Even if you’re a veteran of FromSoftware’s other games like the Dark Souls series, Demon’s Souls, or Bloodborne, you’re still going to have quite a bit of learning to do when you fire up Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. The kicker is that it plays similarly to the aforementioned FromSoftware games, but different enough to throw experienced players for a loop.
The latest action-adventure game from the legendary studio is among the most challenging games we’ve ever played, blending stealth with traversal and all-out action to create an experience unlike any of its other games. If you wish to survive — or just keep your deaths from going into the thousands — you’re going to need a little help.
Here’s your Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice beginner’s guide. Get some unrefined sake and take some deep breaths, because there will be some growing pains.
Stealth assassinations and escape
There are two main ways you can assassinate or launch a powerful sneak-attack “Shinobi Deathblow” on enemies in Sekiro, both of which deal equal amounts of damage. The first is to sneak up behind an enemy (crouch by clicking the left stick and lock on by clicking the right stick) and hitting the attack button when a red circle appears. If it’s a standard enemy with only one health bar, this will be an instant kill. If it’s an enemy with more than one health bar, it will eliminate the first.
You can also perform a stealth attack by leaping from above. Lock onto an unaware enemy underneath your position and line up a jump so you land on top of it. When the red circle appears, hit the attack button and you’ll drive your sword into them.
If you’re used to being able to stealth-kill enemy after enemy like in Splinter Cell or Metal Gear Solid, you’ll be in trouble with Sekiro. Stealth-killing an enemy will almost always alert nearby enemies.
Additionally, the target you’re attacking has to be unaware of your exact location. If they have a red triangle over their head or are actively attacking you, the attack won’t work in the early stages of the game. If the triangle is yellow, however, that means they’re searching for you but don’t know your location – you can still sneak behind them for the kill.
Hit-and-run tactics can be viable in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, as long as you have a means of escape. Drop down or sneak up behind an enemy for your first kill, then look for grappling points above you. If one is available, it will display as a green circle, and you can hold the left trigger to zip up and away from danger. Wait for the enemies to forget about you and do the whole thing over again!
Things pop off whenever enemies spot you in Sekiro, and that’s where standard sword-fighting comes into play. This isn’t like Dark Souls where you simply block before dealing damage to enemies. Instead, you have to use a combination of attacks, dodges, deflections, and blocks to wear down your target’s Posture. Once this is done, you can land a Shinobi Deathblow that is identical to the stealth assassination attack in terms of damage output.
This means that you have to stay aggressive, as Posture recharges over time and it takes forever to whittle down an enemy’s health without breaking their Posture.
The best way to stay on the offensive — and even occasionally earn instant kills — is to deflect enemies’ attacks. Instead of holding down the “block” button, press it just before you’re about to get hit and you’ll knock the enemy’s weapon away. This will damage their Posture and give you a second to get in a hit or two of your own. One tactic we like to use is to spam the deflect button to quickly eliminate the enemy’s Posture. This isn’t a full-proof method, but you’d be surprised at how effective it can be. Before long, you won’t even need to spam it, as you’ll just naturally know when to press it as you learn enemy attack patterns.
For the slower enemies, spamming the deflect button isn’t necessary, but it will serve as a useful tactic when facing off against quick foes. Do keep in mind, effectively deflecting an enemy attack will increase your Posture meter as well, so use it wisely.
Stamina isn’t a factor in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, so you can also dodge as much as you want. This doesn’t affect your Posture and can often give you the opportunity to land some hits on a tough enemy, but it’s not a universal strategy. If an enemy seems too quick for dodging, they probably are.
Just like in the Dark Souls games, you have a healing item called the Healing Gourd that refills whenever you rest at the Sculptor’s Idol checkpoint areas. It has a limited number of charges that can be expanded by using Gourd Seeds, found from certain enemies and throughout the world. You need to use the Healing Gourd, even if you aren’t close to death, because your health is tied to the rate at which your Posture recharges. Fight with half-health, and you’re making things more difficult for yourself.
The biggest addition to the FromSoftware formula in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is the Shinobi Prosthetic, a false arm given to the Wolf after the prologue. It can be fitted with a variety of attachments, and they’re activated by pulling the right trigger during combat. Available attachments include a flamethrower, a spring-loaded spear, and a shuriken launcher, each of which offer unique benefits. All of these are tied to consumable Spirit Emblems, which can be found in the game world and enemies, or purchased at a Sculptor’s Idol.
If you’re struggling with a certain type of enemy, there’s a good chance an attachment could take care of it. Shielded enemies, for instance, are susceptible to the axe, while fire can be useful for dealing damage and wearing down Posture. You can get creative with how you use the attachments, and can swap between your equipped ones on the fly by hitting the Triangle or Y button.
