Last weekend, after weeks of grueling and compelling gameplay, I did something I rarely do in video games anymore: I gained every achievement in “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice”--something only about 1.3% of all players have accomplished.
For the uninitiated, achievements are basically unlockable badges that tell your real and online friends what you’ve accomplished in the games you have played. Every Xbox One and PlayStation 4 game has these (on PS4 they’re called "trophies"), and while many don’t care about them, players such as myself appreciate them as mementos of what they have seen and done in games across many years of playing.
I sometimes get a kick out of scrolling through the achievements I’ve unlocked in past games and reminiscing about where I was in my life when I accomplished something truly rare or challenging in the games I love.
Back in high school, when I didn’t have the money to get each of the hottest new games on the market, I got the most mileage of out the games I did own by trying to unlock all of their achievements. In most games, this requires a lot of time, patience and skill.
Generally, I don’t have the time to do this anymore, especially when you consider the frequency of newly released games begging for my attention. But I made an exception for “Sekiro,” which is the best game I’ve played in years.
It is also easily the most challenging game I’ve played in years, and unlocking every achievement in (or, as PS4 users call it, “platinuming”) the game will likely go down as my proudest video game accomplishment.
As I noted in past columns and in my review, “Sekiro” is an incredibly hard game. Like its predecessors, “Dark Souls” and “Bloodborne,” “Sekiro” is brutally punishing but consistently fair, leading to a challenging and rewarding experience only a few will dare take on and even less will complete.
To platinum “Sekiro,” you have to beat every boss in the game (there are more than 50), beat the game four separate times to see all four possible endings, unlock every skill and much more.
For most, simply beating “Sekiro” once is a huge triumph. I know it was for me. I felt just as proud after my first playthrough as I did the initial times I beat all three “Dark Souls” games. It’s something every gamer should experience.
But it wasn’t enough. I wanted to get the most out of “Sekiro” I could. I wanted to master it, and while I’m far from doing that, I can say unlocking every achievement is a worthy challenge I’m happy to have bested.
It took me 40 hours to beat the game the first time. On my second playthrough, I ran through the game in a fraction of the time, which I expected, because I carried with me the power and knowledge I gathered in my first run.
However, after beating the game twice, for whatever reason, instead of playing a third playthrough on the same profile, I started over fresh with my power reset back to default. I still knew the game better than ever, but it was still a severe handicap to go back to square one, and it also meant I had to start over on the achievement to unlock all of the game’s skills, which admittedly took forever.
My third playthrough was definitely faster than my first but slower than my second. Comparing myself to my first one, it was interesting to see how much I had improved as a player. On my first try, I was beating bosses that had originally taken me hours to conquer. Seeing self-improvement is one of the best things about From Software games, and “Sekiro” was no exception.
Finally, I was on my last playthrough, and I blasted through it as quickly as I could. But as I mentioned, I still had to unlock every skill. This basically required me to spend hours repeatedly grinding out experience against the same enemies. I listened to podcasts while I grit my teeth and put in the work, because I wasn’t about to quit so close to the finish line.
Eventually, with every skill unlocked and nearly every boss vanquished and ending seen, I went into the final battle. I got overzealous and died several times, but I finally bested him and unlocked the final achievements. For the first time, I had platinumed a From Software game, and it feels good.
I’ve unlocked plenty of challenging achievements over the years. Beating the “Halo” games by myself on the hardest difficulty setting comes to mind. But to 100% “Sekiro” requires not only perseverance, but also no small amount of dedication, patience and genuine skill.
I’ll never be as good as the professional gamers who can run through “Sekiro” and beat every boss without even taking a single hit, but after more than 100 hours of play, I’m satisfied with what I have accomplished, and I can finally take a break from “Sekiro’s” punishing and brutal combat.
At least until the first expansion comes out.