Note: This post was originally published on facebook on December 16, 2019.
Hanbei cannot die. The lords of this place are all desperate for immortality, and in their search for it, they have created men like Hanbei, deathless footsoldiers condemned to serve and bleed endlessly in their wars.
There are a lot of games where you play as an efficient killer, but Sekiro is a game about the necessity of death in a place where people have sought out all manner of ways to eliminate it. You are a (metaphorical) angel of death, on a mission to restore what has been unnaturally stolen from Hanbei, from the world.
The standard protection mission that drives the violence of so many games (defend your town, defend this innocent child) is inverted: your protection is superfluous when your master cannot die. Instead the 12 year-old you're sworn to has tasked you with finding a way to kill him, to end the struggle for immortality once and for all.
Sekiro is a game that understands the lure of power, what people will do to acquire it, and the temptation it presents. On one path, you can also succumb to it and become Shura, the demon, who steals the secret of immortality and drowns the world in fire.
It's brilliant, and at times infuriating, and completely singular. Jedi: Fallen Order has a superficially similar combat system, but it pulls its punches, rendering parrying far less effective against the tougher bosses than simply dodging and chipping away at their massive health bar. Sekiro demands that you learn the counters for its moves. It's a fighting game less the combos, and therein lies its beauty. The best way to see what I mean is to look at videos of people playing the game.
Eventually, I acquired the means to give Hanbei the death he wanted. At his request, I struck a killing blow. The giant centipede that was animating his body writhed toward me. I destroyed it as well.