15 tips and tricks to master 'Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice,' one of the most difficult games ever made

From Software/Activision

“Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice,” from the Japanese game studio From Software, is one of the most difficult video games ever made.

It’s also one of the most rewarding gaming experiences out there.

Like previous From Software games, like “Dark Souls” or “Bloodborne,” “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice” is all about exploration and persistence. You’re given a massive interconnected world to discover, which is filled with lore and secrets, but progressing through that world means tough enemies that get progressively harder and more complex.

What’s so good about “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice” is that it forces you to break habits you’ve picked up from other video games, even past From Software titles, in order to succeed. The game can feel unforgiving, but there’s usually a point where it all clicks, and difficult areas and bosses become pushovers.

If you’re struggling with “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice,” we’ve put together a short guide of 15 tips and tricks to help you master the game.


1. Learn to deflect. You cannot beat this game by attacking alone.

‘Sekiro Shadows Die Twice’/Activision

Unlike other games developed by From Software, the makers of “Dark Souls” and “Bloodborne,” you can’t simply dodge enemies and hit them when there’s an opening. You won’t win that way.

Deflecting is learned early on, but it’s absolutely crucial in “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.” Pressing the block button at the moment you are getting hit will not only block 90% of attacks, but it will also break down the posture of your enemy. If their posture bar fills up from your deflections, you can perform a death blow, which is usually a one-hit kill.

When fighting the game’s later bosses, you simply won’t win unless you’re deflecting their attacks, so practice on the game’s smaller enemies, and practice often.


2. Wait for the enemy’s attack to begin before you block or parry it.

‘Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice’/FromSoftware

You’ll get in trouble with this game if you try to act too early. Maybe you see a sword about to be swung, and you get nervous and try blocking or dodging or swinging back out of anticipation. Don’t do that. Wait until an attack actually comes to your character before you block or parry it. The timing here can be the difference between a perfect parry or your death.


3. Attacking and blocking fills up your own posture bar, but don’t stop deflecting even if it fills up.

YouTube/Fextralife

It might get scary when a boss is right in your face, swinging a giant sword. Blocking these attacks will build up your own posture, and if it fills up all the way and breaks, you’ll need to catch your breath, which gives enemies an opening to attack you.

But there’s an interesting twist to this: Even if your posture builds up all the way, it will not break as long as you’re deflecting attacks on time. And even if you miss the timing on a block and your posture does break, it’s usually not as bad as it seems. If you’re not attacked right away, your posture bar will start fresh and you can fill it up all over again.


4. Hold your block button to rebuild posture more quickly.

‘Sekiro Shadows Die Twice’/Activision

You would think holding the block button would consume your energy, or posture, but that’s not the case at all. If an enemy is swinging at you a lot, and your posture builds up, just hold the block button to quickly get your posture back to zero. Run away if you must, but holding the block button is usually more effective, since it will let you keep the pressure on your enemy.


5. Get right in your enemy’s face, and do not shy away.

‘Sekiro Shadows Die Twice’/Activision

Lots of enemies in “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice” are downright terrifying. Without spoiling anything, the game gives you lots of human enemies at the start of the game, but you’ll soon also start fighting much larger enemies, like nightmarish creatures and otherworldly monsters.

Running away from these enemies might be necessary if you’re low on health, but if you’re in a boss fight, you almost always need to get right in their face. Attacking will slowly degrade the enemy’s health, but it’s even more effective to attack their posture. Keep attacking or deflecting until their posture bar fills up, which will give you an opening to deal a death blow.

Of course, you’ll need to dodge certain attacks – like if you see a red danger symbol glow momentarily, the boss might be about to use an unblockable grab attack, so get out of there – but keeping the pressure on means your enemy’s posture will break down more quickly.


6. Use stealth to your advantage.

‘Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice’/FromSoftware

Most situations in “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice” can be approached with stealth. It’s really useful for taking out big areas with lots of enemies, or even removing an entire health bar from a boss before you actually begin a proper fight.

Crouch as much as possible, stay close to walls, pay attention to your enemies’ awareness meters, and get behind your enemies to backstab them in stealth.


7. While attacking and deflecting are the most effective ways to counter an enemy, throw in some dodges to avoid their biggest attacks.

‘Sekiro Shadows Die Twice’/Activision

Some enemies will have massive overhead attacks, or a special move that really does a number on your posture. While deflecting is effective most of the time, sometimes these sorts of special moves are best handled by dodging. If you do it right, you’ll miss an enemy’s big attack but end up right next to them, or behind them, giving you time to get in a quick attack or two.


8. Take note of your experience points, skill points, and sen (money).

‘Sekiro Shadows Die Twice’/Activision

When you kill an enemy, you get experience points, and usually some sen as well.

