In this beginners guide for Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, ill be teaching you everything you need to know to get the very best out of the game.
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PRAYER BEADS – IN RELATION TO VITALITY AND POSTURE
Your vitality gauge which is increased by donating Prayer Necklaces at any Sculptors Idol. To make a Prayer Necklace you need to obtain four Prayer Beads, which are generally acquired after defeating bosses, but some are also purchased from vendors or simply found in the environment through exploration.
Check out this chart, the starting base value for Vitality is 320 and the starting value for Posture is 120. You can increase your vitality and posture a maximum of 10 times, that’s 40 Prayer Beads in total or 10 Prayer Necklaces. With each upgrade, both Vitality and Posture will increase by 25% of their base values to a maximum hard cap of 1120 for Vitality and 420 for Posture. You start the game with a Vitality level of 10 which maxes out at level 20 and unlike Attack Power, you cannot level Vitality or Posture any higher even on multiple New Game+ playthroughs.
VITALITY DAMAGE REDUCTION BY GUARDING
Vitality damage is inflicted by landing unguarded attacks, if an attack is guarded, then no vitality damage will be dealt. However, as you can see on the above chart, attacks with special properties can still penetrate an enemies guard to varying degrees, blocking Piercing attacks will prevent 50% of its vitality damage, blocking Fire and Spirit attacks will prevent 33% and 25% vitality damage respectively, while thrusting attacks cannot be guarded and will deal 100% vitality damage regardless. Guarding does not prevent posture damage but it does reduce it to a degree when compared to unguarded.
All standard enemies will die as soon as their vitality reaches zero giving you an option to finish them with a deathblow just for show, however when it comes to bosses they will not automatically die or lose a Deathblow Marker when their vitality reaches zero, a deathblow animation must be performed to bag the win, otherwise they’ll simply recover from the stagger and continue to fight.
VITALITY DAMAGE REDUCTION BY DEFLECTING
Deflecting enemy attacks are a high risk high reward technique that can completely turn the tides of battle by minimising any posture damage inflicted, while dealing significant posture damage in return. Quickly pressing the block button just before an incoming attack lands will trigger a deflection. However, if miscalculated, they can lead to a very quick and untimely death.
Check out this chart, as you can see only attacks with Spirit and Fire properties can penetrate a deflection but much less so than when guarding. Deflecting a Spirit based attack will prevent 50% of its vitality damage and deflecting a Fire based attack will prevent 67%, while all other Standard, Piercing, and Thrusting attacks are completely nullified with a deflection. Its worth noting, If your own attacks are deflected by an enemy, you will NOT receive any posture damage in return.
This is purposefully integrated into the combat system to help encourage aggression from players, so even if your posture bar is maxed out being deflected will not break you. Deflecting enemy attacks will still slightly damage your own posture, but this is significantly lower than just guarding, which is already lower than being openly hit by the attack.
Make sure you don’t just spam the guard button as fast as you can in the vague hopes of deflecting an attack. The window for a deflect is roughly 1/5th of a second, however, if you rapidly spam the guard button repeatedly this window reduces to 1/30th of a second by the fourth button press greatly diminishing the chances of a successful deflect. Deflecting with intention and to the steady rhythm of an enemy attack pattern will guarantee better results.
POSTURE DAMAGE EXPLAINED
Your posture, just like vitality, is upgraded by donating Prayer Necklaces at any Idol a maximum of 10 times. However, unlike vitality, the size of the gauge does not extend with each upgrade, it’ll simply take longer for enemies to fill the fixed gauge.
Posture damage, in comparison to Vitality Damage, is inflicted regardless of whether attacks are guarded or not, this means aggressively attacking an enemies guard is still very much in your favour and vice versa. The more an enemy guards your attacks the more posture damage will be inflicted. Deflecting attacks will also heavily damage an enemies posture and finding that perfect balance of attacking and deflecting is what really makes the combat in Sekiro come alive.
When a posture gauge maxes out the enemy will stagger leaving them vulnerable to an instant death blow, no matter how much vitality they have remaining. In general, its easier to break Posture, than it is to completely drain Vitality. If you Posture-break an enemy with a deflect, the red deathblow target will be active for less than a second, however, if you Posture-break an enemy with an attack, it will last for over 3 seconds giving you plenty of time to secure the kill.
Its worth noting that during the lengthy deathblow animation you’re completely invincible, so use this to your advantage. If your own posture is broken, you’ll stagger for a couple of seconds leaving you open to attack, but your posture gauge is instantly reset. Posture gauges recover naturally over time and you can significantly speed up the recovery of your own gauge by simply holding down the block button. For this reason, It’s a good idea to get into the habit of holding the block button during inactive periods of a fight, bear in mind your mobility will be restricted to a walking pace.
Some Bosses can also significantly recover their own posture, but at the cost of vulnerability, as they cannot attack, block or move during their lengthy recovery phase. If you notice a boss surrounding themselves in a bright blue aura for a couple of seconds make sure to interrupt this with a swift attack to completely prevent their recovery.
THE IMPORTANT LINK BETWEEN VITALITY AND POSTURE
Vitality and posture are inextricably linked and understanding this mechanic is extremely important before venturing out into boss territories. The above chart shows you the direct relation between the two. In short, by reducing an enemy’s Vitality, you also reduce the rate at which they recover Posture. If an enemy’s vitality is above 80% their posture recovery will be maximum. When their Vitality drops below 40% their posture recovery will be at its slowest. This means against tougher enemies you’ll first want to deploy tactics designed around reducing their vitality. Once this has been reduced to at least 79%, you can then start more aggressively targeting their posture ultimately leading to a quicker deathblow.
