No-hit runs in games—a kind of self-imposed challenge where you take zero damage from enemies—are nothing new, especially for tough-as-nails titles like Dark Souls. But Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Twitch streamer and YouTuber TheUrbanOrb has taken that feat to the extreme, and after more than three years of practice, defeated every opponent in FromSoftware’s ninja epic without taking a single hit. This includes hard foes like Gyoubu Oniwa and Isshin The Sword Saint, as well as mini-bosses such as the Blazing Bull and plenty of the game’s everyday shmucks. It’s really impressive and makes me hella jealous.
TheUrbanOrb is a Soulsborne YouTuber whose completed challenge runs include a level one Dark Souls run on New Game +7 with a ton of restrictions (like no pyromancy or ranged combat) and a similar level one Demon’s Souls run on NG+7 with the Pure Black World Tendency turned on (a mechanic that increases the number and difficulty of the enemies across the game’s world while offering even more rewards). Runs like these, and this latest no-damage Sekiro task, are something TheUrbanOrb does to challenge himself, pushing through punishing games with a bunch of prerequisites to see if he has the fortitude to finish. It’s educational watching someone with vast knowledge of FromSoft’s games abide by certain conditions while demonstrating exploits in these epic gauntlets.
First announcing his intent to tackle this challenge with a cinematic and emotive trailer in February 2020, TheUrbanOrb has since posted a five-part video series of him beating Sekiro without taking a single hit from a single enemy. (The entire run was also recorded on his Twitch channel.) Taking over three years and more than 4,000 hours of practice, he has finally slayed all of the game’s bosses, from Genichiro Ashina to the Great Shinobi Owl, and, yes, that even includes the notorious, stupid-ass Guardian Ape. That pains me. Not because he busted out any flashy moves or anything to kill the white-furred gorilla, but because he simply employed a slower, more methodical strategy than Sekiro teaches relatively early on. While I’m constantly getting my ass kicked by playing too aggressively, and never really minding my surroundings, TheUrbanOrb forced enemies to play at his pace, which gave him the advantage.
A slower game gives you time to think, to assess the situation, and make decisions based on enemy activity and positional awareness. TheUrbanOrb spent much of the first part of the video series, for example, in stealth, dodging enemies to get the drop on them without engaging in multi-person fights. For most normie combatants, stealth offered a one-hit kill. For all others with large health pools, stealth attacks typically eliminated one entire health bar, reducing the time he was locked in combat.
When forced to fight, the YouTuber played pretty reactively. He’d attack once and monitor the enemy’s movements before attempting another attack, or Goomba-stomped bosses to avoid damage while building up the posture meter for a killing blow. This hit-and-run strategy, making ample use of buffs such as the consumable Yashariku’s Sugar (that temporarily boosts attack power while cutting your life and posture bars in half), made up the bulk of The UrbanOrb’s playstyle for this run. That’s not to say it always worked out. TheUrbanOrb told Kotaku over email that some enemies forced him to not just restart the challenge run, but also rejigger his strategies to ensure 100 percent effectiveness 100 percent of the time.
“Some of the strats were specifically made with the pressure that I‘d expect at that part in mind,” TheUrbanOrb said. “For example, I found that sometimes I would be so nervous I couldn‘t do fine adjustments of the camera stick anymore, so I ended up changing the strat altogether to make it work without that fine adjustment.”
So I went through multiple such strat iterations and even went back to the drawing board for some bosses multiple times until I finally got them to a level that would make me feel confident fighting them in a high pressure situation. The most humiliating work was always when a “safe and consistent strat” turned out not to be, forcing me back yet again to the drawing board, which happened a lot in this run. Most notably, I changed my Sword Saint strat seven times in total until I arrived at what is finally the actually working 100 percent safe and consistent strat to me, using something that could be considered an AI exploit that had not been discovered yet. That final strat was nothing like anything that I had done two or three years ago.
The final strategy he used against Isshin The Sword Saint is actually pretty simple in execution. After realizing the multiple strategies revolving around “dodging his overhead slams and countering his follow-ups” didn’t work, because of the rocks scattered around the flowery and foggy arena, TheUrbanOrb found a weakness in the final boss’s AI. He used the combat skill Floating Passage—a five-hit combo attack TheUrbanOrb called “the most unpopular and weakest” move in the game—and positioned the boss around those annoying rocks.The exploit gave him space to “deal with Isshin consistently and safely,” he told Kotaku, as well as a protective barrier to evade damage. All without engaging in every Sekiro mechanic.
