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Sekiro Can Be Played In First-Person

This mod (really a script for Cheat Engine) by Zullie the Witch will let you play the PC version of the decidedly third-person action game Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice in dizzying first-person.

You’ll need to be running Cheat Engine to get it working, but once you do, the whole thing looks pretty playable! Provided you already know what you’re doing in terms of timing and controls, anyway.


Mordhau Axe Deflected Flawlessly

Today on Highlight Reel we have Mordhau throwing axes deflected precisely, Days Gone bike problems, Mortal Kombat 11 NPCs, and much more!

Watch the video then talk about your favorite highlight in the comments below. Be sure to check out, like, and share the original videos via the links below. Subscribe to Kotaku on YouTube for more! Catch up on all the episodes on the Highlight Reel Youtube playlist!

Highlight Reel is Kotaku’s regular roundup of great plays, stunts, records and other great moments from around the gaming world. If you record an amazing feat while playing a game (here’s how to record a clip), send it to us with a message confirming that the clip is yours at [email protected] Or, if you see a great clip around that isn’t yours, encourage that person to send it in!

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I Went Down A Sekiro Rabbit Hole. Here Are Some Cool Videos I Found

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a fun game with excellent combat and an infamous difficulty curve, so it stands to reason that there’s lots of content about it online. There are a whole bunch of guides and showcase videos that do great work to explain which tools and techs are useful. There are playthroughs and reaction videos and lore explainers and conspiracy theories and Dark Souls comparisons and lions and tigers and bears, oh my. Those are all great, but here is a video answering an incredibly important question I had: What happens if you blow a magic whistle that makes animals go nuts in the middle of a group of samurai warrior monkeys?

Because it can be overwhelming to parse all the video content out there, I decided to share some of the best Sekiro videos I’ve found. These videos do the work not only of explaining the game but also of giving you a feel for the experience of playing it: what people love, what’s causing all the rage around it, the stuff you might not get just from watching a playthrough. How far can you push the combat? What do all the story-related breadcrumbs make up? If you stay on YouTube long enough, you basically start to find answers to questions you didn’t even realize you had about what’s really possible in the game. Here are some of those questions and answers in some of the best Sekiro videos you can find online. Spoilers ahead.

The most obvious draw of Sekiro is the combat, and there are great videos showing the system’s more interesting wrinkles. The game is a gauntlet of stealth action and fast-paced, in-your-face swordfighting. On a first playthrough, while players are still getting into the rhythm, it’s highly likely they’ll rely on stealth to avoid direct confrontations. That often involves making your way through stretches of enemy encampment, but it’s particularly fun when there’s a midboss. Here’s an example of how the game plays with that stealth action applied to miniboss Juzou the Drunkard. You can take out some of his lackeys and then lure him away to take him out.

Bonus: There’s a samurai waiting to bust Juzou’s shit up standing in the shadows near the fight. You can hear him dramatically and badassily shouting, “Hear me! My name is Nogami Gensai!” in the above video. He’s a big help if you manage the situation well, but if any enemies get too close, or if you talk to him, he’ll ignore whatever you have planned and run into the middle of everything waving his sword and announcing himself. That is both less than ideal and hilarious, as you can see at the 0:50 mark of this video.

The actual combat can be tricky to master, which quickly caused players to find ways to cheese bosses. But when it comes together the right way with aggressive attacking and parrying, the combat in Sekiro looks like anything you might see in the best-choreographed action films. Below is a compilation of every major boss fight in the game—spoilers, obviously. What’s special here is that the player uses an aggressive mix of sword attacks and shinobi prosthetics that makes crystal clear the idea that you have to overwhelm your opponents to succeed, rather than, say, running in circles and poking at them. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It looks pretty freaking cool, and if you’re playing, there are some useful and creative strategies.

By the same YouTuber, here’s a pretty hilarious followup video, also a showcase of boss fights, that is at once a demonstration of several game mods and an absolute cheese-fest when it comes to the fights. Titled “The FILTHIEST and Most STYLISH Boss Guide,” the player goes through and deliberately uses the absolute cheapest strategies he can think of while wearing, for example, Genichiro’s outfit during the Genichiro fight and an Akatsuki robe while fighting fellow ninja Owl. It’s pretty hilarious, given the mods and the way he fought in the previous video.

Then there are speedruns, which feature techniques like swimming through the air and luring a boss into riding his horse off of a cliff. As players continue to break the game and find newer, better strategies, watching the runs get faster and faster is a blast. The current Any% world record for beating the game with the quicker-to-achieve bad ending is less than 25 minutes—and there are even quicker ones that just haven’t been verified as of this writing, like this one.

