13 essential Sekiro tips to know before you play

Sekiro tips are essential if you're going into FromSoftware's ruthless adventure cold. There's a lot to learn in Sekiro and the game tells you nothing. Your choices then are to try, try and try again, or read up on some info and go in prepped. That's where these tips come in. There are 12 Sekiro tips coming up to help you with combat, bosses and plenty of other strategies to help you progress more and die less. 

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1. Hold block while learning enemy attack patterns

Sekiro block

Tapping L1/LB just as an enemy strikes will deflect their attack, damaging their posture. A series of deflections will open the door for a flashy “death blow”, which will kill most enemies in one thrust of your katana. But the timing can be tricky, especially early in the game when you don’t know of the movesets of your foes.

Instead of going for deflections the first time you meet a particular enemy, try holding L1/LB to block instead. It’ll absorb almost every attack in the game (unblockable attacks will be accompanied by a red symbol on-screen, and you’ll learn specific counters to them as you progress). Early on, don’t be afraid to hide behind your block and study an enemy’s moves until you feel confident enough to deflect. 

But be careful, because blocking too many attacks in a row will damage your own posture, so keep an eye on the bar at the bottom of your screen. If it’s getting dangerously full, switch to dodging.

2. Take the high ground and plan your route

sekrio route

Stealth is paramount in Sekiro. Most areas are filled with groups of enemies, and it’s unwise to face them all head-on. Thankfully, the game offers you plenty of ways to take them out from the shadows one at a time, whether that’s a plunging stealth kill from above or a quick stab-and-pull off a high ledge.

To work out the best route through any zone, get to the highest ground possible. Sekiro’s grappling hook will lock on to nearby jump locations, so you can always see where the best nearby vantage point is. Get up there and scout out your surroundings, looking for enemy patrol patterns and enemy lines of sight.

3. Stealth kills work on most mini bosses

sekiro stealth kills

Some of Sekiro’s mini bosses are as tricky as the big bads. Most will take two death blows to finish off - and for some mini bosses, one of those can be a stealth attack before the battle even starts. 

When you know the location of a mini boss, see if there’s a way to sneak up on them from behind or above. It’s not possible for all of them, but it’s worth the time to find out. Halving their health before you face them will make your task much less daunting. 

4. Practise combat with Hanbei the Undying, and then against previously defeated enemies

Sekiro Hanbei the Undying

New combat techniques come at you fast at the start of Sekiro and Hanbei the Undying, located next to the Dilapidated Temple, is the perfect test dummy. As his name suggests, he can’t die, and his skill with a sword means he can help you test new techniques without consequence. 

If you’re struggling to counter a particular move - those unblockable attacks we mentioned above, for example - check in with him and practise until you’ve got the timing down. It’s also worth returning to areas you’ve already completed to master your moves: enemies in the early areas won’t deal much damage, but the timing of your counters will be largely the same, so it can be a good way to hone your combat skills.

5. Master your own moveset

Sekiro moveset

Sekiro’s moveset isn’t limited to a simple forward slash. Before you take on bosses, make sure you’re fully clued-up on the rhythm of your strikes. You should know exactly how it feels to perform three attacks in succession, as well as exactly how far you lunge forward when you hold down the attack button. 

The same is true for the attacks you pick up via the various skill trees. When you unlock a new move, return to Hanbei the Undying to get to grips with it. That way, you’ll know when it will work - and when it’ll just get you into trouble.

6. Invest in coin purses

Sekiro coin purses

When you die in Sekiro, you usually lose half of the money you’re carrying, but you can prevent that by buying coin purses with your spare cash. These purses protect your money, and when you need to spend you can open them up and retrieve the currency inside.

They cost more than the value of the coins they contain: a purse holding 100 sen costs 110 to buy. But trust us, you’ll die more than enough to get your money’s worth.

7. You can buy prayer beads and gourd seeds from merchants

Sekiro prayer beads and gourd seeds

Prayer beads and gourd seeds are some of Sekiro’s most important items. You can hand in four beads at a sculptor’s idol to gain both vitality (health) and posture, while giving a seed to the NPC Emma nets you an extra refill of your Healing Gourd flask. Both will make fights a lot easier, and help you survive longer between rests.

You’ll find them throughout the world and by defeating mini bosses, but you can also buy them from merchants. The merchant in Ashina Outskirts, next to the battlefield where you fight the horseback Gyoubu Masataka Oniwa boss, will sell you gourd seeds, while you can buy a prayer bead from the merchant next to the Abandoned Dungeon Entrance. Keep your eye on the inventories of other merchants, too.

8. Organise your quick items during downtime

Sekiro quick items

There’s nothing worse than dying because you were fumbling with the D-Pad, trying to select the right slot in your quick items. To avoid that trap, make sure you only equip items you really need, and don’t worry if you leave some of the five slots empty. You can pause at any time during combat, so if you need to use any other items you can do that direct from your inventory.

9. You hardly ever take fall damage

Sekiro fall damage

You don’t take much fall damage in Sekiro, if any, and you'll have to work pretty hard to find anywhere you can drop far enough do actually affect your health. Which is useful because you’ll sometimes spot ledges far below that lead to new parts of the map. And you can jump knowing that you likely land unharmed. And, even if you miss, falling into an abyss doesn’t kill you - it just claims a chunk of your health and respawns you on the edge.

10. Keep a note of side boss locations

Sekiro mini bosses

After you defeat the Blazing Bull miniboss, the world will open up considerably, and you’ll have four or five paths to choose from, each ending in a powerful enemy. This is a tip simply to remind you to make a note of each of their locations so you don’t forget later. Some of them are optional, so if you forget to come back you won’t have a chance to grab their powerful loot.

11. Read every note and eavesdrop for hints

sekiro eavesdrop

Some of the best items in Sekiro, including new attachments for your shinobi prosthetic, require you to poke around off the main path. To avoid aimless wandering, look out for clues on your travels. You can eavesdrop on enemies for intel - the game will prompt you when a relevant conversation is available. Some will reveal the locations of new prosthetics, or tips about taking on the next boss.

You’ll also find notes littered around the world that hint at key locations. Read them thoroughly, because some of them are fairly cryptic, but they all contain leads worth following. The same goes for your own conversations with NPCs, who will often tell you where to look for key items. 

If you missed something vital in a conversation, you can replay it by returning to the character in question.

12. Don’t horde consumables, especially Mibu balloons

Sekiro Mibu balloons

If you’re exploring diligently you’ll soon have an inventory bursting with items. Don’t let these items go to waste, particularly the Mibu balloons, which can either help you find even more items or more money for a limited time. They do no good simply sitting in your inventory, so pop them whenever you get a chance, and you’ll soon find replacements.

The same goes for candies that enhance your combat abilities: if you feel like you’re having trouble with a fight, chow down.

13. Be more aggressive than feels comfortable

Sekiro attack

To kill tough enemies in Sekiro you need to apply constant pressure, parrying their attacks and making them block. That's difficult when you first start out because your natural reaction will be to dodge backwards—but instead, get into the habit of pushing forward. The more aggressive you are, the better you'll learn how to time your attacks and parries. It's a good habit to get into for when you face late-game bosses.

Freelance writer

Jordan Oloman has hundreds of bylines across outlets like GamesRadar+, PC Gamer, USA Today, The Guardian, The Verge, The Washington Post, and more. Jordan is an experienced freelance writer who can not only dive deep into the biggest video games out there but explore the way they intersect with culture too. Jordan can also be found working behind-the-scenes here at Future Plc, contributing to the organization and execution of the Future Games Show.