Sekiro’s Genius Posture Mechanic

How does Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice’s Posture Mechanic work?

  • You can attack, deflect, and counter enemies to decrease their posture. The posture meter fills as you decrease their posture.
    • Deflecting is the key. You deflect when you Guard at the moment the enemy attacks. Sparks will show up based on how close you were to deflecting
  • When posture is empty, (the posture meter is full), you can deal a deathblow.

  • Posture regains while the enemy is inactive.

I was doing so badly here that the Ape’s posture refreshed completely ūüôĀ

  • Posture regains slower with less health (Vitality). So, as you deal more damage, the enemy’s posture breaks easier.

As vitality decreases, the posture bar changes color indicating it takes longer for posture to recover.  

Why is the posture mechanic so good?

It’s vital to support multiple player skill levels in any game. You don’t want the game to be too easy and slow for good players, while reasonable for lower-skilled players (which, in a From Software game, tends to be a pretty high floor).

The posture mechanic is great for multiple skill levels in a couple of ways:

  • It facilitates Fast-Flow: a way for high-skilled players to kill enemies they are good against quickly.
    • Bosses don’t need to be a health sponge for high-skilled players
    • This is essential in a game where dying against bosses is common. As you get more skilled at fighting the boss, the battle moves quicker because you can focus on breaking their posture rather than widdling them down
  • It is an example of challenge layering: players get to choose if they want to be fast by focusing on posture or slow and widdle down health.
    • High skilled players can focus purely on posture, never giving the enemy rest. Mid-skilled players can focus on health a little, so posture refresh slows down before posture killing. Low skilled players can resort to kiting the enemy away and widdling down health until it’s empty.

Beyond difficulty balancing, posture also encourages the most fun way to play the game: deflecting swords make you feel like a samurai and gives you amazing battles. You could argue that this is the essential experience the game was trying to create – have an awesome sword to sword combat as a samurai! Without posture, I would imagine players wouldn’t use deflection nearly as often and resort to strategies that aren’t as fun, such as hit-and-run tactics.

What could be better?

More Consistent Posture-Killable Bosses For Speed Runners – All this sounds great in theory, but not all bosses rely on these mechanics. Sometimes bosses can be beaten with glitches, cheesy strategies, or items that make bosses easier to kill (specifically divine confetti feels contrived and makes a breeze of certain mini-bosses which were considerably more difficult without it).

These defeat the purpose of the game. If it’s meant to be a difficult trial for people to overcome, cheesing a boss 1) doesn’t help the player learn, 2) feels like a hollow victory, and 3) lowers the bar for people successfully beating the game (which is something the market of this game cares about, since they want to feel like people must “get gud” to beat it, like they had to).

Use Positive Reinforcement –¬†The game often relies on punishment for doing badly, which isn’t great at teaching behavior over long periods of time and pushes people away from the game.¬†Instead (or in combination with), they could use positive reinforcement for teaching players to time attacks and deflection correctly.¬†

If the developers care about getting more people into the game, conditioning low-skilled players how to deflect properly using positive reinforcement (rewards that these players care about) would teach them that deflecting is how the game is meant to be played. People would get better faster.

How could they teach players? The reward could be extra experience or gold for deflecting, coupled with more juicy animations. Another idea to teach players could be to add even more challenge layering through early optional content. Perhaps a bonus for deflecting perfectly on an early boss? Or maybe a specific side quest early on to deflect 10 enemies perfectly?

Conclusion

Sekiro’s posture mechanic is awesome! It’s a great way to encourage players to play like a samurai and have fun. It rewards players who are great by allowing them to move fast while maintaining a challenge. There are ways to improve it, and I think we’ll see From Software expand on these mechanics to make the games (a little) more friendly for newbies while maintaining the notorious difficulty.

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