Tag Archives: stealth

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.

Source: Kotaku.com

Manhunt Hates You And Wants You To Suffer

Many games are about escapism. Allowing the player to escape from their boring or shitty life and experience something incredible or impossible. In the popular shooter series Halo, players become the Master Chief; a badass super soldier capable of destroying armies of enemies by himself. He is in command of soldiers on the battlefield and travels around the galaxy, seeing gorgeous planets and fighting evil aliens. And for the most part, the player and the Master Chief always win.

This form of escapism, allowing players to do the impossible and save the world, is common in tons of games released every year.

Manhunt is different. It isn’t about escapism. Manhunt instead is a game about punishment and suffering.

The game starts with James Earl Cash, the character you play as, getting tied down and given a lethal injection. He is being executed for being a criminal who murdered people before the start of the game. Regardless of how you feel about lethal injection, in the world of Manhunt, this is Cash’s punishment for what he did.

Yet you escape death, thanks to a murder loving snuff film director named Starkweather. He pulled some strings and instead of lethal poison, James Earl Cash is given a powerful sedative. This is when Cash discovers the real punishment isn’t death. It is sneaking and running his way through Hell.

Sometimes, death is better.

After that brief setup, players are thrown into a rundown city filled with hunters; organized groups of killers who want to murder you.

Manhunt might seem like a game all about murder and violence, for example, you’ll see multiple executions and fights while playing. But that’s only a part of Manhunt. Most of the game is spent hiding and sneaking from shadow to shadow, avoiding enemies and danger.

The whole experience is terrifying.

Unlike the Master Chief, James Earl Cash is vulnerable and always being hunted. You’re not a hero or a badass in Manhunt. You’re a scumbag murderer trying to escape a nightmare.

I don’t want to be James Earl Cash, even for a brief period of time. His life and his situation aren’t things I want to “escape” into. Instead, I watch from behind my controller, happy I’m not there.

One of the main reasons I never felt like escaping into the world of Manhunt, is because of the fantastic work done to make the atmosphere of the game feel oppressive and shitty. Every level in Manhunt is awful. I don’t mean the level design is bad, instead, I mean they all look and sound like shitholes. Shattered glass everywhere, crumbling buildings, broken down cars on every street. Oh, and did I mention the hundreds of dangerous killers everywhere?

In a game like Skyrim, you want to stop and live in the village you just saved. In Manhunt, you never want to return to that slum you just sneaked your way through.

Playing Manhunt is about being afraid and suffering. Even when Manhunt throws you a bone, it quickly takes it away and calls you a piece of shit for even thinking about touching that bone.

For example, towards the end of the game, you fight a large and dangerous naked man who is also wearing a pig head as a mask. His name is Pigsy and his weapon of choice is a rusty chainsaw.

Eventually, after a tense and dangerous fight, you defeat Pigsy and take his chainsaw. In every video game, chainsaws are often shorthand for “Go kick some ass!” In Doom, getting the chainsaw is fun. You feel powerful and it improves your ability to fight demons.

But in Manhunt, this isn’t the case.

After getting the chainsaw, The Director calls in a team of well-equipped mercs to hunt you down and kill you. That new chainsaw you got, well good luck using it. To kill with it you need to turn the motor on and rev it. This creates a loud and continuous noise, which is very bad when you are trying to sneak from shadow to shadow, quietly.

All of this might sound bad. It might make Manhunt sound awful, but I actually really enjoy Manhunt because it is so different from so many other games.

For a medium filled with heroes being heroes and saving the day, it’s a nice change of pace to have a game like Manhunt spit on you, kick you in the stomach then point towards another room where you’ll get kicked and spit on some more. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just a masochist?

This always oppressive and shitty atmosphere is why the executions in Manhunt are so great. It’s the one time where you get some revenge. You get to dish out some punishment of your own and you decide how brutal you want to be. And you might be surprised how brutal you can be when you hate everything around you and feel no remorse for the people hunting you down.