ATTACK POWER & MEMORIES EXPLAINED
Your Attack Power rating directly influences the damage dealt by all your offensive options, including sword attacks, Prosthetic Tools, Combat Arts and even the amount of Posture damage inflicted when deflecting. Raising your Attack Power is the only way to increase your raw offensive capabilities and regular upgrades are vital to effectively progress in the story.
Check out this chart listing all 13 main bosses in the game. When you defeat any one of these 13 bosses you’ll receive a memory of that battle. These memories can then be used at any Sculptor’s Idol to increase your Attack Power rating by 1 so make sure to do this immediately after defeating any of the bosses in the list. The first 13 Attack Power upgrades will increase the damage of all your attacks, by the same amount for each point gained, so going out of your way to hunt down all 13 bosses in the list before finishing the game is well worth your time. There’s also a 14th boss who drops a Memory, Lord Isshin Ashina, but is only available during the Shura ending which isn’t recommended on a first playthrough, due to it ending the game early and locking you out of the end game content. For this reason its best to unlock this memory on a subsequent New Game+.
As you can see on this table, your base damage at the start of the game is 80 and after the 13th upgrade it will be 340, gaining 20 points of damage per level. It’s possible to raise your Attack Power level to a maximum of 99 by defeating the bosses again on multiple New Game+ cycles. However, after the 13th upgrade which can be obtained in your first playthrough, the returns in Attack Power diminishes sharply with each level thereafter. After Level 51 the damage increases are negligible.
There’s a unique item in the game called the Dancing Dragon Mask and this chart shows you the location of its pieces. Locating and collecting all three pieces of this Mask will give you a new option at any Sculptor’s Idol allowing you to exchange 5 skill points to increase your Attack Power by 1. The Masks use is only limited by the number of skill points you have available. However, Its recommended to first prioritise unlocking and experimenting with as many skills as possible to find the ones that most suit your playstyle before converting Skill Points to Attack Power using the mask. The last piece of the Mask is found at Fountainhead Palace, so its use only really comes into play much later in the game.
PERILOUS ATTACKS EXPLAINED
At certain times when engaging an enemy, a red Japanese character meaning ‘Danger’ will flash onscreen, with a matching audio cue to alert you to an upcoming Perilous attack. Perilous attacks are powerful unblockable moves designed to add complexity into battles, and prevent an over-reliance on simply guarding and deflecting.
Dealing with a Perilous Attack in the correct manner will usually result in heavy posture damage while leaving them open for a series of counter attacks. Against many regular enemies it may even open a window for an instant deathblow. The three common Perilous Attacks many enemies can perform are the:
- Perilous Thrust Attack
- Perilous Sweep Attack
- Perilous Grab Attack
The Perilous Thrust attacks can effectively be Deflected, but the best way to deal with them is with a Mikiri Counter, which offers three times the posture damage and a much more lenient timing window when compared to the Deflection. The Mikiri Counter is a very early skill unlocked on the Shinobi Arts skill tree.
The Perilous Sweep attacks are best dealt with by performing a neutral jump straight up into the air to avoid the initial sweep, then quickly press the jump button again to perform a jump-kick counter off the targets head causing large posture damage and catapulting you higher into the air. This then allows you to perform counter attacks mid-air, maximizing vitality and posture damage just before and just after landing.
The Perilous Grab attacks are best dealt with by step-dodging in the right direction to avoid the reach of the grab entirely, jumping away is also effective but the step-dodge is much quicker to recover allowing you to stay in close proximity opening a window to counter.
Jumping or sprinting away is effective at avoiding damage from all Perilous Attacks, however, due to the long recovery to get back in range means any attempts at counter punishment will not be effective.
To practice countering all these perilous attacks, as well as learning other basic combat techniques without the chance of dying, make sure to visit the Immortal Samurai Hanbei the Undying, who’s found in the clearing directly opposite the Dilapidated Temple.
PROSTHETIC TOOLS EXPLAINED
During your travels through Ashina you’ll find ten unique items that need to be converted by the Sculptor into special Tools for your Prosthetic Arm. Prosthetic Tools have a wide variety of applications and they all require Spirit Emblems to use. Mastering the use of these powerful Tools is paramount to your survival in both combat and stealth. You can quick swap between three pre-selected Tools of your choice by slotting them in the designated slots in your Inventory Screen.
However, you should never feel pressured to always have 3 Tools slotted, you’re far better off only having one or two Tools equipped that benefit you in the current situation saving you from having to cycle through unnecessary equipment. The same can be said for your five quick item slots, only slotting the most urgent items for your current situation. Remember, you can also use any quick item directly from your Inventory screen without it having to tie up a quick slot.
Check out this chart which shows you all 10 Prosthetic Tools available in the game and how to find their related items to be fitted by the Sculptor. I’ll briefly go over their primary uses, but bear in mind they can all be upgraded multiple times which not only improves their current abilities, but will also add new ones not mentioned here so make sure to delve into the ingame descriptions when deciding which upgrades will benefit your playstyle the most.
- The Loaded Shuriken is an offensive Tool good for long range attacks and interruptions as well as bringing down airborne enemies.
- The Loaded Axe is an offensive Tool good for dealing large posture damage and smashing through enemy Shields.
- The Loaded Spear is an offensive Tool good for far-reaching mid-range thrust attacks, which can even drag lighter enemies toward you or strip some larger enemies of their armor.
- The Subimaru is an offensive short range dagger which inflicts the Poison status abnormality and is most effective against Okami type enemies.
- The Loaded Umbrella is a defensive Tool and provides 360 degree protection from all long range and short range attacks besides sweeps.
- The Shinobi Firecracker is a Tool which temporarily stuns enemies and is especially effective against beats. It can be used both offensively to initiate attacks or defensively to safely escape.
- The Flame Vent is a short range offensive Tool which deals fire damage and inflicts the burn status abnormality, it’s especially effective against enemies who possess glowing Red Eyes.
