Somehow you've managed to get this far. You run in, you die. You run in, you die. You haven't taken off a health bar yet and there are three of them. Whether you're a Souls vet or a newcomer, your stubbornness to power through the game has got you here and suddenly the debate on whether Sekiro should have an easy mode comes to the forefront of your mind.
Below is a short guide detailing the Demon of Hatred's moveset and the strategies to consider in order to take down his health bars consistently. The fight is long and you might die in minutes if not seconds making it hard to properly learn his moveset and ways to counter his attacks, therefore it is important to become acquainted with not only what attacks the Demon of Hatred has but when he may perform such attacks.
I will briefly touch upon the aggression strategy which mainly relies on closing the distance as quickly as possible and using Suzaku's Loaded Umbrella to counter the Demon of Hatred's fire attacks. While this is a viable strategy, it is inconsistent and can rely on fast reflexes and RNG in that you may run out of Spirit Emblems halfway through the fight. My main goal with this guide is to help you get through the fight consistently with a proper understanding of Demon of Hatred's moveset.
The most important thing to understand about the Demon of Hatred is spacing. There are attacks the Demon of Hatred will only perform when you are close and attacks he will only perform when you are far. With this in mind, the majority of the Demon of Hatred's ranged attacks have a limited range and if there is distance between you the key strategy is to stay out of this range, wait for his attack, and then safely close the distance while he recovers. If you try to close the gap too early, you may be punished.
Furthermore it is important to understand that a number of the Demon of Hatred's attacks will naturally create space, either through his own movements or causing you to move away. As you practice fighting him, you will learn which moves or rather how much space is small enough for you to close the gap before his next attack, thus resulting in a close-quarter attack for you to counter, or how much space is too large that you should maintain your distance and wait for a ranged attack before closing the gap.
Once you understand the spacing, you will be able to anticipate what type of attack to expect, react accordingly and consistenly be able to deal damage while avoiding damage yourself. Furthermore, with correct spacing, you will be able to disengage and reengage safely in order to heal, etc.
When you are in range and able to deal damage, you should aim to attack the Demon of Hatred's right leg. Circling left keeps you out of harm from the front where he might headbutt you and from his fiery arm, his main source of attacks. Furthermore, it makes dodging behind him considerably easier.
When you are attacking, be conscious of your inputs – do not button mash. It is possible to cancel an attack animation (up to a certain frame – thank you lokhe) immediately into a block or deflection. However, if you are mashing R1/RB, due to input queue, you will not cancel your attack animation.
For Prosthetic Tools, the best tool to have is Malcontent, which is the final upgrade of the Finger Whistle. The second best tool to equip is Suzaku's Loaded Umbrella. I personally only equipped these two tools and started each fight with the Umbrella to use in a pinch and switched to the Finger Whistle for the final phase. Malcontent will stun the Demon of Hatred for a brief period allowing you to deal a decent amount of damage and may even chain into a second stun for sustained damage dealt. You want to save Malcontent for the third phase of the fight as the Demon of Hatred can only be stunned by it three times.
While Ako's Sugar or Spiritfall and Yashariku's Sugar or Spiritfall may increase your damage output, I did not bother with applying these as the fight is long and sugars only last thirty seconds while spiritfalls only last fifteen seconds (although both last longer with the Devotion skill).
Divine Confetti will also increase your damage against the Demon of Hatred, and there is time between phases to reapply the buff although it is not necessary.
I only equipped my Healing Gourd, Pellets and Withered Red Gourd on my item bar. Rice/Snow, Dousing Powder, etc. I simply accessed from the pause menu when it was safe to do so.
If you do want to equip a skill for larger openings, I would suggest one that doesn't cost Spirit Emblems and doesn't have a long animation.
Single Foot Slam – The Demon of Hatred will lift and then slam his right foot into the ground. As you ought to be attacking his right leg, this will be a common attack. While it is possible to dodge this attack, it does have very good tracking and you have very few i-frames thus I would recommend either deflecting the attack or simply blocking. While blocking will lock you into a brief recovery animation, meaning you may not be able to counter as quickly, it is the safest method of dealing with this attack.
