Nioh is hard. Brutal even. It's the sadistic marriage of FromSoftware's Dark Souls and the Ninja Gaiden endurance tests. Thank christ it loads fast.
So whether you're a self-declared slayer of demons or a ninja of unparalleled agility, #Nioh is designed to test you. #DarkSouls fans will have to readjust to its sense of pace and challenging Ki system, #NinjaGaiden aficionados will struggle to come to terms with the fact that it's actually good—Team Ninja haven't made a good one since 2, people—and newbies will be sacrificed at the alter. But fear not.
A Beginner's Guide To Understanding And Mastering 'Nioh'
We're here to guide all manner of beginners on their journey into the twisted Japanese landscapes of Nioh. We'll be exploring the game's core features and explaining some of its more obscure elements to ensure your sheath is full of knowledge and your prayers are on point. Let's go slay some Yokai.
Anticipate Your Enemy
There are three essential things to keep in mind when facing off against the humans and Yokai of Nioh:
- Stay On Guard: When you encounter a new enemy, maintain your distance and keep your guard up—it'll take a while before you adjust to their attack patterns. Don't be afraid to dance around them until you figure out how they move and how much reach they boast.
- Lock On: It's obvious, but any time you come up against an enemy, lock on to them (R3). Not only will this keep them in your sights, you'll be able to see the enemy's health and Ki gauge. Exploiting the Ki of your enemies, or lack thereof, is essential to mastering combat in Nioh.
- Dodge: Knowing when to block and when to dodge is vital. For example, when guarding build-up attacks from Yokai a lot of your Ki will be drained. Guarding is also ineffectual against grappling attacks, so try to evade in these situations.
With all of this knowledge tucked under your grey samurai bun, you'll be able to keep your enemies in sight, monitor their Ki, memorize their attack patterns, dodge when necessary and attack at just the right moment to see limbs fly wistfully through the air. All a samurai could ask for.
Master The Ki Gauge And Pulse
Ki is everything in Nioh. It's the energy of a samurai. It enables you to attack, block, dodge, run, cry over your pathetic attempts at beating bosses—it's great! But there's a specific aspect to it that must be mastered.
While handling your enemies, your Ki gauge is going to deplete. When it completely runs out and turns red, your character will be stunned for a short time, during which all control will be disabled. Don't. Let. This. Happen. Always keep an eye on how much Ki a particular encounter is draining and attempt to recover as much of your Ki as possible with the Ki Pulse ability.
- Note On Ki Pulse: The Ki Pulse ability is activated by pressing R1 while a blue light shines around your character. If you get the timing right, William recovers the amount of Ki he just expended, or at least a part of it. Watch the blue bar fill over your Ki gauge and try and get it as close to the end as possible. A little animation will demonstrate if you nailed it—looks like a spirit form of William snaps with his own body. At the beginning, use the Ki Pulse after every attack or two in order for the timing to become second nature to you. It becomes vital in bouts with big Yokai and boss fights.
Don't forget that your enemy has a Ki gauge too! Use it to your advantage. When an enemy's Ki gauge is depleted, it'll be stunned for a short time or it will give a critical strike effect to the player's attacks, providing an edge in battle. Keep watching that Ki, it'll make you lethal in battle.
Yokai enemies also possess the ability to create a special space around them called Yokai Realm. In this space, which looks like an evil portal on the ground, the Yokai have an advantage and humans a disadvantage. Within the Yokai Realm, Ki recovery speed slows down significantly, so try to avoid fighting within it as much as possible. A few boss fights will have a ton of these on the ground, just to make things harder. But once you become accustomed to Ki pulses, you will have full command of "Yokai Realm clearing"—succeeding at maximum Ki recovering in a Yokai Realm.
Weapon Selection And Stances
There are a few different types of weapons in Nioh, but you've also got a few different stances you can hold them in. Holding down (R1) and pressing either Square, Circle, X or Triangle will change your stance in and out of battle (side note: changing stance at the same time you use your Ki pulse ability recovers even more Ki). But what's the advantage to using different kinds of stances?