- The Mist Raven is a defensive Tool which allows you to avoid all damage from a single attack and warp a few feet away in any direction, such as behind or even above the enemy.
- The Divine Abduction Tool is a set of fans that confuses enemies and rotates them 180 degrees, long enough for you to either perform a Backstab Deathblow or escape to safety.
- Finally we have the Finger Whistle which is a stealth Tool, primarily used to grab the attention of a single enemy and draw them to the whistle’s location. It also drives nearby Beasts into a frenzied state when used making them attack both friend and foe.
After acquiring and fitting the Mechanical Barrel to your Prosthetic Arm early in the story, you’ll then be able to upgrade all 10 Tools. There’s 6 levels of upgrades which are sectioned into columns from left to right. The cheaper upgrades to the left are pre-requisites to the more expensive upgrades to the right, while the more advanced upgrades require much rarer materials and significantly more Sen to unlock.
In terms of Sen, the cost increases from 200 Sen for each Column 1 upgrade, to 400 Sen for Column 2 upgrades, 600 for Column 3, 1000 for Column 4, 1500 for Column 5, and finally 3000 Sen for each Column 6 upgrade.The four ultimate upgrades are in Column 6 and they’re called the Lazulite Tools. It’s impossible for you to unlock all four of these Tools in a single playthrough as there’s only 6 Lapis Lazuli materials available (shown above), and you’ll need ten in order to upgrade to all four. For this reason only two Level 6 Lazulite upgrades can be unlocked in a single playthrough, with the only method of unlocking the other two during a New Game +.
To check what materials you need to unlock a specific upgrade simply highlight the required upgrade at the Sculptor’s upgrade menu, then press the triangle or Y button twice to get to the required materials page. This page will display the name of each material relating to the selected upgrade making it easy for you to identify exactly what you need.
The vast majority of upgrades will simply require the requested materials and Sen to unlock. However, there are 3 specific upgrades that require a unique item in addition to the usual materials and Sen. Take a look at the above table. These unique items are the Phantom Kunai, the Pine Resin Ember and the Malcontent’s Ring.
- The first item, the Phantom Kunai, is purchased for 3000 Sen from Anayama the Peddler who’s found in the Ashina Outskirts near the Outskirts Wall Stairway Idol, this item will allow you to complete the Level 4 Phantom Kunai upgrade for the Loaded Shuriken.
- The second item is the Pine Resin Ember, this is found in the Ashina Depths located on top of a hut near the Water Mill Idol, this item will allow you to complete the Level 4 Okinaga upgrade for the Flame Vent.
- Finally we have the Malcontent’s Ring which is dropped by the Shichimen Warrior located in Ashina Depths by the Guardian Ape’s Burrow Idol. This item will allow you to complete the Level 5 Malcontent upgrade for the Finger Whistle Prosthetic.
SKILLS AND SKILL TREES EXPLAINED
There’s five skill trees to unlock in total, these are Shinobi Arts, Prosthetic Arts, Ashina Arts, Temple Arts, and finally Mushin Arts. These Skill Trees are made available by first acquiring their associated key items called the Esoteric Texts. Each Text bestows the knowledge of the related Art and once acquired, you’ll then be able to unlock their associated skills via any Sculptors Idol.
- The Shinobi Esoteric Text unlocks the Shinobi Arts Skill Tree and is given to you by the Sculptor as soon as you gain your first Skill Point, this tree contains the most important fundamental Shinobi skills and also contains the widest variety. A total of 34 Skill Points are required to unlock every skill in this tree.
- The Prosthetic Esoteric Text unlocks the Prosthetic Arts Skill Tree and is also given to you by the Sculptor, but only after you’ve found and fitted three Prosthetic Tools. Just like the Shinobi Arts, the Prosthetic Arts Skill Tree contains many fundamental techniques that should be unlocked as soon as possible. A total of 31 Skill Points are required to unlock every skill in this tree.
- The Ashina Esoteric Text unlocks the Ashina Arts Skill Tree and is given to you by Tengu after you complete a quest for him to kill some rats. Tengu is found in the watchtower building after killing Gyoubu Oniwa, he’s up the stairs on the opposite end of the field from the Castle Gate Idol. The Ashina Arts Skill Tree contains many useful blade and posture skills as well as arguably the most effective Combat Art in the game, the Ichimonji Double. A total of 18 Skill Points are required to unlock every skill in this tree.
- The Senpou Esoteric Text unlocks the Temple Arts Skill Tree and is the only Skill Tree that is not given to you by an NPC. The Text is instead found in a small shrine not far from the Main Hall Idol in Senpou Temple. The Temple Arts Skill Tree contains several close-quarters hand to hand combat arts as well as useful latent skills that improve Sen and Item drop rates as well as improving Sugar and Spiritfall durations. A total of 22 Skill Points are required to unlock every skill in this tree.
- The Mushin Esoteric Text unlocks the Mushin Arts Skill Tree and like the Ashina Arts Skill Tree, is given to you by Tengu. However it only becomes available after first acquiring the Ashina Arts Skill Tree as well as defeating Genichiro Ashina. After accomplishing both of these tasks, you’ll then need to unlock the final Combat Art in any one of the other Skill Trees. Once this is done, speak to Tengu who is now located at the Great Serpent Shrine Idol in Ashina Castle. The Mushin Arts Skill Tree gives access to three powerful new forms of existing Combat Arts endowing them with devastating new extensions. A total of 20 Skill Points are required to unlock every skill in this tree.
As you can see on this table, to unlock every Skill across all 5 available Skill Trees will take a grand total of 125 Skill Points. As an average playthrough will see you accrue approximately 60 Skill Points in total give or take, this means to unlock all the available skills will require multiple playthroughs. If your goal is to unlock every Skill in the game, then its recommended to not spend too much time farming experience on your first playthrough, you’d be much better of doing this in New Game+ where you’ll be able to secure Skill Points at a much faster rate.