Of course, actually learning the intricacies of Sekiro is a notoriously rough process. But for spectators with a strong sense of schadenfreude, it’s a source of endless amusement. Most gamers aren’t too thrilled the first time they get surprise divebombed by a ninja on the roof of Ashina Castle, for example.

And that’s to say nothing of their reaction when they finally beat the Guardian Ape for the first time, celebrating next to its “dead” body when suddenly…

A hilarious detail is that, like I had when I did this, they’d exhausted their healing resources thinking they were done. I feel for them!

As players run around trying not to die and probably failing, there are bits of lore scattered all over the place, and piecing them together is an absolute joy. If you’re curious about the main story, it’s definitely worth checking out a video of the game’s cutscenes. This one doesn’t intersperse gameplay for added context like some do, but the story is straightforward enough that it gives a solid sense of what happens without veering way too long.

Because the game is largely open to you past a certain point, the order you find these supplementary story elements in can shift, making the story feel a little like a puzzle.

One of the most satisfying examples is the lore around the mysterious Fountainhead Palace, an otherworldly endgame location and the source of the immortality everyone is squabbling over.

There are a bunch of lore videos around the Palace that are good for the armchair conspiracist or your standard egghead. Here’s one explaining the lore behind its inhabitants, who sometimes interact peaceably with the mortal world but also, apparently, lure unsuspecting humans to their death or a lifetime of servitude. It’s wildly messed up and totally on-brand for the dark themes of the game.

What makes this particularly interesting are hints dropped by the time you get there. Long before you get to the Fountainhead Palace where the nobles dwell, you fight this odd fellow, a noble himself. He’s the first one you’ll actually see, and the game doesn’t go far to explain why you’re fighting a weird, glowy, tentacled blue dude in an illusionary forest who doesn’t really defend himself very well.

You only find out much later, through another sidequest, that there’s an entire village of humans trying to turn themselves into these nobles… and succeeding.

Then there are the alcohol conversations. Speaking with characters Emma, Isshin, or the Sculptor over drinks provides the player with extra history about the cast of the game. The cast is already incredibly charming—at one point, Isshin gives you sake, which you can immediately regift to him. He’ll make fun of you for it and then proceed to take it to the head. Here’s one of those sets of conversations, in which a drunken Isshin reveals important historical context for the game but also that your dad, a terrifying and physically gigantic ninja, was a lightweight and would get drunk from one sip of sake. It adds so much to an intentionally bare-bones narrative.

Another neat story touch involves the seedy merchant Anayama, who mentions that he met you in the past. In a “memory” of that past, you can actually run into him… and also kill him. If you do, he’s no longer there in the future to sell you stuff.

Since it’s at first unclear to the player whether they’re in a memory or actually traveled back in time, it can actually serve as the first hint that going into the past can have a real impact on the story, and in fact, one of the endings requires you to retrieve an item from the past and bring it into the future. This, too, is totally missable (and in fact kind of stupid to do).

In all, Sekiro’s world is full of a lot of things worth making videos about and is likely to keep generating great stuff to watch on YouTube and elsewhere. There’s so much that goes beyond the standard hack-and-slash sneaky ninja magic, and it’s worth your while to dig even deeper into it. The boss strategies are disparate and compelling, the lore is satisfying and feels worth your time to find, and you’re given lots of great ways to blow off some steam as you struggle and die and rage quit and start again. I’ve shown a batch of videos I think are worth watching. There’s so much of Sekiro to see if you haven’t played or even if you have—so go ahead, spoil yourself.


Sekiro Speedrunners Are Using A Glitch To Swim Through The Air

Speedrunners use a variety of tricks to reduce Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice from a difficult combat gauntlet to a breeze. The fastest Any% runs now take less than 30 minutes, with the current world record at 24:37 at time of publication, held by Distortion2. Some tricks involve dying in the right place to avoid a giant snake or using items to break boss AI. One of the most recent glitches allows speedrunners to literally swim through large stretches of the game world into otherwise inaccessible areas.

The out of bounds “flying” glitch has become an essential part of Sekiro speedrunning, particularly in the Any% run, in which players seek to complete the game as fast as possible by whatever means available. That means achieving Sekiro’s “bad” ending, and it involves various skips to avoid bosses and move fast. Flying occurs when a player manages to break out of bounds while underwater, either through finding areas where it is possible to slip through the cracks of the world or saving and reloading to slide through geometry as it is loaded in. Players can then slide out of bounds and retain all the speed and mobility of swimming.

