Whether Sekiro is your first game in the From Software series of developed games, or you consider yourself the biggest Dark Souls and Bloodborne fan out there – you’ll find the combat in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice to be very challenging and different in its own right.
This is especially important for players used to the feeling of combat in Dark Souls or Bloodborne: If you try to fight in Sekiro like it was a Souls game – you will die. In order to master the combat of Sekiro, you’ll need to unlearn everything you know about attacking, defending, dodging, blocking and more.
You can also lock onto enemies and strafe around them by moving – or switch your lock on to a different enemy. This is about the only way in which Sekiro shares similarity to Dark Souls or Bloodborne combat.
Unlike Dark Souls or Bloodborne, there is no stamina bar you must keep an eye on when attacking, blocking, or dodging. You can run, attack, block, dodge, and jump as much as you want – with a few caveats.
For instance, dodging in Sekiro allows you to perform a short dash in any direction, but you cannot move very far with it, and the period in which you are invulnerable to damage while dodging is very slim – as the game relies more on hit detection. Because of this, you shouldn’t try to rely too much on dodging, as it will only guard you against specific attacks with a short reach or thrusts, and cannot be used as a catch-all.
Blocking in Sekiro is done in two different ways. Holding block will indeed stop you from taking damage to your Vitality – but instead you will find repeated hits will damage another meter – the Posture Meter. This meter is the key to understanding combat in Sekiro, and how you can use it to your advantage.
How Posture Works
Both the Wolf and his opponents all have a Posture Meter. Regular enemies will display their posture above their head below their health, while Mid-Bosses and Bosses display theres at the top center of the screen, with their health to the left. Meanwhile, the Wolf‘s posture is displayed at the bottom center of the screen, with your health to the left.
As you deal damage to opponents, you’ll also deal damage to the Posture Meter, causing it to expand from the center, and this also holds the same for your character. One of the most important things to note is that this holds true even if the target of the attack is blocking – though the damage will be reduced somewhat. Blocking in this method results in a dull clang from your sword, and eventually the Posture Meter will break if you are not careful.
If you manage to break your opponents Posture Meter, they will be stunned, and a red indicator will appear on the opponent that allows you to perform a finishing Deathblow on the target. If your own Posture Meter is broken, the Wolf may also be susceptible to their next attack, or will at least fall down and become vulnerable to further hits.
To avoid breaking your own posture, and destroy your opponents posture – you must master the technique of deflection. Instead of holding block, you can tap the block button right as the attack lands to deflect it. This works differently from “parrying” in Dark Souls or Bloodborne – its the same button as blocking, and it doesn’t have a sweet spot in the blocking animation you need to connect with – and it won’t stun your opponent either.
As scary as it may sound – the key to victory often lies in an aggressive defense: trading blows with your opponent while not being afraid to deflect an incoming attack – no matter how huge it looks. If it doesn’t have a perilous warning sign, you can deflect it!
A successful deflection will however result in a higher pitched metallic clang, and you’ll see your opponents posture take damage from your deflection, with very little damage – if any – on your end. Depending on the toughness of the enemy, you can often kill an opponent quickly with just a few hits and deflections – as a perfectly timed deflection can send even the toughest opponent over the edge and allow you to perform a Deathblow.
Posture Vs Health
Posture is both tied to health, and also completely separate. you can defeat an enemy without ever breaking his posture, or break their posture to perform a Deathblow while barely scraping their health bar.
However, they also have a certain kind of relationship. When the Wolf or an enemy has high health, their posture will regenerate quickly, making it hard to break posture and initiate a Deathblow. At around half health, the Posture Meter will have a yellow background, indicating their posture is unable to heal as quickly.
Once an enemy’s health is almost depleted – their posture will be unable to regenerate, letting you set up for a deathblow – which is especially needed against large tough enemies, minibosses, and Bosses.
This is also important to recognize for your own character. When you get low on health, it will be harder to recover your posture – and using any healing or posture recovery items to offset this – and seek a safe place in which to do so.
Perilous Unblockable Attacks
Perilous attacks cannot be blocked through normal means – you’ll still take damage if you hold block, and even perfect deflections only work against thrust attacks. Instead, you’ll have to play a game of rock, paper, scissors to find the best way to deal with each incoming attack:
- Thrust attacks can often be avoided by dodging to the side at the last moment, or by unlocking the Mikiri Counter skill and dodging into your opponent.
- Sweep attacks can be avoided by jumping above the low attack, and by pressing the jump button again you can perform a downward kick on the enemy to bounce off them and deal major posture damage.
- Grab attacks can come in many forms and must be dodged or jumped away from as they cannot be blocked or countered. Some grabs can be deceiving – like the Chained Ogres running dive into a grab that’s hard to simply dodge away from – but can be jumped over!
Once you understand the different ways your enemy can come at you with an unblockable attack, you can start looking for ways to quickly counter and use them to your advantage. For instance – when up against a boss, you can often break posture far quicker by countering each unblockable attack with one of your own moves.
A Deathblow is a finishing maneuver in Sekiro, and can be performed in numerous ways. It’s primarily used in stealth – against unaware opponents that can be taken out in a single move. This includes sneaking up behind the opponent, or performing a Ledge Grab Deathblow, Aerial Deathblow from above, or a Wall Deathblow from around a corner.
Deathblows can also be performed once an enemy’s posture is broken – and in many situations this can be much faster than simply depleting their health. Certain enemies may be very tough with a high health pool, like Brutes and Ogres, but their posture may be weak and easily exploited – making Deathblows via posture a much quicker kill.
Besides the Wolf‘s main attacks through his use of the katana, you will also gain access to various Prothetic Tools. These allow you to unleash secondary attacks that can damage, disrupt, and break through enemy defenses to find new ways to conquer your foes.
Excluding the Grappling Hook, all Prosthetic Tools require Spirit Emblems to use, meaning you can’t spam them indefinitely – and they are best used sparingly in tandem with your regular attacks to expose an enemy’s weak point, and then take advantage of the opening to finish the fight quickly.
If you run up against an enemy that seems to have the advantage over you – like wielding a large shield, you may want to avoid them until you find a Prosthetic Tool that can even the odds – like the Shinobi Axe’s ability to tear shields apart.
The further you get into Sekiro, the more dire your need for perfectly timed deflections will be. Enemies will start using greater combo attacks that can’t be interrupted and deal major damage if you aren’t prepared.
This can also be their greatest undoing – as sometimes the most aggressive enemies can be defeated the fastest. Once you understand how a boss or mini-boss engages in their combo attack, you can deflect each and every strike in the chain of attacks to deal massive posture damage to them, and then continue the assault when their combo finishes.
Since posture heals much more slowly when health is low – the key to victory often lies in piling on posture damage with deflections while looking for openings after major attacks to chip away at health, and never letting up in your assault.
Attack – but don’t get greedy, and be ready to trade a few hits for deflecting a few of theirs. If they change to an unblockable attack, find the best way to counter it so that you can keep dealing posture damage – and use abilities like the Loaded Shuriken to hassle enemies that retreat so they can’t regenerate their posture.
Because each enemy behaves differently in Sekiro, you’ll have to consider each battle carefully. Does the enemy attack fast but have low posture? Stay defensive and break their posture through deflections. Do they have high health but attack slowly? Deflect a big incoming attack and then carve away their health until they wind up for another swing.
Look for any openings or tools than can help you gain the edge in combat too! If an enemy likes jumping around and performing leap attacks – use your shuriken to shut them down. If they have lots of health, try using the Flame Vent or Subimaru to inflict burning or poison while you back off.
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