Manhunt doesn’t let you choose to be non-lethal or give you an option to be good. Your only option with enemies is deciding how quickly and painfully you want to kill them. Sure, you can avoid a few enemies, but many during many enemy encounters it will be nearly impossible to complete levels without taking a few lives.

Murdering in Manhunt is all about timing. How long you hold the button will decide how brutal the murder. Hold it long enough and you will stab people in the eyes and cut heads off.

By the end of Manhunt you probably won’t like James Earl Cash, which is fine. Manhunt is a wonderful example of a game with a protagonist who is someone you probably wouldn’t want to spend any time with. No one wants to go get a beer with James Earl Cash, that dude’s a deranged murderer.

Unfortunately, going back to Rockstar developed games from this era is always tricky. The games use awkward and clunky controls and they never look very good. Manhunt is (mostly) different than other Rockstar games from the PS2.

Due to being more linear and smaller than something like GTA San Andreas, the game’s visuals hold up better than you might expect. And the low res textures and grimy feel actually work in the game’s favor. After all, Manhunt was never meant to look “nice”. It was meant to look depressing and dirty, and it achieves that goal in every level.

Manhunt’s controls, however, don’t hold up nearly as well. The main issue is that the controls and the gameplay feel loose and yet oddly rigid. But again, because the levels are smaller and you move around slower, the controls hold up better than say Vice City’s awful movement and combat controls.

If you do go back and beat Manhunt, you’ll find it has no happy ending or nice cutscene where you save the day or turn the evil bad guy into the police. Instead, you kill his lackeys and then kill him. Then you leave. Credits roll. Good job, scumbag.

And while Manhunt would get a sequel, it would have almost no connections to the previous game and instead would take the series into a different direction. That game is fine, but it never comes close to capturing the horror and oppressive feel of Manhunt.

Honestly, I’m not even sure if Rockstar could re-capture that feel in a future game. Improved visuals might end up making a Manhunt 3 feel too real and uncomfortable.

I’m fine with the world never getting another Manhunt 3. Instead, I recommend for those curious to creep back to their PS2 and experience Manhunt, preferably in a dark room. Alone. Good luck, killer.

Source: Kotaku.com

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice: The Kotaku Review

In Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, the thread between life and death is tenuous. As the One-Armed Wolf, a loyal shinobi seeking to save a young noble with a cursed bloodline, you traverse a feudal Japan so saturated with the remnants of war that the idea of mortality becomes fickle: dead bodies blending in with the local flora and fauna, so many wounded soldiers sharing their last words that you could create a compendium of the lost. This is all underscored by a cruel and ultimately grueling irony—you cannot die.

Sekiro plays often with its sense of tone. The earnest solemnity of a samurai film is undercut by darkly absurd and comically bleak moments. There’s a training section offered to you by a man who exists only to die for you over and over, and he’s kind of chill about it. “Hey man,” he might as well say. “Wanna mess around and kill me a little more for practice?” Having an understandable existential crisis stemming from his inability to die, he asks you to murder him with the same casual listlessness of a lonely friend asking you over to watch the game for the third time this week. Death is kind of a joke, and it’s that exact sentiment that’s plunged the game’s world into utter chaos.

The player quickly becomes the butt of that joke, as Sekiro is punishingly difficult. (This should be shocking to roughly no one, given that it’s made by From Software, developer of the infamously challenging Souls games and Bloodborne.) The combat requires real attention to detail and a willingness to drill down on a few sets of possible reactions. Boss and mid-boss battles are a furious interplay of choreographed patterns mixed with improvisation. First you learn an enemy’s moves; then, maybe five or 10 deaths later, the real battle begins. Learning the early boss Lady Butterfly’s attack patterns is that much more satisfying because the presentation is excellent. She moves like a dancer, and her attack animations tell a story.

