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Mass Effect Andromeda: Bioware talk role-playing, dropping Paragon and Renegade systems, and the end of meaningless quests

23 Feb

Producer Fabrice Condominas’ discusses reasons for exploration, the RPG mechanics of the original Mass Effect, and having no best or worst choices.

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When I get a chance to chat to Mass Effect Producer Fabrice Condominas, he’s in the middle of a long, grueling press tour. We’re already his third country in a week, but as we sit down to chat and I confess I 100 percent completed each of the previous games in the ME series, he displays an equally proud grin: Mass Effect is clearly his baby, and he very clearly gives a damn.

“That’ll take a long time in this one,” he laughs to me. He wishes me luck. When I say this interview and hands-on has been a long time coming, he simply grins and shrugs. “Imagine how long it’s been for me!”

After five years Mass Effect Andromeda is almost upon us and now, extremely late in the game, EA has let us play it. That hands-on time has eased some fears and made me quite a bit more excited than I was. Halfway through my play-through I grabbed Fabrice for a quick chat. Here’s what we talked about.

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VG247: So, I want to start with size. Earlier on you said that the size of a single planet zone in this game can be as much as the size of the whole of Inquisition…

Fabrice Condominas: Yeah. But again, remember the context – motorised vehicles, so you’re going across them faster, but that stat still gives you an idea.

“We heard the players specifically over the recent years saying that meaningless quests don’t really interest them any more. We wanted to make sure that even a very minor quest has at least – at the very least – a narrative touchstone. You will learn something.”

How did you guys come to the decision to follow that path instead of something more akin to Mass Effect’s procedurally generated side worlds or something more like ME2 and ME3, where there were more worlds, but they were smaller?

Well, we tried. That’s how. We decided to try several things, and that’s definitely a question we asked ourselves at the beginning. We actually built a number of possible tools for example what we’re now using to accelerate the fabrication of content, but at the origin we built them to say… okay, what if we want thousands of planets you can explore and all that?

We managed to build those tools, but when we played the content that we’d built, it didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel right not in absolute, but it just didn’t feel right for the type of game that we were making. As I mentioned, we realised that really quality over quantity remained our motto even if we want to go more open. So then we have to find a balance because we don’t have teams of five-thousand people [laughs].

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But really, it’s just by play – that’s how we went back – we spent time building those, but each time we had a controller, going through those planets. At the beginning you’re excited. “I can see anything, I can land on anything,” for example. Then you go there, but after two or three you’re like, okay, there’s nothing I remember. Even if you put content in. But there’s nothing memorable. That term is important – memorable. I want to be able to tell you something, like “floating rocks”, and you’re like “that’s that planet”. But building that means you have to craft it.

We heard the players specifically over the recent years saying that meaningless quests don’t really interest them any more. We all come from, at Bioware, classic RPGs a long time ago, and doing those quests where you go fetch things in order to craft better stuff. It’s a part of it, but the player doesn’t really want that any more, and again for the type of game we’re making it didn’t feel right either.

We wanted to make sure that even a very minor quest has at least – at the very least – a narrative touchstone. You will learn something. A character name, the existence of something.

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So you have these larger worlds, but how many? The original Mass Effect had, what, three, four major mission worlds, while 2 and 3 had a lot more but they were shorter and more restricted affairs. Where do you fall in the series?

Hmmm… let’s say in between. We don’t give exact numbers, but as I mentioned, a lot of those big story planets hold critical path missions. As I mentioned, it’s fewer, bigger, but it will be more than two or three, for example. Then there are also other types of planet where you can actually land and explore things that are smaller. In total, it makes for quite a lot of content.

Again, we also don’t give exact numbers because there’s a gating mechanism that’s put in place. So depending on what you do, you’ll find different things. But there’s several of them.

Quality over quantity, but we’re not talking about two!

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Character choice is obviously a big part of the game, and you’ve made some changes. You’ve got rid of the Paragon and Renegade system, for one, but I’m also really curious about if there’ll still be ways to weasel your way out of most negative consequences as there was in the trilogy.

“One of the reasons we went away from the binary system of Paragon and Renegade is because although we didn’t see it that way it was often interpreted that there is a better way, a better story than another, better choices than another. Or the finale where everybody survives is better than the one where somebody tragically dies.”

