Imagine playing Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, FromSoft’s seminal 2019 action game, without anything but audio and your own memory to guide you. Facing all those bosses, engaging in those tough fights, and exploring the various danger-filled caverns and fortresses with nothing but faith that the game will not act in an aberrant fashion to completely throw you off. Now imagine doing all that live for an audience of over 100,000 people who are donating based on how impressively you play without being able to see a single thing.
“Before I get started, I can do a little demonstration just so you guys can see this is a real blindfold,” addressed Mitchriz before beginning his Awesome Games Done Quick speedrun of Sekiro. The bi-annual charity speedrun event put the runner and his run on the schedule late last year, prompting many skeptical questions over how on earth it could be accomplished as it seemed to bely belief. There have been blindfolded runs at GDQ events before, but never anything as mechanically complicated as a 3D action game with a reputation for being tough as nails.
As the run started, Mitchriz pointed out that no light could pass through the blindfold, stating it’s “pretty darn opaque” and quelling the baffled yet excited skeptics in the Twitch chat.
The run, which you can watch below, was astounding. He not only speedran through the game in about two hours, but he also did so completely without any visual feedback whatsoever. Mitchriz relied heavily on grapple points and fast travel points to orient himself correctly, as they placed him facing a consistent direction each time. His couch commentator Lilaggy, one of the only other people in the world to also pull off this same Sekiro feat, kept talking and explaining how Mitchriz was doing all this despite he himself being diagnosed with COVID just days before the remote event.
This two-hour run was the culmination of hundreds of hours of work for Mitchriz, who has been pathing this out for years alongside Lilaggy. As someone who had already been speedrunning Sekiro, Mitchriz figured, why not just try it blindfolded?
“I knew I could do it blindfolded,” he explains to Fanbyte, “or at least do all the bosses blindfolded. Someone was going to do it eventually, so I wanted to give it a shot.” Mitchriz had never done any games blindfolded before, but all the talk about it being possible with Sekiro pushed him to make the attempt. While the game is notoriously difficult, its mechanics actually lend themselves fairly well to a blindfolded run.
“It’s not like Dark Souls where there’s the stamina and the rolling and it’s hard to navigate,” he says. “Sekiro is very consistent. Everyone had the feeling that it could be done. I wanted to be the first person to do it.”
To understand how a blindfolded speedrun for a game like Sekiro works, you have to understand how Mitchriz thinks when he’s playing it. There are two key fundamental pillars on which the run rests: 1) Learn everything until it’s deep in your muscle memory and 2) Realize it will eventually fall apart and you will have to react.
“Exploring is just a set of movements that I’ve memorized — a set number of dashes, a set ‘turn this way,’ a set slash this direction,” he states as he gestures left and right. “I try not to count to a certain number, but that can work if you get yourself stuck.”
Bosses, however, can vary. Mitchriz explains that Gyobu, the horse-riding samurai who fights protagonist Wolf on a large battlefield, has a perfect formula where Mitchriz attacks him a specific number of times. Then, Gyobu reacts in a way that allows him to dodge perfectly and continue chaining attacks, much like his fight with the Chain Ogre. It doesn’t always work out that way, though.
“As soon as that perfect fight goes wrong, like I lose the lock-on, he runs away instead of attacking me, he does whatever else, it pretty much becomes that I now have to fight him the same way as sighted,” he acknowledges. “I know how to fight him sighted, which means I don’t need to really see him to do it. I can hear him. I know that sound means he’s running away,” Mitchriz says while pointing to his ear, “that grunt means he’s about to do an overhead slam. I have a plan, but that improvisation is just a part of speedrunning.”
One boss Mitchriz simply took apart piece-by-piece during his speedrun was Genichiro, Sekiro’s hard midgame skill check that can take most players several hours of memorizing patterns to figure out. In his run, Mitchriz pinned him against a wall and just slashed him until he died, leaving me and other players who struggled with our jaws on the floor.
“Honestly, if he had broken out of it, I just would have restarted,” Mitchriz admits. “In theory, I could do that fight normally, it’s just not part of my plan.”
The current pathing for a Sekiro blindfolded run ends at the game’s bad ending, siding with one character over your sworn protectee. There is demand for a run that takes the game all the way to the ultimate final boss, Sword Saint Isshin. However, Mitchriz isn’t sure about that yet due to one major stumbling block involving a very big, very angry fish.
“There’s a part in Fountainhead where you have to swim past a giant carp and it’s just awful,” he explains. “There’s now three dimensions of movement and no grapple points you can orient yourself with. Getting a correct camera angle is a lot harder.”
“Maybe someday,” he adds with a pause. “It’s just currently an absolute nightmare.”
One might think that Mitchriz has to be a Sekiro savant to have progressed this far, but when he first played the game casually, he found it to be incomparably difficult. The difficulty he faced on a first playthrough, and the beatdowns he received from every boss, including Genichiro, were what motivated him to start speedrunning the game.
“I don’t think there was a single boss that I didn’t struggle with casually,” he says, “but I think that’s what made it so fun. I enjoy being challenged, so once I got good enough to beat the boss, and then got good enough to beat the boss consistently, and then beat the boss faster, well, where do you go from there?”
Blindfolded, apparently, is the answer.
As for future challenges, Mitchriz is looking forward to taking Elden Ring for a spin when it releases in February. The pathing of an open-world game means blindfolded runs might be a bridge too far, but he is eager to play it, speedrun it, and figure out where to proceed from there.
For those who are interested in breaking apart Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and following a similar path, Mitchriz encourages joining their speedrunning Discord. He talks up the catharsis of getting better and better at a boss until you’re just speeding past them as one of the major motivations for giving it a shot.
“But do it with your eyes first,” he warns.