Pictured: somewhere the player is not intended to be.
Screenshot: LostFeather (YouTube)

Since Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice came out, speedrunners have been attacking the game at full force, ripping through the game’s early routes and finding ways to go fast in a game full of difficulty walls. Last week, speedrunner Danflesh managed to knock out the game’s shortest route in 50 minutes. Since then, the record for that run has jumped down to less than 40 minutes, with the current world record held by LostFeather. Watching the run develop has been pretty freaking cool.

Big time cuts like this are expected in the early life of a speedrun. The first several world records for any game are a continued experiment of routing, execution, and simply learning not to mess up. Is a skip viable, or are potential failed attempts going to waste more time than doing it the “long” way? Is this new discovery a great way to save time, or is it just a cool glitch? What new and exciting ways can players find to cheese bosses with limited resources? Is it worth reworking a route to get more items for time-consuming fights? All of these questions and more have come up this week as Sekiro speedrunners have taken their first cracks.

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As I describe the coolest speedruns and tactics that have emerged so far, I’ll be discussing the titles of the game’s endings (without further details about them), an early-game chase sequence, and names of bosses throughout the late mid-game.

The any% route is a race to complete the game’s earliest possible ending, the Shura ending. Since taking that route cuts out an entire section of the endgame, there’s also a run that goes through to the “standard” game ending, Immortal Severance. Since both of those runs allow runners to skip boss fights, there’s also another category, “All Memories,” which leads players through the longer route while requiring them to fight every boss that drops a “Memory,” which are items that increase attack power and essentially serve as a signal of a “real” boss, as opposed to a mid-boss. As players continue to discover skips and glitches, further categories could be developed as well.

The tactics developing here frequently upend the game’s mechanics. Being deliberate and stealthy makes players too slow, so runners have been sprinting straight through enemy encampments for a good portion of the game. There’s a pretty much constant presence of yellow arrows in their periphery for most of the runs. This tactic is most funny to watch at the beginning of the game, before you get your sword. I hadn’t realized this on my first run, but you actually can’t sprint until after you get it, so the route starts off with the player lightly jogging down the middle of an enemy encampment as hostile soldiers shoot, slice, and dice in their general direction. It still seems doable, but mistakes here make for some pretty hilarious moments, like what happened with runner Elajjaz in his first attempt here. Reset!

The snake sequence a little later on is also fun to watch. What’s meant to be a tense and deadly encounter with a then-unbeatable foe turns into a hectic sprint through a series of scripted moments, which the runner largely ignores. It’s amusing to hear the snake’s animations playing out even as the player fails to perform the actions that normally trigger them.

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Players have also discovered that they can completely sequence-break the snake later on by using a trick where they poison themselves and die near a tiny sliver of land where the snake is resting. This causes the snake to spawn in a later state where it can be killed, which allows players to skip a time-consuming run through a fort riddled with gunners and an annoying close-quarters boss fight that normally wouldn’t be skippable. Using this trick results in the game not correctly registering the snake as being dead, though. This leads to particularly entertaining moments in runs where players then go back to one of the snake’s previous spawn locations and find that it is alive and well.

Another big skip involves clipping through a section of the Temple Grounds, which cuts right to the Folding Screen Monkey boss. The Illusory Hall apparently loads directly under the Temple Grounds, and after popping a Gachin’s Sugar, which increases stealth, the player can clip and drops right down to the boss area. Then, they can quickly sprint around to take out the boss, skipping a whole section of the temple.

Runners have developed several new uses of platforming that I find impressive, if only because I am very bad at platforming in Sekiro. The game is largely not meant to be a precision platformer, so seeing players skip huge sections of the game by performing perfectly angled wall jumps is a sight to behold. One such wall jump skips the entire interior section of Ashina Castle, including a normally unskippable miniboss just before Genichiro. It can be seen at 16:40 of Elajjaz’s Immortal Severance run above.

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Then there’s the bull skip, which, like it says on the tin, allows you to entirely bypass the Blazing Bull miniboss by using some precision jumping and a route around the rooftops. The player clearly isn’t meant to be here, as the area doesn’t entirely load correctly when the player moves through it.

The boss strategies in these runs make the most notoriously difficult fights look like mild inconveniences. An early one for the Ogre fight requires the player to grab a Gachin’s Sugar, then pretty much roll right up to the ogre’s face, walk behind it, and still stealth deathblow it to save big on time.

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Then there are skips for both the fake and real versions of the Corrupted Monk. The former uses a mix of Snap Seeds and the Firecracker tool, which will stunlock the spectral foe. At that point, the player can just go to town using attack-buffing items.

The latter form of Corrupted Monk, who only appears in endgame runs, requires the player to use well-timed aerial deathblows to make quick work of the boss’s first two phases, drastically cutting the amount of time the fight can take.

Other boss strats being tested involve using techniques like Double Ichimonji to totally dominate the pace and deal huge Posture damage.

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Sekiro still has many other mysteries for speedrunners to discover and exploit. Players are continuing to test out-of-bounds swimming glitches, which are generally used in speedruns to quickly and easily traverse game areas that normally can’t be reached. It’s yet unclear how viable this tactic will end up being, or how its use could affect run categories. Speedrunners are still working out how to split up Sekiro speedrun categories with skips and glitches in mind. Either way, Sekiro speedrunners have bolted out of the gate with a strong showing, and the future can only be more promising.