THE THREE MAIN SKILL TYPES EXPLAINED (Combat Arts, Shinobi Martial Arts & Latent Skills)
All Skills regardless of which Skill Tree they’re from or how you acquire them, are all categorized according to three main specific types, these are:
- Combat Arts
- Shinobi Martial Arts
- Latent Skills
Combat Arts are highlighted with a red border in both Skill Trees and menus, they are powerful offensive combat techniques performed by pressing both the Guard and Attack buttons simultaneously. You can only have one Combat Art equipped at a time which is slotted here to the right of the three Prosthetic Tools.
Each Combat Art offers you a new means for dealing with either groups of enemies or single targets, greatly increasing your options during battle. Most do not require Spirit Emblems but some of the more powerful ones do, forcing you to balance their use with your Prosthetic Tools. Just like Tools, having the correct Combat Art slotted for the current situation can quickly turn a losing battle in your favour. Its worth noting, unlike Prosthetic Tools, Combat Arts that require Spirit Emblems to use will still function even if you run out of Spirit Emblems, albeit at a much weaker power and range.
Shinobi Martial Arts are highlighted with a blue border in both Skill Trees and menus and are only found within the Shinobi Arts and Prosthetic Arts Skill Trees, besides one which can only be purchased from a vendor called the Anti-air Deathblow. Shinobi Martial Arts are considered core fundamental abilities playing an important role in both combat and stealth. You should generally prioritize learning most of the blue Shinobi Martial Arts as soon as possible.
Finally Latent Skills are highlighted with a yellow border in both Skill Trees and menus and are all passive abilities that require no activation. Examples include increasing healing item efficiency and Spirit Emblem capacity, improving stealth capabilities and posture damage dealt and received, swimming and breathing underwater, and vitality and posture recovery after performing deathblows.
HIDDEN SKILLS AND MASTER ARTS
There’s 12 Skills in the game that are all acquired outside of the five Skill Trees and therefore do not require skill points to unlock, these are called Hidden Arts with two of them being Master Arts. Since these 12 skills do not appear on any of the Skill Trees they will need to be first found or purchased.
As you can see on this table one of the 12 Hidden Skills is a blue Shinobi Martial Art called the Anti-air Deathblow. This allows you to perform deathblows while in the air and the Text can be purchased from Blackhat Badger near the Old Grave Idol in Ashina Castle for 1200 Sen. Once the Text is in your inventory nothing more is required, you’ll simply be able to perform the skill from that point on.
Two of the Hidden Skills are Combat Arts named Floating Passage and Mortal Draw, Floating Passage is purchased from a vendor named Pot Noble Harunaga located in Hirata Estate for 5 Treasure Carp Scales, and Mortal Draw is automatically unlocked after receiving the Mortal Blade during progression of the main story.
A further two hidden Skills are called Master Arts which are the two most powerful Combat Arts in the game named One Mind and Dragon Flash. These Master Arts are your ultimate reward for completing the game and depending on the path you chose during the story, you’ll fight one of two different versions of the final boss. The early Shura ending will unlock One Mind, and any other ending will unlock Dragon Flash. This means to unlock both Master Arts a second playthrough will be required.
The final 7 Hidden skills are all Latent passive skills and are all unlocked by defeating certain bosses in the game as follows:
- The Corrupted Monk in Ashina Depths drops the Mibu Breathing Technique allowing you to breathe and swim underwater indefinitely
- The Chained Ogre in Ashina Outskirts drops the Shinobi Medicine Rank 1 increasing the healing effect of recovery items
- The Blazing Bull in Ashina Castle drops the Shinobi Medicine Rank 2 further improving healing items
- The Chained Ogre in Ashina Castle available during the Interior Ministry Raid drops the Shinobi Medicine Rank 3 maximising the healing effect of recovery items
- The Sakura Bull of the Palace in Fountainhead Palace drops A Beast’s Karma increasing your Spirit Emblem Carrying Capacity by 1
- O’Rin of the Water in Ashina Depths drops the powerful Breath of Life Shadow granting you 10% vitality with every deathblow performed
- The Armored Warrior in Senpou Temple, Mt. Kongo drops Breath of Nature Shadow which recovers a third of your posture bar with every deathblow performed.
There are two Latent passive skills worth mentioning that are by far the most powerful skills in the game when it comes to survivability. These are:
- Breath of Life: Light
- Breath of Life: Shadow
Both skills instantly restore 10% of your vitality for every deathblow you perform. Since these skills stack, acquiring both will net you a 20% instant vitality heal per deathblow. It goes without saying unlocking these Skills should be your top priority. The first Light version can be unlocked via the Shinobi Arts Skill tree allowing you to enjoy its 10% bonus very early in the game, however the second Shadow version is a Hidden Skill which I already mentioned, and is unlocked by defeating the mini-boss O’Rin of the Water found in Ashina Depths just after the Water Mill Idol. She’s encountered around half way through the main story.
NINJUTSU TECHNIQUES EXPLAINED
This table shows all three Ninjutsu Techniques available in the game. Their effects in combat are extremely potent and this is reflected in their relatively high Spirit Emblem cost. Ninjutsu Techniques are highlighted with a white border in menus and just like Combat Arts, only one can be equipped at a time in their own dedicated slot.
These powerful abilities can only be performed immediately after landing a Backstab Deathblow, basically rewarding you for successfully sneaking up on an unsuspecting enemy. Activating the technique requires you to land the deathblow on a non-boss enemy that would result in its death, then pressing the attack button again during the deathblow animation will trigger the equipped Ninjutsu.
