In a small get together of some retired pro gamers, we had a chance to ask some them on their thoughts on the difficulty of the newly released FromSoft game, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. The answer summarizing their thoughts came from pro-gamer going by the name of “FirstFear,” as seen below:

“Sekiro reminds me a lot of when Demon’s Souls came out. And I am not just talking about the similar penalties when you die. I found the similarity in its difficulty, the problem being people play it expecting it to be something and falling for From Soft’s tried and tested trap. I remember playing Demon’s like it was a normal Hack’n’Slash and was punished by the comparatively slow attack speed and commitment to the attack. Stripped down to its base elements, isn’t Demon’s just a slow, restricted version of every Hack’n’Slash game ever? I can literally tell you right now that Demon’s/Dark Souls is a medieval, horror version of Monster Hunter.”

“Familiarity is a marketing tool that game developers use to reel in consumers but while other games use this familiarity as a driving force to keep us playing their games, Fromsoft (and Atlus) expertly subverts this and uses the same familiarity that lured us in as a weapon against us.”

“Take Taurus Demon for example of this effect: we would immediately think that circling around Taurus is an effective way of countering it because that’s how we’ve fought giant enemies in games but then From Soft tells us that while we are correct, we are now fighting on a small bridge. Have a ladder to small arena area for our ease. Then we realize that is also a trap in that the small arena is too small to evade axe swings at all, so what’s the point? The point is we can use the ladder to climb up to do a plunging attack at the Taurus below, effectively killing him in less than a minute. Likewise, you can coerce the Taurus into jumping off the bridge for an even shorter fight (although I still believe this is a bug). Later, this same familiarity mechanic is used against us when Capra Demon has a broken staircase that allows us to do plunging attacks but also has dogs that chase us up the stairwell when we do attempt it. Likewise, Bloodborne and Sekiro use our familiarity with Souls games to mess us up, Bloodborne being a faster, more aggressive reincarnation while Sekiro is a more technical and deliberate version.”

Game conditioning, I think they called it – it’s like a complacency placebo effect. Dark Souls was never really hard – Yeah, I said it. The marketing conditioned you into thinking it’s hard. And with its boom, “Game journalists”, the click-baity ones, have added to this complacency placebo by placing anything with an enemy that can OHKO you into a ‘Dark Souls’ difficulty level. We think it’s hard because when we die, we immediately think of game over because that’s how games have always worked but in these games, it’s not, it’s just a slap on the wrist and an opportunity to learn. Sekiro even uses your death as a weapon.”

“This is what we should learn from these games.”

Soulsborne games NEVER taught us how to dodge and time attacks, we already know that, we’re gamers – it’s in our system. Instead, it teaches us that complacency is a trap and that we should always continue to learn and better ourselves. It teaches us to look at fights a different way and/or overcome our complacency and expectancy. The beauty of it is it rewards us both ways – whether we pushed hard and killed Taurus on the bridge with normal attacks or used the plunging mechanic to essentially “cheese” it, the reward is exactly the same euphoric feeling of victory that stems from overcoming a seemingly insurmountable enemy. From Soft uses familiarity to reel us in yes, but uses our own base instinct of competitiveness to keep us playing.”

“From Soft isn’t the first to trap us in this complacency placebo either. Atlus uses the collecting monster familiarity of Pokemon games then tells you stronger monsters won’t make the game easier, using the right skills will. Warframe presents you with powerful movement options, evading, sliding and skills that affect all enemies – all of which makes you feel indestructible but you aren’t – what makes you indestructible are the right mods. Pokemon itself used this, remember when the IV system came out and created a whole new, different meta? Don’t get me started on Monster Hunter, I remember trying to play MH like DMC because it was a Capcom game too and was rekt in a matter of seconds. Whether these developers intended it or not, the effect and lesson is the same.”

“I’m pretty sure Code Vein will also roll some heads.”

“I am not saying being unable to play these games is shameful. No, there is absolutely no shame in finding Soulsborne and Sekiro hard and unbearable because you tried hard. There is merit in that and the community needs to pander less to their Git Gud epeens. There is absolutely no shame in trying to ‘cheese’ enemies either as long as it is within the perimeters of the game. What I believe is shameful is being unable to accept that you have a weakness, unable to accept you’ve been trapped by this complacency placebo (this is what I’m calling it now) just because you’re a ‘Souls player’ and have achieved what many people believe is the apex of skill because quite frankly that’s what’s killing you in Sekiro and kicking your ass in other games too.”

“Accept, Adapt and Advance.”

FirstFear (real name withheld), is a retired professional player during the heyday of Counter-Strike. After the notoriety died down with the rise of MOBAs in the Philippines, FirstFear went into coaching and consultation services and uses his experience to enrich and train local teams to prepare them for major local and international tournaments. On his off times, FirstFear creates guides and walkthroughs for different games for several forums and websites which include, but is not limited to, Fextralife and Gamefaqs – many of which have been celebrated and used by many gamers. He is the gaming mentor of our resident FromSoft fag, Anonyburr.

Round Table Discussions serve as the editorial segment of OTK!, with emphasis on the unfettered and unabashed opinions of different geeks, otakus, gamers, and hobbyists who share the same passion as all of us, featuring OP-ED articles meant to challenge, agree/disagree, or merely opine on the current state of pop culture affairs.

The views and opinions expressed in this article may or may not necessarily reflect that of OTK! and the whole team.