Let me say that I think most of Sekiro's praise is owed to its outstanding mood, tone, art design, aesthetic detail, and its compelling low fantasy world building that draws extensively on Asian culture and religion. It also bears mentioning that it has an intriguing plot about the militarization of a society, human medical experimentation, and the intentional twisting and corruption of nature. But I think it's kind of ludicrous when non-gameplay aspects such as these propel something to "game of the year" status all by themselves. Despite some welcome innovations (like jumping), this is just like any other Souls game, but missing most of what you want a Souls game to have, and in my case, increasing the main thing I don't want, like punishingly difficult multi-phase boss fights.
Dark Souls had lots of weapons, spells, and armor, which let you customize your approach to the game, but the action mechanics have always been totally wooden with no mobility at all. In Sekiro, you get a half-decent action game with some good ideas, fun combat, verticality, and good mobility, but it has totally half-assed RPG elements. Just some boring skill trees that are extremely difficult to level up, and a barely implemented system for increasing your health and attack that is not even worth mentioning. And no different weapons or armor, ever, at all.
The arm, which is the main gameplay gimmick, is not really that useful except for a few things, and will not save you if you suck at the game, and it's also not something you can freely make use of to make the combat more varied because the points it requires are limited, and the usefulness of the different attachments is likewise very limited. Most of the different attachments are just leveled up versions of a couple basic ones anyway. Using it was never much fun, and almost only for exploiting a very specific enemy weakness.
As an action game, it's just not at the level of a dedicated "character action game" like Ninja Gaiden, which is a lot faster, smoother, has tons of different weapons, and has better mobility. I will give Sekiro major points for having a stealth system that isn't totally broken, but for anyone hoping for a next gen Tenchu, this doesn't remotely fill that void. The levels are designed so that open combat is unavoidable most of the time. Some areas appear enormous, but they can all only be navigated in a few ways.
I would like to praise Sekiro for its polish; the controls are precise and responsive for the most part, and everyone animates very nicely. The total lack of DLC is a major plus and the game is 100% glitch free, which is saying something in the era of half finished AAA games getting praised for their "memeworthy" glitches. But it's easy to not trip when you're not going anywhere special; Sekiro's gameplay ambitions are pretty low and very narrowly conceived. I can't say it does anything better than any other game out there. The stealth is nothing special, the action is nothing special, and it has none of the customization you get in a regular Dark Souls game.
All it really has is its intensely difficult boss fights that occur one after another. The entire game almost plays like a boss rush mode with some exploration in between. (Other unwanted Dark Souls traits: Your hit box is fucking gigantic so expect to lose half or more of your HP to attacks that didn't remotely touch you, and you'll often find yourself getting hit because of all the misleading boss animations that make it impossible to tell if the boss is just moving around or doing an actual attack.)
If you like cracking a boss's code and doing all that rote memorization, doing everything perfectly over and over again until the health bar is depleted three times, then this game is for you. That's where 90% of the difficulty comes from. I think Sekiro shines best when you're dealing with many minor enemies attacking you from all around, and you find yourself zipping all over the terrain to deal with them. But sadly boss fights are what the game emphasizes more than anything, and you'll find yourself sandwiched between two or more bosses that seem unbeatable until you bang your head against the wall until it breaks.
(It also doesn't help that periodically a generic "danger" sign will appear above an enemy letting you know they'll do one of three attacks that you can't block, but since it gives no indication what they are, all it does is distract you and make it harder to react to them. This ends up being one of the biggest issues in the final battle.)
This game will simply waste a *massive* amount of your time. It has its charm, but it should be a cult sleeper hit, not a mainstream box office bonanza. I don't understand why so so many people think this is the one best games of 2019. It seems like one of the biggest, most effective pranks of the year to me. There's no way any normal gamer is getting more than a couple of hours through this slog, and the idea of them beating it and seeing the entire story unfold is laughable on its face. Critics and hipster gamers are tricking people into buying an attractive looking, seriously overpriced, torture device that they will probably put down and never pick up again in a matter of minutes.
Btw, those 70 hours are not idle time, I've done absolutely everything in this game except beat the last boss, but I'm done now. The two headless apes fight totally hollowed out any enthusiasm I have for this game. Because of the crazy price tag, I was still committed to beating it until I got to the very end, but it just seems childish at this point to keep bashing my head against a wall until I have all these boss patterns perfectly memorized. I'm not 15 anymore, and I can't justify the massive time investment in something that is plainly unfun.