However, even if you’ve initiated combat you can still pull off a Ninjutsu by utilizing the Vault Over Shinobi Skill or the Divine Abduction Prosthetic Tool, which both allow you to get behind the enemy to perform the required backstab deathblow even if the enemy is in full alert.
- The first of the three Ninjutsu Techniques is called Bloodsmoke and is automatically unlocked by defeating Genichiro Ashina in Ashina Castle. This technique weaponizes the enemy’s blood into a cloud of red smoke that’ll disorientate nearby enemies, allowing deathblows on weaker enemies, and a lengthy stun on tougher enemies. Bloodsmoke is the best ability in the game for crowd controlling multiple weaker enemies that are clustered together in close proximity.
- The second Ninjutsu Technique is called Puppeteer which is automatically unlocked by defeating the Folding Screen Monkeys in Senpou Temple. This technique allows you to turn enemies into puppets that fight by your side for a short period of time, they possess infinite HP and are only governed by a timer making them extremely powerful allies or great distractions for any situation. You can have multiple Puppets active at any given time or re-puppeteer an existing puppet before the timer expires, by simply backstabbing the puppet itself. There’s two unique moments in the game that require specific use of the Puppeteer, the first is located near the Senpou Temple Mt. Kongo Idol, use the Puppeteer on the Assassin below so that he operates the nearby kite device permanently raising the kite from that point on allowing you to grapple over the ravine at the top. The second use is in Sunken Valley, not too far from the Bodhisattva Valley Idol just past the Toxic Memorial Mob. Use the Puppeteer on the monkey in the cave to distract the Great Serpent above allowing you to safely pass into the hut on the other side of the stone bridge.
- The third and final Ninjutsu Technique is called Bestowal and is automatically unlocked by using the Mortal Blade on the Guardian Ape to permanently kill it in the Guardian Ape’s Burrow. This technique will envelop the blood of your enemy around your katana for 30 seconds significantly boosting the range of all your attacks by creating a second temporary blade called the Blood Blade. The additional range of the Blood Blade will deal half the damage of your usual attacks and this damage cannot be guarded. When attacks land within range of your katana the damage output will stack essentially dealing 150% damage at close range allowing you to quickly posture break tougher enemies.
Bloodsmoke and Bestowal both possess interesting quirks in relation to the lizard Geckos found in the natural environments. Using them on normal Geckos will coat your blade in Poison inflicting Poison build-up with every hit. However, track down a rare Albino Gecko and you’ll gain the ability to heal on hit.
SPIRIT EMBLEMS EXPLAINEDSpirit Emblems (shown above) are the resource that power all your Prosthetic Tools and Ninjutsui Techniques, they also power some of your Combat Arts but bear in mind, unlike Prosthetics and Ninjutsus, not all Combat Arts will require Spirit Emblems to use.
You start the game with a carrying capacity of 15 Spirit Emblems, this can be gradually upgraded using Skill Points to a maximum capacity of 20, four of them are unlocked via Skill Trees and the final fifth one is a Hidden Skill acquired by defeating the Sakura Bull of the Palace.
Any Spirit Emblems you acquire while at maximum capacity will be automatically sent to your storage box which is displayed in brackets. The only way to replenish Spirit Emblems from your storage is by Resting at any Sculptor’s Idol, travelling to an Idol, or after true death, the same is true for all your replenishable items where you have a separate storage.
Spirit Emblems can be acquired by killing certain enemies, finding them in the environment, or by purchasing from any Sculptors Idol, the latter requiring increasing amounts of Sen depending how far you’ve progressed in the game. At the start they’re 10 Sen per Spirit Emblem, at Noon they increase to 20, when evening comes they increase to 30, and when Night falls they cap at 50 each. To learn more about how the time of day affects the game, make sure to check the relevant section of this guide.A very useful item called the Ceremonial Tanto (shown above) which is given to you after defeating the Shichimen Warrior in the Abandoned Dungeon will allow you to sacrifice half of your vitality for 5 Spirit Emblems in addition to your existing carrying capacity. As long as you have over 50% vitality, you can use the Ceremonial Tanto up to three times giving you an additional 15 Spirit Emblems in total before it needs to be recharged at an Idol. Since you can pop any healing item straight after using the Tanto to gain back all the lost HP, this is a very powerful item to use before and during fighting powerful enemies.
RESURRECTION AND HIDDEN TOOTH EXPLAINED
These are your resurrection nodes allowing you to resurrect from death without penalty. You are given two resurrection nodes early in the game. The node which displays a flower is your primary node and is restored every time you rest or travel to an idol. The node to the left which displays a leaf is your secondary node and needs to be filled with resurrection power by killing enemies.The stronger the enemy killed, the more resurrection power will be granted filling the node quicker. Once you use a resurrection node to revive, there’s a lock-out period represented by a black stripe through your resurrection nodes (shown above) which means the next time you die will be true death. To remove the black stripe lock-out you’ll need to recover some resurrection power by killing enemies.
A third and final resurrection node can be unlocked, which is basically a second leaf node that also requires charging by killing enemies. This is acquired by defeating Lady Butterfly to obtain a unique item called the Sakura Droplet. Giving the Sakura Droplet to Lord Kuro will activate this third resurrection node.
Resurrection can be used tactically to your advantage, after dying wait a few seconds so any nearby enemies turn their backs and start walking away from your location, this will allow you to safely resurrect undetected. You can now either slip away, stealth kill a nearby enemy, or use a Ninjutsu technique like the Puppeteer to summon an aid. Bear in mind bosses and sub-bosses cannot usually be deceived in this way.There’s a unique item in the game called the Hidden Tooth (shown above) which allows you to kill yourself before an enemy does. The reason why you’d want to do this is to prevent your remaining resurrection nodes from being locked out when you revive, which is a major boon during boss battles.