One of the reasons we went away from the binary system like Paragon and Renegade is also because although we didn’t see it that way it was often interpreted that way in the trilogy – that there is a better way, a better story than another, better choices than another. Or the finale where everybody survives is better than the one where somebody tragically dies.

We wanted to remove that notion of better, because the idea since the beginning was that none of the choices you make or relationships you create are… we don’t judge them. There is no notion of best or worse. I think that by going out of the binary system, you kind of fade that out, right? Suddenly, you put the shades of grey into all the relationships and it becomes a bit more subtle. You win things, you lose things.

You won’t end up in a scenario where a player will tell you “oh, it’s way better to do it this way” because we’ve cut the binary. The combinations are way more important. That was the idea. Get away from the judgmental way of making choices.

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Talking of character relationships – there’s the squad, but how deep are you going on periphery characters? Will we see non-squad romance characters, for instance?

Oh, yes, absolutely. It’s not only about your squad, you have absolutely key NPCs and you will be able to romance other people than your squad. For example, in the Tempest there’s your crew. Those characters will be extremely present because you spend a lot of time in the Tempest, and so you’ll be able to build relationships with them. There are a number of key characters across the game – on the nexus, on the hubs or on the planets that you visit, on the settlements that you build, so yes – the relationships can be way broader.

One thing that struck me in the opening is how it’s almost like a new IP in its introduction. It says Andromeda first, then Mass Effect. It really feels like an even cleaner break than I imagined. Was that a conscious decision?

So, five years have passed since Mass Effect 3. There’s been a lot of change in the industry, and I think the key with this game is also to attract people who haven’t played the trilogy necessarily. There’s a new generation of gamer out there and I think that the game can actually fit them but the problem is when you put the emphasis on the past, people start being anxious about having not played the old ones.

“With RPG mechanics, we’re definitely looking towards Mass Effect 1.”

It was important for us to turn the page on that. That being said, in terms of having the marketing touch for veterans, it was all about keeping the DNA of both Mass Effect and Bioware was absolutely key.

Not only in terms of mechanics – we still have very deep RPG systems in the game, the progression, all of that – but also in terms of the visuals. It’s important for us – even though it’s a new galaxy, new races, it’s important that when anybody sees a screenshot they say… “Oh, that’s Mass Effect”. If you know Mass Effect – but if you don’t, it doesn’t matter, but if you do you’ll notice a Mass Effect touch. This is a balance where we just want to make sure we don’t close the door before the new gamers out there can try it.

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On the topic of RPG mechanics, where in the series do you think you sit on that? Mass Effect was a deeper RPG, the other games streamlined that to varying degrees, and some RPG fans are worried in that regard…

Oh, it’s more towards Mass Effect 1, definitely. What we did when we started working on this game was to actually try to take the best of the three. We had an incredible experience building the trilogy, and we know that Mass Effect 1 was really strong on exploration and RPG mechanics. Mass Effect 2 was really strong on character relationships. Mass Effect 3 was the strongest in terms of combat. Obviously we said, “okay, let’s take everything we’ve learned from each and put it in the game”.

As a result, it took five years to make the game, because trying to balance all that was a challenge. [laughs] But that was still the idea. With RPG mechanics, we’re definitely looking towards Mass Effect 1.

Mass Effect Andromeda: finally, hands-on gameplay reassures us Bioware’s sci-fi RPG is worth the wait

23 Feb

A quick trip to Andromeda leaves us relieved. Things are looking up!

mass_effect_andromeda_tempest

“Andromeda has the attitude and aesthetic of Mass Effect, the story and character execution of Mass Effect 2 and the combat of Mass Effect 3.”

I love Mass Effect. I was crazy enough to nab 100% achievements on all three games in the original trilogy and logged an impressive number of hours into its multiplayer. But I’ve been worried about Mass Effect Andromeda. EA hasn’t shown it much. It’s been quiet.

One side of that is to view it as a show of confidence, the sort of minimalist PR positioning that Bethesda managed with Fallout 4. Announce the game, release it. Don’t worry about that preview hands-on guff in between. There is key difference, mind – Fallout 4 debuted with an hour of stage demos before disappearing until launch. Why that worked is obvious. Andromeda has instead largely shown short story trailers that show cinematic flair with little context, and that filled me with trepidation. Was there something to hide? Well, now I’ve played it. I feel better. In fact, I’m pumped.

