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Sekiro guide: Vitality, Posture, Deflects, and Deathblows

Health, blocking, and using gauges to understand your foes

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Vitality, Posture, and Deathblows guide FromSoftware/Activision via Polygon

Sekiro adds a bit of a twist to the mechanics of killing enemies (and getting killed). Both Wolf and every enemy he faces have a health bar, called Vitality, and a Posture bar. Vitality drains with physical damage while Posture fills with Posture damage from things like blocking attacks or getting grabbed.

Understanding and using these systems will teach you how to fight. This guide will walk you through the basics of Vitality, Posture, and Deathblows, then talk a bit about using what we’ve learned.

Vitality, Posture, and Deathblows basics

Wolf’s and an enemy’s Vitality and Posture gauge locations
Wolf’s and an enemy’s Vitality and Posture gauge locations
FromSoftware/Activision via Polygon

The easiest part to understand is Vitality. Vitality is just health, and it’s represented by the top bar above an enemy’s head or the bar in the lower left of your screen for Wolf. When this bar drains, you or your enemy will fall over dead.

Posture is a bit trickier. It basically just represents the ability to block. An enemy’s Posture gauge starts off empty and fills as you attack — even blocked attacks fill their Posture gauge. Sekiro calls this Posture Damage. Certain moves — like a Deflect, the Mikiri Counter that avoids jabbing attacks, and a Jump Kick that avoids sweeping attacks — deal extra Posture Damage. When the Posture gauge is full, that means your enemies can’t defend themselves.

When an enemies’ Posture damage gauge is full or when they’re unaware of your presence, they’re open to a Deathblow — you’ll see a red dot appear in their chest letting you know. This is basically a one-hit-kill move that is almost always fatal.

Stronger enemies like mini-bosses and bosses might require multiple Deathblows. An extra red dot over their Vitality bar tells you that they need two Deathblows before they die.

Deflects

A well-timed block severely damages — and in some cases, immediately breaks — an enemy’s Posture. Sekiro calls this a Deflect (any other game would call it a parry). To Deflect, block right when (or just before) an attack lands.

This is always useful, but it may be most useful on tough enemies and bosses. Deflects take a substantial chunk out of their Posture, giving you an opening to deal more damage.

Vitality and Posture interact

There’s no way for an enemy to refill their Vitality bar, but Posture Damage will drain back to zero over time. How fast it drains depends on two things: Vitality (health) and blocking.

  • Posture Damage drains away faster when blocking.
  • The lower Vitality (health) is, the slower Posture regenerates.

Both apply to Wolf/Sekiro and his enemies.

Waiting too long between attacks and dealing Posture Damage might reset your progress. For enemies with a Posture that drains very quickly, you can slow the drain and build even more Posture Damage by dealing some Vitality Damage first.

Using Vitality and Posture to win fights

Understanding Vitality and (especially) Posture will tell you a lot about how to handle an enemy. For example, if you have an enemy whose Posture damage fills with only a couple hits, you know you don’t have worry about timing your attacks — you can just swing away until you drop them. For stronger enemies — especially bosses — it’s a lot more complicated.

An early boss, the Blazing Bull, is a good example of this. As you can see above, the Blazing Bull’s Posture Damage buildup drains away as fast as you can deal it. This means you need to chip away at its Vitality for a while before you can even think about Deathblows. Put another way, Sekiro is telling you that there’s not a quick or clever solution, and that you need to put in some work against its Vitality first.

You can also get the same answers by watching an enemy’s effects on Wolf’s gauges. You can block enemies that don’t deal a lot of Posture Damage for a while and deal with them slowly. Enemies that engorge your Posture gauge with a single hit require a different approach — namely Step Dodges.