This trick has tons of applications. Sekiro’s game world exists on an interconnected map. If you’re out of bounds and fall in the right direction, you can land in areas you usually have to take long treks to reach. This was how speedrunners previously skipped certain parts of the game. Now, with flying, they can swim around obstacles and enter distant areas with ease. In Any% runs, speedrunners use this flying to completely avoid bosses like the Guardian Ape. It’s also used to glide into the Folding Screen Monkeys’ arena and fly around to kill them swiftly.

There are smaller uses of this trick as well. Near the end of the game, runners leap out of bounds in Ashina Castle, land in a pool of water, and then use their swimming powers to avoid climbing the castle to the final boss arena. There are longer speedruns, like the All Memories and Beads category, which includes all bosses and mini-bosses, but the trick is still used for navigation there. Regardless of category, the end results are speedruns starring a magical flying ninja-dude gliding through the unknowable void.


Chokeslammed From Space

Today on Highlight Reel we have big dudes with bells, complex claymore kills in Rainbow Six Siege, Sekiro stealth, Blade & Sorcery chokeslams, and much more!

Watch the video then talk about your favorite highlight in the comments below. Be sure to check out, like, and share the original videos via the links below. Subscribe to Kotaku on YouTube for more! Catch up on all the episodes on the Highlight Reel Youtube playlist!

Highlight Reel is Kotaku’s regular roundup of great plays, stunts, records and other great moments from around the gaming world. If you record an amazing feat while playing a game (here’s how to record a clip), send it to us with a message confirming that the clip is yours at [email protected] Or, if you see a great clip around that isn’t yours, encourage that person to send it in!


Sekiro’s Smartest Boss Fight Is Against A Giant, Poop-Throwing Ape

There are plenty of tough bosses in Sekiro, from rival swordsmen to dangerous undead monsters. One of the best bosses sounds at first like it would be the silliest: a shit-throwing giant ape. But closer examination of this battle reveals a crash course on how to make a reactive and thematically interesting boss fight. It’s FromSoftware’s speciality on full display.

Sekiro tells the story of a shinobi (named Sekiro) and his quest to protect his lord Kuro. Kuro is also known as the Divine Heir, due to him having a blood connection to an ancient dragon that happens to grant him immortality. He shares this immortality with Sekiro, allowing the shinobi to fight through the nation of Ashina to rescue his lord. Eventually, Kuro asks Sekiro to help him sever the ties of his immortality. To do this, Sekiro needs a special flower that can be found deep in the Sunken Valley. The Sunken Valley also happens to be home to the aforementioned amazing boss fights, a clash against the giant Guardian Ape. They’re a tough, rampaging monster that can give players a lot of trouble. There are a lot of different tactics that can work well against this boss, though.

Sekiro’s combat encounters operate on a similar level to the ones in Mega Man, where using the right tool for each boss can turn them into pushovers. Firecrackers can scare both the Blazing Bull and Sakura Bull of the Palace and make them start running into walls, which will stun them and allow for a one-hit kill. The ghostly version of the Corrupted Monk can be stunlocked by using Snap Seeds, which also drains the Monk’s health. Other bosses are weak to certain techniques, like how Genichiro Ashina crumbles when you turn his lightning attacks against him. The Guardian Ape doesn’t have just one neat weakness. Instead, there are numerous ways to gain an advantage. Firecrackers can scare them into a frenzy, while oil and fire can burn them alight. While other bosses have more of a lock-and-key design, the Guardian Ape rewards player creativity by reacting in different ways to a variety of tactics.

It’s also a playful fight, particularly in how it transitions from the first to the second phase. Most bosses in Sekiro have two health bars that you need to clear. The Guardian Ape only has one at first. If you deplete this bar, you perform a shinobi execution and cut off the ape’s head. After a moment, the ape rises again as a headless, sword-carrying monstrosity. It’s a cheeky subversion of expectations that takes many players unaware.

Once the Ape loses their head, different tactics become more effective. In the second phase, Phoenix’s Lilac Umbrella can negate the ape’s massive scream attack. (This attack can build up the ‘terror’ status effect and instantly kill players.) If you stab at the boss with the loaded spear, you can pull out the centipede infesting the body. Between the raw challenge of the Ape, their tricky resurrection, and the way the boss reacts to so many different tools, this is one really well-designed fight.

