Nioh has been released and it’s bringing players to their knees. Of course what else would you expect? It brings Team Ninja’s old-school teeth gritting difficulty established by the Ninja Gaiden series and mixes it with many of the systems found in games like Dark Souls to create one heck of an action-RPG. Anybody expecting to brute force their way through this one is going catch a spear to the face or a sword to the gut in no time. Nioh has no time for your heroic shenanigans and will happily put you in your place.

So what’s a western samurai in a foreign land to do? Well, it’s not like Team Ninja and Nioh don’t give you the tools and training to get the job done, but some information just doesn’t come soon enough. Even then, there are some things you just might have to learn on your own. Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way. We’re here for support and we’ve brought together a series of must-have tips to lend the newcomer to Nioh a hand. We died more than a few times to bring these helpful hints together in one place so you might not have to. Here are 10 essential tips to surviving Nioh.

Thin the Herd with Ranged Weapons Before the Fight

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It does not take long before you’ve got yourself a bow and gun in Nioh and these weapons serve an incredibly helpful function outside of just giving you some ranged options. Here’s the thing: if your bow or gun is up to snuff and you hit an unaware enemy in the head with an arrow or bullet, then it’s almost always an instant kill, if not very close to it. With this in mind, if you can find a spot overlooking multiple enemies, it’s perfectly safe to spend some time taking shots at your enemies and thinning them out. Just be aware of helmeted or armored foes. They’ll deflect at least one of your projectiles. Pick off the unprotected and you can sweep up what remains with astronomical ease compared to picking three-on-one melee fights.

Go For Essential Skills that Fit Your Weapon Early

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Nioh pushes you to try out the various weapons in the game on the grounds that some weapons work better in certain situations and against certain enemies than others. This is very true and you should try out everything as soon as you can. That said, once you know what weapons suit you best, it’s a good idea to invest some serious effort into mastering it and boosting what you can do with it. Throughout the game, you’ll get skill points and though they are few and far between early in the game, these are essential to picking up various important functions of your weapons skill set. Basic things like combo finishers and parries must be unlocked and you want to make sure that you’ve got the basics down-pat so you can get some of the more elaborate tricks later. You might be tempted to put some points into cool things elsewhere, but it’s better to be a master of a couple weapon categories early than average at every category. Plus, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to grow your skill in other weapons later on.

Stick to Your Primary Weapon Categories, but Vary Your Available Arsenal

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If there’s anything you should learn about equipment in Nioh, it’s that you shouldn’t become attached to any of it. You’ll find gear in droves as you make your way through the game, all with different various effects and bonuses in certain attributes. It’s not a bad idea to keep one sword that can do more damage to demons and another that can parry better against human enemies. The extra bonus comes from offering. Making an equipment offering at a shrine gives you bonus Amrita to level up with. With weapons in particular, this can be boosted by the Familiarity stat. The more you use a particular weapon, the more familiar you become with it and if you can max the familiarity stat, you might unlock new effects for the weapon, but you’ll also boost how much Amrita the weapon is worth when offered. That is to say, if you favor swords, using various katana to max out their Familiarity can be a great way to boost your level-up potential with the extra Amrita you’ll receive for it.

Don’t Be Afraid to Use Your Living Weapon Often

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Your Guardian Spirit isn’t just there to look cool. Don’t get us wrong – it definitely does do that, not to mention giving you a great stat buff. That said, “Guardian” is in the name. Let that awesome ethereal beast look after you! The Living Weapon is essentially Nioh’s temporary super mode. Once activated, your attacks become stronger and you become invincible for a short time. You can also use a chunk of the draining amount of time in which your Living Weapon is activated to launch a super attack with your Guardian Spirit. Obviously, this is a massive boon when your back is to the wall and you’ve got either a boss, especially difficult enemy or too many small enemies facing you down. The point is that you should absolutely not forget to use your Living Weapon in whatever situation calls for it. You might be worried you won’t have it when you need it, but the Living Weapon gauge actually fills pretty steadily, ensuring that you’ll probably have it next time you need it. Don’t get us wrong. It shouldn’t be wasted flagrantly, but your Guardian Spirit certainly won’t let you down when you need them most.

Always Search for the High Ground to a Fight

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Get your Star Wars Anakin-Kenobi jokes out now. Good? Because this one is crucial under most circumstances. Nioh is a game that offers a lot of uneven terrain. Cliff sides, towers, houses with ladders against them and the like are all over the place just waiting for the opportune player to make use of them. We mentioned culling the herd with arrows and bullets before and a high perch to see your targets and give them a long route to reach you certainly helps with that situation, but just as important is getting the drop on an enemy. Tons of enemies in Nioh have patrols or positions that put them underneath a perch above. Spotting these situations allows you to jump down and land a massive falling blow on your enemies, often killing them or making finishing them off an easy task. Whether you’re playing the long game to minimize enemy numbers or just looking for the advantageous start to a solo duel, the high ground will help you ruin your enemies before they ever have a chance to swing at you.

