Nioh is one of the most dynamically layered and complex games I've ever played, and that's ultimately what makes it so amazing--but also quite confusing and perplexing to new players. In the following guide I'll arm you with the tips and tricks you need to slay foes and start your path towards a legendary supernatural samurai warrior.
Team Ninja's newest haunting samurai Souls game Nioh is absolutely a difficult game, but it's not unfair. It's a mashup of so many different genres--there's a helping of Dark Souls mixed with Tekken-like layered button combinations and timing reflexes alongside a distinct loot management system taken right out of an RPG like Final Fantasy.
But it also has a sandbox feel to it as well--no matter how well you plan things out, no matter what items you equip, your plans can go awry at any minute. Every second counts, and we'll do our best to show you how to make those seconds into minutes and minutes into hours of long, demon-slaying life.
I've pulled together a bunch of hints that I learned in my time with the game. Hopefully these hints, tips and tricks will save you lots of heartache in the challenging journey that awaits you.
Check our full comprehensive stance guide here.
- High stance - Slow attack speed (varies by weapon). Deals the most damage, but every swing in high stance costs more ki. Dodging and dashing are slower in this stance. Effective against slow-moving enemies or lower-level grunts.
- Mid stance - Medium attack speed (varies by weapon). Middle ground in terms of damage output, ki cost per swing, and dodging.
- Low stance - Fast attack speed (varies by weapon, kusarigamas and dual-swords are super fast in this stance) Low damage, low ki cost per strike, and optimum dodging and dashing make this stance incredibly useful.
Note: The high stance's substantial per-swing ki cost can be mitigated with proper ki pulsing. You absolutely will have to switch stances on a regular basis in the game, so don't stick to any one stance for too long.
- Strong Attacks - Pressing triangle executes a strong attack, which is slower but deals more damage. These attacks also consume more ki (consumed ki also differs by weapon) Combining the strong attack with the High Stance will deliver some devastating blows, especially with weapons like axes. I used an axe in the high stance for the entire beginning part of the game and had a blast doing so.
- Fast Attacks - Pressing Square will execute a fast attack. Fast attacks deal less damage but are, of course, faster and ideal for certain foes. These attacks consume less ki and can be strung together to form combos. Fast attacks mixed with the Low Stance can enable a flurry of blows, especially with weapons like the kusarigama or double swords.
Ki (stamina) and Ki Pulsing
Ki is your basic stamina in Nioh. Every time you swing a weapon, dodge, or dash or block you use ki. Managing your ki energy properly is the most important thing you can do as a player, and is the fundamental pillar of becoming a true katana-slinging badass.
If you run out of ki not only will you not be able to swing a weapon, you can't roll-dodge or block properly. Deflecting an attack while out of ki will trigger the "Ki Break" fatigue condition, which basically makes you into a sitting duck for a full second or two and totally open to attacks.
Don't ever let this happen.
Your ki will replenish slowly on its own, but there's a shortcut: ki pulsing.
Ki pulsing takes time to master, and the timing is different for every weapon and every attack in every stance with that weapon. After every attack, you'll notice a cloud of blue swirling sprites. This is the ki prompt. Once the ki cloud absorbs into William, you'll press R1 to trigger the ki pulse.
Timing it just right nets you a tremendous boost to ki regeneration, but you'll still recover ki even if you miss the perfect shot.
The weapons in Nioh are all dynamically balanced. In fact, specific attributes will actually boost the effectiveness of all weapons, so be sure to check this over before you invest too many points into a particular stat.
Check below for a quick list of what to expect from each of the types.
- Katana (sword) - Moderate speed, nice reach with slash combos, moderate-to-high damage, strong break (damage to enemy ki), low parry (ki cost when blocking)
- Dual Swords - Fast speed, rapid attacks can close distance fast, low-to-moderate damage, lower break, higher parry
- Spear - Slow-to-moderate speed, attacks spread in long arc/thrust, massive reach, high damage, stronger break, low parry
- Axe - Slow speed, attacks slash in arcs, decent reach, high damage, strongest break, lowest parry
- Kusarigama - Fast speed, attacks slash in overhead and side arcs, short reach, moderate damage, moderate break, moderate parry
Blocking and dodging
Apart from ki pulsing, learning how to effectively block and dodge attacks is the other key pillar of success in Nioh.
