I need an item called Divine Confetti to be able to damage certain spirit-type bosses, which is a rare drop from Blue Samurai, and there is a checkpoint right in front of one, positioned in a spot where it’s easy to get a one-hit-kill sneak attack on him. A few feet past that is a different enemy, equally easy to sneak, who gives something like 600 XP and change. It is an extremely easy loop to start at the bonfire, sneak kill both enemies, return, rest, and repeat, netting a decent chunk of XP, some useful healing items, and if you’re lucky, some of that Divine Confetti. This is the nature of videogame grinding. It is the type of loop that I have found myself in for something around 30 years when I first played Dragon Warrior, and you can interpret it to be as meditative as you’d like.
We are playing Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice–an increasingly inaccurate title considering the hundreds of deaths I’ve certainly racked up by now, and like every other Sekoulsbourne game, it’s about being trapped in a cycle: The meaningless of a cyclical existence compounded by the meaninglessness of an end to that cycle in Dark Souls; the horror of a cycle that’s stagnated due to needs incapable of being met in Bloodbourne; and Sekiro’s weary notion of the bleakness of Buddhism’s cycle of death and reincarnation. Over the course of Sekiro, many characters pray to Buddha for guidance to escape the cycles that they are trapped in, but unfortunately for the Blue Samurai and his friend, I’m going to be grinding until I’ve reached my goal. Having gained enough Divine Confetti, I beat the bosses I need to, which give me certain trinkets that I knew I was going to get going in, and that I knew would not be particularly useful to me, but which might give me a Cheevo.
When you die, you lose half of your gold and XP, but there’s a chance that Buddha and the heavens will smile upon you and you’ll receive Unseen Aid–you’ll get to keep them. My boyfriend and I have developed a habit of saying “Thank you, Buddha” every time it happens. We have found ourselves in a point of the game where Unseen Aid isn’t terribly helpful–we usually wait until we’ve gained enough XP and gold to spend it all with very little change and so we’re not risking much. We have found a very efficient and risk-free way to grind, so as to maximize what we gain, although we certainly appreciate Buddha’s regard.
Life, according to the Noble Truths taught by Buddha, is suffering, and the cause of that suffering is attachment, desire. Only by ceasing our desire can we escape suffering, and the Eightfold Path outlines the way to do that. Mat does some research on drop percentages and helps me find another area where I can grind: Three easy to slaughter enemies and a fourth that isn’t worth the trouble–it’s more efficient to forgo his XP and reset it. We spend some time at this, the fourth guy in a loop of watching his friends cut down before him until I gain enough to get a skill point.
I pick a skill called Virtuous Deed, which increase item drop rate. Its description talks about the monks of Senpou Temple who preached that “One should focus only on the deeds of virtue and forego thoughts of attaining wealth,” but have now been corrupted by the promises of immortality. I find another spot to grind, this right in front of an enemy called a Mist Noble whose attacks suck the vitality of young men, causing your health to drop to maybe a tenth of its normal value while you hobble around using your sword as a cane. He does not steal my life force; he does not avoid death; I deliver it to him and we trap each other in a cycle for a while. I’m not grinding for levels, or money, but for an upgrade item which allows me to purchase stronger prosthetic tools. This morning, I scoffed at an article in Vice which complained about how the use of these tools was resource-limited, because I haven’t found the limit to be remotely a problem. I actually don’t really use the prosthetic tools very much at all. They don’t really fit with my playstyle.