In our Sekiro beginner’s guide, we covered some broad ideas to help you start the game. Here, we’re getting specific with more advanced tips and tricks to help you become a better shinobi.
Be thoughtful and considered
It’s not that Sekiro is a puzzle game, but it does help to treat each area, encounter, and boss fight as a puzzle (admittedly, a puzzle you solve with swords and stabbing, but the analogy holds). Each piece of the game has a logic to it. Once you figure it out, that becomes your advantage.
Never take the obvious approach
Fights can get overwhelming fast, but you almost always have control over Sekiro’s battlefield. The best way to exert control is to choose the smartest path through — or maybe around — your enemies. Single them out, and take them down. Never, ever fight a group of enemies (unless you want to die a horrible and frustrating death).
The area above is a great example of how this works. Look though the gate, and you’ll see five enemies — including a guy at the top center with a canon. If you were to just stroll right though the gate and head up Main Street, they’ll swarm you, and you’ll take damage from every angle (for the four seconds you survive).
Look for other paths instead.
Up and to the left of where Wolf stands in the image above, you’ll find a grapple point. Beyond that is plenty of cover running along (and above) Main Street. You can sneak your way past everyone and take the canon guy out with one Deathblow. Then you could ignore the rest of your enemies and move on to the next area, or (better) use height and stealth to your advantage, isolating and killing the enemies below one by one.
This is just one area at the beginning of Sekiro, but the principle applies throughout the game. Don’t take the obvious approach. Look around. Look up. Plan your approach. Isolate your enemies. Take them by surprise.
Run loops to practice, earn loot, and make money
You can always visit Hanbei the Undying to hone your skills, but you should also consider doing that out in the world where you can earn items and sen, too.
We put this strategy in place near the Outskirts Wall – Stairway, an early-game Sculptor’s Idol. (It’s the one closest to the Chained Ogre.)
As you can see above, in less than a minute, we practiced our plunging attack, Consecutive Deflections, and catching a spear with the Mikiri Counter Shinobi Art. We could have done all of that with Hanbei, but we wouldn’t have made money or collected loot.
Buy Coin Purses
We mention this in our guide about the handful of best things to buy in Sekiro, and it’s worth repeating here. For hours, Coin Purses seemed like a classic FromSoftware troll to us. Why buy a Light Coin Purse that holds 100 sen for 110 sen?
And then it dawned on us: Coin purses protect sen.
You’ll likely lose half of the sen you’re carrying when when you die, but the sen in Coin Purses stays with you. For a 10 percent surcharge, you can bank 100 (Light Coin Purse), 500 (Heavy Coin Purse), or maybe even more sen. Point is, once sen is in a Coin Purse, it’s safe. Die all you want. (Die all you don’t want, for all we care!) It’s not going anywhere.
One more thing to note, though: Merchants have limited quantities, so don’t go wild. Save Coin Purses for a time when you really want to (or need to) keep your money.
Organize your Quick Items
If you’re anything like us, you’ll spend a lot of the early game tying your fingers in knots as you panic to load and use your Quick Items. Here’s a tip for making that a bit easier: Always put things in the same place.
For example, we keep our Healing Gourd in the leftmost (first) slot, and we put Pellets just to the right of that. Our Homeward Idol lives in the slot all the way to the right. (It’s great for getting out of serious trouble.) That leaves us two open slots for anything we might want to use in any situation — and if you’re not going to use something, don’t keep it in a slot. It’s a lot easier to cycle through and keep three things in your working memory than it is to juggle five.
Whenever we look at the active Quick Item, we know where we’re at in the sorting order. If we see Pellets, it’s one press left to get back to the Healing Gourd, one press right to get to the Homeward Idol (or whatever we’ve slotted in). If we see the Healing Gourd, then it’s always one press right for Pellets and one press left for the Homeward Idol.
When you internalize organization, you don’t have do much thinking. Everything’s in its place, and switching between them becomes muscle memory (and it stops being finger pretzels). You can even reset your location in the Quick Items by holding left or right on the D-pad — this will take you to the first (left) or last (right) item in your loadout.