Going on the defensive and holding down L1 to block while fighting an enemy can be a good idea, but be aware that every block will pull away from your ki. How much ki is pulled depends on the weapon type that you're blocking.
Ki doesn't regenerate while blocking and moving - Blocking is great, but you don't want to do it too much. Be mindful of your ki at all times, or you'll end up pummeled to a bloody pulp. Ki won't recharge when you're holding down the block button an moving at the same time, but you can trigger the recharge by standing still.
Ki will recharge slower while you block, so be aware of that. You can get around this slow regeneration by triggering a ki pulse outside of the block, and then go back into the blocking stance once the ki has been refilled.
Weapons with higher Parry stats will reduce ki drain when blocking attacks- Shoot for weapons with high Parry skills if you block often. My personal favorite is the one-handed dual swords. You can also re-roll stats on items in the hopes of a boosted Parry spec, but given how much loot drops in the game you shouldn't have trouble finding at least one weapon with boosted Parry.
Stances and blocking - In my experience, the stances don't determine how much you're able to block, despite it being somewhat logical to think High Stance would block high attacks, Mid for middle attacks, and Low for low attacks. I could be wrong here, but I've tested it out, and Stances don't seem to affect blocking.
Dodging and dashing is just as important as blocking - Just like Dark Souls, Nioh players will want to get used to rolling and quick-dodging to the sides and backs of enemies to strike them in their open weak spots. However, this game is absolutely not like Dark Souls when it comes to rolling, and you are not invincible when you roll.
Just don't roll or dodge too much or you'll run out of ki and find yourself in a serious bind. You can't ki pulse unless you attack, so keep that in mind and plan your moves carefully.
Adapt to what the game throws at you
Experimentation is the key to success - In order to get far in Nioh you have to learn to adapt to the game's enemies and certain situations. The best way to practice this is to swap out armor and weapons on-the-fly and test them out against certain baddies.
For example, lesser red yokai demons are slow and pack a serious punch, so you could swap your heavy gear with light gear to reduce weight improve dodge speeds. Since the yokai is slow, equip something like an axe or a spear to do higher damage. If your current loadout isn't working too well just swap it out and try something new.
Study enemy attacks and learn their movesets - Every enemy in the game has a distinct moveset and attack sequence based on their weapon type and enemy class. Human enemies will also frequently switch stances mid-battle, so be prepared for anything. The key to learning the range of enemy attacks is simply dodging or blocking out of their way. Once you see a new enemy, be sure to test their limitations and try to lock in that moveset sequence as soon as possible so you can exploit it.
The enemies are inherently balanced in such a way that memorization and familiarity are a massive part in defeating them--but you still have to have the skills, timing, and reflexes.
A good offense is a good defense - Although Nioh is a game centered around being careful and meticulously crafting your strikes, it's also a game about chance, reflexes, and timing.
Now the instinct reaction in a game like this tells us we should be rolling and dodging to hit enemies from their sides and from the back, but if you dish out fast enough attacks with the proper timing, you can dish out extremely effect frontal attacks that throw enemies off their game.
Sometimes the best thing you can do against an enemy is to attack them mid-swing and interrupt their blows.
The dual-sword's low stance is amazing for interrupting attacks and I can't tell you how many times I've overrun a foe in a flurry of slices and dices.
Throw rocks to isolate enemies and take them on 1v1 - Fighting multiple enemies in Nioh can be a nightmare. Don't do it. Instead, equip a rock to your shortcut inventory and throw them at opponents to distract them. Once distracted, pull enemies away from their peers and pick them off one by one.
Don't fight enemies on ledges--pull them back to safe ground - Don't do this. Seriously. If an enemy approaches you on a mountainside path, kite and retreat to a safe zone before taking him on. Far too often I've seen people button-mash their way off a mountain to a harsh death below.
Don't use spears in tight spaces - Every weapon can ricochet wildly in tight confines, especially longer spears. Know the limitations of your weapons, or you'll make a big mistake that costs you a game over.
Active skills are only for that particular weapon - There are two types of skills in Nioh: passive and active. Active skills are set skills in a specific weapon or ability tree that only improve that specific weapon or ability.
For example, if you unlock an active skill for a katana, you can only use that skill with that weapon. Most active skills also have a stance requirement so be aware of that too.
Passive skills affect all weapon types - Any passive skills in any tree will affect William as a whole and aren't limited to that specific tree. Passive boosts usually include increased ki, lowered ki cost when dodging, damage output, etc.