Search Every Nook and Cranny

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As mentioned before, Nioh is chock full of varying terrain and that terrain is packing secrets in every corner. You’ll no doubt see the various glowing points where you can draw Amrita off corpses and find items, but chests and other prizes also await the intrepid explorer. Filling your gear out with various weapons and armors that do great things, but the truly immense prize is the Kodama. The Kodama are the little green child-like spirits wearing rice bowls on their heads that you’ve seen at any shrine. These jovial little sprites are  also hiding in the deepest crags of every nearly every mission and if you can find them, they’ll be sent back to hang out with their friends at the shrine. This is important because every Kodama found strengthens a Kodama Blessing that can be granted at Shrines. You can find more gold, more curatives, gain more Amrita or see more equipment drops depending on the particular Kodama you’ve found in relation to a particular blessing. The strength of these blessings is well worth ensuring that no stone goes unturned and no treasure goes unclaimed.

Consider Boosting Strength or Skill Early

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There’s no doubt that if you want to be proficiently strong with your favorite weapons, you’ll want to focus on boosting the skills associated with them early. This is great for offense, but it’s important to consider the defensive mechanics of Nioh as well. Notably, Strength and Skill are two attributes tied to this matter. Throughout the game, you might notice you get armor with the bonus attributes in darkened text. That’s because down at the bottom of the stats are attribute requirements you haven’t met to utilize that armor properly. The main thing to remember is that Strength is tied to heavier armors while Skill is tied to tactical and lighter armors, often with another attribute like Stamina or Body to back it up. You’ll almost never have Strength and Skill requirements on the same piece of gear. For this reason, it’s a good idea to consider putting at least a few points into Strength or Skill in the early running to make the most out of your favorite armors and get all those juicy stat buffs.

Utilize All of Your Item Short Cuts

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If you’re searching high and low in the environments of Nioh, you’re probably going to pick up a ton of items and consumables. Outside of your standard healing items, there are a ton of different little tools with varying effects to discover in the game. To that end, Nioh gives you shortcuts to slot items into for quick and easy use and if you’ve fiddled around with it, you might notice that you have more than one gathering of shortcuts to work with. Indeed, Nioh has two separate lists of shortcuts from which to assign items to. It might be tempting to just throw everything you think you absolutely need on the first shortcut menu for convenience, but when the second shortcut menu is only a simple button press away from access, it’s really only hobbling you not to get used to switching back and forth between the two and keeping a full selection of various items in both short cut menus. The more tools you have for the job and the better you are at accessing them, the better you’ll do when trouble comes your way.

Master the Ki Pulse Quickly

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The Ki Pulse is one of the easiest things to forget about in Nioh because it always depends on you being aware of it in the thick of battle. Basically, if you time it right at the end of nearly any melee weapon combo, you can activate the Ki Pulse and regain a chunk of lost stamina. Outside of the obvious boon, there are several other mighty opportunities that comes of this single function. Most importantly, you might notice that when you face down demons, they sometimes release clouds of aura that will keep you from regaining stamina if you’re fighting within them. A timely Ki Pulse within these demon clouds will disperse the miasma, both recovering some stamina and ridding the battle of that particular annoyance. Of equal importance are the basic skills that are directly affected by the Ki Pulse. Every stance of every category of melee weapon in Nioh has a skill that empowers attacks for a short time after a perfect Ki Pulse. Unlocking the stance skills is just plain sensible for their regular cheapness and the extra damage you’ll do if you learn to utilize the Ki Pulse whenever you can.

Be Sure to Utilize Prestige Points

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As you play your way through missions in Nioh, you might notice that you start to collect titless for various challenges you complete. These Agyo and Ungyo Titles come from a variety of challenges that can be completed. The gamut covers everything from killing enemies with a weapon category and killing certain types of enemies to finding a number of rare weapons and breaking environmental containers. What’s more important is that every Title gained offers you a Prestige Point that can be put into a one of four choices on a cycling list of stat boosts. Amrita gained, damage versus demons, the amount of HP your Elixirs heal and more can be increased. It’s easy to forget about these points at first because titles come slowly, but as you advance through the game, you’ll start stacking titles like crazy and get plenty of points to spend. Though the increments are small, you’ll eventually make it around to selecting the boosts you want multiple times, stacking them and making the benefits more helpful. Considering that they’re basically free permanent stat boosts, you have every reason to take advantage of the Prestige Points and spend them at every opportunity.