Great moments in PC gaming: When Sekiro's sword combat clicks

(Image credit: From Software)

Great moments in PC gaming are bite-sized celebrations of some of our favorite gaming memories.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

A shinobi with sword and wrist-mounted flame vent

(Image credit: Activision)

Year: 2019
Developer: FromSoftware

In every one of the Dark Souls games—including offshoots like Bloodborne—I'd either hidden behind a big shield or got extremely good at mashing the dodge button. In Sekiro, From Software's action RPG where you play as a one-armed shinobi, that's absolutely not how you should approach combat. The moment that clicked for me was one of the most powerful epiphanies I've had while gaming.

Sekiro walks and talks like Dark Souls, but it's really a rhythm game in disguise. Instead of dodging or blocking attacks with a shield, your best defensive option is to parry them by pressing the button precisely when an enemy is about to hit you. Not only can this create openings to do absurd damage, it also reduces the enemy's posture which, when depleted, lets you kill them in a single blow.

None of this is really communicated to you at the start, however. Explanations are there, but I was so brainwashed by Dark Souls that I defaulted to playing Sekiro the same way. Instead of standing my ground and parrying attacks, I was constantly backpedaling and trying to keep my distance. For the first 12 hours, something felt off about Sekiro and I wondered if the game was just not that good.

But then it clicked. I was fighting a miniboss with a big spear for what was probably my 24th attempt and growing extremely frustrated at how quickly he was skewering me. Nothing seemed to work, but then a tooltip in the loading screen randomly mentioned how the shinobi win by overwhelming their enemies with vicious attacks. OK, I thought, this time I'm going to go on the offensive as hard as I can. 20 seconds later, that miniboss was dead and I finally realized I'd been playing Sekiro wrong this entire time.

A shinobi with a sword

(Image credit: From Software)

Instead of hanging back and being patient, Sekiro encourages the opposite: Rush your enemy, strike first, and parry their attacks to create more openings. Using that strategy I was able to immediately go back to two separate bosses that felt impossible a few minutes earlier and beat them both on my first try. The high of those victories was intoxicating.

That moment it all clicked was powerful, and the way it led me on a murder-spree of all the bosses that previously thwarted my attempts to beat Sekiro was empowering.

Steven Messner

With over 7 years of experience with in-depth feature reporting, Steven's mission is to chronicle the fascinating ways that games intersect our lives. Whether it's colossal in-game wars in an MMO, or long-haul truckers who turn to games to protect them from the loneliness of the open road, Steven tries to unearth PC gaming's greatest untold stories. His love of PC gaming started extremely early. Without money to spend, he spent an entire day watching the progress bar on a 25mb download of the Heroes of Might and Magic 2 demo that he then played for at least a hundred hours. It was a good demo.