Combat in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice refers to the main means of advancement through Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Players can opt for Stealth to thin out enemies in areas, but eventually, they will run into situations that must be resolved by engaging in a fight.
In combat, Sekiro weilds a katana on the right hand for normal strikes and a prosthetic arm on the left that allows numerous Shinobi Tools.
Health & Posture
Players have a Vitality bar that indicates their total health pool. When the health bar depletes, the player dies. Players may then opt to Resurrect if they have a Resurrection charge; a player that chooses not to, or can't, suffers True Death and must restart from the last Sculptor's Idol they rested at.
Posture is a special mechanic somewhat similar to Poise and Stamina from the Dark Souls franchise. Represented by its own bar on the middle of the UI, the posture gauge will fill up as the protagonist is attacked, and if it is fully filled the player will be open to deadly attacks by enemies. Enemies also have posture meters, and overwhelming their posture enables the player to perform a Deathblow on them.
Perilous Attacks are special abilities that cannot be guarded, and a red Kanji meaning "Danger" flashes over Sekiro's head to indicate when an enemy is performing them. To defend against them, Sekiro must use a defensive technique specific to the type of Perilous attack. There are four types of Perilous Attacks: Thrust, Sweep, Grab, and Lightning.
- Sweep Attack - Cannot be Guarded or Deflected. Sekiro can Jump or Step Dodge to avoid damage, and jumping off an enemies head while they are sweeping deals significant Posture damage.
- Thrust Attack - Cannot be Guarded. Sekiro can Deflect the attack, or better yet use Mikiri Counter for even more Posture damage
- Grab Attack - Grab attacks cannot be Guarded or Deflected; a well-timed Step Dodge or Jump can avoid them.
- Lightning Attack - Lightning cannot be defended against except through a technique known as Lightning Reversal: jump, get struck by the lightning, and while airborne, press the attack button to redirect the lightning back to your opponent before you reach the ground.
Guarding is an important combat mechanic in the game; it nullifies incoming damage of basic attacks to Sekiro's Vitality. However, damage from any basic attack that is imbued with special properties will not be nullified completely. It is important to note that Guarding does not entirely nullify Posture Damage that is inflicted but somehow reduces it somewhat. Listed below is the percentage of how much Vitality damage is reduced versus certain attacks.
- Physical Attacks - 100%
- Piercing Attacks - 50%
- Thrust Attacks - 0%
- Spirit-Based Attacks - 25%
- Fire-Based Attacks - 33%
Poise is hidden value in Sekiro for bigger enemies (Ape, Ogre ,Hatred Demon, Taros) that allows to not get stunned when taking a single attack. Once this invisible value has been depleted, the enemy will get interrupted for a few seconds, allowing you to attack them dealing some free extra damage.
Deflection is important mechanic in Sekiro. If you time your Guard and use it within a half second before the enemy attacks lands, Sekiro will deflect the attack with his katana, inflicting Posture damage on the enemy and opening enemy for a counter attack. It is not advisable to repeatedly tap the guard button in hope for a successful deflect because this reduces the window of time you have.
Death & Resurrection
When players die, they have an option to resurrect on the spot they were defeated. This ability is available for free once every time Sekiro rests at a Sculptor's Idol, and additional charges are powered by defeating enemies in combat or by using certain rare Quick Items.
Skills and Skill Trees are the special moves and passive abilities available to Sekiro as he progresses through the game. These abilities can be enhanced in their efficiency and frequency. Players can obtain such upgrades by defeating Bosses or by purchasing them with Skill Points, acquired by earning EXP from defeated enemies.
Combat Arts are special moves that the player must equip through in their inventory. Once equipped, they can be activated by pressing the Attack and Guard buttons simultaneously. These moves are generally powerful and each one offers different utility in combat. Some Combat Arts cost Spirit Emblems to use.
Prosthetic Arm & Shinobi Tools
The player's left arm has been replaced by a Prosthetic Arm that can be fitted with Shinobi Tools found in the world which can aid Sekiro in combat. The player can equip multiple tools at the same time, swapping to them on the fly. Please see Prosthetic Tool Upgrades for information on more powerful tools that become available through progression. Shinobi tools include (but are not limited to):
- Grappling Hook: Available from the start; allows you to traverse the maps vertically.
- Loaded Shuriken: Projectiles to attack enemies
- Loaded Axe: Useful for breaking the defenses of enemies
- Loaded Umbrella: A defensive "shield" to guard against some incoming attacks.
- Shinobi Firecrackers: Projectiles that startle animals and blind enemies.
- Loaded Spear: An extendable spear that can pierce through enemy guards and tear off armor.