When you get enough experience points, you’ll get a skill point. Skill points can be spent on giving your character new abilities, which are crucial for progressing in the game.

Sen can be spent at the game’s merchants across the world, known as the Memorial Mob. You can spend your sen on really useful items, like gourd seeds that give you more health, or upgrade materials that give you more tools.

Dying sets back your progress: You’ll lose half of your accumulated experience points, and your sen, every time you die permanently. So if you have lots of experience points and you’re close to getting another skill point, or if you have enough sen to spend, consider those before progressing onto a new area or tough boss.


9. Use skill points on techniques that help you block or parry attacks, or deal damage to enemy posture.

‘Sekiro Shadows Die Twice’/Activision

Throughout the game, your character will collect “Esoteric Texts,” which give you new skill trees to invest your skill points. These techniques can give you new abilities, like a spin attack or being able to block in mid-air, but some are more helpful than others.

When you have enough skill points, invest them on tools that will help you deflect or parry enemy attacks. The Mikiri Counter, in particular, and Shinobi Eyes, which improves the Miriki Counter, are absolutely crucial upgrades since they will heavily damage enemy posture on successful parries. Descending Carp and Ascending Carp also help you deal out more posture damage.

There is also one passive technique you can learn that gives you health back on a death blow. Definitely choose this upgrade as well.


10. If you die once, consider self-resurrecting and heading back to a Sculptor’s Idol, or using the Homeward Idol.

‘Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice’/FromSoftware

The game is called “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice” because if you die, you have a chance to come back to life at least once. If you die again after resurrecting, you’ll lose half of your money, and half of your experience points.

Thankfully, the game gives you a useful item called the Homeward Idol. You can use it at any time, including boss fights – it lets you instantly travel back to a Sculptor’s Idol, which is a safe haven where you can replenish your health, healing items, and ability to resurrect.

So if you die, consider using the Homeward Idol to avoid dying twice and losing progress. (You can also physically run back to a Sculptor’s Idol, but most boss battles won’t let you exit the arena that way.)


11. Be careful while dodging or jumping — dodging doesn’t make you invincible, and jumping makes you more vulnerable to certain attacks.

‘Sekiro Shadows Die Twice’/Activision

Dodging was a popular way to kill difficult bad guys in games like “Dark Souls” and “Bloodborne,” since the action of dodging actually had invincibility frames, or “i-frames,” where your character could not be touched or hurt during a portion of the dodge. Players took advantage of i-frames as much as possible in those games.

In “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice,” you don’t have any i-frames while dodging, so it’s not nearly as safe to dodge in front of an enemy; it’s much safer to block or parry.

Jumping actually does have i-frames, but jumping is risky. You can attack enemies while jumping, but it usually won’t flinch or stagger them, and enemies can continue attacking you through them. Also, jumping makes you more vulnerable to ranged attacks, like bullets and arrows, so it really is best to run and block whenever possible.


12. Know which tools to use on which enemies.

‘Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice’/FromSoftware

Your character in “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice” is outfitted with a prosthetic arm, which can be upgraded in myriad ways to give you unique abilities, like summoning a giant protective umbrella, or shooting flames at enemies.

When you get a new prosthetic tool, read its description and remember it. The firecracker tool is great against beast-type enemies, for instance, while the shuriken are great for flying enemies. Upgrading the tools you use more often will also be helpful.


13. Don’t sleep on the firecracker prosthetic tool.

‘Sekiro Shadows Die Twice’/Activision

The firecracker prosthetic tool can be acquired early on in the game, and it creates a small explosion of light in front of you that blinds and stuns most enemies – including bosses.

Not every prosthetic tool is effective against every enemy, but the firecracker tool works on almost everything. If you’re ever fighting a tough boss and need some breathing space, let that sucker rip.


14. Don’t expect to beat a boss on the first try. Take a few attempts to simply learn its moves.

From Software

Bosses are really, really difficult in “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.” Not only are there dozens of bosses littered throughout the game – some of them are entirely optional – they are all extremely different from each other, and each of them has a move set you need to learn if you want to overcome them.

If you keep your expectations low, and spend your first few attempts just trying to learn the boss’ moves, you will have a much better experience and probably beat the boss more quickly.


15. Don’t lose your patience. If you get tilted, your performance will only worsen.

‘Sekiro Shadows Die Twice’/Activision

“Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice” is as mental as it is physical. To beat the game’s many bosses, which are ultimately the gatekeepers to your progress, you need to stay calm, and not freak out if you lose.

The original “Dark Souls” game had the tagline, “Prepare to die.” And that phrase, while foreboding, is actually great advice. If you expect yourself to die, or struggle, you will be calm enough to learn your enemy’s attacks so you can best counter them in the future. If you lose your patience, or your cool, you will get too frustrated and die more often. If that happens, take a break, or do something else in the game until you’re ready to come back.

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