One thing that stood out to me when watching TheUrbanOrb’s series was the unconventional way in which he used Sekiro’s combat skills and game mechanics. He occasionally deflected enemy attacks, but chose to run away more often. He frequently toggled between locking on and off foes in battle. He opted for a slow-and-loose playstyle, rushing in to land a swipe or two, then dipping out before looking for another chance to strike. He pounced like a cat, which seemingly contradicts Sekiro’s more aggressive design. FromSoft wants you in your enemy’s face in this game, exploiting their missteps, throwing them off their balance, cutting them up. TheUrbanOrb played the opposite, slowly whittling down health bars in a bout of attrition, instead of an act of dominance. TheUrbanOrb said there’s a reason why he regularly avoided deflections and didn’t employ all the tools at his disposal.
“You get in some kind of trouble when you do [deflections],” TheUrbanOrb said. “Either the opponent has a moveset that requires a string of instant decisions under pressure, which I don’t like, or there’s a problem with the arena that leads to deflections not working properly (like for Sword Saint).” He mentioned that you get more invincibility frames while dodging if you’re not locked onto an enemy than if you are, at least when dodging sideways or diagonally, hence his tendency to toggle the lock-on feature while fighting foes. “However,” he said, “that comes at a cost: You have to control the camera somehow, and that can be tricky. That’s why I often switch between being locked-off and locked-on during the same fight, like with Owl.”
This is what I mean about speedrunning being educational. I knew that dodging gave you a certain number of invincibility frames (or i-frames, as speedrunners often call them) to protect you from an attack, but I didn’t know that dodging while locked-off increased the number of invincibility frames, making the dodge even more effective. Maybe now I can beat the brutal Guardian Ape, though I should probably put a lot more practice in before making that attempt. Got Elden Ring stuck in my wrists.
TheUrbanOrb put his time in and wound up better for it, saying that several bosses forced him to study for hours. He spent “between 350 and 400 hours” on Isshin alone, for example, tweaking his strategies and analyzing the boss closely to ensure this challenge run would go flawlessly. This refinement is something he’s done with a number of the game’s enemies, sometimes spending upwards of two weeks on a single boss to envision all the worst-case scenarios and prepare for when things didn’t go as planned.
“Many of the ‘safe and consistent’ strategies of two years ago would become completely obsolete later because back then, I couldn‘t possibly have known many of the things that I only learned after compounding many little details from all different aspects of the game,” he said. “That to me was the most rewarding thing in this run: Taking knowledge from one part of the run and attempting to apply it somewhere else, only to discover something new which, while unrelated to what I originally wanted to achieve, I could then try to apply elsewhere, which would then lead me to draw another connection and make another discovery and so on.”
It was this process of experimentation and discovery, he said, with one thing feeding into another into another, that enabled him to finally, painstakingly arrive at what he called “100% effectiveness. And I feel like this is an experience and a skillset that is very helpful to have when navigating challenging lives in troubling times.”
The thing that draws me to FromSoft games is not the punishing difficulty. I have yet to actually finish a Soulsborne game because of how hard they are. Nah, the lure of FromSoft games for me is the community and the love they all share for the developer’s work. There’s an appreciation and respect for what FromSoft does, and that adoration was the impetus for TheUrbanOrb’s run.
“I had a desire to communicate to FromSoftware that I appreciate their work and I deeply respect every person who works there,” TheUrbanOrb said. “I am grateful for the artistic vision they have brought to life in all the other games that came before Sekiro, and I cherish the community these games have brought about.”
FromSoft’s games also continue to be a metaphor for “learning how to deal with adversity,” as TheUrbanOrb put it. It’s another reason why he embarked on such a difficult task. He wanted to challenge himself, to see if he could memorize the methods he came up with and put them to the test under real pressure. These games are a kind of life lesson in tackling the challenges of everyday experiences, TheUrbanOrb told us, and something he likely won’t forget.
Now that his all-enemies no-hit run of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is completed, TheUrbanOrb can finally take a load off.
“As to what’s next for me, I am not sure,” he said. “I actually waited to play Elden Ring until I finished this challenge because I didn’t want to confuse my muscle memory and my memory of information that I needed for the Sekiro run. I’m really looking forward to finally experiencing it. As for other challenges or runs, I’m not sure there either. Honestly, the last three-and-a-half years took a toll on me, and I’ll have to make sure to recover from that first.”
Yeah, I imagine TheUrbanOrb would need a good, long break after this. I couldn’t fathom dedicating so much time to accomplishing such a feat, but as he said, one of the biggest motivators was the people who didn’t believe he could do it. He wanted to prove them wrong. I think we can safely say he’s done that.