‘Nioh’ beginner’s guide: Everything you need to know that the game won’t tell you

Sony Interactive Entertainment

Team Ninja’s Nioh is one of the coolest games to come out so far this year. As a “Soulslike” — a challenging action RPG with mechanics based on From Software’s Dark Souls series — it isn’t the easiest game to get into. But Nioh’s fast-paced combat, intricate levels, and story of a demon-infested alternate-history Japan make it worth the investment.

Let’s assume you know the basics already: You earn “Amrita,” like Dark Souls’ “Souls,” for defeating enemies, then use it to level up when you reach a shrine (like Dark Souls’ bonfires). If you die, you drop the Amrita you’re carrying, and if you die again before you can return to the spot and retrieve it, that Amrita is lost forever. 

Even if you have the general concepts down, there are plenty of tricks that everyone, even experienced “Souls” players, need to learn. While it takes cues from games like Bloodborne and Dark Souls III, Nioh is its own game, with new systems to master.

So whether you’re a SoulsLike veteran or a quivering beginner, use these tips to get over Nioh’s steep learning curve and start your yokai-slaying career off right.

What things do

Nioh has so many features, items, options, and locations that it’s often difficult to even figure out what everything is for, especially when the game does a poor job explaining itself. Here are some of the important terms, in no particular order, you might be unclear on:

Kodama blessing: The more tiny green Kodama spirits you find in each mission, the better the blessings you can receive. The healer blessing, which causes enemies to drop more elixirs, is generally the best.

Summoner’s candle: This item, which drops from some enemies, lets you reclaim your dropped Amrita without having to go pick it up and risking getting killed again and losing it.

Himorogi fragment/branches: You can use these items to quit a mission part-way through. The fragment can be used at any time, but causes you to lose your accrued Amrita. The branches, while limited, let you keep it.

Hidden teahouse: This map location will be unlocked after a certain story mission. It lets you view online features like clan affiliation, and trade Glory, a currency earned for using online features, for items and character skins.

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Change guardian spirit: This lets you change your equipped spirit animal, which can alter your stats and your special “living weapon” attack.

Living weapon: When you’ve earned enough Amrita that the circular icon in the screen’s upper left corner begins flashing, you can unsheathe a powerful living weapon. While the living weapon is active you don’t take damage, but getting hit speeds up the countdown to it disappearing. Killing enemies, on the other hand, gives you more time. Your equipped guardian spirit determines the weapon’s stats and element.

Make offering: This shrine page is the main way to get rid of unwanted weapons and armor, of which you’ll get plenty throughout the game. Lock the gear you want to keep with the square button, then select the rest with “triangle” or the right trigger and offer it all up for Amrita, elixirs and other items.

Summon visitor: When you access a shrine within a mission, you can use “summon visitor” to invite other players into your game. If another player arrives, an item called an “ochoko cup” is used up; if you die or enter a boss fight before that happens, the cup is returned to you.

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Training in the dojo: The dojo, which you can access from the starting point on the map, initially serves up training missions, but as you progress in the story additional missions unlocked there will grant you powerful skills if you complete them.

Blacksmith: The blacksmith isn’t just for forging weapons. She’ll also buy your loot; sell you gear and ammo; “soul match” your gear, fusing two items together for improved stats at a high price; Refashion gear to make it look like other gear; Change your hair or beard once you unlock that option; and more. Talk to her using the triangle button for more options, and watch out for her grandpa, who you can rescue in a side mission and unlocks yet more options.

Torii gate: This is where you can go to be summoned into other players’ games or search for a player with whom to play specific missions.

Learn skills/skill customization: The “learn skills” menu is fairly straightforward. Each weapon type, plus ninja and magic skills, has its own skill page with nodes you can unlock for extra moves, equipment and abilities. It’s worth it to read all the nodes for your weapon or skill category of choice. When you’ve unlocked multiple skills that use the same button combinations; you can change which skills are equipped for each weapon type in the skill customization tab.

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Ready jutsu: This option in the shrine menu lets you choose which ninja and magic skills you have equipped. Your capacity in both categories is limited but can be increased through leveling certain stats or unlocking certain nodes in the respective skill trees. To use your readied jutsu, equip them to d-pad shortcuts from the equipment menu or by pressing “triangle” in the ready jutsu menu.

Titles: In the titles section of the touchpad menu, you can view your gameplay record, see accomplishments in the form of titles earned, and, most importantly, select minor stat buffs in the “prestige summary” menu. Check it every now and then.

Twilight mission: Twilight missions are harder versions of missions you’ve already cleared that give you better rewards.

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