Double Foot Slam – If you are on his left, the Demon of Hatred will lift and then slam, first his left foot and then his right foot. Blocking the first attack should push you back far enough to safely avoid the second attack. Dodging is not recommended as if you dodge away, he can still reach you and if you dodge into or behind him, he may catch you with his right foot.
Right Arm Swipe – The Demon of Hatred's right arm will rarely come into play and is easily blocked. Furthermore, the Demon of Hatred may end certain attacks with a thrust of his right arm, however usually there is enough distance between him and the player that this should not be a problem and can be blocked if it is. The Demon of Hatred may follow up a right arm attack with a headbutt, but as you should be constantly circling left this should not be a problem.
Headbutt – If you are in front of the Demon of Hatred, he may slam his head into the ground. This attack may occur when you are closing distance either on foot or if you grapple late after an attack in which time he has recovered and may perform the headbutt as a follow up. As you ought to be aiming for his right leg and closing the gap will involve sprinting, you will often find that this attack is avoided by running in from the side or directly underneath him before the attack hits. However a quick block or deflection will keep you safe if you do find yourself in front of him.
Combo – The Demon of Hatred has a combo attack that is often preceded by a short backstep or hop away from the player. In this case, if we were to consider our strategy – the Demon of Hatred has created distance but not enough distance to initiate a ranged attack. With this in mind, the player should see the space, realise there is enough time to close the gap and sprint towards the Demon of Hatred.
However, if during the closing of this space, the player sees the Demon of Hatred's left arm suddenly burst with fire, you know that he is about to initiate his combo. The Demon of Hatred's combo consists of two swipes, a stomp and a swipe. The first swipe will come from left to right, the second from right to left, stomp with his right foot and then swipe from left to right again. To counter this, you can deflect his first swipe and then sprint around him. If you manage to get behind him, you can safely deal damage while he finishes his combo and recovers for his next attack.
Body Slam (Perilous Attack) – Before the Demon of Hatred jumps in the air, his body will light up in flames. Even if you do not notice this, you should have enough time from the moment he jumps to sprint away. The Demon of Hatred's body slam is in an area of effect attack, which is why you must first run away. After the flames, a non-damaging shockwave clearing the flames will send the player flying back. However, as soon as the Demon of Hatred lands it is possible to grapple on to him, lifting the player over the shockwave and closing the gap to deal damage. Unless you can consistently time the grapple before the shockwave, an effective strategy to avoid the shockwave is once you are clear of the flames, jump as soon as the Demon of Hatred lands and then attempt to grapple.
If you fail to grapple, create more distance for yourself, thus forcing the Demon of Hatred to initiate a ranged attack. When you have safely avoided the ranged attack, close the gap by sprinting in. If you create too much distance, the Demon of Hatred may run towards you. Allow him to do so, he is simply getting in range for a ranged attack and there is plenty of time between recovering from his run animation to winding up his attack animation to again move out of range, safely avoid the attack and then close the gap.
Charge (Perilous Attack) – During the first two phases, when you see the Kanji symbol, there is only one attack the Demon of Hatred will perform – his charge. This is actually a sweep of his right arm and if you are attacking his right leg, then simply jumping is enough to avoid the sweep. If you do want to use a directional input aim to jump back and left.
The Demon of Hatred's charge is the primary way that distance will be created between you. As mentioned previously, once this space has been created, it is important to be aware that you must now be prepared for ranged attacks. Allow him to perform a ranged attack, stay out of range, and then close the gap when it is safe to do so. Again, if he runs towards you, allow him to do so in order to initiate the ranged attack.
Phase Three Only – During phase three, the Demon of Hatred is very likely to follow up the first charge attack with a second charge, this time with his left arm. As long as you expect it, it is very easily avoided, simply by jumping up and away from him.
Ring of Fire (Perilous Attack) – Phase Three Only –Between phase one and two, the player cannot damage the Demon of Hatred and he will send out a blast, so it is best to keep your distance to heal and rebuff. While the player may damage the Demon of Hatred between the second and third phase, I'd recommend running as far away as possible. The Demon of Hatred initiates the third phase with an unblockable attack that will create a fire-walled arena. If you run out of range before this attack, the Demon of Hatred will come to you and you will not be locked into a small space in which to fight him. Again, use the same strategy of initiating a ranged attack before closing the gap.
