10 things I wish I knew before playing Nioh

Nioh’s resemblance to Dark Souls doesn’t mean any existing skills will make a smooth transition. With the introduction of abstract stamina management mechanics, complex loot systems, and a much more traditional RPG progression, you’ll need to learn some new fundamentals in order to succeed. We can help.

This may end up being less “things I wish I knew before” and more “starter tips” since a lot of these get explained in tutorials but can get skimmed over without you realizing how vital they are. My biggest “before you play” tip would be buy a controller since Nioh doesn’t support mouse controls, but until that comes in the mail, commit these tips to memory.

Failure to Launcher 

I won't lie. I spent about thirty angry minutes playing Nioh in full screen on my 1080p monitor scaled up from 720p. Don't suffer like me (Lauren). The resolution settings are in the launcher, which you can access either by opening the game directly from its file location or, when launching the game on Steam, selecting the launcher option. If you need them, the keyboard controls are included in a manual PDF in the launcher also. 

Head here first.

Don’t ignore the Ki system 

Nioh doesn’t do the best job explaining one of its most important systems. Think of Ki like stamina. You've got a set amount of it and it depletes when you attack, sprint,  or dodge. It replenishes over time when you're not doing one of those things. With me so far? In Nioh, you don't have to just circle around an enemy while you wait for that to happen. After using an attack, you'll notice a blue particle effect fly out around William’s torso. During this window, a single key or button press will initiate a Ki Pulse, which recoups some of the Ki you spent attacking.

By successfully weaving Ki Pulses between your combos, you can lay down the pain for longer before backing off. Another important note on Ki is that most demon enemies have an area-of-effect attack called Yokai Realm that will prevent Ki regeneration. You can avoid them, but don't get stuck inside without any remaining Ki to dodge out with. A successful Ki Pulse while standing in a Yokai Realm will clear the AOE. 

Exploit enemy Ki 

One of the best features Nioh brings to the 3rd person combat lunch table is the ability to see your enemy’s Ki (stamina) bar in real time. Just like you, they can over exert their attacks and use up enough Ki to leave them vulnerable. To make use of this, try to goad extra enemy attacks before diving in right away yourself. Let them wear down their Ki until they naturally back off to regenerate, then move in to deplete the rest. They might block, but blocking attacks also eats up Ki. With the right timing, it’s possible to break their block, deplete their Ki, and exhaust them completely. Their status bar will go red and they’ll appear dazed, which means you can move in with a heavy attack to perform a one hit kill (or at least take off a significant chunk of damage). 

Pay attention to the enemy Ki bar as much as its flailing arms.

Bows are good as hell 

Seriously, you can pull of some sick headshots with these suckers. Some levels and enemy placements are designed to be softened with a quick bow sweep before moving in with the big guns (which aren’t guns but are axes and swords and such). So before moving into a new area, look around with your bow take out any low level enemies or soften the big ones you’re having trouble with.

Don’t worry too much about managing loot 

You’re going to get a lot of the stuff throughout Nioh, so don’t get too attached to one armor set or item. Until the endgame (if you even care) collecting gear sets and unique weapons isn’t all that important. So sell extra gear or whatever doesn’t interest you without too much worry. All you have to worry about is making your numbers go up. RPGs. 

But if you can’t let your favorite gear go… 

Make use of the blacksmith in the hub. Nioh’s inheritance system can get pretty complex and should be left to the most dedicated of min-maxers, but the Soul Match option will keep your friends (axes) around for a long time. Soul Match allows you to infuse a higher level gear into lower level gear, bringing your favs up to speed. The convoluted menu system can make it look more complex than it is, but you'll get used to it with enough very stressful practice. 

Sub missions aren't always the most interesting levels, but they're hiding some of the best rewards.

Dip into a sub mission if you’re having a rough time elsewhere 

If you’ve been killed by the same pair of enemies or same boss enough times that you’re about to cause collateral damage to your system, leave and try a sub mission instead. They’re a good way to grind up a few levels without continuing to beat your head against the same problem. They typically use the same map as a main mission you’ve already completed, but change up the environment, enemy placement, and objective. Chances are, you’ll land some new loot and learn a few things along the way. 

Or just quit them outright 

The ability to leave a mission isn’t obvious initially. If you haven’t spent time examining the uses for all of your consumables, you may have missed the Himorogi Fragment. It consumes all your Amrita, putting it to waste, but takes you back to the overworld map. It can be used as many times as you need and will remain in your inventory like a security blanket. Its counterpart, the Himorogi Branch, is consumed upon use and preserves your Amrita when leaving a mission.

Yeah, I'd run too.

Run when things get iffy 

Like a proper Souls game, Nioh’s enemies are as dull as they come. Most won’t follow you very far, so if you’re close to death and want to avoid losing all that hard-earned Amarita, just book it. Don’t look back. The past is the past, and there’s nothing you can do to change that. We’re here for you. 

Don’t ignore the little green guys 

Kodoma are hidden throughout each level, and every five you find give you one extra elixir when you respawn. And because some bosses feel like a battle of attrition, you’ll need all the healing you can get. Plus, each Kodoma you unlocks a different ‘blessing’ for that area. You can enable one at a time, so think about what you’re having trouble with and adjust accordingly. Amrita buffs are always nice if you can’t choose though.  

Lauren Morton
Associate Editor

Lauren started writing for PC Gamer as a freelancer in 2017 while chasing the Dark Souls fashion police and accepted her role as Associate Editor in 2021, now serving as the self-appointed chief cozy games enjoyer. She originally started her career in game development and is still fascinated by how games tick in the modding and speedrunning scenes. She likes long books, longer RPGs, has strong feelings about farmlife sims, and can't stop playing co-op crafting games.