Let’s get the big, important stuff out of the way at the top: what I played. EA set us up at the start of the game on a high-end PC with either keyboard and mouse or controller input available. Because Mass Effect has a rocky history with PC controls I figured it important to note the game was good about switching between KB/M and controller on the fly, and both seemed perfectly valid. We got to play the very opening of the game through to the end of the opening mission, then could boot up saves from later in the game (around four main story missions in, I’m told) to experience some more open areas and missions not covered with tutorial assistance.

For the record: This preview will deal in basic information about the flow of what I played, but I won’t talk about any detailed story-specific spoiler information.

MEA_February-54

Part of Andromeda’s mission is to pull what its developers perceive to be the strengths from each of the main Mass Effect games and put them into one definitive package. I’m not quite sure how this breaks down for them, but I get the impression that means the attitude and aesthetic of Mass Effect, the story and character execution of Mass Effect 2 and the combat of Mass Effect 3. This is the feeling Andromeda gives to a series fan: there’s a slice of each of these on offer, the most immediately exciting to me being the return of the general ‘feel’ (a nebulous concept, I know) of the first game in the series.

The nature of the clean break the game takes is obvious even in its opening crawl. A brief story-establishing stinger is followed by the series traditional introductory text, but that’s followed by a title: Andromeda. The words Mass Effect do appear, fading up, but the emphasis is on the game’s subtitle. It feels, I thought, like a new IP.

It’s perhaps thanks to that that the intro feels similar to the opener for this franchise. Where the sequels relied heavily on established events to catapult you into an explosive opener, Andromeda is forced to give the player time to breathe for a few moments. There’s time to look around and enjoy the sights, a chance to talk to the people on your ship and read optional text scattered about as you’re funneled to an urgent mission.

Almost immediately the game encourages you to meander off the beaten path. The very first objective the game gives you comes with an optional alternative, and there are plenty of characters around to chat to, such as future squadmates and the ship’s Doctor, an Asari. I have limited time and EA encourages us to not stop and speak to everyone as “it could take you ages”. So while I can’t comment on the depth exactly, it certainly feels like there’s a lot of optional world-building conversation and context to soak up compared to Mass Effect 3’s more linear journey.

MEA_February-47

“Combat doesn’t quite feel as crisp as something like Gears of War, but it feels a damn sight better than past Mass Effect.”

What follows is a trip down to a planet that has an amazing tone of discovery as you burn through the atmosphere, and then a first mission that has shades of Mass Effect’s Eden Prime – but longer, broader in scope and with entirely optional content. The planet is easily identifiable thanks to its frequent and deadly thunder storms and floating rock formations – it’s hardly a second earth.

At one point in the opener papa Ryder chastises me for not exploring enough, noting that I’d have discovered the same things he did if I’d taken my time and paid attention. A vocal cue had tried to push me towards an optional structure which I elected to ignore due to time constraints, but the space the first mission takes place in seemed pretty significant.

After a smartly-designed first-contact encounter with alien species you’re treated to combat – and this is where Andromeda feels most like the third game. The core of Andromeda’s team worked on Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer and you can tell: it feels like it was built to deliver a snappier version of that experience, and that comes complete with streamlining of the number of actions you can use and the removal of the full powers wheel for a loadout-based power-select system. Only time is going to tell how good this stuff is from an RPG perspective (though the character progression menus showed promise, I feel), but it felt good to move and shoot.

The most significant and best new addition is the booster jet that let you jump and dash at will. This adds a whole new layer to combat, though the same basic cover-based flow remains too. Boosting and then hovering to fire over cover to hit a cowering enemy feels great in particular. EXP is now enemy and encounter based as well as action based more like the first game also, so you can level up mid-mission. Combat doesn’t quite feel as crisp as something like Gears of War, but it feels a damn sight better than past Mass Effect. The jump jets are incredibly fun to use.

There is one aspect of combat that felt clunky: cover. Cover is no longer a snap-in, snap-out system, but is something your character will dynamically hunker to as appropriate. The theory is that this makes more objects viable pieces of cover, but it made me often unsure of how safe I was from enemy fire. I don’t know if it’ll continue to feel clunky or get better as I get used to it but I hope it’s the latter, since the rest of combat feels pretty damn slick.

In the latter half of the demo when I get my hands on some biotics in a sentinel-style class build I was a happy chap indeed. Some might be worried about the fact the powers wheel is gone, but given the game makes it pretty easy to switch between different ‘profiles’ built out of different skill-sets on the fly I’m now feeling much less concerned: it all seems by design. Oh, and PC players rejoice – you’ll have much easier access anyway with full skill hotkey action.

