FromSoftware's Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is not a Souls game, which is a good thing; it's so much more. Activision is producing and publishing the new title, which was officially unveiled during Microsoft's Xbox press conference at E3 2018. And it wasn't much later that Screen Rant got to sit down with Sekiro's developers for a hands-off, guided gameplay presentation. The demo was very early in the development process and featured some glitches, but nothing that can't be fixed prior to release in early 2019.
Sekiro is set in late 1500s feudal Japan, but it does not take place in the real world. It's a fictional, "dark world" created by FromSoftware for a new experience, one that takes their fans on a journey that differentiates itself from the developer's Souls games. In the story, games play as Shinobi (ninja in Japanese) and are tasked with rescuing the Young Lord, who has been kidnapped by the samurai. The presentation focused on Shinobi getting from a village's entrance to a castle in the distance where the Young Lord was being held.
The developer playing through the demo started on a tree branch and used the Shinobi Prosthetic (a grappling hook) to grapple onto various ledges and traverse the map on rooftops, avoiding a handful of enemies. From there, Shinboi's various forms of assassinations were demonstrated: grabbing enemies and throwing them off of a ledge, attacking from above and instantly killing a target, and so forth.
While the story is set in stone, the way players go about traversing through the campaign and exploring the vast world is entirely up to them; taking routes that would otherwise not be traveled may lead to new encounters. But still, this is a FromSoftware game, which means doing that comes at a risk and can be quite difficult. That's why the grappling hook enables players to approach combat in a different way that wasn't available in the Souls franchise. For instance, players can grapple onto a ledge (as the developer had done in the gameplay presentation), and then assassinate an enemy to even the odds. But that might not do all too much. In the demo, the developer assassinated one enemy, thus making the fight 1 versus 2. Unfortunately, he died after about 30 seconds into the battle, which proves just how difficult Sekiro can be for both new and experienced players.
In combat, the Shinobi Prosthetic (equipped on the players left-hand, with a katana equipped on the right-hand) can grapple onto ledges and enemies, summon fire (which may be used to also set the katana on fire), break enemy shields, and so forth - and it's all used to change up traditional play styles. It's no longer about just about dodging, parrying, and attacking back. Players can traverse areas and go about killing the samurai in several different ways. And in order to defeat enemies, players need to reduce their "posture," thus making them vulnerable to a final attack, known as the Shinobi Death Blow. Of course, tougher enemies will take longer to defeat. And since this is a FromSoftware game, that means there are many different kinds of bosses and monsters, such as a snake.
But when it comes to fighting bosses, such as a larger samurai, a notification will appear above the player's head, alerting them to an incoming special attack (think: the exclamation mark in Metal Gear Solid). While it doesn't tell the player what type of attack is coming, it at least provides ample time to prepare. Of course, if a player dies and thinks they could've won that encounter, they can now resurrect themselves (but only once) and continue the fight; hence the name: Shadows Die Twice (shadows referring to ninjas/Shinobi).
Overall, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is an impressive new game from world-renowned developers FromSoftware. It has everything that Demon Souls, Dark Souls, and Bloodborne plays would want in a FromSoftware title, but it's different enough - it's agiler, more fluid, and versatile - to make the title unique and modern (there are a lot of developers introducing grappling mechanics these days). The idea behind the grappling hook is to introduce verticality, thus giving players the option of traversing rooftops, performing "light" stealth (including hiding in overgrown bushes, similar to most triple-A stealth games), or taking down an enemy by shooting the hook at them. It's all up to the player.
There will be lots of options to choose from, but specifics weren't discussed in detail during the presentation; Activision and FromSoftware are saving that information for a later date. It's also worth mentioning that the studio is focused solely on single player for Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice; there will not be multiplayer at launch or at any point down the line.