The Nioh Collection is finally out and this might be the right time to get into the first Nioh. At full price in South Africa on Steam, it’s at a comfy and nice price of R269, so on special it will be for peanuts. Personally, I did the 100% achievement run and clocked in 240 hours. I went to the last NG+ and loved every minute of it.
Now you’re thinking you’re new to 'Souls' type games or difficult action RPGs such as Dark Souls, Bloodborne or Nioh, and don’t know how to approach this beast - this article will hopefully help you with that. There is a plethora of ways to tackle Nioh but this is the way I found myself reach the final new game without too much hassle.
Firstly, let's cover weapon choices. I played with a few weapons and enjoyed most of them but success-wise, the odachi and kusarigama were my final picks. Odachi was very comfy, offering decent range, good break and a nice vertical attack in high stance so against human opponents, this is the go-to - especially with the trickier boss fights later where cheese is not allowed. Kusarigama has a very special interaction with spirit bonds. There is a slashing attack that leaves you stationary but you can deal huge damage. This is ideal for monster enemies because typically they won’t fall down or have execute animations so the odachi falls a bit short in this regard.
Let’s talk weapon tactics now. The idea behind the odachi is with human enemies you break them and can then either knock them down for a ground attack or, while their stamina is broken, a standing execute - either leaves you in an animation where you cannot get hit. Kusarigama as mentioned in high stance with the ‘Reaper’ skill does huge damage; even when not in spirit bond you just need to manage stamina (we’ll come back to this). In regards to stances you can swap to low stance to dodge out and dip back into high but I almost exclusively played in high stance - high stance gang if you would.
In terms of game mechanics, all Souls-like and action RPGs that aren’t as similar will have a stamina management mechanic to pace the game and set themselves aside from hack and slash games. However in Nioh, enemies also have stamina and you can reduce and break them, be it a human or monster enemy. Double additionally in Nioh, there are status effects - some are straight forward, for example fire will continuously burn something or electricity will slow a target’s movements, but then there are some subtle ones: water makes ki recovery slower and wind causes chip damage, I still have no idea about the ground effect as it was never hugely apparent. When you have two or more statuses on a target however, it gets a new debuff. The ‘confused’ debuff is huge and never explained; the target takes an absurd amount of additional damage and their ki will instantly break. In conclusion, even if you aren’t planning on mixing in magic to get these debuffs you really should have a tactic to involve them.
This leads us into the next topic: Stats. I purely went magic and spirit evenly. The spirit bond is such a huge trump card that it’s honestly worth leveling and relying on because there are many ways to keep it up and a part of your attack strategy and magic or ‘onmyo’ as it’s called in-game. Onmyo in Nioh isn’t reliant on mana in other games but rather talismans that are used up, so you can prepare X number of spells in advance at shrines depending on the fight coming up or nature of a level. The more you level up the magic stat, the more magic damage you do; the more slots you have for magic, talismans become cheaper to equip meaning even more spells.
Some key talismans and spirits to note: Talismans I would never leave home without are at least two elemental talismans, which just shoot out a bolt of that element but they are cheap and effective. Normally water and electricity were my go-to depending on the spirit I had equipped while leveling until I found the main spirit. The next talisman is sloth. This is the MVP; this will make most difficult fights less intimidating. Sloth talisman hugely slows a target’s movement so stacked with electric debuff you can laugh at most opponents, bar literally one in the base game and two in the DLC.
Kekkai is next. Remember earlier when we were talking about the kusarigama and the reaper skill? Now Kekkai gives you ludicrous amounts of stamina regen and automatically dispels yokai realm on the floor and will negate a few attacks that are yokai-focused. The duration isn’t long but this talisman is clutch. Steel talisman works like a charm in the early game, excuse the pun; it absorbs a set amount of damage so in the late game it falls off but on your first playthrough and NG+, it will definitely be the blanket of safety.
Extraction talisman is key. It allows for amrita to leave the enemy when you hit them. Reaper hits multiple times in very quick succession, and in spirit bond amrita refreshes the duration, and if you break an enemies ki you can endlessly absorb amrita and stay in bond indefinitely for the fight. Pair spirit and magic and now you’re laughing. Finally, talisman: fire/water/wind/lightning/earth will coat your weapon in the element of your choice. For example you cover your kusarigama in fire, you shoot lightning shots and now the target is confused at minimum effort from yourself. The kusarigama also hits hard, high and quickly so you can stack the effects quickly due to it being hit count and not damage dealt. I used many other talismans because I had so much space and capacity to do so but these were always my core talismans.
Moving to spirits, I used many as I unlocked them and experimented a ton. In the end, Tengen Kujaku was my main spirit - it’s way too strong even in Nioh 2, and my support spirit was Genbu for his buffs to magic. While leveling I used ‘Isonade’ the shark spirit for a long time; the sense enemies trait is incredibly helpful and will show enemies on the minimap, and will help you to avoid getting ambushed in preset scenarios. Enko was a huge help while playing odachi for spamming strong attacks and breaking people. It also has 25% weapon attack enhance which is huge.
Suzaku is another favourite because when your health reaches 0 it will automatically activate and stop you from dying and for a new player, this is incredibly nice to know you won’t get one shot by some dumb trap, mechanic or enemy. Bisha’s Centipede for the chip damage was a fun tactic for a bit; the poison was nice before it stopped being scaled because I never invested into ninjutsu heavily, but the gold earned is very nice.
Gear wise I went with anything that was light in weight and enhanced magic in anyway or the general tactics I would apply. If you have specific traits and skills you wish you had, don’t worry as you get further in the game, more skills and traits are unlocked.
One last general tip is save the spirit stones for harder fights. The amrita you get is negligible but even the smallest stone, 3-4 of them fully restore your spirit so you can use it straight away again and that for me held far more value than 400 amrita. Especially considering those four little stones still give me a full spirit in NG+5 - but I need 3387000000 amrita to get one level now.
If you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comments or tell us your preferred weapon or approach of attack! Hopefully this helped a few people to get into what I personally think is one of the best action RPG titles of all time.
It's only later that I realised why I love anime and games. It's just how many ways one can express an idea.
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