The latest (14th June) issue of Famitsu includes an interview with Miyazaki Hidetaka regarding From Software’s new game, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, of which he is director.
— ファミ通.com (@famitsu) June 12, 2018
The interviewer brings up how the player character is fixed, which Miyazaki acknowledges as a first for himself, but also a way that the title is made fresh. The narrative themes would be hard to portray without a fixed player character, and while he hopes that players will be enjoy this, he also says that Sekiro is not a story-centric game; While the story does revolve around the characters, the general stance towards the story outside of that is no different from their previous games. Miyazaki thinks up the base plot himself, and makes adjustments with the aid of another staff member, and while he does oversee it, the majority of the actual text is written by that staff member. This is the first time he is not writing the text in a title he is directing, and he thinks that since his prose can be unique, this will be another way in which the title will be fresh.
The interview next moves on to the characters. Miyazaki says that the protagonist is an elite ninja, a lone wolf who works for no particular faction and is perpetually calm, showing no emotion. However his master the prince is taken from him, one of his arms is cut off, and he is killed. The story starts with him losing everything, and then being “revived” by a one-armed monk, and getting a prosthetic ninja arm. His primary motives are to rescue the prince, vengeance against the man who cut off his arm, and unravelling the mystery of the revivals. The prince is a boy, who is also lonely like the protagonist, and a key person to the story, whom Miyazaki says is a type of character he has not written before.
The gameplay is discussed next. Miyazaki says that there are three parts to the action design in Sekiro: Grappling hooks, sword fighting, and “killing smart”. The grappling hook allows for vertical movement which makes exploring three-dimensional maps more fun, and also gives the player access to more dynamic movement, and thus more options in battle. The sword fighting is “ninja-like”, where the player is constantly side by side with death, looking for an opening. Finally, “killing smart” refers to how the game gives the player multiple options to deal with adversity, allowing for a wide range of approaches, allowing them to use weapons, powers, or the environment. Killing smartly is an important theme in Sekiro, a way to give players a way to enjoy the satisfaction of overcoming difficult challenges. It is a game where, if you are bad at the action, you can find another way. It is still possible to take on challenges head-on, but since there are other ways, the combat is now even harder.
There being multiple approaches is also applied to the level design: Finding enemies does not necessarily mean combat, as the player can do things like approach from above and watch enemies. This was done to give players time to plan what to do. It is even possible to eavesdrop on some enemies, which gives the player hints on how to find a more effective approach.
The player’s main options are the sword, grappling hook, and ninja tools. The tools especially contribute to the player’s options, and there is a wide array comprising of things like shurikens, hidden axes, and firecrackers. For example, the firecrackers can startle animals, and can have a huge effect is used right. There are also several especially impressive tools that Miyazaki says he hopes players will enjoy. The player can equip multiple tools, and has to choose which to use.
The interviewer asks if there will be RPG-like character growth mechanics, and Miyazaki answers that while they will be in the game, as it is an action adventure game and not an RPG, they will be different, and says that more information will be available later. The interviewer then remarks that the grappling hook seems that it will make the action in the game more “speedy”, to which Miyazaki says that it would be more accurate to say that it makes the action more “dynamic” due to the player being able to use it in battle. Miyazaki also says that the grappling hook also goes well with giant enemies, meaning players will be able to experience boss fights like never before.
When asked about the structure of the world, Miyazaki says that it is close to the first Dark Souls, with complex three-dimensional maps being seamlessly connected (aside from a handful of exceptions), with the player being able to choose which way to advance. The grappling hook also makes exploration more fun. All of the areas are said to be “Japanese-style” and “colourful”.
The interviewer brings up the lack of online play features, and Miyazaki says that multiplayer components were a limitation that when removed allowed them to make a specialised single player experience, which they thought would be fitting for the title, like the fixed player character.
They next discuss the revival system. Miyazaki says that the system allows the player to come back to life by using up a certain resource, and was thought up because while death being close by, and actual death is important to a ninja’s battles, dying and retrying too many times can worsen the tempo of the game. The revival system is a way for them to balance out keeping battles tense with the threat of death with the time taken to retry from a game over. Revival also plays a part in the story, and can be used in tactical ways like having an enemy think they killed the player only to be assassinated from behind when they revive. Currently, one revive per life is guaranteed while further ones consume resources, but they are still making adjustments to this. Miyazaki also emphasises that the revival system is being balanced so as to not stop being death from feeling like a threat, and that lowering the difficulty or desensitising the player to death is not a goal; They want to balance having a tense atmosphere with an appropriate tempo. They are currently in the process of using penalties and limitations to make this happen. He also says that while they are not yet at a point where he can talk about specifics, he thinks that there are especially severe penalties that can be imposed on the player because of the existence of the revival system.
The interviewer asks about how hard the game will be, and Miyazaki says that while it is possible for the player to make the game harder than ever before, they can also use other methods to overcome obstacles. They are balancing the game so that they do not disappoint players who want a tough challenge, but can also let as many people as possible gain the joy of overcoming adversity. It is not just hard, but they are not thinking of making it easy.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is to be released on the PS4, Xbox One, and PC in early 2019.