Nioh Stats & Leveling Up Guide: what stats do, and which to improve

After being in its conceptual stage for over a decade, Nioh ended up finding quite a lot of success with the masses as a Souls-reminiscent action RPG with hard-as-nails difficulty. It's now arrived on PC and in a complete package on the PS4 in the form of Nioh: Complete Edition, and the game is as good as it was back on its first release. Being the stat-heavy RPG that it is, you'll be in charge of determining the optimal way to spec your character to take on the challenging hordes of soldiers and yokai sure to test your abilities.

For those who don't know where to start with Nioh's stats and levelling up, this guide is for you! We'll run through all of the different stats featured in the game and where best to spend them depending on your particular play style. And if you're unsure whether Nioh is a game for you to begin with, be sure to read our review. If you're already playing, be sure to consult our other guides - it might save William a life or two...

Need more Nioh help? Be sure to check out our other Nioh Guides:


What all of Nioh's stats do

  • Body - Affects your HP, improves resistance to status effects (affects Spears)

  • Heart – Affects your Ki (or stamina) gauge (affects swords and bows)

  • Stamina - Affects your encumbrance percentage and HP (affects cannons)

  • Strength - Helps activate special attributes of heavy equipment and encumbrance percentage (affects Axes)

  • Skill - Helps activate special attribute of technical (light) equipment and the effectiveness of Ki Pulse (affects Dual Katanas, Guns)

  • Dexterity - Improves the effect and capacy of Ninjutsu (affects Kusarigama)

  • Magic - Improves the effect and capacity of Onymo magic

  • Spirit - Affects the power of your Guardian Spirit and the bonuses


Nioh starting weapon & Guardian Spirit stat bonuses

After finishing the prologue and choosing your preferred starter weapon, you'll be able to choose a secondary weapon bonus. The game allows you to switch between these two weapons on the fly, even in the middle of a combo. This isn't especially important since you'll be able to change weapons whenever you want, but I'd recommend sticking to a certain weapon until you've maxed out your proficiency (which in turn helps with its stats). Here's a quick run-down of optimal pairings:

  • Katana -> Dual Katanas

  • Dual Katanas -> Spear or Katana

  • Spear -> Axe or Dual Katanas

  • Axe -> Spear

  • Kusarigama -> Spear or Dual Katanas

You are then asked to choose from four starter Guardian Spirits and their focus:

  • Kato (wolf) – Strength

  • Isonade (shark) – Spirit and Defense

  • Daiba-Washi (hawk) – Skill and Evasion

You can't go wrong with Kato as a safe bet due to how it increases your close combat attack damage. They're a great starter Guardian Spirit. Isonade is also great because they let you see enemies on your radar while also improving the effectiveness of the Living Weapon skill which is essential against bosses. However, I loved Daiba-Washi because it helped boost my movement speed and Ki guage while also providing higher drop rates. All of these spirits unlock additional benefits as you increase your Spirit stat, and you'll find new Guardian Spirits over the course of the game.


How to spend your valuable points after leveling up: suggestions for the best build

Nioh doesn't necessarily feature any real "best build" like with some other games. We do have some recommendations for the best build in Nioh based on your choice of starting weapon, but you don't have to follow those to be successful. That's part of the beauty of it all - you're able to play the game however you want. Realistically, you'll want to focus your important points on two-to-three specific stats in order to maximize your potential in each mission.

If you make a mistake, there's a special item called the "Book of Reincarnation" which resets your level and skills while giving back all the Amrita you spent. For those that need additional help, here are two build propositions:

  • Strength/Stamina/Spirit (Tank Build/Spear Build) - As someone who reviewed the game, I decided to stick with this build. What this means is for every 2 points I put into Strength, I put 1 point in Stamina and 1 point in Spirit. This allowed me to have access to powerful spears (my preferred weapon), axes, and hand cannons (the most destructive long-ranged weapon available). I was also being able to equip the heaviest equipment in the game without being over-encumbered or using up a bunch of stamina. Plus, with the Spirit buff, my Guardian Spirit provides higher bonuses and extends the Living Weapon timer (which makes you invincible and provides boosted elemental attack power). I would recommend complimenting the Spear (at a high stance) with an Axe because you can use it to spin to win against most bosses. If you prefer high DPS, go with dual katanas or the kusarigama.

  • Skill/Dexterity (Ninja Build) - So, the Kusarigama is an amazing weapon that was added to the final demo prior to Nioh's release. It allows you to dizzy your opponent with a lot of quick damage. Ninjutsu skills are particularly useful for taking out enemies from afar, especially when you unlock elemental bombs so you constantly put the hurt on bosses while retreating. This paired with Dual Katanas can be incredibly effective for high DPS. Alternatively, you can invest a little into Strength and go Kusarigama/Unarmed with heavy armor - you're not going to be moving that much to begin with, and you'll take less of a hit against your Ki when you're blocking (like the Souls games, blocking costs you stamina). You can also invest in Heart to increase your Ki gauge.

  • Magic/Body/Skill (Katana Build) - This is the type of build you want to use if you're interested in using a lot of magic while being very effective against yokai. I'd recommend using Daiba-Washi as your starter Guardian Spirit as it will provide you the means of evading quickly and buffing your Skill stat. If you want to focus on ranged attacks, equip Light armor and focus on Ninjutsu skills, especially bombs and kunai. If you want to get up close and personal, use Medium armor and work on your Sword stats (with a bow for back-up).