The Guardian Ape is also a strong example of FromSoft’s storytelling prowess. Sekiro has many boss fights and encounters that aren’t always given much context. For every standoff against a fleshed-out characters like the dangerous general Genichiro Ashina, there are plenty of random battles against fire-horned bulls and dark magicians like the Shicimen Warrior. The Guardian Ape seems arbitrary at first, but over time, items and events connect this boss back to individual character storylines and Sekiro’s broader themes. Like many things in a FromSoft title, there’s a greater context.

Ultimately, the Guardian Ape connects to the story of the Sculptor. At the start of the game, after Sekrio is defeated and loses an arm, the Sculptor provides a replacement. Over time, particularly if the player shares sake with him, we learn more about the Sculptor’s past. Specifically, we learn about his time as a masterless shinobi called Orangutan. He and his partner would train in the Sunken Valley among the apes. His partner had a fondness for whistling with his fingers. When you defeat the Guardian Ape, you find the Finger Whistle shinobi tool. Presenting it to the Sculptor prompts a nostalgic response. Later on, an upgraded version of the finger whistle called the Malcontent can be used while fighting the optional Demon of Hatred boss fight. The demon turns out to actually be the Sculptor, transformed by rage into a large, almost ape-like form. The Guardian Ape helps round out the world by having a connection to the Sculptor—the Ape is either a warped, transformed version of the Sculptor’s partner, or simply ate him—and providing something of a counterpart to the Sculptor, who ends up taking on a demonic, unnatural form. The Ape is a natural beast kept alive by a literal parasite. The Demon of Hatred is a man warped into a similarly raging best due to different kinds of parasites: greed and anger.

A major plot point involves retrieving the Mortal Blade, a weapon which can kill even immortal beings.

Sekiro focuses on questions of immortality and power. Sekiro’s lord Kuro wants to undo their immortal bloodline. Genichiro Ashina feeds on Rejuvenating Waters to rise from a fatal blow after his boss fight. Parasites infect the Guardian Ape and Corrupted Monk, granting them a twisted eternal life. The monks in Senpou Temple abandon their duties in search of immortality. Sekiro himself cannot truly die either. This lack of death is a bad thing. Sekiro is explicitly a Buddhist text. Buddhists believe in the concept of Saṃsāra, the repeated process of birth, death, and rebirth. All life is suffering, and this cycle only ends when one achieves vimutti, an escape from this cycle of suffering. Characters in Sekiro exist outside of the traditional cycle of rebirth, either by a deliberate pursuit of immortality or accidental twist of fate.

The Guardian Ape ties into this larger theme. Ashina is not simply a war-torn nation, it’s also a place where nature itself is twisted and misaligned with the cosmic order. If the goal of living creatures is to achieve Nirvana and exist in a state where there’s no more rebirth, characters like Sekiro and the Guardian Ape have achieved a twisted, tragic version of this ideal. No more rebirth. The catch is there’s still plenty of suffering.

The Guardian Ape boss fight can be frustrating at times, with irregular attack patterns and the ability to absorb a lot of damage. Hell, even after you defeat them here, you’ll still have to face them again later on in the game. That resilience and annoying persistence comes paired with a consideration for player’s various tools and a broader connection to Sekiro’s themes. It’s an intense challenge that rewards ingenuity while also tying into the rest of the game’s story. It’s still an ape throwing shit at you. But it turns out that the shit is actually pretty deep.


Sekiro’s Hitboxes Are Deeply Satisfying

Today on Highlight Reel we have Battlefield V clips, solid hitboxes, perfectly-timed screams, Loony Toons style escapes, and much more!

Watch the video then talk about your favorite highlight in the comments below. Be sure to check out, like, and share the original videos via the links below. Subscribe to Kotaku on YouTube for more! Catch up on all the episodes on the Highlight Reel Youtube playlist!

Highlight Reel is Kotaku’s regular roundup of great plays, stunts, records and other great moments from around the gaming world. If you record an amazing feat while playing a game (here’s how to record a clip), send it to us with a message confirming that the clip is yours at [email protected] Or, if you see a great clip around that isn’t yours, encourage that person to send it in!


Breaking Out Of Bounds In Sekiro Makes It Even More Beautiful

Sekiro makes it a point to push back at players. From difficult bosses to winding world design, there’s friction that players need to fight against. Speedrunners and glitch hunters buck that trend. Last night while playing it, I broke out of bounds and it was a reminder of how even the most tightly composed game worlds hide beauty behind the scenes.