Well, for instance, you may find yourself in a tight corridor where swinging your axe from side to side doesn't make much sense. But the stances also feature different stat boosts and attack patterns. Here's a helpful graph, courtesy of Koei Tecmo, which breaks down these stats perfectly:
Frequently changing weapons and stances, once mastered over time, will enable you to deal specific forms of damage to specific enemies. Sometimes it's best to just jab at an enemy with a spear, slash away at them with two short swords or tear them apart with an axe. Understanding what to use at what time becomes a huge part of Nioh, so we recommend messing around with this stuff from the beginning.
All That RPG Stuff: Leveling Up, Amrita, Equipment And Offerings
Nioh enjoys being a difficult game—f**king loves it. So if you think its learning curves are limited to combat encounters, you're wrong, my friend. The leveling systems and RPG mechanics in this game are just as convoluted and vague. You won't really understand what you're doing at the beginning, but hopefully we'll be able to point you in the right direction.
This is what Nioh is all about. It's the power source everyone seeks, and humanity's greed and lust for Amrita is what has brought about the onslaught of Yokai. It's also the energy/currency you collect from killing enemies and you use Amrita to purchase new items or level up at Shrines.
You may also have noticed that when you die, your spirit guardian is left behind on the ground—they've got all your Amrita. Just like in the Souls series, you'll need to fight your way back to this location to recover your lost experience. Die on the way and all of that experience disappears forever.
You can also gain Amrita and items by offering unwanted equipment at shrines. When your character is on the verge of leveling up, offerings can be used to make up the difference in order to reach the next level. Don't hand in too much of that rare stuff though. You may regret it.
- Leveling Up
What should you prioritize when leveling up? To be honest, that's really up to you. If you want to wield more powerful weapons in the game, increase your strength. If you fancy dabbling in magic, upgrade that sh*t. A lot of your power relies on your ability to master combat. And also luck in finding some awesome loot.
The rest, at least in my experience, doesn't have a huge impact. That's not to say you shouldn't level up, please do, but each new level only increases William's proficiency in a single area by a small amount. Spread the love over different areas and keep a hold of great armor is my advice. Though if you're dying a lot, constantly increasing your stamina and health definitely wouldn't hurt.
- Equipment and Armor
Every piece of equipment you... equip... has a stat determining whether it's Heavy (H), Medium (M) or Light (L) in weight. Depending on how much Ki you want a single swing or dodge to drain, pick your armor accordingly. Light stuff drains less Ki, heavy stuff drains more. Simple. But sometimes you'll find a helmet that looks so god damn cool, you won't be able to pass it up. It's fine. Give in to the weakness, friend. But prepare to suffer the consequences.
Remember that armor is also sorted into four color groups: Common (white), Uncommon (yellow), Rare (blue) and Exotic (purple). If you find something that's Rare, even if the overall protection is weaker than what you've got on, consider wearing it for those sweet stat boosts. Some other stuff to note, samurai:
- Equipment items (weapons/armor) are not lost when your character dies.
- There are conditions set for equipping the items you find, and without satisfying those conditions the special effects of an item cannot be used. For example, equipping only heavy armor without satisfying the conditions will leave your character weaker than lighter armor.
- By only equipping armor for which equip settings are satisfied at first, your character will become stronger by raising its parameters so that it can equip rare and high-level armor items.
- Collect Kodama for Elixirs
One final thing I want to mention is Kodama: collect it. It can be found in boxes, enemies drop it or it'll just be lying around on some poor bastard's corpse. This stuff will increase the recovery amount at elixir shrines. The maximum amount of elixirs will increase by 1 for every 5 Kodama, so search for Kodama if the elixir amount is not enough for you to progress in the game. Can't get enough of them elixirs.
And so, my friend, we've come to the end. This should be enough to get you started in the lands of Nioh. The rest, as it were, is up to you. We have plenty more guides below if you wish to check them out and even more are on the horizon.
Until then, let me leave you with a wise excerpt from 'The Book of the Samurai': "A warrior is worthless unless he rises above others and stands strong in the midst of a storm."
How's your adventure in Nioh going so far, samurai?