“The smallest Andromeda zone is larger than all of Dragon Age Inquisition. The squad mate with the least lines in Andromeda still has more than Shepard in Mass Effect 3.”

Also in the ‘feels pretty good’ category sits the Nomad, the replacement for Mass Effect’s infamous Mako. I don’t have much to say about this one other than that it actually controls like a good-feeling video game vehicle rather than an all-over-the-place mess. In a cute touch it has two modes – a rear wheel drive mode that’s focused on speed and a much slower all wheel drive mode that’ll allow you to get at least some of that classic climbing up an almost vertical incline Mako action… if that’s your thing.

The Nomad is key since the environments are massive. A fact repeated by Bioware repeatedly is that the smallest Andromeda zone is larger than all of Dragon Age Inquisition. This is insane, obviously, but there’s an economy of scale involved: the nomad moves a lot faster than a horse, and so the game is larger to make up for it. It does offer a great sense of discovery all the same, with impressive vistas showcasing just how good EA and DICE’s Frostbite engine is, as if we needed more proof after Battlefield 1. It’s certainly one of the best in the business.

MEA_February-19

Less impressive are the faces, which as with the previous trilogy often have something strangely uncanny about them. One imagines this has something to do with the sheer amount of facial animation needed for the game (another Bioware factoid was that the squad mate with the least lines in Andromeda still has more than Shepard in ME3), and fans of Bioware’s games are no doubt a little used to that facial jank by now, but it still bears mentioning. Generally speaking I think the game is visually striking, however.

This preview is going on quite a way, and each extra word is probably just a deeper indication of my Mass Effect fandom. I very much wanted this game to be good, and so after months of feeling nervous as all hell about the game’s quality it’s incredibly reassuring to be able to report that it seems like everything is going the right way. Some of the little foibles and quirks of old Mass Effect somehow persist, but things like dodgy facial animation didn’t hold those games back from greatness either.

Much now hinges on how the game grows: a few hours is not long enough to get a true feel for the story, nor is it long enough to truly understand how its RPG systems will grow and expand combat. These are questions we’ll be able to answer in a month’s time when the game arrives, but for now: I’m stupidly excited again. This is a strong start, and I really hope Bioware stick the landing.

Mass Effect Andromeda: finally, hands-on gameplay reassures us Bioware’s sci-fi RPG is worth the wait

23 Feb

A quick trip to Andromeda leaves us relieved. Things are looking up!

mass_effect_andromeda_tempest

“Andromeda has the attitude and aesthetic of Mass Effect, the story and character execution of Mass Effect 2 and the combat of Mass Effect 3.”

I love Mass Effect. I was crazy enough to nab 100% achievements on all three games in the original trilogy and logged an impressive number of hours into its multiplayer. But I’ve been worried about Mass Effect Andromeda. EA hasn’t shown it much. It’s been quiet.

One side of that is to view it as a show of confidence, the sort of minimalist PR positioning that Bethesda managed with Fallout 4. Announce the game, release it. Don’t worry about that preview hands-on guff in between. There is key difference, mind – Fallout 4 debuted with an hour of stage demos before disappearing until launch. Why that worked is obvious. Andromeda has instead largely shown short story trailers that show cinematic flair with little context, and that filled me with trepidation. Was there something to hide? Well, now I’ve played it. I feel better. In fact, I’m pumped.

Let’s get the big, important stuff out of the way at the top: what I played. EA set us up at the start of the game on a high-end PC with either keyboard and mouse or controller input available. Because Mass Effect has a rocky history with PC controls I figured it important to note the game was good about switching between KB/M and controller on the fly, and both seemed perfectly valid. We got to play the very opening of the game through to the end of the opening mission, then could boot up saves from later in the game (around four main story missions in, I’m told) to experience some more open areas and missions not covered with tutorial assistance.

For the record: This preview will deal in basic information about the flow of what I played, but I won’t talk about any detailed story-specific spoiler information.

MEA_February-54

Part of Andromeda’s mission is to pull what its developers perceive to be the strengths from each of the main Mass Effect games and put them into one definitive package. I’m not quite sure how this breaks down for them, but I get the impression that means the attitude and aesthetic of Mass Effect, the story and character execution of Mass Effect 2 and the combat of Mass Effect 3. This is the feeling Andromeda gives to a series fan: there’s a slice of each of these on offer, the most immediately exciting to me being the return of the general ‘feel’ (a nebulous concept, I know) of the first game in the series.

