Nioh's combat system is robust and layered to the point where the game takes on a whole new dimension as you become more skilled. But that very progression hinges entirely on your ability to learn the basics of three key stances, which are the main positions you'll use to dispatch supernatural and samurai foes alike.
The stance system can be a little confusing at first. In a game like Nioh, confusion often leads to death or wasted time, and both are pretty frustrating. In this guide I am to dispel some of that annoyance by clearly outlining how each of the three main pillars to combat are fully balanced and optimized, and give you the tools you need to wreak havoc in demon-ridden feudal Japan.
In many ways Nioh's combat is like a graceful dance of death. There's a fluid harmony in its strikes and dodges that really exemplifies the ancient art of war, while also incorporating key strategic and tactical maneuvers to give creative players an even bigger edge. With this crash course in the basic foundations of stances you'll be on your way to honing that edge to a fine razor-sharp blade to slice and dice yokai everywhere.
Fast and rapid style that enables more fluid dodging, but attacks are weaker. Recommended for beginners.
"Low Stance is best for dodging. Its primary focus is evasive movement, allowing you to escape quickly, get behind your opponent and attack."
- Fast attack speed
- Low ki drain
- Ki cost of dodging reduced
- Low-based attacks that hit enemies close to the ground
- Rapid attacks interrupt some enemies
- Low dodge cost pairs well with blocking
- Weak damage
- Low ki damage (can be offset by enemies blocking successive, rapid strikes)
- Battles can go on longer due to low damage output
Dodge (Hold L1 + X)
Double-dodge (Hold L1 + X +X)
Pair with fast weapons like dual swords or kusarigama for a noteable speed boost
Use Low Stance when you have low health as the quick strikes will execute faster, thus giving you more time to dodge if need be
Low Stance's double-dodge ki reduction works great in tandem with weapons with high Parry
Conservative fighting stance that is "just right" in terms of damage, per-strike ki cost, and speed. Reccommended for intermediate players.
Mid Stance is good for defense, and is easy to use, but attack power falls somewhere between High Stance and Low Stance. Getting behind your opponent from this stance is difficult, so facing off is your best bet since you'll have the ability to react quickly to their every move.
- Medium attack speed
- Medium damage
- Medium ki drain
- Middle ki damage
- Mid-based attacks
- Ideal for intermediate-style techniques
- Rolling can be invaluable in certain situations
- Dodge and roll maneuvers
- Slower movement speed
- Ki-cost of quick-dodging increased
- Secondary evasive maneuver combines dodge and rolling ki costs
- Slow attacks can be interrupted by fast attacks (balance this by equipping a fast weapon)
- Attacks may be too slow/too little damage depending on the situation (again, equip a fast weapon)
Dodge (Hold L1 and press X)
Dodge + Roll (Hold L1 and press X + X)
Sheathe your weapon and you can quick dodge in Mid-Stance by holding R1 + Circle
Pair with moderate weapons like Katanas
Avoid rolling too often as it can drain ki pretty fast
Aggressive damage-dealing stance that's appropriate for taking out smaller enemies quickly as well as finishing bigger bosses. Reccommended for experienced players.
"High Stance emphasizes attack power and aggression. It provides more Attack and Break power than any other stance, but dodging and blocking, are relatively limited."
- High damage
- High ki damage leads to more Ki Breaks (when enemies block a High Stance strike their own ki is damaged significantly more than Low and Mid Stances)
- More damage means potentially less time fighting
- Rolling can be invaluable in certain situations
- High ki drain per strike
- Slow attack speed (somewhat mitigated with high-speed weapons)
- Dodging is replaced with high ki-cost rolling manuever
- Roll only once in one direction
Roll (Hold L1 and press X + X)
Use High Stance against slow cumbersome enemies like red Yokai and some bosses, or enemies you want to take out fast
Use fast weapons like dual swords or kusarigamas to help balance the high ki cost with faster strikes
Use high-damage weapons like axes or spears to smash enemy's ki
Ki pulsing is absolutely integral for success in High Stance
Avoid rolling too often. Switch back to low stance to dodge. The combination of rolling, blocking, and attacking with fast strikes (Square) will quickly eat away your ki.
Evasive measures: dash, dodge and roll
- Dash - Running at high speeds, achieved by holding X and a direction
- Dodge (minimal ki cost depending on stance/gear) - Dodging attacks while in battle, achieved by holding L1 (block) and pressing X. Can also be triggered twice as a double-dodge in Low Stance (Hold L1 + X + X
- Roll (high ki cost) - Basic evasive manuever in High Stance (L1 + X), secondary evasive maneuver in Mid-Stance (Hold L1 + X + X)
Ki cost of all evasive maneuvers can be reduced with equipped armors.
Blocking and Stances
In my experience, all weapons will block properly and take the same ki drain regardless of which stance is used.
For example, the same katana will block the same way across Low, Mid and High Stances and receive the same ki damage from the same enemy.
That being said, every weapon will block differently in that they will all drain ki different when blocking attacks.
Blocking attacks of high-level enemies will deliver high ki drain for the player's specific equipped weapon.
Weapons with high Parry stats such as spears and one-handed swords can reduce ki drain of blocked attacks.