Although From Software is rethinking major aspects of its established action-RPG formula with Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, it’s sticking to a few tried-and-true approaches when it comes to the game’s overall structure by including a hub area that gives players a few things to do when they’re not slaying monsters out in the world.
If you’re familiar with From’s previous output, Sekiro’s Dilapidated Temple should feel familiar. While you won’t have access to it from the start of the game, you’ll quickly gain access to it after a certain point in the story. After that, you can access the Dilapidated Temple from any of the sculptor’s idols (which act as Sekiro’s take on bonfires). You can also use limited-stock items to immediately teleport yourself to the temple from anywhere in the world (similar to how Dark Souls’ Homeward Bone item works).
At the Temple you can talk to and offer items to The Sculptor, who helps out with character progression. Next, you can talk to a character named Emma to use your Gourd Seeds, which increase the amount of uses your Healing Gourd offers when you replenish them at Sculptor’s Idols.
You can also talk to a character named The Immortal Soldier. The Immortal Soldier acts as a training dummy who can teach you how to put all of the items, moves, and combat arts you learn throughout the game to use by, well, beating him up. He’s got a few tips for you, too, such as how to avoid enemy attacks, how the parry system works, and how to deal with thrusting attacks. Don’t worry about going on easy on him, of course – he can’t die, and he frankly doesn’t sound too happy about it.
That’s just the start, however. “If you’re familiar with the Souls games, you know how you can find NPCs in the world,” says Yasuhiro Kitao, manager of marketing and communications at From. “Maybe they’re vendors, maybe they do something with you, maybe they head back to the hub, where you can speak to them and progress their quests.” This is the case in Shadows Die Twice, as well.
You can access different areas directly from the Dilapidated Temple, though it’s not quite as expansive as the hubs from previous From games. “It doesn’t branch out in every direction right from the start,” Kitao says. “That said, it’s not a kind of linear progression from A to B to C. You do have points with branching paths, with forks in the road.”
How many forks there are along these particular roads is still up in the air, but director Hidetaka Miyazaki says it’ll be among From’s most open areas. “We feel like Sekiro’s probably on the higher end of the spectrum in terms of the freedom the player has to explore the world if we’re to compare it to our previous games,” he says. “Particularly from the mid-game onward, the world really opens up, and you have a great deal of choice and freedom about which order and way you choose to explore.”
For more on Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, read about why it doesn’t have an online mode, and be sure to check out our hub to see all of our coverage throughout the month.