I found myself deeply immersed in the way these battles worked, obsessing over each animation, every cue, every possible breakaway combination that could happen as a result of my own reactions. Combat in Sekiro is like a dance, but it’s also like a series of the fastest-ever choose-your-own-adventure branches: Parrying this leads to a thrust. Not blocking leads to a sweep. With the addition of shinobi prosthetics and skills, all of which can be upgraded via skill trees, the options open up immensely. As stubborn as Sekiro is in forcing players to learn how each enemy telegraphs its moves, there are still lots of ways to approach each encounter.

For example, there’s this one tough boss fight in a poison pit. Enormous statues of Buddha protrude from the sickly seaweed-colored lake, their palms outstretched for you to land in as a Snake-Eyes gunner’s shots explode in a firecracker flare of twining lights. You can dodge and dash and soar through the air and ultimately clash with her, or you can bait her into the poison pool and sit atop a cliff face while her health slowly, slowly, painfully slowly drains. The game had just given me a tip about enemies in poisonous areas having a higher poison resistance—I couldn’t tell whether it was warning me not to use the poison or coaxing me into it. I took my win and kept it moving all the same, quietly deciding that maybe that was the only cheese strategy I wanted to use during this playthrough. Generally, that worked out well. As I fought and fought and fought, I found often that playing and dying a lot, resting, and coming back actually made things—this word comes up often in discussions about FromSoftware games—click.

Sekiro’s combat relies on two stats called Vitality, which is health, and Posture, represented by a meter that builds as you’re essentially knocked off balance. Your enemy has the same meters. The higher the Posture meter gets, the less poised you become. The lower your Vitality gets, the faster your Posture meter rises. If your Posture meter maxes out, you’re susceptible to any attack from an opponent, which often results in a substantial punish. If you max out your opponent’s Posture bar, you’re able to perform a deathblow and either kill them or remove a full bar of their health. Generally, this system rewards aggressive gameplay and strategically applying pressure. It’s hectic and can be an absolute blast.

What wasn’t a blast was the feeling that I was repeating myself. Sekiro’s winding world is full of near-duplicate mini-boss fights, and I often found myself asking why. I’m guessing the developers of the game were trying to coax the player into reconsidering their approaches to boss fights, but I found that I wasn’t really forced to do that in several of these repeat encounters, nor did I even really feel the satisfaction of being able to curb stomp an enemy that had previously led me to struggle. Fortunately, most of these encounters are optional, and while they are necessary for a completionist run (and to be fair, not that much of a time sink), I found myself thankful that I could just pass on them.

You do a lot of passing in Sekiro, which is as much a game about stealth as it is about swordplay and shinobi arts. The game’s stealth started off exciting. It was thrilling and fun to discover new enemy patterns and layouts, dig into how my tools and items worked, and quickly face-plant into the consequences of failure. But as the game progressed, I found myself tired of dodging around random mooks who I could easily kill one-on-one or even one-on-two, even when they were eventually flanked by stronger ninja and new, more disciplined samurai types. That was compounded by the fact that enemies’ intelligence didn’t appear to grow any more complex and seemed to differ mostly in range of vision, hearing, and how long enemies would stare in your general direction after spotting you. Most of the stealth sections felt interchangeable.

But then there are stealth moments that Sekiro gets really, really right. In addition to a couple unique chase sequences that I won’t spoil, there’s a particularly striking boss encounter in the late mid-game that has stuck with me. It’s more of a hunt than a fight, meaning stealth is key, and there’s a very light puzzle element that makes the change of pace from normal combat deeply refreshing. Mounting pressure from a growing wave of surrounding enemies escalates the difficulty, creating a totally different challenge from what I’d already seen. It’s really, really good. There’s also a stealth portion in the endgame that’s so punishing it skirts the line of being interesting, but I still found myself largely over that aspect by the time the game was done and feeling like it could have gone so much farther.