Your resurrection nodes are only locked out If an enemy kills you, if you kill yourself this is not the case. So to use this to your advantage, use the Hidden Tooth to kill yourself during a hopeless fight, upon reviving you’ll notice there’s no black stripe over your resurrection nodes effectively doubling the amount of revives you have to stay in battle.
To unlock this powerful item you’ll first need to progress far enough into the story to unlock the Mortal Blade, then use the blade on Hanbei the Undying the Immortal Samurai who drops the Hidden Tooth upon death. Rare limited use items called Bite Downs can also be found in the game that have the same effect but since the Hidden Tooth has unlimited uses it’s infinitely more reliable.
DEATH PENALTY AND UNSEEN AID EXPLAINED
After facing true death, which is death without resurrection, half of your Sen and half of your Experience will be permanently deducted. Considering the amount of times you will encounter true death in Sekiro, this loss can add up significantly if you don’t have a prevention plan in place.To keep your Sen safe it’s a good idea to purchase all coin purses (shown above) from traders whenever available which essentially banks your hard earned Sen, as Coin Purses are completely unaffected by this death mechanic. This means any Coin Purses, whether purchased from a vendor or simply found in the environment, are always best left unopened, until you need to spend the coin inside for purchasing. Regularly spending your loose Sen on Spirit Emblems and other useful items that can be stored is a wise idea, keeping the loss to a minimum when true death inevitably happens.
The experience points you lose upon true death only affects the experience bar progression to your next Skill Point. Any Skill Points you’ve already banked, displayed to the left of the experience bar will not be affected, so the loss of Experience is no where near as dramatic as the loss of Sen.
There’s a chance however, that you’ll be blessed by the favour of Buddha, through a passive mechanic called Unseen Aid. At its maximum, this is a 30% chance to completely avoid losing any Sen or Experience upon true death, the chance of this happening cannot be increased. However, every time you DO experience true death multiple times, an illness called Dragonrot will eventually spread to a maximum of 17 designated NPC’s, always starting with the Sculptor.
Each NPC thereafter has a different probability of being affected with each one lowering the chances of Unseen Aid by a small percentage. If all 17 NPC’s are afflicted with Dragonrot then Unseen Aid will drop to its minimum chance of 1%. To see how many NPC’s are affected, go into your inventory and you’ll see an item, or several items, called Rot Essence. Each one represents a specific NPC in the game who has been afflicted with the Dragonrot illness.
Its worth noting that NPC’s cannot die as a consequence of Dragonrot, at its worst it’ll simply halt progress on that particular NPC’s questline if one is available. You can cure all afflicted NPC’s from Dragonrot, restoring Unseen Aid back to 30%, by using a special item called Dragon’s Blood Droplet (shown below).There’s a total of 17 to be either purchased or found in the game so they should not be used carelessly. The option for you to use these Droplets will become available after speaking with Emma when a second NPC contracts the illness. After providing the requested blood sample she’ll then give you an item called the Recovery Charm. Simply progressing far enough into the story will also trigger Emma into giving you the Charm. Once you’re in possession of the Charm it’ll unlock the menu option at any Idol to cure all Dragonrot and fully restore Unseen Aid by using a Dragon’s Blood Droplet.
There’s also a second use for the Droplet’s in relation to Resurrection. If you’re highly skilled and find you’re not spreading much Dragonrot you can use the Droplet’s directly from your inventory, instead of at an Idol. When you do this the Droplets will remove the black stripe locking your resurrection nodes, basically giving you an extra life, as well as restore some Resurrection power for your leaf nodes. However, only one Droplet can be used at a time before you have to restock at an Idol.
THE 5 STATUS ABNORMALITIES EXPLAINED
There’s a total of 5 Status Abnormalities that Sekiro can be inflicted by, these are:
- Burn / Burning
- Poison / Poisoned
- Terror / Terrified (Death)
- Shock / Electrified
- Enfeeblement / Enfeebled
If left unchecked they will all result in a swift death. Of these 5 Status Abnormalities, you can only inflict 3 of them upon your enemies, which are Burn, Poison and Shock, whereas Terror and Enfeeblement can only be inflicted upon you.
How close you are to being afflicted with a Status Abnormality is represented by a gauge in the middle of the screen. Once the gauge fills to the top after prolonged exposure the related Abnormality will be inflicted indicated by the associated icon underneath your Vitality bar. Bear in mind there’s no status build-up gauge for the Shock status due to the instant nature of this element.
Its worth noting, when you’re attempting to inflict an abnormality on an enemy, there’ll be no gauge displaying the build-up of the status, neither will there be an icon underneath their vitality gauge, the only visual cue you’ll receive is when the abnormality is applied. For example, when the Burn status has been successfully built up and inflicted, you’ll see the enemy burning and react accordingly.
Fire damage, along with the Burn Status Abnormality, is particularly effective against Red-Eyed enemies such as the Chained Ogre since they innately fear fire and are sent into a panic at the mere sight of flames. To instantly build the fire gauge when using fire based attacks, make sure to first douse the enemy in Oil as this will set the enemy alight the instant a flame based attack makes contact.
Check out this chart showing the three items that treat Fire and Burn damage when used against you, they are the:
- Withered Red Gourd
- Dousing Powder
- Ministry Dousing Powder
As you can see in the chart, only the two Dousing Powders can remove the Burn Status once its inflicted (cures). When the Burn status IS inflicted, it’ll drain 10% of vitality over a 10 second period while halting posture recovery in the process. Enemies that can inflict the Burn Status are Nightjar Ninjas, Bandits, Centipedes and fire based Red Guards.
