A Starter’s Guide to Nioh (1 and 2)
Contributed by DJMMT
As I near the end of my time with Nioh 2 I realize that I have amassed more than 250 hours of experience and knowledge concerning the franchise. So I felt like it was worth taking the time to share my thoughts on what new players should know going into this franchise. Had I known this information going into the first game, it would have made my entire experience a lot smoother and easier. This post is basically a Beginner’s Guide to Nioh as a franchise. That is to say, you can apply all these tips to both games.
DJMMT’s Top 10 Nioh Tips for Beginners
1. Lightweight Armor
One of the things I truly love about Nioh is the diversity of the gameplay. There are a hundred ways to play the game and all of them are valid, as in can be executed successfully. But some of them are more valid than others for beginning players. The Soulslike genre is big on stamina mechanics, but in Nioh stamina, referred to as “ki”, can make or break the game. There is no greater enemy in Nioh than the stamina bar. You will get the gist of the gameplay quickly enough. You will learn to use magic in effective ways almost as soon as you unlock the first elemental spell. But you will spend pretty much the entirety of both games trying to manage your ki effectively. Ki directly affects attack speed, as in how many attacks you can do in succession rather than the speed of individual attacks, as well as movement speed. In terms of movement, ki affects how long you can run for and how often/quickly you can roll. Running out of ki can be devastating, as it leaves you wide open to attack and throws you into a temporary winded state when fully depleted. There are many ways to both increase and balance your ki as you make your way through either of the two games, but the simplest ki management strategy that any player can and should implement at the very start of the game is the use of light armor.
Nioh’s weight system is limiting and often annoying, but extremely straightforward and easy to understand. Weight only applies to armor. Meaning you can wield any weapon type you want without your basic movement speed and other weight contingent conditions being affected. But armor is tied directly to weight and must be managed appropriately. Nioh’s weight system is color coded, making it very easy to understand. In simplest terms, Nioh’s weight system can be described in a single phrase: green means go. You don’t need to keep your weight as light as possible. You only need to keep your weight in the green color zone. This will allow you to maximize your movement speed and reduce your other weight contingent ki limitations. At the beginning of the game, you will find armor that’s better stat wise but raises your weight class up past green. Ignore that armor! Sacrifice it for xp, sell it for gold, or save it for later, but don’t put it on. Nioh is a much faster paced game than Dark Souls and arguably even Bloodborne. Mobility is king. This is especially true in boss fights. The lower armor defense stats pale in comparison to crippled mobility. Keep your weight class in the green. You can increase your weight capacity by leveling up the Stamina stat, which allows you to wear heavier armor, but no matter what you decide to wear, make sure your weight stays in the green. I was stuck on the first boss for over an hour in Nioh until someone explained this to me. I had been playing the heaviest armor possible because it came with the best stats. Once I lightened the load and increased my mobility, the boss went down easily. I’ve exclusively used light armor ever since.
2. Ignore Crafting Until the Endgame
The crafting and soul matching systems in Nioh are a real hassle. They are convoluted, expensive, and require hours of time to maximize results. You can safely ignore them until you unlock divine weapons in both games. Divine weapons unlock when you beat the final boss in the base story content. Until this point, just look for better gear in missions, because all the resources and time you waste crafting non-divine gear will ultimately amount to nothing in the long run.
Along with this, you can also ignore gear in the shop. The blacksmith sells nothing of value ever when it comes to gear. Buy projectile ammo and specialty items, if you need them, but you never need to buy any weapons or armor from the shop for the entire duration of the franchise.
3. Mid Stance is All You Need
Nioh’s combat system has a number of layered mechanics that can be used in tandem to accomplish a great many things. You can play the game in so many different ways with countless strategies and mixtures of strategies that it’s possible to replay the game countless times without ever having the same experience. But the fact of the matter is that the game is balanced in such a way that you don’t actually need to use any of those special mechanics to beat it. I don’t say this as a point of philosophy but as a point of experience. I am a person who has beaten both the first and second game, including DLC, without making use of most of the specialized combat mechanics the game has to offer. Nioh has three combat stances (low, mid, high), blocking, counters, ki pulses, and a bunch of other stuff I don’t even care to name. But you can literally beat the entire first game with just mid stance, rolling, and running. I’m not exaggerating. I have streamed all of the first and second games and you can count all the times I changed stance during a fight on your fingers. I never used a ki pulse during a fight intentionally. I pretty much never blocked. And I still don’t understand half the special mechanics. I use light armor with the best stats I can find, play in mid-stance, and use enhancement magic, as opposed to attack magic. I played the entire franchise that way. The only exceptions are that I prefer the high stance version of the switchglaive weapon type in Nioh 2 and I used the high stance of the fists until I got strong enough to get acceptable damage in mid stance with them, also in Nioh 2.