It started when I watched speedrunner Elajjaz skip the boss fight against the Blazing Bull by jumping off a tree in the Ashina Outskirts, hopping on a wall, and traveling around the boss arena. As someone who likes to recreate the glitches I see other players perform, I did the trick in my New Game Plus playthrough. The timing takes a few attempts to get right but after a few minutes there I was, looking out over a massive void, standing where players were never meant to go.

I’ve said before that I enjoy broken games. Seeing the cracks and seams is an oddly intimate affair. Breaking out of bounds in Sekiro is both a chance to see the world for what it is, and to assert a different kind of freedom and expression beyond learning boss attack patterns.

From Software games depend on a very particular form of deliberate design. You progress from one area to another, clashing against enemies in a tricky but gradual curve upwards in difficulty. Areas circle around on themselves, containing shortcuts and set piece locations that players are meant to hit in a loosely guided order. It’s possible to go elsewhere—for instance, you can go to Dark Souls’ Blighttown before reaching the Undead Parish that you’re arguably meant to reach first—but there tends to be an invisible hand guiding you from one boss encounter to the next.

Breaking out of bounds or skipping a boss shatters that intentionality. It’s a sort of transgression, a vaguely criminal act where the player places themselves and their agency over both the designer’s intention and the “reality” of the game world. In Sekiro, that’s particularly liberating.

It’s also beautiful. When you break out of bounds in modern games, you usually get to see the world in an incomplete state. This is because games “cull” necessary geometry to save on data. Breaking out of bounds makes it difficult for games to detect where you are, which means you’re treated to images that can be strangely, accidentally evocative. Tangled trees hang in the void, soldiers stand guard in front of gates that don’t exist, bridges cross impossible gaps, and glowing items twinkle in emptiness like stars.

In some ways, you learn what things are more important. What does Sekiro draw in first? Enemies and items usually, but also trees and mountains. It saves buildings and their facets for last, assembling them piecemeal. Sekiro is partially about the fall of the nation of Ashina and the degradation of man-made structures compared to the immutability of nature. There’s the majesty of heavenly spaces and the harshness of reality, which is always on the razor’s edge of crumbling. That theme is made even more obvious when you’re outside Ashina’s boundaries. It’s not intentional, but when I see Ashina Castle broken into fragments it makes me even more aware of how precarious the nation-state’s situation is.

Glitches achieve a lot of different things all at once. They’re an intimate peek behind the scenes, they’re sneaky little game-crimes against designer intent, and they’re a chance to see the world from a new perspective. For Sekiro, breaking the game’s structure calls to mind the fall of Ashina and declining dynasty. Also, it looks really cool.


Sekiro’s Best Ninja Tool Is A Humble Umbrella

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice often boils down to intense sword fights between stern warriors, but a little trickery never hurt. One shinobi tool stands out with defensive capabilities that make difficult encounters much more manageable. It can turn even undead monsters and literal demons into pushovers. It’s also a humble umbrella.

When I played through Sekiro, I didn’t use that many prosthetic arm upgrades besides the Firecrackers. The little explosives stun enemies and interrupt attacks, buying time to escape or land extra hits.As I prepared for my second playthrough and cleared out some remaining side bosses, I decided to experiment with my ninja gadgets. The Loaded Umbrella, Sekiro’s version of a shield, didn’t seem particularly remarkable at first. But it turns out that its upgrades, which resist everything ranging from hellfire to ghostly energy beams, are worth investing in.

To get the Loaded Umbrella, you need to buy the Iron Fortress material from Blackhat Badger in Ashina Castle. After that, you’re able to unlock the Loaded Umbrella and craft through the tool tree to get special variations. This can take some work. For instance, if you want the undead-resisting Phoenix’s Lilac Umbrella, you first need to craft the Mountain Echo whistle and Loaded Umbrella – Magnet variation. It’s worth it, though. All those pesky Headless who were hounding you throughout the game? The ones you really needed to use the stat-boosting Divine Confetti item to stand a chance against? The Lilac Umbrella turns them into a nonfactor, especially if you have the Projected Force skills from the Prosthetic Arts tree. It allows you to attack out of your umbrella’s defensive stance, imbuing your sword with the same attribute the umbrella has. Here I am using it against an annoying Shichimen Warrior, whose projectiles can cause instant death.

I almost feel a little bad for using the umbrella. There’s a part of me that wants to do it the tricky way, but Sekiro’s shinobi tools take the adaptability of Bloodborne’s trick weapons and add a little Mega Man lock-and-key design to the combat. Sekiro is an action game, and I’ve loved playing it as one, but using the Lilac Umbrella to defeat undead foes makes it clear that Sekiro is also functioning a bit like a puzzle game.