Poison is a very damaging Status Abnormality that lasts for 40 seconds and can drain anywhere from 30 to 80% of your vitality depending on the size of your gauge. The Blue-Rust Poison from the Subimaru Prosthetic Tool is extremely effective against the female Okami Warriors found at Fountainhead Palace as well as the mini-boss Snake Eyes Shirafuji and her Gunfort guards. Against these enemies it results in additional massive posture damage once inflicted. It can also lead to a unique vomit stun that allows you to land multiple free hits once triggered.
There’s two main items that effectively treat Poison when inflicted upon you, they are the:
- Green Mossy Gourd
- Antidote Powder
As you can see in the chart, only the Antidote Powder can remove the Poison Status once its inflicted (cures). There’s also a third item called Contact Medicine and while this doesn’t treat Poison in the traditional way, when consumed it makes you immune to enemy Poison for 40 seconds by inflicting you with a much lesser Poison that deals a third of the usual damage, you’re basically opting for the lesser of two evils.
Contact Medicine is particularly useful when used in conjunction with the Mist Raven Prosthetic Tool, as this Tool requires you to take some form of damage to trigger its teleportation ability, allowing you to better control its use. Enemies that can inflict the Poison Status are Geckos, Assassins, Poison based Valley Monkeys, and the two bosses Juzou The Drunkard and Lone Shadow Vilehand.
The Shock status differs from all the other status ailments in that it does not have a build-up gauge or display an Abnormality Icon. Due to the simple nature of Shock, you are either electrified, or not. When hit by lightning you’ll take a large amount of Vitality and Posture damage. As well as taking damage, you’ll enter a 3 second shock state leaving you completely vulnerable.
There’s a clever mechanic relating to lightning attacks, which when properly timed, will allow you to perform what’s called a Lightning Reversal. This will essentially shoot the Lightning back at the enemy causing them to take massive damage and enter a Shock state instead of you. To do this all you need to do is jump into the air just before a Lightning attack makes contact, the Lightning should then hit you while airborne positively charging you up, then just before you land touching the ground again, hit the attack button to unleash the charge straight back at the enemy.To make the timing of this easier, make sure to unlock the Mid-Air Deflection technique under the Shinobi Arts Skill Tree, you then just need to guard the Lightning strike while in the air then simply shoot it straight back out without delay. Consuming an Eel Liver (shown above) will reduce all Vitality damage resulting from lightning attacks by 50%. Enemies that can inflict the Shock status are Palace Hounds and Okami Warriors, as well as the bosses Genichiro Way of Tomoe, Sword Saint Isshin Ashina and the Divine Dragon.
Terror is a lethal Status Abnormality that’ll instantly kill you as soon as the gauge fills, quite literally scaring you to death. This means preventing the Terror gauge from building up is of paramount importance. There’s two items that can remove Terror build-up as well as increase resistance to it, they are the:
- Mottled Purple Gourd
- Pacifying Agent
There’s several enemies in the game that can inflict Terror all of which are bosses, these are the three Headless, the three Shichimen Warriors, the Guardian Ape while in Headless form, the True Corrupted Monk during Phase 3 only, and O’Rin of the Water. As a reminder, you cannot inflict Terror on enemies, it can only be inflicted upon you.
The fifth and final Status Abnormality is called Enfeeblement, and just like Terror, it can only be inflicted upon you. Enfeeblement is only inflicted by blue robed Palace Nobles which are enemies encountered late in the game.
When this enemy plays its flute, the status gauge will begin to fill draining your youth and causing weakness, the closer you are to the flute playing Noble the faster your youth is drained. Once the gauge reaches maximum capacity you’ll be left in an old and decrepit state for 30 seconds. While in this state, you’ll have a tiny amount of vitality and all your movement will be slowed to a crawl.
The only item you’ll be able to use is the Homeward Idol and your ability to Resurrect will be disabled meaning true death is just a moment away. There are no items that can treat Enfeeblement. The only ways to end this horrifying status and have your youth returned is by either killing the flute playing Palace Noble or escaping and simply surviving the Status for the 30 second duration. Resting at a Sculptor’s Idol will also clear the condition, if one happens to be nearby.
ALL 19 STATUS BUFF ITEMS EXPLAINED
Check out this chart which shows you all 10 Spiritfalls and Sugars available in the game, and as you can see some of these items offer extremely potent buffs for a limited period of time. Unlocking the Latent Skill called Devotion, which is found under the Temple Arts Skill Tree, will permanently boost the duration of all Spiritfalls and Sugars by an additional 50%, meaning their buffs will increase from 30 seconds to 45 seconds across the board, so unlocking Devotion as soon as possible should be a priority.
The effects of Spiritfalls and Sugars are identical and the only difference between the two is the manner in which they’re used. All Spiritfalls have unlimited uses so they’re only found just once in the entire game by killing the associated Headless boss, but they cost varying amounts of Spirit Emblems to use depending on the Spiritfall consumed.
Sugar’s, on the other hand do NOT require Spirit Emblems to use and are dropped, purchased or simply found in the environment. However, they have a limited carrying capacity of 3, with additional Sugar’s being sent to your storage. Its also worth noting that you can only gain the benefit of one Sugar or one Spiritfall at a time so stacking them is not possible, consuming a different one will simply overwrite the effects of the currently active one.
This second chart displays the remaining 9 Status Buff items which include:
- Mibu Balloons (5 types)
- Divine Confetti
- The Red Lump
All these status Buffs offer a wide variety of effects to assist your goal in many situations in and out of battle, whether that’s bolstering your damage output, increasing survivability, increasing stealth, boosting item drop rates, or a combination of these, make sure to familiarise yourself with them all so you can draw from their specialised benefits at the correct time and place on the battlefield.
A couple of things worth noting here, are that you can stack the effects of these 9 buff items with Sugars and Spiritfalls, and the Divine Confetti can still be used against the underwater Headless by popping it before entering the water.
