Nioh Guide: How to Get Started

Now that Nioh is available to the masses, many players have been attempting to conquer the demon-ridden lands of Japan as protagonist William Adams. However, some may be finding the game a little too difficult, even for veterans of the Dark Souls franchise that inspired its core gameplay mechanics and high level of difficulty.

For those that are looking to master Nioh, it is essential to understand the basics of succeeding in the game. With those individuals in mind, we have created this spoiler-free guide to help players get started in Nioh.

Discover Your Favorite Fighting Style

In Nioh, players have access to a variety of ranged and melee weapons. The melee weapons include heavy axes and hammers, medium-weight spears, light-weight swords, and more. These weapons determine how fast William can attack enemies, as well as how much damage he does with each successful strike.

Players can have two weapons equipped at a time that can be swapped on the fly. While different weapons are better for certain situations and enemies, players should focus on mastering one kind of weapon, and then have a completely different kind of weapon in the second slot. Spears seem to be the most well-rounded weapons, as they aren’t too slow and have decent range, but players can be successful with any weapon type in the game with enough practice.

nioh samurai lunge attack

For the early stages at least, we recommend players pick either a spear or sword weapon and then have their secondary weapon be something heavier and deadlier, like an axe or a hammer.

When it comes to ranged weapons, players should have a bow in one slot and a rifle in the other. Bows and rifles obviously use different types of ammunition, so it’s beneficial to have both weapons at the ready.

Once players have decided on the weapons they will have equipped, it’s important to stick with the same weapons for long periods of time when playing Nioh. Even if William stumbles upon a sword that has better base stats than the one he has equipped, it’s not necessarily a good idea to swap weapons. That’s because of the weapon familiarity system, which means that the more players use a certain weapon, the more damage it does. It’s best to wait to switch to different weapons after finding something that is significantly more powerful instead of just an incremental upgrade.

Leveling William

nioh demo available dark souls meets dynasty warriors

William has a number of attributes that can be leveled using Amrita, Nioh‘s version of XP. For the first few missions, though, it’s best that players mainly focus on improving William’s life and Ki, both of which can be improved by leveling a few of the different attributes.

Some of the early boss fights are easier if William has more health, and others are easier if William is able to use his Ki to dodge more attacks. By focusing on life and Ki, players can have a rather effective version of William early on in the game, and can later worry about increasing his other stats.

Players that feel as though William is already sufficiently prepared for the battles that lie ahead when it comes to his life and Ki should spend some points on improving his strength. By upgrading William’s strength, it increases the weight of equipment he can have equipped, which allows players to equip heavier armor for higher defense without sacrificing too much agility.

Loot Farming

As we pointed out in our Nioh review, one way that the game alleviates frustration when compared to other Dark Souls-style games is how it allows players to farm for loot. Nioh showers players with loot like Diablo, with better equipment always ready to be farmed from slain enemies and found in chests hidden throughout the levels.

Players that are stuck on a particularly difficult boss, like the early boss Hino-enma, for instance (she was also featured in the pre-release demo, so some players may have an advantage going into the fight), can spend some time grinding for XP and loot before trying their hand at the battle again.


Nioh Guide: How to Get Started - Hot spring

Veterans of the Dark Souls franchise will recognize shrines in Nioh as the equivalent to Dark Souls‘ bonfires. Players can utilize shrines to spend Amrita to level William up, purchase blessings from the cute Kodama creatures that wear ramen bowls as hats, and more importantly, summon co-op partners, restore health and Ki, and save the game.

For players that need to level-grind, shrines are of the utmost importance. Players can explore a level, kill as many enemies as possible, and then hurry back to the nearest shrine to restore health and save the progress they’ve made in the level-grinding process. Using a shrine also causes all the regular enemies to respawn, which allows players to keep level grinding and loot farming to their heart’s content.

It’s important for players to take note of shrine locations in each level. For those having difficulty locating shrines, keep an eye on the mini-map; they appear there as blinking green blips.

Besides shrines, there are other ways players can heal William without wasting elixir, and that’s thanks to hot springs. Some levels have hot springs where William can relax, restore his health and Ki, and enjoy some other temporary buffs as well. If a boss fight arena is located in close proximity to a hot spring, it may be worth making the trip to one to enjoy some added buffs before going into battle.

Stances and Stamina

nioh goes gold

Key to success in Nioh is understanding how stances work in the game. In total, there are three stances:  low, medium, and high. When William is in a low stance, he is able to attack and dodge faster, but he has less defense and doesn’t do as much damage. Medium stance is a balance between high and low stances, with William able to defend himself well, though at the cost of some speed. High stance, meanwhile, allows William to deal the most damage, but he is left wide open to enemy attacks.

For most of the game, players will want William to have his medium stance activated. It’s the most well-rounded stance, and depending on his weapon of choice, will also help him damage multiple enemies at once, which is useful in situations when William is surrounded. The other two stances have their pros and cons, and are useful in specific situations, especially during boss fights.

Besides stances, something else that has a major impact on combat in Nioh is William’s stamina bar, known as the Ki meter in the game. William’s Ki meter is different than a standard stamina bar, though, in that he can recover some lost stamina by utilizing active reload-style “Ki Pulses.” Ki Pulses are timed button-presses after an attack that is helpful in recovering lost Ki as well as dispelling Ki-freezing yokai realm fields.

Nioh Review - Nioh box art

With this advice in mind, players should have a good idea of how to play Nioh and succeed in its early stages. As the game continues and becomes more difficult, it will require more complicated strategies to be successful. Players will want to be sure to master gameplay mechanics like stances and Ki Pulses if they hope to continue to slay yokai demons and see Nioh through to the end.

Nioh is available now, exclusively for PS4.

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Nioh Guide: How to Get Started

Now that Nioh is available to the masses, many players have been attempting to conquer the demon-ridden lands of Japan as protagonist William Adams...
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