily FromSoftware's best-known work, so whenever the studio makes a third-person action RPG, there are bound to be comparisons. Bloodborne (opens in new tab) wasn't too far a leap for anyone who cut their teeth on the tense risk-vs-reward, life-or-death stakes of combat in Demon's Souls and Dark Souls - but the studio's upcoming Sekiro (opens in new tab): Shadows Die Twice strays from that framework in some substantial ways that could catch you off guard if you haven't been following it closely.
The changes go well beyond the fact that you're playing as a designated protagonist - a warrior known as the "one-armed wolf," who has a bony, mechanized prosthetic where his left limb should be - rather than a hero of your own design. Speaking with Game Informer (opens in new tab), FromSoftware's manager of marketing and communications Yasuhiro Kitao provided plenty of explanation for why Sekiro is straying from the Souls formula. Here are some key differences you should expect going in, and some insight into why these decisions were made.
Creating a solely single-player game made for wilder map design
Anyone who's arranged for co-op adventuring with a friend, recruited some assistance to take down a boss, vanquished a hostile invader, or simply read a particularly hilarious note knows the joys of the Souls series' unique take on multiplayer. So you might've felt miffed to learn that Sekiro will be a strictly one-player game, without any online shenanigans or helping hands.
Kitao explains that foregoing multiplayer trappings meant that the developers could challenge themselves when it comes to level design (which FromSoftware is damn good at already). "When creating these playspaces, we don’t have to take into consideration how players will operate with one another in these maps, or how they may exploit the playspace by cooperating," says Kitao. "So it allows us, again, to hone in on the player experience, and really capitalize on that lack of restriction that comes with creating a multiplayer-based game, and let our imagination run wild in these places."
You'll fill out skill trees instead of leveling up your stats
Instead of the more traditional, stat-based leveling you'll find in a Souls game, Sekiro ties your character progression to multiple skill trees. These trees will be unlocked once you've discovered certain items (letting FromSoftware gate how players come to grips with these playstyles), and include the shinobi tree (focusing on agility and area-of-effect attacks), the samurai tree (emphasizing aggressive melee), and a tree based on upgrades to your 16th-century robo-arm. Kitao says that these skill trees will let you be "more creative and find your preferred ninja style, so you’ll have to specialize and think which path you want to take."
The skill trees are still a work-in-progress, but they sound a bit like the powerful passive upgrades found in Nioh (opens in new tab) (though those are based on weapon types rather than distinct disciplines.) Without a Vitality stat to boost, collectible items in the form of rosary beads will be the primary method for increasing your precious pool of health. Similar to the Fire Keeper Souls you could use to imbue your essential Estus Flask potions in Dark Souls, you'll be able to find items in Sekiro that buff the effectiveness of your HP-restoring Gourd.
You don't risk losing XP or gold upon death
This isn't fresh info, but it does bear repeating: dying in Sekiro sounds way more forgiving than Dark Souls. You'll never have to find and reclaim your corpse to regain experience-granting souls or money when you die; instead, Sekiro lets you keep these resources for good, and you even have the option to resurrect where you've been slain (though this will come with an as-yet-unrevealed cost of its own).
We're certain to hear new details about Sekiro in the coming weeks as the release date nears, and it'll be fascinating to see how else it diverges from the Souls' status quo. We'll find out for sure when Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice releases for PS4, Xbox One, and PC on March 22.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is already among our most anticipated new games of 2019 (opens in new tab).