DRAGON’S TALLY BOARD DROPPED BY THE CORRUPTED MONKOnce you defeat the Corrupted Monk at Fountainhead Palace he’ll drop a unique item called the Dragon’s Tally Board (shown above). Once you’re in possession of this special item, most merchants will begin to sell Divine Confetti, Snap Seeds, Eel Livers, Scrap Iron, and Black Gunpowder all in unlimited quantities.
TIME OF DAY AND HOW IT AFFECTS THE GAME
As you can see on this table, defeating certain key bosses as you play through the game will not only advance the story, but will also advance the time of day from:
Along with a visual change to areas, enemies will also become increasingly tougher as the day progresses, their attack power, vitality, posture and posture recovery will all increase for each quadrant of the day. This means all enemies and sub-bosses during the morning will have their lowest possible stats.
Naturally, the game starts in the morning, then after defeating Genichiro Ashina in Ashina Castle or the Corrupted Monk in Ashina Depths, the time of day will then advance to noon. To advance time again to Evening you’ll need to defeat three out of the four key bosses available to you at this stage. In addition to the two already mentioned, these are the Folding Screen Monkeys in Senpou Temple, and the Guardian Ape in the Sunken Valley Passage.
After entering Fountainhead Palace it’ll then shift into the final and most difficult stage of Night. As expected, enemies located in the earlier areas of the game will see the biggest increases to their toughness as the day progresses.
THE BELL DEMON EXPLAINED
The Bell Demon is a Demon Spirit sealed within the Iron Bell of Senpou Temple located near the Shugendo Idol. Ringing this Bell will possess you with the Demon Spirit and apply a debuff called the Sinister Burden. This’ll make enemies much tougher, as well as slightly improve their item drops, as well as their drop rates. Their stats and drops will be those of the following time of day, one step ahead of where you are in the game.
For example, if you’re currently at Noon, the stats and drops of all enemies will be identical to their Evening counterparts, and once you get to Night, the increase continues beyond normal levels, making even that time period more difficult.
You can tell the Bell Demon is active as you’ll notice its icon below your Vitality gauge. You’ll also be in possession of an item called the Bell Demon in your inventory, to dispel the Sinister Burden and return things to normal, simply use the item.
A good tactic is to acquire the Bell Demon every time you’re farming for items including upgrade materials, this way you can benefit from the improved item drops and drop rates. Bear in mind the Bell Demon will not affect Experience, Sen or Spirit Emblem drop rates.
The negative effects of the Bell Demon also stack on top of those from Hard Mode and New Game+, so for the ultimate challenge, you’ll need to combine all three. However, a currently active Bell Demon will not automatically carry over to a New Game+, you’ll need to find and activate it again on any subsequent playthroughs.
NEW GAME+ AND BEYOND
After you beat the game you’re given an option to start a New Game+ second playthrough. You can choose to remain in your current playthrough by selecting no, which is a good idea if you need to finish off any bosses, especially the Headless and Shichimen Warriors, as well as collect any missed useful items like:
- Prayer Beads
- Gourd Seeds
- Refillable Gourds
- Treasure Carp Scales
- The Dancing Dragon Mask
When you’re ready to move on simply head to the Sculptor’s Idol at the Dilapidated Temple to begin the New Game+. During your second run the enemies will be even more ferocious than before, becoming tougher still as the day progresses. The amount of Sen and Skill Points that you gain also increases proportionately.
You can continue to play New Game+ multiple times, and with each playthrough the strength of the enemies and the amount of rewards will become increasingly greater. This will eventually cap out on your 8th playthrough, so from the 9th onwards there’ll be no further increases to enemy strength or rewards with everything remaining at the same values.
KURO’S CHARM / HARD MODE EXPLAINEDAfter beating the game with any ending and starting a New Game+, you’ll receive an item called Kuro’s Charm (shown above). Keeping this item on your person acts as a protection from additional damage from enemies. To activate Hard Mode in any New Game or New Game+ simply give this Charm back to Kuro when you speak to him during the prologue which will strip you of its protection.
This Hard Mode stacks with the additional hardships of any New Game+ playthrough and is represented by the Japanese character for difficult which is displayed under your vitality gauge as well as next to your save file.
Hard mode greatly increases the amount of vitality, posture and resistance enemies have as well as making them deal 30% chip damage when blocking their attacks, so deflecting becomes critically important. You’ll also take 25% additional vitality and posture damage across the board, as well as significantly more posture damage from guarding, not even the Loaded Umbrella can prevent this damage. The only way to mitigate this extra damage is by perfectly deflecting.
Negative Status Effects such as Poison and Fire will also build up around 40% quicker. There’s one beneficial effect of Hard Mode, in that you’ll receive an additional 20% Sen and Experience from all sources.
You can back out of Hard Mode at any time by talking to the Sculptor and selecting the option named ‘Avoid Additional Hardships’, but bear in mind, once you take back ownership of Kuro’s Charm, you cannot return to Hard Mode until the next playthrough.
On the other hand, If you want to make the game even more challenging, then the debuff of Hard Mode not only stacks with all New Game+ playthroughs, but will also stack with the negative effects from the Bell Demon, combining all three will offer the ultimate challenge only the most skilled players will survive.
GOURD SEED LOCATIONS
Check out this chart showing you all 9 Gourd Seed locations in the game. Giving a Gourd Seed (shown below) to Emma will enhance your Healing Gourd increasing the number of uses by 1. Upgrading the Healing Gourd to a maximum of 10 uses is possible, but it cannot be improved further beyond that point, even on subsequent New Game+ playthroughs. Once the 9 Gourd Seeds have been handed over to Emma, they’re gone for good.You can check out the video version of this guide here: VIDEO GUIDE
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