Don't neglect Jutsu even if you're not interested - Using all the tools and skills Nioh provides you will give you an edge in any situation. Don't neglect the Ninjutsu skills and invest some points into Dexterity to boost your Ninjutsu capacity and skillset.
Ninjutsu has consumables that can boost your resistance to status ailments like paralysis as well as inflict poison damage to your weapon and even bolster your attack power. You can also get flaming shurikens to throw at your foes.
Every little bit helps, and Ninjutsu goes a long way. Just remember to activate and set your Jutsu skills at shrines.
Onmyo Magic is quite helpful - Again, don't neglect Onmyo magic even if you have no interest in it as a character. The combination of Onmyo and Ninjutsu give your character a nice edge in battle, and flesh out a strategic/tactical push.
Onmyo allows you to add elemental affinities to your weapons for a short period of time. If a foe is weak to fire, use a Fire Talisman and exploit that weakness to the max.
Experiment with skills, you can always respec - Nioh allows you to respec your skills and stats with a book that costs 10,000 cash so don't worry too much about wasted skillpoints or stats. That being said, you should still try to pick things you know you'll use.
Complete the training mission Way of the Ninja: Novice ASAP - Completing this mission will unlock access to passive abilities that can help you tremendously in battle. Do it right away.
Miscellaneous Tips and Tricks
Equip accessories! - Always equip any accessories you find for a nice, helpful boost. Like every other item in the game, accessories are full RNG and have random effects. Sometimes you'll find that perfect accessory that compliments your build so it'd be a shame if you didn't have it equipped for half the game.
Opening the menu does not pause the game - Don't think for a second you're going to get off that easy. Going to a shrine nor opening the menu actually pause the game.
Check the Tutorial guide if you have questions - Go to the menu screen, then slide all the way to the right under "Amrita Memories" and there you'll find the Tutorial section. This will explain every facet of the game to you if you ever have any questions.
Graves indicate danger - If you see lots of graves nearby an area, chances are there's a dangerous foe lurking around. Keep a look out!
Inspect Bloody Graves to see what players were killed by - If you can get close enough to a grave to inspect it, do so and see exactly how that player died. Every grave says "cut down by ____" and that should give you an idea of what to expect from that area. Of course, if you're a new player.
Treat every enemy as if they could kill you--because they can - Every single enemy in this game can kill you, so treat every new enemy with the proper respect they deserve. Nioh will humble you at every turn if you're not careful.
If you can't Ki pulse properly, you won't get far - Always ki pulse. Always. Do it even if you don't need to just to practice. Ki pulsing is incredibly vital to the entire game, be it the very beginning to the end-level boss. Practice all the time.
Spirit stones boost Living Weapon and give you Amrita - Spirit Stones aren't just good for a nice amrita boost--they'll actually replenish your Living Weapon gauge. Save your spirit stones to use before a boss to give you an edge in battle.
Items you find on corpses give hints on boss battles - Unless you look up a how-to tutorial, boss fights are 100% surprising and can be a nightmare at times. All bosses have their own unique attacks, and some of them, like Hino-enma Deep in the Shadows, deal status effects.
But Team Ninja doesn't throw you into the fray blindly--the devs offer small clues that are subtle, but still there. As you get nearer to the end-level boss, you'll want to start paying close attention to the items dropped by yellow flame-lit corpses. These corpses will slightly prepare you for the incoming boss battle by handing out key accessories to boost resistances and the like.
For example, right before I fought Hino-enma, I found a few items that boosted my paralysis resistance. As it turned out, Hino-enma has a nasty paralysis-inducing attack, and she was able to kill me in about three hits. Had I paid more attention to the subtle item drops I might not have died.
Pay attention to armor weight - Like everything in the game, Nioh's armor system is balanced and fine-tuned. Armor has a weight threshold that you'll want to pay close attention to.
The heaviest armor provides the best defense, but it adds ore weight to your overall character.
The more weight you have, the more defense you'll have, but you'll also dodge, dash and run slower--and if you equip more armor than your weight threshold can handle, all of your attacks will use up half of your ki per activity.
You can raise William's armor weight threshold via the Strength skill, but you'll want to mix and match armor pieces to get a nice balance of defense versus maneuverability.
Use your Living Weapon superpower - In the beginning of the game you select a Guardian who imbues you with a specific Living Weapon power. This ability is charged as you kill enemies, and when full, can be triggered by pressing Triangle and Circle at the same time to deal devastating blows.
