We have extensive guides about each phase of Sekiro’s final boss fight, but this one distills our advice for dealing with Isshin, the Sword Saint down to four easy-to-remember rules that will help you survive, no matter what phase you’re in.
Block more than you think you need to
Our biggest gripe about Sekiro is that it demands precision, but it isn’t as responsive as we want it to be. We swear we’ve hit the block button approximately 14 billion times, only to watch ourselves watch a sword fly at our unguarded face.
Every hit you take from Isshin inflicts an incredible amount of Vitality damage. Just go ahead and assume that taking a hit will donate half of your health to your enemy. No, that’s not always true, but that’s not the point. It’s a useful mental model to make you (and us!) fear getting hit above all else — and make you behave smarter.
Take those two things together, and you’ve got a plan. If you don’t know what to do, block. If you think you’re probably OK to attack but you’re not quite sure, block. Stop getting hit. Block as a default, which probably means you should block more than you think you need to.
The rule of two
The single most annoying way to take damage in Sekiro goes like this: You attack when it’s clearly safe, and then your enemy ignores that, attacks, and you watch a huge chunk of your health bar evaporate.
There’s a simple way to counteract this: Limit yourself to attacking twice in a row. Then see the previous rule and block immediately after your second attack.
Attack twice, and then block. You’ll get your hits in, and you won’t take damage. Watch it happen over and over above.
This also applies if you’re using the Ichimonji: Double Combat Art. One swing is good. Take that second overhand swing, and you’ll also take damage because you won’t be able to block his next attack. So really just switch to the Ichimonji (not double) so that the second attack doesn’t tempt you.
The rule of three
This is another brain hack, but it’s useful because it stops you from getting cocky, attacking needlessly, and taking damage. (See the rule of two above.)
Just assume that Isshin is going to attack in bursts of three — which means you should block for an assumed minimum of three attacks.
Sometimes he attacks more. Sometimes less. Sometimes, he’s right on the money. It doesn’t matter. Assume that he’s going to attack three times in quick succession, and block or Deflect your way though his attacks. Do not attack before you count to three.
Then respond with (two) attacks of your own. If you miss an opportunity to attack, that’s fine. One hit isn’t going to make or break your run. You’ll get him next time, and it’s far better to play conservatively than attack before he’s through and forfeit some of your Vitality.
The umbrella principle
Whenever Isshin uses one of his wind or charge-based attacks, just hit the button to deploy your Loaded Umbrella Prosthetic Tool. It’s a get out of jail free card.
We spent a lot of time trying to figure out which flavor of attack he was going to use and then trying to respond in the moment. Turns out that’s as bad as it is difficult. Get it wrong, and you’ll be in serious trouble.
So just use your umbrella, absorb the attack, and then hit the attack button when he finishes to use the Projected Force skill and unleash an attack of your own. You don’t even have to worry about timing — the umbrella will let you ride out Isshin’s wind attacks no matter how early you deploy it.