Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a hard game. Fans of its developer's previous games, mainly Dark Souls and Bloodborne, are well aware of this. They likely even bought Sekiro hoping it would continue the punishing tradition of the "Soulsborne" games. Beginners, myself included, probably just dug the Samurai aesthetic and advertisements promising inventive combat. Both first-timers and Soulsborne vets do have one thing in common, though. They're going to die a lot.
Triumph in Sekiro depends on rethinking the way you approach video game combat. Enemy hits do a lot of damage, and they often connect even when you dodge. That's right, the infamous Dark Souls dodge rolls won't help you here. Button mashing attacks is also pointless. Most enemies will just answer your constant attacks with a more powerful strike of their own.
So how do you get through Sekiro's brutal version of feudal Japan in one piece? There's a lot of answers to that question, but here are three fundamental habits you should learn right from the start.
Parry Early, Parry Often
I can't emphasize this enough. The game does go out of its way to inform you of the deflection mechanic early on, but I still feel the tutorial doesn't quite explain just how important it truly is. Almost all basic enemies will fall to a few well-timed deflections, and it's essential against several bosses as well.
So how do you pull off a proper parry? The tutorial tells you to time your press of the block button to just when an enemy attack connects. I've actually found it better to press the button when the enemy begins their swing. That means the parry window is a little more forgiving than the game makes it out to be. Parry early, parry until the enemy finishes their combo, and strike only when you're sure they're vulnerable. Do this and you should find yourself landing more Deathblows.
Parrying is even preferable to dodging. Dark Souls veterans will have the hardest time grasping this as those games rewarded dodging. Sekiro, however, demands you learn to parry regularly. Some bosses, such as the Chained Ogre, are the exception to this rule, but human enemies with weapons tend to be susceptible to parries.
You Are A Ninja, Act Like It
Okay, technically Wolf is a shinobi. Either way, stealth is in the job description. It can be easy to forget this after dying to a boss for the fifteenth time. All you'll want to do is rush at them and try the new tactic you just thought of, apply that knowledge you learned instantly. But more often than not, Sekiro's level design encourages a more sneaky approach.
The grappling hook is your biggest reminder of this. Use it liberally. Get the literal drop on enemies. Survey an area before attacking. Bosses often have minions surrounding them, and while it can be annoying, you should take them out one-by-one before you challenge the big guy. This will usually mean hit-and-run tactics. Stealth kill a minion or two, swing away until the enemies can't see you anymore, come back and stealth kill one more, and repeat until it's just you and the boss.
Bosses can also be stealth killed. Doing so will instantly drain them of a health bar. Naturally, this starts the fight with you at a great advantage. Not every boss can be snuck up on, but you should always be looking for the opportunity to try. You're a shinobi, not some crazy rolling knight.
You Don't Have To Die Twice
One of Sekiro's more interesting mechanics is resurrection. If you have a charge available, you can come back to life after your first death. Sometimes even more if you've built up another red circle. But just because you can revive and jump back into battle doesn't mean you should. The better option is using your resurrection to run away.
Your final death results in you losing half your money and a good chunk of skill points. There's no reason to sacrifice these because you think you can maybe beat a boss with your spare life. Instead you should resurrect, run to the nearest idol, and rest. This will recharge your resurrection.
Getting into this habit will stop you from throwing away your last life, and more importantly preserve valuable resources. It might also stop the spread of Dragonrot, as some theorize that only the "game over" death triggers it. Use your first life to scout ahead and try new boss tactics all you want. But remember that it's okay to only die once.