Rather than pick up after the events of the first game, Nioh 2 tells a whole new story with a different (player-created) protagonist. Nioh 2 also introduces a couple of new weapons to the mix, but one of the best choices for beginners is still the trusty single sword, the katana. Versatile and easy to learn, the katana will do a good job of easing you into Nioh 2’s complex combat while still being powerful enough to cut yokai into ribbons from start to finish. Thanks to the game’s extremely flexible gear system, there’s no one definitive best loadout, but there are some ways to make sure you’re getting the most out of your Nioh 2 sword build.
We go into detail on how to craft a good sword build in this guide, but if you’re just interested in the basics, we’ve put our recommendations for a good beginner katana build at the end.
Best stats for sword builds in Nioh 2
Every weapon in Nioh 2 is tied to a particular character stat, increasing in damage the higher that stat is. For swords, the key stat is Heart, so the first step to any katana build in Nioh 2 is to raise your Heart as quickly as you can. Fortunately, Heart is also the stat that determines how much Ki you have, so you’ll be increasing that all-important meter at the same time that you buff your sword damage.
That doesn’t mean that you should just dump every stat point you get into Heart, though. Especially through your first few levels, make sure you’re paying attention to Body, which increases your health pool. You should try to upgrade Heart and Body roughly evenly until you hit 10 Body, then you can start focusing on getting as much Heart as you can. From that point on, Heart should be the default stat that you upgrade every time you can, unless you have a specific reason to increase another stat.
Best equipment for sword builds in Nioh 2
The most common reason to level up a stat other than Heart in a Nioh 2 sword build is to enable equipment skills. Nioh 2 has three classes of defensive gear—Light, Medium, and Heavy—and each has different stat requirements to unlock its skills. For Light armor, you’ll need to level up Body and Skill; for Medium armor, focus on Body and Strength; and for Heavy armor, you need Strength and Stamina. Don’t be afraid to mix and match equipment classes, but always make sure you meet the stat requirements to unlock your equipment’s special skills or you’re going to be at a severe disadvantage.
That being said, leveling Strength to wear Medium armor is a good fallback choice for sword builds. Medium armor encourages a balanced approach that fits the playstyle of the katana, and Strength improves both your Ki Pulse and your maximum equipment weight, which will be helpful anyway. Whatever you choose to wear, try to keep your equipment weight as low as possible. If your equipment weight number turns red, it will greatly reduce your mobility and increase how much Ki you use with each action. Try to keep this number as low as possible. Keeping it in the green range (30 to 69 percent of your maximum load) is ideal, but builds with heavier armor can venture into the yellow range (70 to 99 percent) if you don’t mind the loss of agility.
When choosing armor skills, look for ones that benefit your specific playstyle best. A piece of gear that massively increases poison damage might sound nice, but not if it’s the only part of your build that has anything to do with poison. You’ll get to know your own playstyle better with practice, but to start out, skills that improve Ki recovery and increase mid stance damage are reliable additions to any sword build. Another important stat to watch out for is Toughness. Higher Toughness results in less Ki being lost when you block, which can be even more important than sheer defense depending on your playstyle. Unfortunately, high Toughness usually comes from heavier armor.
As for your sword itself, you should once again go with whatever suits your playstyle rather than whatever has the best raw damage. A great set of skills can make up for slightly suboptimal damage. One especially solid choice is the Tokagemaru. This yokai sword inflicts the damages enemy Ki, giving you more opportunities to safely attack. Once you come across the smithing text for this weapon, you’ll be able to craft it with pretty common materials.
Best secondary weapon for sword builds in Nioh 2
The katana is perhaps Nioh 2’s most versatile weapon, but it may not be ideal for every encounter. Since you can equip two melee weapons at a time in Nioh 2, you’ll want to choose a secondary weapon that complements your stats and playstyle. To round out a solid sword build following our tips so far, your best choices are to use either the spear, odachi, or axe as your backup weapon. Spear damage scales with Body, while odachi and (to a lesser extent) axe damage scale with Strength, so you should already have decent damage with any of those weapons.
They also work well to make up for the katana’s shortcomings. Spears will give you excellent reach, letting you deal damage to enemies while keeping them at a distance, or just softening them up for a final blow with the sword. The odachi and axe both deal massive damage for situations when the sword isn’t quite cutting it. The odachi also has better range than the axe and scales better with Strength, giving it the edge if you can master its slow and somewhat challenging moveset.
Best skills for sword builds in Nioh 2
The final piece of crafting your sword build in Nioh 2 is choosing weapon skills. Like armor skills, the best choice is highly dependent on your particular playstyle, but there are definitely a few standouts that are indispensable.
Backwave – Lets you deflect attacks to knock enemies off balance with perfectly timed blocks. Can be upgraded to follow-up with a strong counterattack that knocks enemies to the ground.
Iai Quickdraw – Sheathes your sword, then charges one for a fast, powerful attack. Can be upgraded to charge up further and to automatically charge on a successful Ki pulse.
Morning Light – Enables you to attack while getting back on your feet after being knocked down.
Relentless – Increases your total Ki when you’re holding a sword.
Advanced sword builds in Nioh 2
Once you’ve got the hang of the katana in Nioh 2, you may be tempted to try some more advanced strategies, particularly if you’ve found armor or weapons that boost elemental damage. While a standard sword build can get you through the entire game, crafting your own unique build can be very rewarding. Some options include adding Ninjutsu or Onmyo Magic into the mix to give you elemental attacks or ninja tools to play with, but it will require you to reset your skills. You can do that by purchasing a Book of Reincarnation from the Blacksmith, but be warned that doing so is extremely expensive in the early game, and it costs more each time you purchase one. If you’re ready to take the plunge, you may want to consider following an advanced build guide like the Elemental Sword build from RPG Division or the Lightning God build from FightinCowboy on YouTube to give you some guidance.
Nioh 2 sword build basics
Choose the katana as your starting weapon and the odachi as your secondary weapon. Level up your Body stat to 10, then focus on getting your Body and Strength stats as high as you need to activate the armor skills on the best medium armor you can find. Put all other points into Heart.
Look for equipment skills that increase your Ki, and improve your mid stance damage. Keep your equipment weight below 70% of maximum if possible, and look for armor with high Toughness. Look for weapons that increase your Ki damage and mid stance damage. The Tokagemaru is a solid early-game katana once you acquire its smithing text.
Pick up the Iai Quickdraw, Backwave, Morning Light, and Relentless skills as soon as possible. Learn to time your blocks to knock enemies off balance with Backwave, and use Iai Quickdraw for massive burst damage.
After you’ve learned the basics, and if you’ve got the equipment to support a more advanced playstyle, consider resetting your stats by purchasing a Book of Reincarnation and incorporating elemental damage like poison or lightning into your build.