The nature of the clean break the game takes is obvious even in its opening crawl. A brief story-establishing stinger is followed by the series traditional introductory text, but that’s followed by a title: Andromeda. The words Mass Effect do appear, fading up, but the emphasis is on the game’s subtitle. It feels, I thought, like a new IP.

It’s perhaps thanks to that that the intro feels similar to the opener for this franchise. Where the sequels relied heavily on established events to catapult you into an explosive opener, Andromeda is forced to give the player time to breathe for a few moments. There’s time to look around and enjoy the sights, a chance to talk to the people on your ship and read optional text scattered about as you’re funneled to an urgent mission.

Almost immediately the game encourages you to meander off the beaten path. The very first objective the game gives you comes with an optional alternative, and there are plenty of characters around to chat to, such as future squadmates and the ship’s Doctor, an Asari. I have limited time and EA encourages us to not stop and speak to everyone as “it could take you ages”. So while I can’t comment on the depth exactly, it certainly feels like there’s a lot of optional world-building conversation and context to soak up compared to Mass Effect 3’s more linear journey.

MEA_February-47

“Combat doesn’t quite feel as crisp as something like Gears of War, but it feels a damn sight better than past Mass Effect.”

What follows is a trip down to a planet that has an amazing tone of discovery as you burn through the atmosphere, and then a first mission that has shades of Mass Effect’s Eden Prime – but longer, broader in scope and with entirely optional content. The planet is easily identifiable thanks to its frequent and deadly thunder storms and floating rock formations – it’s hardly a second earth.

At one point in the opener papa Ryder chastises me for not exploring enough, noting that I’d have discovered the same things he did if I’d taken my time and paid attention. A vocal cue had tried to push me towards an optional structure which I elected to ignore due to time constraints, but the space the first mission takes place in seemed pretty significant.

After a smartly-designed first-contact encounter with alien species you’re treated to combat – and this is where Andromeda feels most like the third game. The core of Andromeda’s team worked on Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer and you can tell: it feels like it was built to deliver a snappier version of that experience, and that comes complete with streamlining of the number of actions you can use and the removal of the full powers wheel for a loadout-based power-select system. Only time is going to tell how good this stuff is from an RPG perspective (though the character progression menus showed promise, I feel), but it felt good to move and shoot.

The most significant and best new addition is the booster jet that let you jump and dash at will. This adds a whole new layer to combat, though the same basic cover-based flow remains too. Boosting and then hovering to fire over cover to hit a cowering enemy feels great in particular. EXP is now enemy and encounter based as well as action based more like the first game also, so you can level up mid-mission. Combat doesn’t quite feel as crisp as something like Gears of War, but it feels a damn sight better than past Mass Effect. The jump jets are incredibly fun to use.

There is one aspect of combat that felt clunky: cover. Cover is no longer a snap-in, snap-out system, but is something your character will dynamically hunker to as appropriate. The theory is that this makes more objects viable pieces of cover, but it made me often unsure of how safe I was from enemy fire. I don’t know if it’ll continue to feel clunky or get better as I get used to it but I hope it’s the latter, since the rest of combat feels pretty damn slick.

In the latter half of the demo when I get my hands on some biotics in a sentinel-style class build I was a happy chap indeed. Some might be worried about the fact the powers wheel is gone, but given the game makes it pretty easy to switch between different ‘profiles’ built out of different skill-sets on the fly I’m now feeling much less concerned: it all seems by design. Oh, and PC players rejoice – you’ll have much easier access anyway with full skill hotkey action.

“The smallest Andromeda zone is larger than all of Dragon Age Inquisition. The squad mate with the least lines in Andromeda still has more than Shepard in Mass Effect 3.”

Also in the ‘feels pretty good’ category sits the Nomad, the replacement for Mass Effect’s infamous Mako. I don’t have much to say about this one other than that it actually controls like a good-feeling video game vehicle rather than an all-over-the-place mess. In a cute touch it has two modes – a rear wheel drive mode that’s focused on speed and a much slower all wheel drive mode that’ll allow you to get at least some of that classic climbing up an almost vertical incline Mako action… if that’s your thing.

