A long time ago, someone gave me a piece of advice that’s remained true even today. The way people play video games is often an expression of their personality. Arrogant, brash types tend to be more aggressive, take more risks. Shy and retiring types tend to hold back a little more, often filling the support-type role.
As for me? I tend to be overly reckless. Which isn’t great when you fire up a game like Sekiro.
Sekiro is an infinitely more aggressive game than Dark Souls and Bloodborne, so in a lot of ways Sekiro is much more up my alley. I’m the kind of gamer who enjoys butting their head against a wall, particularly a multiplayer challenge. Nothing teaches you to be humble more than trying to play Starcraft 2 on the Korean server.
But everyone has a limit. And after dying for the fifteeneth or twentieth time grinding against the Chained Ogre, my patience eventually ran out. I was getting marginally better at the inputs, but then I’d cock up one or dodge back into a space with a little less room than I needed, and I’d be totally fucked.
One time, a fight finished in three seconds flat because I mishit the dodge, rolled forward, got grabbed and ended up being thrown off a cliff.
“Fuck this game,” I thought. So I did the gamers special – ALT+F4 – and went to the kitchen to think over things for a while.
Eventually, I came to appreciate that I didn’t have all the tools I needed. Like most people who aren’t diehard Souls veterans, I ran into the Chained Ogre and continued butting my head against that because, well, I hadn’t seen anything else.
But a quick bit of backtracking found an old lady with a bell, which eventually lead me to the Hirata Estate. It was there I was in a much more comfortable position for headbutting – lots of random low-level mobs and dogs to grind against, helping me recover the endless amounts of XP and coins I’d lost like an idiot.
At least until I hit the shinobi hunter, or as I like to call him, “That arsehole with a stick.”
After losing at least five skill points through a mix of stubbornness, bad dodges and accidentally aggroing Enshin without meaning to, I figured I’d at least go back to the devil I knew. The approach I had wasn’t working, and I didn’t feel like I was learning anything either. I seemed to do fine whenever I practiced against Hanbei the Undying, Sekiro‘s excellent tutorial dummy.
But at least against the Unchained Ogre, I could reliably knock off at least one of the health bars. A lot of his more deadly attacks are fairly well telegraphed. I knew I could reliably do damage against it. And as an added bonus, I finally had the weapon I was supposed to have: the flame that lets you deal with “red eyes” characters a lot better.
The scars of my previous losses were still healing over, however. And Arsehole With A Stick had beaten me well and truly into submission. I wasn’t a reckless fighter anymore: I was just a straight up coward.
So how does one cowardly fight their way through a mini-boss?
One fight against the Unchained Ogre went haywire because the nearby spear grunt wandered into the fight halfway through. Wanting to avoid a repeat of that situation, I charged past the ogre and straight towards the spearman, hoping to eliminate that from the fight.
I also figured it would at least give me some space to continually retreat from. I’d tried the tactic of retreating down the stairs, but I’d gotten caught on the sides and been thrown off before, so I figured at least this way I was further away from the cliff face.
And then, I wondered, there was the edge itself.
How well do mini-bosses deal with being on the precipice? As it turns out, not well at all.
Traditionally, you can only grapple to the Unchained Ogre after dodging an unblockable attack. But on the cliff face, Sekiro decided I could grapple to the Ogre as much as I wanted. And having ground my way to unlock the post-grapple attack in the Hirata Estate, that meant I could beat the Ogre with some truly disgusting play.
Instead of dodging backwards and coming in for some quick slashes after the Ogre missed an attack, I simply jumped off the cliff. On the way down, the game would let me grapple back to the Ogre – regardless of what state the Ogre was in. After a couple of slashes, I could just fall of the cliff again, avoid anything the Ogre did, and grapple back for some more attacks.
It’s a truly shameful away to approach a boss fight. I can’t imagine actual shinobi would be thrilled at the level of cowardice. You face your opponents straight up, not by diving off a cliff to avoid their attacks.
But you know what? Fuck Sekiro. The game is deliberately hard, and delights in punishing its players as much as possible. So if there’s a way for me to get my own back, at least until I become sharper with my deflections and dodges, then that’s how I’m going to proceed. That’s the end goal at the end of the day – finding a legitimate way (even if it is a deplorable one) to proceed, rather than simply hitting a wall until frustration forces me to quit.
Games are meant to be fun, even the challenging ones. And if that means discarding a bit of shinobi pride? The Ogre and Arsehole With A Stick can eat it. Now I just have to find a way to cheaply deal with that fly-kicking Purple Ninja. I wonder if can he fall down the nearby cliff…