The music, mostly sparse, works well when it does show up. Atmospheric touches go a long way to give the string-laden tracks depth and dimension. The encounter music in a monastery area, for example, is underscored by the deep rumble of throat chanting, highlighting the atmospheric differences from other areas you’ve been in and underscoring the underlying theme: These monks have strayed from enlightenment. A normally meditative and harmonious sound is used to creepy, otherworldly effect, highlighting something the mid- and late-game locales completely nail: The line between life and death is blurred, and with it, death creeps into the mortal world in horrifying ways.

That theme is also served in interesting ways by the non-linearity of Sekiro’s world. I explored areas I didn’t yet need to visit before progressing the story, and by the time it pivoted even further into the themes of decay and immortality, I had seen for myself parts of the world warped into grotesque and eldritch forms by the quest for eternal life, which made my foray into the next parts of the game that much more poignant. I also felt a sense of accomplishment and was thrilled to realize that I had already nearly completed certain quest objectives, adding to the sense I already had that the world folded in on itself in interesting and rewarding ways. I finally came to understand the way that immortality really figured into the story.

The Wolf’s own immortality comes with a price: When you die, the non-player characters you’ve met and befriended will grow infected with a plague called Dragonrot. The illness is apparently deadly, but it won’t kill anyone, and it can be cured in-game via items. You can’t access sidequests and certain lines of dialogue from ill NPCs, but the story otherwise goes unaffected. I initially found this a little anticlimactic, but now that I consider it more of a background story beat than a truly important mechanic, I feel it has a place in the game. I do wish there were more real implications of inflicting it on those around you, though. What would it look like for Dragonrot to have permanent effects on the game? Probably a lot of rage quits.

The game’s death mechanics do more for the themes than the actual gameplay, and that’s fine. You lose money and experience toward skill points when you die, which was deeply distressing in my early gameplay but ultimately became trivial as I learned to use cash-storing coin purses and keep an eye out for how much experience I might stand to lose at any given moment. I got more strategic about who to engage and when, and how to prepare for those engagements. Then there’s Unseen Aid, a blessing from on high that sometimes triggers when you die without an available resurrection, preventing you from losing your resources upon death. It starts with a 30 percent chance of activation and reduces even further when the characters are inflicted by Dragonrot. As a result, I never even thought to rely on it. But again, like the Dragonrot itself, it meshes with the game’s religious overtones, so I was able to appreciate it on some level.

Sekiro gets a whole lot right. Its themes permeate its feudal Japan in a compelling way, and for the most part, the gameplay is deeply satisfying. There are things it could do better, particularly avoiding repetition, but the notes Sekiro does hit are memorable enough that the slog doesn’t totally ruin the flow of gameplay, and the inertia into the end of the game carries strong. The challenge Sekiro presents is daunting and time-consuming. Ultimately, the question I had coming in was, “Will this be worth it?” After moving through countless cycles of life and death, tensing, raging, and finally, conquering my challenges and letting go of my anger like Buddha, I decided that it was.

Source: Kotaku.com

Tips For Playing Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is fun and also challenging. There’s a lot to take in, both in and out of combat, and several aspects of the game require real concentration and attention to detail. I’m here with some tips to help you learn better and faster.

There are lots of boss-specific strategies in this game, since the fights are dynamic and unique. To avoid spoilers, I won’t go into great detail about those, but here are some basic tips to help you get acquainted with the world of Sekiro more quickly. Following those are tips for a few of the game’s first bosses—spoilers, obviously. You’ll run into plenty of tutorials organically, both in-game and on loading screens, so these tips are designed to get you a little more detail—and hopefully, save you some deaths.

Visit The Dilapidated Temple Often, Especially Early In

There are lots of reasons to visit the Dilapidated Temple in the early game. It’s where you unlock and upgrade skills and prosthetics, and there are often new abilities you can practice with Hanbei. You’ll also tend to find new story beats and ways to progress early on.