I’m not saying you have to or even should ignore all the varying mechanics the game has to offer. Quite the opposite. You should take the time to learn them and enhance your gameplay experience. What I’m saying is that you don’t have to take the time to learn any of that stuff. The game is very manageable while playing in the most basic bitch play style without having already mastered the game in previous playthroughs.
4. Give Every Weapon Type a Fair Chance
Nioh has seven weapon types and Nioh 2 adds an additional four, if you get the DLC. While the basic combat controls are the same, every weapon plays very differently. Different attack speeds, ranges, hitboxes, ki consumption rates, and so on. What’s interesting about Nioh is that it’s really easy to get attached to a weapon type very quickly. But this can be a bad thing because it can mislead you into committing to a specific weapon type without trying the other ones. I started Nioh with a spear, for the range, and an axe for the strength. I got really good with both weapon types and played like half of the first game only using those two types. I actively ignored everything else, because I was so comfortable. Then I unlocked the weapons mastery missions. These are great missions because they force the player to try out different weapon types and use them for an extended period of time to unlock special missions and character development rewards. By working to complete these missions, I discovered that my favorite weapon type is actually tonfa. I am so much better with tonfa then I am spear. But I played through half the game before discovering that. The mastery missions, which are present in both games, require you to master each weapon type by dealing more than 100k damage with them. My advice is to do this at the start of the game rather than waiting until you unlock the missions, because the progress carries over. Play each weapon type for 100k damage, which you can check in the menus for progress, and then decide what your preferred two weapon types are. You might be surprised by what your favorite ends up being.
I’d also recommend trying each stance out while testing each weapon type, as they can be very different for some weapons. Kusarigama and switchglaive for example are like wielding three different weapons in one, depending on the stance you are using. I really like the switchglaive in Nioh 2. I’d consider it in my top five weapon types. But I use it almost exclusively in high stance. Because in high stance it’s a scythe, while in mid stance it’s a spear. In low stance it’s more akin to a chakram, which is cool but doesn’t do enough damage for my tastes. But the point is that if I had only tried it in mid stance then I most likely wouldn’t have used it in the long run.
5. Stick to Fire (Magic)
Nioh has a ton of magic. There are multiple elements, status magic, and numerous types of buffs. As far as buffs are concerned, it really depends on your playstyle. I prioritize the physical defense, hp rejuvenation, and ki rejuvenation buffs, but there are many ways to go about it. As far as attack magic is concerned, you really only need fire. One of the shortcomings of the franchise is that for all the interesting types of attack magic, most of it is useless an overwhelming majority of the time. The only element that is almost always effective is fire. Lightning and water magic come with some negative status effects against enemies, but the gains are minimal. They also don’t come with any additional status damage. Fire, on the other hand, burns continuously. Pretty much any fight, including bosses, is made easier with the use of fire. The only time it’s useless is when you encounter enemies that are comprised of fire. In those rare cases, you would of course want to use water, if you want to use magic against them at all. But spending points on other elements is pretty much a waste of time. The various fire spells are the only elemental/attack magic types worth taking seriously. I wish that wasn’t the case, because lightning looks awesome, but wind, water, and lightning are fairly useless when compared to fire.
6. Save Living Weapons and Yokai Shift till the End of the Boss Fight
I don’t know if this is obvious advice or not, but basically in both games you have a sort of god mode state that you can enter temporarily. In the first game it’s called Living Weapons and in the second game it’s called Yokai Shift. Living Weapons is way better than Yokai Shift, but that’s besides the point. When it comes to fighting bosses, these should be treated as finishing moves rather than starting moves. Do not use them until the boss is down to under 25%. They are effective, but not nearly as effective as you’d like them to be. As such, using them too early in a fight can still easily end in death. This is important because when you use these special states you have to rebuild them. Even if you die after using them, you still need to fight/kill enough to restore the ability to use them. It’s really not worth the hassle, though it can be done in a relatively short amount of time with the right enhancements equipped. Especially in Nioh 2.
In Nioh 2, you get bonus damage if you grapple a boss while in Yokai Shift, so I make it a point of waiting until I get the grapple opening, which almost always happens in the latter half of the fight, and then initiating the Yokai Shift to use the grapple. Once the grapple is over, you continue fighting in Yokai Shift until you kill the boss or it runs out. If you do things right, it should be the former.
7. Save Your Gold
As you progress through the game, you will amass what appears to be a large amount of gold. It isn’t and you shouldn’t waste it. You should actively prioritize hoarding as much gold as possible, because you need it for soul matching, and it’s really expensive. Once you reach the endgame, you will stop working to find new gear. Instead, you will prioritize specific pieces of divine class gear that will become your semi-permanent build. Rather than replace them, you will continuously upgrade these pieces by fusing them with other pieces of gear that are comparable in strength. This process is very expensive and will have to be done several times over to maximize the strength of your gear. You will literally spend millions in gold in the pursuit of maximizing the strength of your five pieces of armor and two or more weapons you choose to prioritize. Do whatever you can to acquire as much gold as possible and don’t spend any of it until the endgame.
