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The Headless in Sekiro is the only boss that legimitately terrifies me

I fear no boss, but that thing...

The player faces off against the Headless boss in a misty cave in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/From Software

Headless enemies aren't exactly a new concept in games, so I'm not sure why the Headless in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice instills such dread in me. It's so terrifying to face that I almost didn't write this post, because I knew I'd have to drop into its heinous lair in order to take the screenshot you see above.

But I'm a brave boy, so I dropped in, and of course died almost instantly. Sekiro is still one of the toughest soulslikes around, absolutely filled with extremely dangerous bosses and twisted body-horror monstrosities that can carve you up with just a couple of hits, sending you back to the last checkpoint bereft of all your XP. But the Headless scares me so much, I actively avoid facing it until I have absolutely no choice.

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That was probably FromSoftware's intention, to be fair. The first time you meet a Headless is actually very early on in the game, and it's part of FromSoft's familiar "look, it's a boss that's way too tough for you, we've included it early to show you that it's okay to come back later when you're more powerful" technique. But the thing is, I've beaten Sekiro several times in the past few years. I know what I have to do to beat the Headless. But I still need to take a few deep breaths before I face it.

Why is it so awful to face? It's not the boss's appearance - loathsome though it be, all pasty and plump and cranially challenged. It's probably more to do with the fact that the stakes are higher for the Headless fight than almost any fight in any soulslike I've ever had. See, the Headless does three really shitty things to you. First: it puffs all this murky mist around itself which prevents you from dodging. Second: it's practically impervious to your attacks. And third: every time it attacks you, it inflicts Terror. Once your Terror bar fills all the way, you die instantly.

It's a nearly impossible fight without the right items. You need to consume Pacifying Agent to reduce Terror build-up to even give you a chance at withstanding the Headless's attacks, and you also need an even rarer item: Divine Confetti, a consumable that allows your sword to make proper contact with the Headless's ethereal form. With these two items consumed, the fight becomes doable. But here's the rub: the Headless can still easily kill you. And if you die, you don't get back those items you consumed. And until you reach a certain point much later in the game, Pacifying Agent and particularly Divine Confetti are really hard to come by. So every death to the Headless is made so much more painful by the loss of these valuable, necessary items.

I think that's probably why the prospect of fighting a Headless (and yes, there are several dotted about the world of Sekiro) is so daunting. I genuinely feel a chill down my spine to this day whenever I have to drop down into a Headless's caliginous, cramped little lair and face the creature head-on. Maybe that's why I chose, subconsciously, to play Sekiro again as Halloween drew near.

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