Consider Sekiro‘s lack of more traditional RPG mechanics. Sekiro restricts players to one weapon type, the katana, and does away with the same style of stat-based leveling system seen in other Soulsborne games. Players can level up in Sekiro, but it doesn’t make them stronger or more durable. Instead, levels determine how many abilities players can use. You can improve specific Sekiro stats, such as attack strength, but those upgrades are locked behind collection and combat challenges rather than an XP gate.
Those changes arguably make Sekiro more approachable than the typical Soulsborne title since gamers don’t have to worry about min-maxing builds (or creating new ones after a patch drops). At the same time, these restrictions also make the game’s action a bit more skill-based since players can’t cheese bosses by grinding enemies to level up and increase weapon damage. If players want to beat Sekiro, they need to master the game’s combat rather than worry about sometimes frustrating character build optimizations.
That rare level of mechanical balance proved to be the special sauce that made so much of Sekiro so satisfyingly challenging. It wouldn’t necessarily be impossible to recreate that feeling in a more traditional Soulsborne game, but again, there’s something to be said for FromSoftware resisting that almost certainly strong temptation to simply further the pure Soulsborne formula. Sekiro showed there are other ways to do things that are at least as good if not arguably better.
For instance, consider the design of Sekiro‘s movement system. When the game was released, it revolutionized the basics of the Soulsborne genre through the seemingly simple inclusion of a dedicated jump button, as well as the more advanced addition of a grappling hook and the ability to stealthily hide in tall grass. Those additions opened up whole new avenues of exploration and level design. Without them, irreplaceable moments like the Great Serpent encounter just wouldn’t have been possible.
More importantly, those mechanics forced FromSoftware to rethink Soulsborne ideas that had started to become a bit mundane. In Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Elden Ring, most bosses hide behind a fog door and aggro as soon as players enter. In Sekiro, players can sneak up on most bosses and backstab them to take a significant chunk out of their health (and reduce the subsequent battle’s length). Granted, backstabbing is a common tactic in Soulsborne games, but it’s usually limited to skewering trash mobs. No matter what strategy a Soulsborne player employs in the game’s world, the biggest baddies in those experiences typically force you to play by your rules rather than your own. Elden Ring broke that mold from time to time, but even it had to rely on more traditional mechanics during many of its major encounters.
Sekiro, meanwhile, is all about sneaking around, gathering intel, and striking when you are certain that you’re the one who has gained an “unfair” advantage. The game even keeps that idea alive during (and in the lead-up to) the toughest boss battles. A Sekiro sequel would ideally continue that trend. A sequel could even improve upon that formula and allow players to roam around a stealth-based open-world where you can sneak up on every boss in the game for a delicious backstab. Not even Elden Ring lets you do that.