8. Store All Permanent Special Effects
Every piece of gear in Nioh has up to seven special effects or traits as many call them. These can be any number of things and are the main part of building the best set of gear. But what’s most important is that many of these traits are passable. As in they can be passed from one piece of gear to another via the soul matching system. It’s an extremely convoluted system that honestly should be overhauled and simplified, but it is an important part of the games.
Any time you find a piece of gear with a trait that is passable (a grey rectangular symbol next to the trait in the list), you should consider very carefully if it has any value to you. But any time you find a piece of gear with a permanent passable trait (an orange rectangular symbol next to the trait in the list), you should lock it and keep it until the end game. Gear has to reach max familiarity to pass traits onto other pieces of gear. So when you find a piece of gear with a trait you like, equip it, maximize its familiarity, and then store it until you have a piece of gear worth putting it on. The thing about grey passable traits is that they can be passed an unlimited number of times from gear piece to gear piece. But you lose the piece of gear when you pass the trait and you replace whatever passable trait the piece of gear you pass it to already has. Orange traits don’t follow these same rules. When you pass a permanent trait to a piece of gear, that trait loses its ability to be passed again. The difference is that it doesn’t replace a passable trait. Instead, it takes an open trait spot on the piece of gear. You will find countless pieces of gear that aren’t using all seven trait slots. These open spots are where you pass orange traits to.
Even if it’s a trait you don’t find useful now, you should keep every orange trait you find until the end game. By doing this you can maximize the strength of any piece of divine gear you find that you’d like to keep permanently. You may not think a trait is important, and it might not be. But it’s better than having an empty spot in the piece of gear’s special effects list.
9. Level up Before Entering Sub-Missions
The leveling system in Nioh is almost exactly like Dark Souls. You collect souls, referred to as amrita, and spend it in increasing amounts to level up each time. What’s nice is that the game’s UI notifies you when you have enough amrita to level up again. You can level up at any shrine, but if you leave a mission, of any type other than training missions, without beating it or burning a special consumable item, you sacrifice all your amrita. This might not sound like a serious problem, but you will be surprised by how many sub-missions you end up fleeing and having to return to later. This is especially true for duels, of which there are many. Some sub-missions have shrines, which allows you to level up in the mission before fleeing so you don’t waste any amrita. But many sub-missions don’t have shrines. This means you either have to finish them or flee if you are indefinitely stuck from being too weak. But you won’t be able to tell which sub-missions do and don’t have shrines and enemies for you to be able to farm and level up before leaving. So rather than take a risk and jump into a sub-mission while sitting on almost enough amrita to level up, use your soul stones and gear sacrifices to level up before every sub-mission, unless you have a negligent amount of amrita on hand. Don’t be arrogant about it. There’s nothing worse than getting stuck in a sub-mission duel and then having to burn hundreds of thousands to millions of amrita because you don’t have any special consumables or don’t want to use them. Just do the work to level up first. Even if it means going into a previously beaten mission and grinding for a little bit. You can flee that already beaten mission after you level up with no consequences. This is also a good reason to save your spirit stones for a rainy day rather than just burning them as soon as you get them.
10. Use Your Projectiles
While this is not a shooting game, there are three types of projectile weapons available: bows, rifles, and cannons. In most Soulslikes, these weapons are there mostly to aggro enemies. The usually do very little damage and require several shots to make a dent in anything past a basic skeleton. I’ve killed many a dragon in Dark Souls by spending over an hour firing hundreds of arrows. But in Nioh the projectile weapons are actually useful in practical scenarios. Very early on, you can get one hit kills with your bow, assuming you’re getting headshots. Using projectile weapons for stealth tactics is absolutely worth the effort and resources to develop those weapons. Sadly, the bow becomes less valuable over time, as the enemies become stronger and armored. But the usefulness of projectile weapons in this franchise cannot be overstated.
Another great use of projectile weapons is to start tough, non-boss, battles with a cannon shot. Rather than running up on a larger/stronger enemy or trying to get a backstab, fire a cannon shot from within red shot range, but from far enough away to load and fire another shot before the enemy reaches you. This tactic will give you a useful advantage in pretty much every fight scenario. Pro-Tip: Don’t waste your holy arrows or explosive ammo on anything that respawns unless they’re blocking your path to the next shrine.
So there you have it. With these 10 simple tips, pretty much anyone can beat Nioh 1 or 2 without having to develop their skills to master level or spend an exorbitant amount of time grinding. I’ve beaten both games and still utilize most of these tips as a veteran player. I have gotten so much out of this franchise and I hope they make a third one. Hopefully these suggestions make the gameplay a bit more accessible to new players so they can come to enjoy these games as much as I have.