Use Living Weapon against bosses, harder foes, or even smaller enemies when you're in a bind. Don't save it too much and use it when you really need it.
If you die, your Guardian Spirit guards your body, and living weapon isn't available - Once you die in Nioh, your Guardian deity guards your corpse and all that delicious amrita you had on you upon death. The only trade off here is that Living Weapon cannot be used until you pick your body back up. It's a big bummer that can have a considerable negative affect on your progress in the game.
You can call back your Guardian Spirit at a shrine - Can't progress without Living Weapon? Never fear! You can always call the Guardian Spirit back at any time at a Kodama Shrine. Be forewarned that this will negate any amrita you had on your body.
Hold the block button while turning corners - Always do this. Nioh likes to surprise you with enemies just around the corner out of your line of sight, and sometimes they actually come at you swinging. Holding block will ensure you don't get suckerpunched out of your precious life total.
Shoot yokai demons in the head with arrows - Lesser red yokai--those hulking red demons--are immensely weak to bow headshots and will fall into a stunned ki break state any time you shoot them in the head.
Ki-pulse dispels yokai pools - Yokai demons summon these nasty interdimensionary rifts that will suck away your ki when you step in them, but you can dispel these pockets by performing a perfect ki pulse. It has to be perfectly timed, though, or it won't work.
Use the help feature to understand item stats - Not sure exactly what a specific item spec means? Press the options button and highlight the stat to get an explanation. Team Ninja has gone through great lengths to decrypt the magic of Nioh and arm us with the tools we need to succeed.
Kiting is absolutely necessary, so don't be afraid to do it - Kiting is a major part of Nioh. I've done it many times, and you'll do it too. Sometimes you find yourself in over your head and need to retreat--there's no shame in it, and it's an active part of the learning process. Just be careful how much ki you spend running and dodging because you could stun yourself in place to be decapitated by a fearsome yokai.
Make 100% sure your retreat path is clear - If you do kite an enemy, cancel the target lock-on and turn around to make sure your path is clear. The last thing you want to do is kite off a ledge or back up into some fire and kill yourself.
Use your items! - Your items are there for you to use, not to hoard. William can only hold eight elixirs, and the rest are stored in your storehouse, so be mindful of that before you try to hoard them all. Use your elixirs when you need to and don't take any chances.
Search for Kodama - Kodama are those little ultra-cute green spirits, and they're peppered throughout main levels. Finding Kodama gives you extra passive boosts such as amrita earned, increased chance to find elixirs and item find boosts. Sidequests don't have any Kodama around, so don't worry about finding them while taking on extra missions.
Offer extra items to shrines - You'll find a ton of gear in Nioh and most of it you won't even use. Offer your spare items to Kodama shrines to get Amrita and extra items--but don't offer all your gear, you'll want to save some to disassemble at the forge.
Grind Elixirs - Low on elixirs? No problem! Just grind enemies for elixir drops and return to a shrine to respawn all the baddies you just slayed, rinse and repeat. You can also offer extra junk items you to the Kodama shrines. Every time you offer an item there's a chance you'll get an elixir in return for an offering.
Don't forget about Prestige points - As you play and level up your weapons and kill enemies you'll earn Prestige points. Navigate to the Titles section of the main menu and spend your passive points in the Agyo and Ungyo trees to help boost your stats.
Have confidence in your abilities and don't give up - Confidence is important in this game. Now I'm not saying you should have infinite bravado or anything, but you do need to take some pride in your accomplishments. See every defeat as a learning process. Be compelled to beat enemies and bosses. Don't give up and try to learn from your mistakes--it's the only way you'll get better.
Earned tons of Amrita? Teleport back to a shrine before confronting the boss - Some levels only have a single shrine. This means after you kill a whole dungeon of enemies you can't cash in your amrita for new stats, and if you die at the boss, you have to run through the map over again just to get your amrita back...and if you actually die while you have a body out there, you lose all the amrita on your body.
If you racked up tons of amrita but ran out of elixirs right before the boss fight and don't feel like losing all your hard-earned soul-cash, then use a Travel Amulet to zap back to the nearest shrine. Once there, cash in your amrita for some stats.
Yeah you'll lose your progress point, and all enemies will be reset, but at least you won't lose that delicious ambery amrita.
Keep a look out for more Nioh guides from us in the future!
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