You’ll find additional attachments over the course of your adventure, and they’re often located in chests. You can’t use them without first going to the Dilapidated Temple you visited at the start of your journey. There, the Sculptor will take your new attachment and fit it to your prosthetic.
If you can beat Genichiro, you can beat any boss in the game
About 20% through the game, you’ll encounter Genichiro Ashina, an enemy who is considered the toughest boss in the game. The reason for this is that he is ruthless, quick, and doesn’t seem to offer many openings for attacks. Since he’s so tough, many players tend to quit before beating him. The good news is that he is absolutely among the toughest in the game, so if you do manage to take him out, you’ll have the skills necessary to beat any boss in the game. It’s unfortunate that you face him so early on, forcing many players to miss out on most of the game.
If you’re struggling, try deflecting Genichiro and focusing on his Posture, rather than his health. Save your healing items for the final stage, as that’s when things get nerve-wracking. You also might want to whip out the axe Prosthetic to deal massive amounts of damage to health and Posture. When you do make it to the final stage in which Genichiro jumps up and shoots you with lightning, make sure you use the Lightning Reversal to open him up for attacks. Don’t get greedy with your slashes — take your time and be patient with this boss. After you’ve beaten him, you can celebrate in knowing you just beat the hardest enemy in the game.
So, what does “Shadows Die Twice” mean? Thanks to a supernatural force, you are able to resurrect yourself in Sekiro if you’re struck down during combat. Upon death, just hit the R1 or RB button to revive yourself with about half your health, and you’ll be able to continue fighting as normal. Should you be killed again, it’s back to the last Sculptor’s Idol you visited, and you’ll be given one more resurrection to use for next time.
Dying will also cause you to love half the progress you made toward your next skill point, as well as half your sen currency. Occasionally, you’ll receive “Unseen Aid” and lose nothing upon death, but the chance of this happening is reduced with every subsequent death.
There are actually ways that you can revive yourself more than once per run, however. If you perform Shinobi Deathblows on powerful enemies, you’ll gradually see a second revival icon fill up above your health bar. Once this is full, you can revive yourself a second time.
Be aware, though – there is still a mandatory cooldown between revivals, and once you use that second revival, it will be gone until you’ve performed enough Shinobi Deathblows or used a consumable Bundled Jizo Statue. The item is extremely rare, however, so only use it if you are absolutely sure you’re not going to die again.
Just like in FromSoftware’s other games, there are tons of secrets hidden in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. If there are two paths to take in an area and you’ve determined that one of them is the “correct” path, take the other one first – there will always be something there to do or find.
You won’t just want to look left or right, however, but also up and down. You can jump in Sekiro, and hitting the jump button a second time on a flat surface will make you jump even higher. Ledges can also be grabbed and walls can be hugged, allowing you to reach seemingly unavailable areas, and with your grappling tool, you can often soar on top of buildings or deep into canyons to discover hidden caves.
As you explore, you’ll encounter even more Sculptor’s Idols to rest at, but you also want to look out for locked doors. If a door says it “doesn’t open from this side,” that means you’ll eventually be able to open it when you find a way around. Once you do this, you’ll create a shortcut that will let you freely travel between both sides!
There is no “Souls” system in Sekiro, and you don’t upgrade individual statistics by using the resources you acquire from dead enemies. Instead, there are a few separate types of items as well as “Skill Points” that are used to improve your power. They’re detailed below:
Skill Points: These are gained after killing enemies, with progress toward the next point tracked in a bar in the top-right of your screen. Skills are split into several different trees that you’ll unlock at certain points in the game. They include special attacks, as well as passive abilities that improve things like Spirit Emblem capacity or healing power.
Gourd Seeds: Found on certain enemies and in the game world, Gourd Seeds give one more charge to your Healing Gourd. They can also occasionally be purchased from non-player characters for currency. To use them, go to Emma at the Dilapidated Temple.
Prayer Beads: Also found on certain enemies and in the game world, Prayer Beads improve your health and Posture capacity. You need four of them to upgrade these, and can do so at a Sculptor’s Idol.
Memories: Acquired after killing bosses, Memories improve your overall attack power. You can also use them by going to a Sculptor’s Idol.
Because of the leveling system in Sekiro, or lack thereof, you can’t grind like you can in other FromSoftware games. Enhancements are limited and you can only have so many before advancing to the next area. This means you will, unfortunately, have to “git gud,” as many members of the Souls community would say. In many ways, Sekiro is a lot simpler than Dark Souls, but the fact that you can’t over-level yourself means you have to learn the complexities of its combat.
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