Stealth Will Save Your Life

Learn Your Surroundings: You’ll quickly learn that even basic enemies can quickly deplete your Vitality. Get caught in a group of them, and it’s curtains. Scope out as much of the layout as you can. Finding high ground via your grappling hook or good old-fashioned climbing is worth it. Use tall grass for cover as you look around. The first thing you’ll want in most situations is an escape route in case things go south. There are often hidden enemies, and it isn’t always possible to see all of them your first go-round. Beyond this, just be vigilant. Assume there might be an archer or gunner if you see high ground, and if there are multiple routes through an area, try to check them out. There sometimes isn’t a way to avoid being spotted, but you can at least avoid being overwhelmed and caught unawares.

Be Strategic: Be smart about which enemies to take out first. If you can, it’s good to take out large enemies with lots of power and reach, or spear-bearers, who tend to have a little more in their arsenal than swordsmen. And it’s never a bad idea to kill something you’ve never seen before learning what they can do the hard way. As you engage more with enemies, you’ll get a better grasp of how they are in a one-on-one fight; if I see a swordsman and an archer close together, for example, I’ll usually take out the swordsman first, because an archer is pretty much blade fodder in close combat. Use a stealth deathblow for the regular enemies you have trouble with, and engage the ones that are manageable to you.

Stealth Deathblows: There are a few types of stealth deathblow you can use, each with advantages and disadvantages. The opportunity for a deathblow, in combat and out, is shown by red dot indicators on the enemy. It’s often possible to get a stealth deathblow on a mid-boss, removing one of their two deathblow markers and making the fight drastically easier. Just be aware that you can only remove one dot this way; if you go far enough that the encounter ends, they’ll have recovered by the time you come back.

Challenge Yourself

While mid-bosses are challenging, the rewards they yield are generally worth your time, providing things like Gourd Seeds and Prayer Beads for upgrades. I’ve also found that the more I fought mid-bosses, the easier the rest of the game got; it was through learning more complex patterns while fighting mid-bosses that encounters with basic foot soldiers went from difficult to almost mindless. It can be tempting to run right past skippable fights, but it’s generally best to test the waters and see what you can pull off.

Know When To Block, Deflect, Dodge, And Run

It’s important to learn the ins and outs of Sekiro’s Posture and Vitality systems early, and part of that is knowing which way to respond to enemy attacks and when. Blocking and running are both good strategies when you don’t know what an enemy or boss might do. That much is obvious. But there are some cases—like fighting huge enemies with immensely powerful attacks—where blocking and parrying will drain your posture meter quickly. The same is true of relentless combo attacks. Paired with the fact that some bosses need their Vitality lowered before you can even make a dent in their Posture, you’ll want to mix things up and just retreat sometimes (hold your dodge button down to sprint). You’ll also want to create distance from time to time to let your Posture meter lower. Be patient.

The lower an enemy’s Vitality, the slower their Posture recovers. Once it’s down to a quarter, it won’t recover. Don’t be ashamed to hit and run until it seems possible to get that deathblow. You want to eventually get up in your opponent’s face for the kill, but there’s no reason to jump the gun on that. You’re playing as a shinobi, not a samurai; the point is to win tactically.

Do Not Let Yourself Get Too Good To Use Syndrome

Use Items Wisely: There are always different ways to deal with enemy formations, and the game gives you tools as well; the Ceramic Shard, for example, can be good for baiting a single enemy out of a room or formation. It tends to be especially useful paired with the wall hug deathblow. The Fistful of Ash temporarily stops lots of enemies, including some bosses, in their tracks.

There are lots of stat-boosting items, too; those are good for tougher fights, but resources are limited, particularly at the start of the game, so they’re best used when you feel confident that you’ll be able to finish a fight out. Also keep in mind that most items that heal status abnormalities also increase your resistance to them; it’s often a good idea to use one as a booster shot before engaging an enemy who can afflict them, particularly for terror or burn.

Get Yourself Some Skills, Starting With The Mikiri Counter: You can access shinobi skills early in the game, as soon as you get your first skill point and return to the Sculptor. There are three basic types: latent skills, combat skills, and shinobi martial arts. Many of these skills can vastly change the dynamics of your gameplay and often deal more damage than regular attacks, so make an effort to build and collect skill points without dying and losing them.