Limit your Quick Items and Prosthetics
Now that you’ve got your Quick Items organized, it’s time to Marie Kondo them. Yes, you have five slots for quick items, but you don’t have to fill them all. If you’re in a fight where you have to heal and use a specific item like, say, Snap Seeds, it’s OK to remove everything except your Healing Gourd and those Snap Seeds. That way, you only have two things to cycle through.
Similarly, you have three slots for your Shinobi Prosthetic, but you can swap out and remove these tools as often as you like. Feel free to strip down your prosthetic to only one or two tools. That will make cycling through them faster and ensure that you don’t waste your Spirit Emblems with the wrong attack.
The other benefit of limiting your Quick Items is that you are far less likely to burn a valuable item accidentally. If you always make it a point to remove anything you’re not currently using, you’re not going to accidentally use Divine Confetti when you meant to eat some Pellets.
Maybe don’t do the thing that’s super hard right now
One of Sekiro’s most interesting aspects is the way that the branching narrative — not just the levels — wraps around itself. If you’re struggling, consider the possibility that there’s a better (or just different) way to what you’re doing right now.
There are almost always other places to explore. Maybe you saw a boss and fled. Maybe a bunch of archers mowed you down. Maybe you just remembered that lake you didn’t swim through. Take a break from whatever’s killing you now, and explore or try something again.
This is particularly important in your first several hours of the game before you’re really comfortable with the combat. Read everything and listen to everyone, and you’ll get hints about tough enemy’s weakness. It’s good advice, except that you probably won’t have that ability. If explore elsewhere, you’ll find something helpful.
It’s subtle, but Sekiro does this a lot. It rarely tells you exactly what to do, but it spends a lot of time implying it. Read everything. Pay attention to the items that you pick up before you fight a tough enemy. Those are all hints, but you need to connect the dots.
Eavesdrop to get more hints
Sekiro also hides its hints in conversations you can listen to. This is much more than a cute trick — you’ll get (subtle) clues about future fights and (subtle) tips about using your weapons. No one is going to come out and announce their weakness, but there’s probably something in there you can use.
Don’t skip over your chances to eavesdrop — and if you don’t remember what someone said, eavesdrop again.
Tools and Skills win (some) fights
All of the hints Sekiro gives you are only half of the equation. The other half is putting it into practice. This is the synthesis of the last two tips. It’s what we called in our review a considered approach.
There’s a mini-boss early in the game that is fast, strong, and deals astounding damage with a spear. If you just tackle it like any other fight, it feels impossible. But if you take a break and explore a different path, you’ll find a new Combat Art specifically for dodging thrusting spear attacks. When you get that skill (and read its description) and use it, the fight against the spear-wielding enemy changes dramatically.
Prosthetic Tools work the same way. There’s a line toward the bottom of the Spinning Shuriken description about damaging enemies “with a tendency to take to the air.” If you keep that in mind, the simple Shuriken can completely change a (much) later boss battle where your enemy hovers out of reach dealing massive damage.
Watch the gauges to learn how to fight
There’s a logic to the way you get murdered and the way you damage your foes. And if you pay attention to the how, you might get a clue about the best way to win. We go into more detail in our Vitality, Posture, and Deathblows guide.
If you fill an enemy’s Posture gauge with two hits, you’ll know a frontal assault is (relatively) safe. Enemies that break your Posture gauge with a single hit imply that blocking won’t work (they probably require Step Dodges).
Watch the Vitality and Posture gauges during tough fights for clues.
Change your style to match the fight
There’s no single way to succeed in Sekiro. One area might require stealth and backstabs while the next will force you to run headlong at your enemies. Blocking will keep you alive in one fight, but make you vulnerable in the next.
You learn a lot of tactics and pick up new tools and skills during your journey. The challenge for you is to keep them all in mind. New techniques, weapons, and moves never replace old ones. It’s not just about improving, it’s about expanding. Having — and using — an entire repertoire of options is the key to survival.