The Demon of Hatred may attempt to do this attack multiple times during phase three, and it will always be preceded by a Kanji symbol. If you do not have time to get out of range, the attack can be dodged by jumping over the first swing, staying grounded for the second and moving behind the Demon of Hatred for the third.
Furthermore, if you are caught in the arena with the Demon of Hatred, this is the perfect time to use Malcontent as it will give you time to attack him freely without having to worry about the small space while you wait for the flames to wear off.
Manus Hand Slam – The first of the ranged attacks is the hand slam. This is easily telegraphed with the Demon of Hatred holding his hand high in the air before bringing it down and is easily avoided. This attack may be preceded by two short swipes. Unless you are attempting to get the Demon of Hatred to come within range to initiate a ranged attack, you should always be sprinting, whether it's to anticipate a ranged attack and move out of range or to close the gap. Keeping on the move means this attack will rarely hit you as you easily have enough time to run out of range and then close the gap in the recovery animation to deal damage and initiate close-quarter attacks. Furthermore, if you are within range, this attack is easily dodged or sidestepped.
AOE Hand Slam – Phases Two & Three Only – Similar to the hand slam, but with a much more obvious telegraph, the Demon of Hatred will twist his entire body to your left before slamming his hand to the ground. This will create a fairly wide area of effect in a line in front of him. The area of effect has a very long range, but due to the obvious telegraph, the player can easily anticipate the attack, jump to the side as the attack lands and grapple to immediately close the gap and initiate close-quarter attacks.
Be aware that if you are too far away, by the time you reach him with the grapple, the Demon of Hatred may perform a headbutt. Reposition upon landing before attacking if this is the case, otherwise remember to delay your grapple aerial attack until you are just in front of the Demon of Hatred.
Homing Fireballs – The Demon of Hatred will raise his hands in the air and summon homing fireballs. This is one of the attacks that you cannot move out of range of. However, they are easy to avoid by simply running to the left or right. As Sekiro does not have a stamina bar, you do not need to worry and you can even arc your run to close the gap so that by the time you've dodged the final fireball, you can immediately attack the Demon of Hatred.
Fire Toss – This attack is the main culprit and may be the reason so many recommend staying as close to the Demon of Hatred as much as possible. The Demon of Hatred will toss an arc of fire directly in front of him. Furthermore, he can follow up the first attack with a second arc. It is for this reason, my strategy is all about reading the ranged attack before closing the gap.
While it is possible to block this attack with Suzaku's Loaded Umbrella, I find the safest method is to stay out of range, avoid the attack completely, do not close the gap until you see his arm stop burning at which point it is safe to close the gap without expecting a follow up or wait for a different ranged attack to close the gap. If you are within range, you can outrun this attack to the side or run underneath the first attack, although if you have not closed the gap after the first attack, you are likely to be hit by the follow up. This method is very risky.
Jump Attacks – There is a jumping and a lunging attack that the Demon of Hatred may perform at mid range, but I do not feel they are worth going into detail as they are very slow and the player should be constantly moving, either creating space or closing the gap and will likely never be hit by either of them.
This fight is a long fight. It is more akin to a traditional Souls boss than a Sekiro boss in that you are unlikely to fill the Demon of Hatred's posture meter before whittling his health bar to zero. In that regard, my strategy is all about avoiding unnecessary damage in order to survive the length of the fight. To reiterate – know where you are in relation to the Demon of Hatred, know the best moments to maintain distance or to close the gap. Once you have closed the gap, be reactive. Respond to an attack before creating an opening for yourself.
Lastly, the most important lesson of a Fromsoft game is to know when to take a break. If you are getting frustrated, play something else or put the controller down. Let yourself relax and come back into the fight refreshed and ready. You will succeed.
Thank you for reading this. If I've made any mistakes or you have any other tips to add, please let me know. This is not the only strategy, but it is a consistent one. I hope this helps someone.