The Mikiri Counter is essential to start with, making it possible to counter otherwise unblockable thrust attacks. The game offers it to you early, so take advantage. Other combat techniques vastly expand the sorts of tactics you can use and tend to do more damage than regular attacks. The Whirlwind Slash, for example, can help with crowd control, and once you can access the Nightjar Slash, it’s great for closing distance, grabbing a quick hit, and running away. The Grappling Hook Attack provides similar benefits and can be extremely helpful for bosses. You can always practice these skills with Hanbei to get a feel for them, so take advantage.

It’s important not to ignore latent and shinobi skills, though. Run and Slide, for example, is helpful for closing distance to enemy with a ranged weapon. Suppress Presence makes you harder to detect even while in stealth, even if you’re not concealed in cover.

Know Your Prosthetics: In addition to skills, knowing the ins and outs of your prosthetics is important. The game generally provides hints on how to use them; figuring out timing is the next step. The Firecracker, for example, is great for neutralizing beast-type enemies and can provide an invaluable opening for an aggressive foe; they generally have to be used up close, though, and within the enemy’s field of vision. Dodging or parrying and then countering can work well and will open up a somewhat wider window than either would on its own. The Shuriken can be good for interrupting attacks or continuing to press a fleeing enemy from a distance, and the Flame Vent is useful for inflicting damage over time—great for a hit-and-run strategy and even temporarily incapacitating certain foes.

Use Breathing Space To Explore

In addition to useful items and information, exploring Sekiro’s world often yields rewarding results—it’s possible to find new prosthetics this way, for example, or even new skill trees. The world opens up pretty vastly after a certain point, and I’ve found tips or useful items for far-away boss fights way across the game’s world. The game’s setting, across a mountainous region fraught with steep drops and winding trails, means there are hidden points you can hang from, obscured grapple points, and plateaus to jump down too all over the place. I’ve found that exploring an area after I’ve cleared it of enemies is the best time, as long as I’m not too attached to the idea of retreating if I discover something unsavory, like a new boss or—I won’t spoil it for you—a unique stealth/chase sequence through a freezing crevasse. There also tend to be lots of items in enemy encampments. It doesn’t hurt to meander a little bit as you progress.

You Can Always Rest Up—At A Price

Sekiro uses an auto-save function, which means if you die or use an item you didn’t mean to use, that’s it—it’s saved in the annals of your gameplay history. Idol Sculptures, your checkpoints, are locations to restock and regroup—if you do, though, you reset regular enemy locations all across the map. If you’re worried about dying at any point, it’s generally a good idea to just backtrack and regroup. Where this becomes tricky is figuring out when to press on a little further in situations where you’d need to kill enemies again in order to progress or accomplish a goal; for example, it’s always easier to fight mid-bosses if you kill their lackeys first. Going back through with a better feel for enemy layout is always a possibility, though, so keep your options in mind.

Learn When To Run: If you’ve already used up your Resurrection and feel like you’re flailing around in a fight, it’s probably a good time to run. Dying will respawn regular enemies anyway, so you might as well flee and rest on your own terms instead of doing it the hard way and losing money and experience in the process.

Stock Up On Coin Purses

Go to a shop and purchase some Coin Purses, which allow you to keep your money when you die, or to acquire some skills. There are unavoidable boss fights as well, and going into them with as little to lose as possible is smart. When it comes to money and experience points upon dying, it’s essentially a case of “You can’t take it with you.”

NPCs Give You Useful Info—If They’re Not Sick

Characters you can actually talk to come few and far between, and they generally have valuable items and information. It’s also a good way to get bits and pieces of the game’s story. Be sure to keep track of what they tell you, as they often give good advice about upcoming situations or bosses, or otherwise about places where you can discover new tools and secrets. However, Dragonrot can make quest lines temporarily unavailable, so it’s good to keep track of who’s where and what their status is. There’s eventually a mechanic which can remove Dragonrot, so be sure to use it if you find yourself collecting Dragonrot indicators in your inventory. You can’t do this freely, so be deliberate about when you remove it. I generally like doing so after an unskippable boss.

