At one point if you asked me to choose my favourite prosthetic in Sekiro, I would have said the Loaded Axe without question. As someone who loves the strength weapons in Souls games, having a pocket version of those remains that could be unleashed as and when was beautiful. It still is, but it was to. Heavy smashing and glorious hyper armour goes a long way towards capturing my heart. But the longer (and longer, and longer) I have played Sekiro the prosthetic I always keep on hand is the Loaded Umbrella.
At first the Loaded Umbrella does not seem like much and requires a fair bit of investment, initially at least. On a first play through, after a few deaths, 1500 sen for the Iron Fortress – the material used to construct the Umbrella, procured from Black Hat Badger – can look a bit steep. Even more so when it is a shield in a game where the sword can deflect everything that comes its way. The sword does not use up spirit emblems every time it is unfurled. Why would I ever get it, never mind use it?
This mindset lasted until I met Jinsuke Sasuke. He is the mini boss who guards the Ashina Dojo. He shows Sekiro the Ashina Cross technique. Brutally so. I got stuck there on my first run. I gave it five or six tries, could not get the deflecting timing down and decided to come back later. At some point I had a brain wave “why not use the umbrella?” – nothing else was working, so why not? The Umbrella blew the doors off. It is hard to think of a similar case of a boss going from a terror to an inconvenience as fast as Jinsuke Sasuke did. That was the beginning of my love affair with the Loaded Umbrella and its three variants, Loaded Umbrella Magnet, Suzaku’s Lotus Umbrella and the Lilac Phoenix Umbrella. It is the last two I use the most often.
Turns out the Umbrellas had a lot going for them, making all of the earlier suspicions look incredibly silly. They have both a bigger deflect window and do more posture damage per deflect but that is offset by requiring spirit emblems to use. But while Kusabimaru can block and deflect freely, it is not impenetrable. The Umbrellas are. Certain attacks in Sekiro do damage when blocked and not deflected – they cut through guard. Not for the Umbrella’s. Umbrellas don’t care. Nothing gets past them. Even special attacks. Fire attacks are stone walled by Suzaku’s and fear attacks are not given the time of day by the Phoenix. And both of those will block every other attack in the game. With added posture damage. It’s a beautiful thing. Just watch out for sweep attacks.
The Umbrella plays more than defence. When combined with the combat art Projected Force the Umbrellas can emit a wave of energy, that works both up close and at distance (to an extent). The attack type matches the Umbrella type, and this attack can be charged up as the Umbrella absorbs hits. There is a limit to these build ups, signified by the Umbrella giving off smoke. And both the Fire Umbrella and the Lilac Umbrellas attacks can damage opponents through their guards – taking off a good chunk of health and in turn taking away a chunk of the posture bar. It’s a good combination.
The Umbrella accompanies me into almost every boss fight now. Genichiro’s Bow attack fully charges the Umbrella without failing, giving me a free chunk on Genichiro’s health. The Monk’s centipede vomit bounces off the Umbrella with no terror build up. The Demon of Hatred is not quite as dangerous when the Umbrella takes all of that fire with no blow back. All of Isshins attacks that go through blocks have ceased to be a problem. Any attack can be deflected. And thrown back with interest.
Not just boss fights either. It’s my chosen method of breaching the Gun Fort, embracing my inner Roman soldier. And those terror enemies that can be a pain – the gruesome twosome of the Headless and the Shichimen Warrior are both completely shut down – every attack they do feeds the Umbrellas offense, and the Phoenix Umbrella shuts down all of their attacks – aside from the Headless grab attack but that is an easy enough dodge. Interior Ministry troops want to fire their fire rockets – fine, go ahead, Suzaku’s has all that one lockdown. With the added bonus of stacking hits and then unleashing an attack on a tougher enemy.
Between the Umbrellas defensive stability and offensive prowess, I am willing to make the statement that the Loaded Umbrella is the best shield in a From Software game. And there have been some banging shields in From Software games – the Lothric Knight Shield from Dark Souls III (both from a utility and fashion point of view), the Heater Shield from Dark Souls (love that little guy), however many Greatshields I used to get out of Dark Souls II (Greatshields and circle strafing stumps most bosses) but none of those are utterly impenetrable as the Umbrellas and none have the offensive ability that the Umbrellas have. Also, they look beautiful. The base Umbrella and Magnet are less fancy – but they have their own minimalist vibes but both Suzaku’s and Phoenix have gorgeous artwork emblazoned upon them. It’s a nice thing to just unfurl the Umbrellas and look at them – beautiful imagery.
Between the defence, the offensive and the style points, the Loaded Umbrellas are the prosthetic I adore the most. Being the best From Software shield is just a bonus.