Ed. Note: I’m going to Sekiro you until the end of time. Spoilers. I guess? Sure. Why not.
I started a new playthrough of Sekiro because I can’t quit this game no matter how hard I try. I really want to play Return of the Obra Dinn by Lucas Pope because I absolutely loved Papers, Please, his first game. It’s a game about being a border agent in a Eastern European country called Arstotzka, which sounds about as thrilling as watching paint dry, I know. Instead, it’s a tense, engaging, and surprisingly touching game that I gobbled up as quickly as I could. I had to decide who got in and who didn’t based on increasingly nitpicky specifications, and I had to decide if I wanted to let people in who shouldn’t be let in and accrue strikes against me. In addition, I had to deal with my home life, which was bleak. It was a fantastic game (and my name was in it! Lucas Pope asked for names for the passports, and mine got in!), and I was looking forward to the followup game. Why haven’t I played it yet? Well, Sekiro, obviously, but also because I’m afraid it won’t live up to the first game even though it’s gotten rave reviews.
Back to Sekiro. I started another playthrough even though I said I wouldn’t. I was so sure I’d be done with the game after my first run, but apparently, I wasn’t. I zipped through the first area (though not literally because I didn’t have my grappling hook yet) and saved my lord without a death. It was easy this time, but I did die during my first playthrough of this area, I’m pretty sure. Once I got my sword, I cut them all up including the leader. It’s amusing that he’s a mini-boss because he’s so easy. No one remembers him, but he’s really there to show you the basics. He only gives you Pellets (or maybe even just one) when you kill him, which is nothing. Most of the other mini-bosses give you a Prayer Bead and sometimes even a Gourd Seed. I made it to Genichiro is no-time flat, and I faced him with determination. I knew I was going to die because let’s face it, I’m just not that good without all my shit, but I was curious to see if I could at least get in a few good licks before he took me down. In addition, I had maybe a fifth of my Vitality and no heals. I wasn’t gonna waste Pellets at this point! You know what? I did ok. I got him down to about a fourth left of his first health bar. Hey, considering that I got maybe one block on him before dying the first time I met him in this part of the game, I consider that a win.
I went about my merry way, sailing through the first bit of Ashina Outskirts with ease. I took down General Naomori Kawarda without taking a hit. This was the guy I avoided for hours the first time I played the game. He’s the one who teaches you about perilous attacks that you can’t block. You know they’re happening when you get a red kanji symbol over your head, and you have to react in a specific way. I could not beat him no matter how hard I tried the first time I met him, and that’s with getting one stealth Deathblow on him before engaging. I thought he was so fast and so furious, but this time, I marveled at how slow he was and how much he telegraphed his attacks. Did I git gud? Yeah, against the first proper mini-boss.
Side Note: I found a streamer, Lowko, who is a Dutch Zerg player (Starcraft II), whom I quite enjoy. He’s very upbeat and positive, but also funny. I’m amazed that he never snaps, no matter how many times he dies. He’s very even-keeled, which I appreciate. What I like best, however, is that he plays similarly to how I do. What I mean is that he makes the same mistakes over and over the way I do. Like, he reacts in a certain way to a certain attack, and it’s completely the wrong way to react, and he does it several times again. He’s currently facing Juzou the Drunkard and cannot get into his head that when Juzou does his perilous sweep, you have to jump over it, not try to dodge it. He’s died to that move six or seven times in a row, which is exactly what I do. “This didn’t work last time, but if I just do it harder, it’ll work, right?” Also, he’s playing on the PC with an Xbox One controller, which is my set-up as well. I found him because I was looking for reactions to fighting Genichiro, and his was the best ever. His reaction to finding out there’s a phase three is similar to mind except with a lot less swears. Here it is. I couldn’t help cracking up and feeling enormously sympathetic at the same time.
I included him beating phase two and how elated he felt at thinking he beat the boss. It took him less tries to get here than it did me, but the exultation is similar. Then, watching the cutscene and joking, “Ok, phase three. No, no, no. No phase three. Please tell me there’s no phase three!” Repeating the last bit over and over as the cutscene goes on. The dawning realization that there is, indeed, a phase three. And the immediate death as Genichiro, Way of Tomoe immediately perilous attacks him. Funny note–he’s also fighting Madame Butterfly at the same time. Well, not the same time, but you know what I mean. He had a hard time with her as well. I fought her very early on, but it seems that you probably shouldn’t fight her until much later.
