I’m writing about Sekiro again. This post is a happy coming together of other games I am playing not progressing to the point I feel comfortable writing about them and me still having things I want to write about regarding Sekiro, still my favourite game. This time around, I thought it would be fun to talk about and reflect on the progress I have made with Sekiro – comparing boss fights from my first play through to some of my more recent attempts and seeing what changed. This post is going to focus on the boss fights – but this progress applies to the whole game – the boss fights are the easiest way to demonstrate progress.
The most obvious takeaway is that I got better at the game. I have spent a lot of time with Sekiro – anytime you spend time doing something you are going to see improvement. That improvement could be a little, could be a lot but it will be there. In my case, I’d argue I’ve gotten pretty good at the game. Part of that comes from my mind set which I talked about last week (being relaxed is nice), part of that comes from gaining knowledge about the game and part of that comes from loving the game and wanting to play it.
Toto I don’t think we are in Lothric anymore: Early in my Sekiro journey I relied on the experience I gained in Dark Souls and Bloodborne – this was a terrible idea. The stamina bar looms over From Software games – not in Sekiro though. Sekiro is not burdened by stamina. There is no need to hang back and wait for a bar to come back. That means way, way, way more aggression. As the Sculptor says to Sekiro “don’t be afraid to go all out.”
Look at all of those early fights. So much dead time. So much caution. It’s understandable on a first run. I didn’t know what I was doing, and I did not have the bosses move set downloaded. It’s fun watching all of these attempts back and seeing the difference in approach as I got more and more comfortable with Sekiro – the time’s drops alone speak volumes. Taking a boss fight from seven minutes to less than 3 is pretty great. It’s also a lot of fun. It’s also very rewarding.
However, to go all out I had to learn about the game.
Trusting myself more and more (along with the posture bar): I get hit in Sekiro. It happens from time to time. On my first play through getting hit was a source of panic – bolt it and get off a heal. Got me killed in more than a few instances. Whenever my posture bar was almost full I back off to let it come back. Invited unnecessary pressure in more than a few instances.
Learning to work around the posture bar went a long way. As long as perfect deflects are maintained it is an infinite resource – Sekiro cannot be posture broken. Combine that with a few passive skills which provide posture relief and healing on death blow, and I realised over time the best thing to do is to maintain rhythm. If I am hit, try as much as possible to get back on the offensive. That health can be healed back on a deathblow rather than ruining my flow. I mean, there are situations that will call for an emergency heal but I try to minimize those as much as possible. The same still applies to a full posture bar – sometimes an emergency bail out will happen but more often than not I’ll roll with it. Trust the bar, trust the flow and good things will happen. That led to no heal attempts and then it led to no hit attempts. It makes for a much more rewarding and exciting playing of the game. I could never go back to playing like those early attempts.
Recognising and reacting: In order to trust the bar though, it does help to know what a boss is going to do at any given moment. On a first time play through this was tricky – boss fights have to be learned. This one takes time.
Or it used to. Well, it still takes a little bit of time but thanks to the gift of boss rush fights can be done over and over again without fuss. It was a big reason I got better. Fighting Isshin again and again without playing through the whole game to do it is bliss in terms of improvement. And it makes learning his move set a much smoother process than any other From game. Gone are the days of trekking through 20 hours of game just to get to boss you want to fight again. I mean, playing these games is fun but sometimes I just want to practice a boss. And only getting one shot at that boss has its downsides.
Basically, in video form it helped me to go from blocking Isshin’s five hit combo culminating in a thrust to…
Deflecting the entire thing and building up a load of posture in the process. Improvement is nice.
What boss rush also does is allow for stress free experimentation. It was in boss rush I stumbled upon using the umbrella to shut down Genichiro’s arrows and hit back. Using the prosthetics use up spirit emblems. In boss rush all used sources come back once returning to the main game. There is no cost to experimenting. This is not the case in the main game. Or any other From Software game – nothing like the umming and ahhing over burning up embers or rune arcs.
Sekiro offering a space to not worry about resources and mess ups and just fight – that’s pretty nice. I wish every game with bosses had a boss rush.
For the love of the game: I think Sekiro is the first game I have gotten this good at. And I’m not great – watch Ongbal for the truly good stuff. But I think I’m pretty good at Sekiro. I’m happy with where I am at. I don’t think I loved a game like Sekiro. I wanted to get better at the boss fights for the sake of it. From Software games don’t have extra achievements for doing boss fights without damage – the only achievement comes from defeating boss. I’m doing this because I want to. I never had this happen much before. I wonder when it’s going to happen again.