Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a very different beast. The creators of the Dark Souls series have crafted a game that’s both familiar and wildly different. You’ll explore a huge environment, fight massive bosses, and slowly unlock upgrades for your character that make certain impossible challenges feel surmountable. In all those ways, it’s just like Dark Souls and Bloodborne — but there are so many ways it is completely new.
As a Soulsborne veteran, here are 10 survival tips I picked up from my first 24 hours with Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. The combat feels smoother (and deadlier) than ever, and everything can take some getting used to. The most jarring changes come from the new button layout. You can now jump on command, for example. And you’ll need to get used to jumping, because some unblockable attacks require a quick jump to avoid. There’s a lot more you need to know, so get scrolling for an overview of everything I’ve learned so far.
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Use Stealth To Scout Ahead And Avoid Conflict
Stealth is an incredibly powerful tool in Sekiro. If you’ve played other Soulsborne games, this is going to feel very new. You no longer need to encounter every enemy in the game. If you sneak up behind an unaware enemy, or jump at them from above, you can perform an instantaneous kill. You can avoid most enemies by taking alternate routes through levels.
- NOTE: Another good reason to use stealth? Eavesdropping! If you alert every enemy in an area, you won’t be able to eavesdrop. An icon will appear over unaware enemies — eavesdropping can reveal boss weaknesses, secret paths, or unlock new items from vendors. Yes, really.
Start with the rooftops. Your grapple isn’t just a means of traversal. You’ll be able to grapple enemies in combat, or use it to escape deadly situations against groups of enemies. Don’t be afraid to run and avoid tough opponents. You can even use the grapple (and stealth) to completely avoid bosses or mini-bosses. It feels really, really weird.
Parry Is More Powerful With Patience
There is no shield in Sekiro. Enemies will have shields, but you’re stuck with parries. Parrying an enemy attack helps you fill the enemy’s poise meter faster, allowing you to finish them off with a deadly strike. Bosses have two health bars, while normal enemies only require a single deadly blow to put them down.
Parry is a tricky skill to learn, but it’s worth practicing. Pressing the parry button only once, when you need to, gives you a wider parry interception window. If you mash the parry button, that interception window shrinks considerably. You’ll want to just press parry once just as an enemy’s attack is going to land. The timing isn’t nearly as tricky as in other Souls-like games, and learning how to parry will make all the difference against almost any encounter.
You Have Two Lives, Use Them Wisely
Death has a new twist in Sekiro. You literally have two lives — if you die once, you’ll be able to resurrect with no repercussions. But, if you die a second time, you’ll lose all the money in your inventory. On top of that, you’ll also lose some of the skill points you’ve earned. Remember, this will only happen if you die twice. If you retreat after your first death, you can return to a Sculptor Idol and restore your ‘lives’.
There’s another unknown consequence when you die. A strange disease called dragonrot will progress with your every double-death. We don’t know how many deaths it requires to spread the disease, but we do know that the status of the disease will change the ending. Use those second lives carefully!
Afraid Of Losing Sen? Convert Your Cash
Here’s something tricky you can do at almost any vendor. For a small extra fee (about 10%-20%) you can convert your in-game currency, called Sen, into gold pouches. Purchase gold pouches from a vendor, and you will no longer lose your gold when you die. Just open the pouches later when you want to spend your hard-earned cash.
If you have a fat stack of gold and won’t want to lose all of it, purchase a bunch of pouches from the nearest vendor to ‘bank’ it. It’s very useful, especially if you’re saving coin for one of the helpful Shinobi Prosthetics.
Don’t Play Fair — You Can Backstab Bosses
Here’s something you might not realize for an absurdly long time. It’s completely foreign to any Soulsborne instinct, but you can backstab unaware bosses. Almost every mini-boss in the early game easy to backstab. All you have to do is lose line-of-sight, and wait for them to exit alert. They’ll wander back to their arena, and become easy pickings.
You can only do this once. If you stealth away from a boss, they’ll fully recover. Still, this is incredibly useful. Stealth-attacking a boss removes one of their two lives. You’ll enter the fight with the enemy boss at 50% normal health. This is especially useful against the Drunkard — you can clear his bodyguard soldiers, hide, and then backstab the main boss.
Purchase And Equip Robert’s Firecrackers ASAP
For a measly 500 gold, you can purchase Robert’s Firecrackers from the Memorial Mob vendor. This hard-to-find vendor is located on a high cliff, to the left of the gate leading to the Chained Ogre boss fight. Talk to this guy and purchase the Firecrackers to make many encounters much, much easier.
The Firecrackers don’t just scare / stun simple soldiers. They’ll scare any boss or opponent you come across. The Firecrackers remain for a second, so even charging bulls or steeds will stop. Firecrackers scare animals, so use them to freak out rides or rampaging beasts whenever you can.
Fight Red Eyes With Fire
Sometimes, you’ll encounter enemies with red glowing eyes. Instead of facing off against these ugly, ferocious creatures, you’ll want to introduce them to a face full of fireball. You can acquire the Fire Barrel item in the alternate memory path at the Estate. Just look in the large fires guarded by the bandits. This can set enemies on fire — combine the Shinobi Tool with the Oil item, and you can set red-eyed creatures on fire even faster.
Red-eyed things are dangerous, and fighting them up-close in melee range can be dangerous. Better to burn them and move on.
You Have Unlimited Stamina — So Never Stop Running
It can take some time to relearn the basics of movement in Sekiro. You don’t just jump, you can also sprint on command. In other Souls-like games, you can always sprint, too. But in Sekiro, your hero never has to stop moving. Sprinting doesn’t cost stamina. Nothing costs stamina. You have unlimited stamina, and that means there’s no reason to dodge multiple times. When you’re fighting, just keep sprinting.
On top of that, dodging isn’t as powerful as it was in other FromSoft games. When dodging, you’re only protected when you’re actually dodging swiftly — right as you press the button, and slightly after. You can take damage on the tail end of your dodge.
Practice The Powerful Mikiri Counter Early & Often
You’ll be able to handle spear-wielding goons and straight-sword stabbers once you’ve unlocked the Mikiri Counter technique. This is one of two Shinobi techniques you can learn almost from the beginning, and it’s one skill you’ll want to learn fast. Spearmen become completely trivial. Even straight-sword thrusting attacks can be dealt with.
- NOTE: As you progress, you’ll unlock weapons and techniques that will make certain enemy types easier. The Mikiri Counter is great for countering thrusting attacks, but you’ll also gets the axe Shinobi Prosthetic, which will blast through enemies with shields.
The Mikiri Counter literally puts a boot on the offending Spear / Sword, knocking them to the ground and leaving the enemy open for attack. It’s an easy-to-learn technique that also might seem something worth ignoring. The counter turns spear-wielders into fodder.
Search Everywhere & Everything — You Might Find A New Route
If you’re stuck and can’t beat a boss, or enter an area where enemies instantly destroy you with powerful attacks, then you’ll probably want to go exploring somewhere else. Sekiro is designed so that there are always alternate paths you can take, new routes to follow, and secondary bosses to fight. If you’re feeling stuck, try re-exploring old areas.
There are two ways to improve your physical abilities in Sekiro. You can either upgrade your health, or upgrade your attack power — you’ll need Memories or Prayer Beads. Both of these (mostly) come from defeating minor bosses in battle. There really isn’t a way to simply grind and increase your skills. It’s all about finding new encounters.
Secrets are everywhere in the massive, open maps of Sekiro. If an area is too difficult, you’re probably not meant to be there yet.
That’s our 10 tips for survival in Sekiro! Keep checking back at Gameranx for even more guides coming soon.