Speaking of Madame Butterfly. I’m up to her now in my current playthrough. Do I want to try her at this point? Hell, no. I don’t even have the Nightjar Slash right now, which is paramount in beating her. I’ve read up a bit on her, and another suggestion is the shuriken while she’s zipping about in the air. There are other suggestions as well, but they are too precise and complicated for the likes of me. I can’t think of a million things while I’m trying to fight the actual boss. For whatever reason, I don’t value the shuriken, though it’s not the Prosthetic Tool I use the least–that would be the Mist Raven Feather. I think it’s a good tool that I just have no idea how to use. Actually, I only use a few of the prosthetics, which isn’t the way to play the game. I have a hard time incorporating them, however, especially the upgraded versions. I use the Shinobi Firecracker on the regular as well as the variety of umbrellas. Other than that, though, I use them on a limited basis. Loaded Axe for shields (and hats, as I realized much later), Finger Whistle for hordes of beasts, and the Flame Vent for Chained Ogres. There’s an ability to make your sword flaming, which is cool, but it doesn’t last very long. I know that using the upgraded versions of the Prosthetic Tools probably makes the game a lot easier, but it’s above my paygrade. I have a hard enough time remembering what responses I should do with each perilous attack, and there are only three of them.
I’m trying to be more aggressive on this run because I know it’s better to break the boss’s Posture than it is to whittle away their health. There are several problems with this, though. One, I’m still shit at deflecting. That’s the best way to drain someone’s Posture, and I still haven’t figured out a way to do it consistently. Secondly, if I take one hit by a boss, that’s half my health gone or more. That means I need to back off and heal, which means the boss regains its Posture. I’m trying not to heal as much, but that makes me very uncomfortable. I do know that if I still have my rez, it’s better to stay at low health until I die and come back with half-health, then top off. The problem with that is that the lower Vitality I have, the easier it is to break my Posture (just like the bosses). Blocking and deflecting use up my own Posture, even if I do it right. This game is much more dependent upon twitch reflexes, which is not something I’m good at. I think the answer might be that I have to be more willing to die, but that’s not easy to wrap my mind around. In addition, I need to be more comfortable not being at full health all the time. That’s really hard for me to do, though. I like being at full health all the time because I AM going to get hit. I know that I am, and it blows my mind that people have done no-hit runs of FromSoft games. In fact, there was a guy, The Happy Hob, who made it a practice to do no-hit runs of FromSoft games. Before Sekiro dropped, he vowed to do a back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back no-hit run of all five previous FromSoft games, which is just mental. His self-imposed deadline was the release of Sekiro, and he came close once in February by no-hitting Bloodborne and all the Dark Souls games before taking a hit by the rubbish on Vanguard, the tutorial boss of Demon’s Souls. Then, right before the release of Sekiro, he managed what he called the God Run and made it through all five games back-to-back on Twitch. I can’t even. I mean. I would be lucky to make it through one area without getting hit, and I can’t imagine doing it on a boss. That’s a whole nother level of being, and one I can’t even aspire to.
I keep going back to the fact that I love FromSoft games, but they don’t love me in return. To me, this is by far the hardest of the five games, and if they get any harder, I may not be able to continue playing them. When I beat a difficult boss, I feel like a god, but that feeling is fleeting. My overall feeling about the games is still that I suck at them. I suck less than I did when I first started playing them, but I’m at best competent. That’s not completely fair to me. I’m pretty damn good at the Souls games through repeated playthroughs. There are still certain bosses that give me trouble (I’m looking at you, Nameless King), but overall, I can zip through them. It never takes me more than three tries on Biggie & Small these days, and I can zip through most areas without much problem. Like I said, it’s repetition. I’m sure if I went back to Bloodborne, I’d have nearly as much problems with the game as I did the first time because I haven’t done another complete playthrough. I’ve started two more, but I ended them in the same place (roughly two-thirds of the way through), and I made it past Father Gascoigne on NG+ (I think. I’m not entirely sure. It’s the one FromSoft game that is harder on NG+ than on NG). in this game, I’m romping through the early areas and cleaning up on all the bosses thus far. Mini-bosses. Whatever. You know what I mean. It is nice to take on someone who previously owned my ass several times and not even break a sweat. I got the Shinobi Hunter in two tries, and I didn’t leave him until later as I did the first time through. I think I died to him a dozen to two dozen times when I first met him, and he felt like he had so many scary moves. He did, but knowing the proper way to counter them (Mikiri Counter is big, yo) saved my ass. That said, I still hate spear guys. They can go all the way to hell.
I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be playing Sekiro. If my pattern with other FromSoft games* is any indication, I’ll play it for several more months. I’ll want to move on, but something will drag me back into playing. That’s how I am with these games, and I’m not sure I would have it any other way.
Addendum: One of the weirdest thing is not dying. I still haven’t experienced Dragonrot on this playthrough, which is weird. I just bought my first Dragon’s Blood Droplet, and who knows when I’ll need it? Probably when I fight Madame Butterfly or Genichiro if not before. I like not dying. It’s a good thing. Dying is for punks!