For instance, bringing Suzaku’s Lotus Umbrella radically changed my fight against the Demon of Hatred. They’re one of the toughest bosses in the game, a rampaging beast who looks like the long-lost cousin of Manus from Dark Souls. One of their attacks is to leap into the air and slam down, creating a massive wave of fire. It’s hard to dodge, but using the right umbrella negates a majority of the damage. In a game where you’re mostly at a constant disadvantage, having any kind of leg up on the enemy is appreciated.

The umbrella has me eager to experiment with more options on my second playthrough. Used wisely, the prosthetic upgrades capture the ninja fantasy of using brains as much as brawn to survive. Think smart and plan ahead, and if you have the right tools, you can thrive in even the most dire situations. That’s exciting, doubly so when it can allow you to stand tall against the game’s toughest bosses.


What I Know About Surviving In Sekiro I Learned On The Volleyball Court

Screenshot: sekirothegame (YouTube)
Kotaku Game DiaryDaily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.  

The spectral foe towered over me, her sheer size outmatched only by her overwhelming poise. The pole arm she held in one hand was twice the size of my character, and the loose robes and prayer beads draped over her hulking figure only served to make her more intimidating. With a grace that only made her enormous size more horrifying, she sprung forward effortlessly, slowly. My brain immediately set into a flurry of observations and calculations. If she spun toward me, I could dodge her vertical swing at the last second and get in some juicy sword swipes before she finished her attack animation. If she didn’t spin—shit, she didn’t—it meant she was going for a much quicker horizontal. My body was immediately jolted by a series of sensations which, if I had to put into words, would be:


I deflected successfully, battle-hardened by the several times I mistakenly sidestepped right into the business end of the Corrupted Monk’s big, pointy stick. I found my thoughts becoming increasingly urgent, negative: stupid mistake! You know better! The errors I made while fighting this enemy in the ever-difficult Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice were excruciating, the reads exhilarating. The feeling was familiar, but it wasn’t immediately clear why—until I played volleyball that night.

It was our league championship, and we’d gone undefeated this season. The team we were playing had noticeably improved since we swept them three games to none in the first match of the season, so we expected to win, but we also knew we needed to take the match seriously. As the game continued, my focus tightened. The other team’s outside hitter got a set. My mind went into a flurry of observations and calculations.

She’s been hitting cut shots all night, I thought. She’s coming right to me. I watched her carefully, looking for signs that she might tip: straightened elbow, slower approach. But as she reached the net, she kept both hands raised instead of just one. Alarm bells started ringing.

“PUSH!” I screamed to my teammates, who were already adjusting for the placement she’d telegraphed. Her shoulders were square to the deep corner, and our middle back defender sprinted over as I pulled back farther and got ready to counterattack. “You got me!” I screamed at our setter, ready to capitalize on the opportunity they’d given us. It was exhilarating, and we ultimately won the championship match—but volleyball has always had the excruciating moments, too.

In a tournament I played some months back, one of the opposing teams had a middle hitter who towered above me at around 6’2”. Every inch of her wingspan made the downward angle she could put on the ball more threatening. On one play, she got a quick set, towering above the net like the arbiter of hitting an unprepared bitch in the face. From the left back position, I set my feet just outside the area our own middle blocker could protect, moving in a few paces from the sideline as fear reminded me how hard an angle she could send the ball. The bend in my knees deepened, my legs ready to spring left, right, or forward for the results of her whip-quick swing.

She smacked the ball right at me, just a little deeper than I’d expected, nailing me right in the chest. If I’d stayed in position rather than adjusting for what was, in hindsight, a bad read, I would have been fine. I reflexively angled my body up to at least keep the shank high and playable, but while it bounced up high into the air, it sailed way out and we lost the point.

“Titty shot,” I mumbled sadly, to everyone and no one. “I cheated up too far,” I added, acknowledging my error. I should have been planted closer to the sideline, ready to move forward for the shorter ball I’d worked myself up over. You know better.

The volleyball encounters made me realize just what it was that makes a game like Sekiro, with its constant cycle of defeat and winning and defeat and defeat and defeat, so rewarding. The wins are huge and feel earned. I got this or that win by learning and observing and watching and reacting. I was good, and I was quick, but more than that, I was smart.

Though after watching so many bloody Sekiro deaths, I have to say: Getting hit in the nipple with a volleyball is probably way more pleasant than getting run through with a big ol’ spear.