Let Yourself Mess Up

With all this said, the game opens up as you get intimately familiar with what does and doesn’t work, and sometimes, that just takes trial and error. You may run into a boss that can counter your Mikiri Counter in a way you weren’t ready for, or find yourself stuck in a pit with an enemy you’re under-equipped for and can’t run from. Part of the fun is figuring things out on your own and learning from it. Save the pursuit of perfection for a second playthrough. In the meantime, just try new things and have fun lurking and slashing and burning your way through feudal Japan.

Those are just the basics—here are some specific strategies for a few of the game’s early bosses. Spoilers!

The Ogre

This is where you first really get into the meat of Sekiro’s combat. After a series of fights where you’re largely deflecting enemy attacks, the Ogre throws a wrench in that by fighting like a grappler, giving you a crash course on avoiding grabs and sweep attacks. You’ll be using your dodge a lot here, and it’s worth noting that his long-ranged charging attack, which looks like a grab, actually counts as a sweep attack and is dodgeable with the jump and jump-kick combo. Just give him a wide berth and watch for openings; his drop kick attack usually leaves him wide open, and his other kick attacks can be parried if you watch closely.

Two prosthetics are super useful for this fight—the Firecracker, which will stun the Ogre so you can land some juicy hits, and the Flame Vent, which is harder to get but worth it. (An in-game tip hints at this, but it’s in the Hirata Estate section, just before the bamboo forest in a campfire surrounded by thieves.) The Flame Vent will set the Ogre on fire with two uses, or just one use if you throw oil on him first. Not only does that do damage over time; he’ll also be stunned, so you can mercilessly slash away at him until he regains his bearings.

Juzou the Drunkard 

Juzou is a big boy. He’s also surrounded by little fellas, whom you do not want to be dealing with while you work on Juzou. Sneak around his encampment, starting with the soldiers in the building to your left and being careful not to step over anything and make noise. There are two reasons for this—one, there’s an ally, Nogami Gensai, directly across from Juzou, and you want to avoid leading any soldiers toward him as he’ll engage early and probably die. (You also don’t want to talk to him until you’re ready to fight Juzou, as he’ll immediately announce himself like a badass and charge in if you do.)


Two, the entryway gives you a route around to where Juzou and a few henchmen are for easy stealth kills. You may mistakenly alert the guards once or twice as you figure out the process, but just run away, avoiding your ally until the heat dies down, and continue picking everyone off.

Once it’s just you and Juzou, sneak up on him from whatever angle makes sense, get your free stealth deathblow on him, and then lead him toward Nogami Gensai, who will actually be useful now. While Juzou is distracted, go to town on his broad backside until he notices you. Then, dip, dodge, duck, dive, and dodge while your bud continues to attack. Rinse and repeat until you get your second deathblow indicator.

The Blazing Bull

This fella would probably be enough of a challenge on his own, but he has flaming horns, so that’s cool. That means you’ll be taking some burn damage throughout the fight, so take Dousing Powder—even better if you have the reusable Withered Red Gourd, which you can get from the Treasure Scale merchant for just two scales. You can collect the two you need in the same area.

The Blazing Bull’s attacks can be parried, but they cause burn damage and significant Posture damage as well. That means you’ll need to parry sparingly and do a decent amount of dodging, hitting, and running. The fireworks do a great job here; you can use them as he’s charging you, or for a somewhat safer strategy, parry his charge attack and then use it as he’s turning toward you, creating a small window to wail on him.

You’ll quickly start to see the bull’s Posture meter rising as you chip away at his Vitality, so bear down and keep attacking and parrying, keeping an eye on your Vitality and burn meters, and you’ll get a deathblow marker sooner than you expect.

Source: Kotaku.com