Now that Koei Tecmo’s Nioh 2 is out in the wild, it’s likely most who have played it can attest to the fact that it’s no cake walk. It’s a bloody marathon, too.
By now, though, it’s probable that most who have dipped their toes into Sengoku-era Japan have gotten to grips with the game’s vigorous demands to some degree, be it in a large or small way. But for the subset of tentative would-be players who have yet to fully commit to the idea of bashing their heads against a wall at regular intervals just rest easy, as we’ve got some beginner’s tips to ease you in.
Adhere to the below five principals and you’ll be starting off your journey on the right foot.
Master the Yōkai Burst
The Yōkai Burst is the single most important addition to Nioh 2’s combat system, and it’s one you should really focus on mastering from the get-go. Explained here, the Yōkai Burst (L2 + Circle) is a barge that is used to disrupt an unblockable enemy attack and deal substantial Ki damage. These attacks can be telegraphed as they come with a distinctive audio cue as well as a scarlet glow that emanates from the enemy itself. You may notice throughout various boss encounters that your normal attacks – irrespective of stance – don’t seem to affect the boss’ health meter all that much, and because of that it’s vital that you take the fight to its Ki.
Phantom, Feral, and Brute, all have different variations of the Burst Counter but the key principal remains the same. For the optimal results it’s best to chip away at a boss’ Ki where possible, fighting smartly with your guard up, and once their Ki is down to around an inch stop attacking until the opportunity for a Burst Counter presents itself.
Once it does, the Counter will stagger the boss and leave them open for a barrage of quick attacks followed by a grapple if you’re sharp enough (Triangle once the red symbol appears near their head) which deals sizeable damage before they retreat into the Dark Realm. Like Sekiro before it, always make sure you punish an enemy with the Yōkai Burst whenever you get the opportunity – it’ll be the difference between you winning or losing.
Tailor your gear
Before long you’re going to be inundated with loot in Nioh 2, far more than you can ever hope to use. Armour, along with all other pick-ups, are divided into categories: white (common), yellow (uncommon), blue (rare), purple (exotic), green (divine) and red (ethereal).
That said, the randomized nature of the buffs attached to each piece of gear – be it a helmet, cuirass, gauntlets, greaves, or a waste guard – means you should always be on the look out for potential combinations for whatever situation you’re currently approaching. Many bosses will have heavy elemental aspects to them, so it’s worth specing accordingly with gear that has a percentage reduction in say, lightning, or fire. Yōkai weapons (imbued with corruption) are good all-round ones to have, with the Seething Dragon switchglaive a favourite early on in the game (it scales nicely if you’re pumping Amrita into Constitution, Skill, or a predominantly magic-based build.)
A little later in the game you’ll find some pieces of armour that have a green (divine) buff that require you to complete the set to get additional bonuses – the more pieces of the set you have equipped the better the stats will be. All that being said, you may get lucky and come across a piece of armour that, though low-level, has a lot of buffs that fit your playstyle. If that’s the case, you can ‘Soul Match’ at the game’s Blacksmith, meaning you forfeit a higher-level piece of gear to ‘level-up’ that low-level piece you like whilst keeping its base stats and buffs intact, meaning if you’re attached to it it’s viable throughout the game. To that end, be mindful that a piece of armour’s level is not really noteworthy as it can be changed; it’s the stats you need to be on the look out for, they can make things considerably easier.
Utilize everything at your disposal
Nioh 2 is a lot more than just weapons and armour equivalents – just take a brief look at your item section if you don’t think so. There’s a virtual treasure trove of gizmos, potions, and modifiers that can help give you the upper hand in any battle. From Talismans that imbue your weapon with elemental damage to traps that can be set to inhibit any oncoming enemy, Nioh 2 actively encourages you to subsume yourself in its myriad of systems and use everything possible in your quest to rid the realm of demons.
Make sure you’re upgraded
This sounds blindingly obvious but it bears repeating: make sure you’ve exhausted every upgrade afforded to you. Some of these are actually a little obtuse; aside from your Amrita-based leveling up, (with the 8 pre-defined stats) you’ve got Ungyo and Agyo title skill points that are earned for repeating certain tasks, like kill a certain Yōkai a set amount of times, which can increase your Ki and health amongst other things. You’ll also get Samurai skill points upon levelling up, and these can be affixed to certain button combinations giving modifiers to your regular attacks. The use of a certain weapon will also grant ‘proficiency points’ that can be spent on a skill tree, and it’s the same for all weapon types. It’s easy to miss one of these upgrade paths but they can certainly make a difference in the long run.
Learn the dance
Admittedly, this is something that will come naturally if you bang your head against the wall enough times. Like the Souls games before it, Nioh rewards players for taking a considered, methodical approach to its combat. Now, ‘considered’ shouldn’t be construed as careful, more so alert. The game encourages a balance between proactivity and reactivity; reading opponent tells, acting aggressively when it makes sense, and standing out of harm’s way when necessary. Nioh 2’s design lends itself to these principals quite well, insofar as the Yōkai Burst can be your ‘in’ to act aggressive whilst parts of the Dark Realm can oftentimes force you to sit back and observe for those aforementioned tells. Be that as it may, your build-type will inform your playstyle too so it’s worth considering all aspects of your approach against each boss. For some of them, you’ll have plenty of time to think about how to go about it.