The Nomad is key since the environments are massive. A fact repeated by Bioware repeatedly is that the smallest Andromeda zone is larger than all of Dragon Age Inquisition. This is insane, obviously, but there’s an economy of scale involved: the nomad moves a lot faster than a horse, and so the game is larger to make up for it. It does offer a great sense of discovery all the same, with impressive vistas showcasing just how good EA and DICE’s Frostbite engine is, as if we needed more proof after Battlefield 1. It’s certainly one of the best in the business.

MEA_February-19

Less impressive are the faces, which as with the previous trilogy often have something strangely uncanny about them. One imagines this has something to do with the sheer amount of facial animation needed for the game (another Bioware factoid was that the squad mate with the least lines in Andromeda still has more than Shepard in ME3), and fans of Bioware’s games are no doubt a little used to that facial jank by now, but it still bears mentioning. Generally speaking I think the game is visually striking, however.

This preview is going on quite a way, and each extra word is probably just a deeper indication of my Mass Effect fandom. I very much wanted this game to be good, and so after months of feeling nervous as all hell about the game’s quality it’s incredibly reassuring to be able to report that it seems like everything is going the right way. Some of the little foibles and quirks of old Mass Effect somehow persist, but things like dodgy facial animation didn’t hold those games back from greatness either.

Much now hinges on how the game grows: a few hours is not long enough to get a true feel for the story, nor is it long enough to truly understand how its RPG systems will grow and expand combat. These are questions we’ll be able to answer in a month’s time when the game arrives, but for now: I’m stupidly excited again. This is a strong start, and I really hope Bioware stick the landing.

Players are already being super creative with their For Honor emblem ideas

16 Feb

As always, the ingenuity of fans let loose on a creation system is something to behold.

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A lot of competitive multiplayer games these days feature some sort of emblem or logo creator – and usually that logo shows up somewhere on your character, usually on a shoulder pad or something like that. As a result they’re usually quite small, but given the medieval theme off For Honor emblems are a very real, universe-appropriate thing.

Players have already been going nuts with the emblem creator, and some of the emblem ideas they’ve had are pretty impressive. We figured it’d be worth pulling a couple of our favourites, though there’s now an entire reddit dedicated to For Honor emblems.

First up, I want to note it’s not all references. I’m about to drop a ton of nerdy, referential emblem designs below, but there are a ton of really impressive all-original ones around such as these incredible dragon and phoenix designs:

for_honor_emblem_original

With that incredible work nodded to, let’s now note that somebody made a whole lot of emoji. There’s your usual heart-eyed faces and sobbing faces and the like, but the gallery also features a pretty damn good poop emoji emblem. As you do.

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If you fancy being the very best

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Or being a Vanguard from a world very different to For Honor’s…

for_honor_emblem_destiny

One hopes you don’t die as much in For Honor as in Dark Souls, else your team would be pretty mad

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And no matter your comic book allegiance, both Marvel and DC are already well represented:

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Also, here’s a Wu Tang emblem. Yeah. This game is alright.

for_honor_emblem_wutang

Anyway, the point is – fans are already making amazing stuff, and many of these links have tutorials – and even those who don’t, hey, they’re free emblem ideas for your brain, like. There’s loads more over on the reddit. It’s certainly made me want to give For Honor’s emblem creator a little more love.

For Honor guide: strategy, tips, guard breaks, character guides and more

15 Feb

Battle valiantly with the help of our guide.

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For Honor is pretty damn good, it turns out. After what feels like a long development and an even longer string of betas, Ubisoft’s melee-based multiplayer brawler appears to have really struck a chord with critics and people in general – the servers are packed, and if we’re honest there’s not that much honor going on out there.

For Honor’s brutal kills and no-holds-barred fighting is what makes the game special, though there are some aspects of the game that are a little more difficult to get to grips with. You don’t want to be a complete disgrace on the battlefield, and so to help avoid that terrible fate we’ve been putting together some pages to give you a helping hand.

You’ll need to understand fully how to build reputation points just as importantly as when to parry, and we’re also breaking down the multiple characters and how to get honorable (and dishonorable) kills, amongst many other nuances. It’s all here, and if you check it out you’re sure to be fighting longer and harder than your enemies.

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For Honor Strategy Guide & Tips: Major things you need to know

  • 9 tips for beginners that you absolutely need to know

    Here’s a secret about For Honor: It’s one of the most demanding and mechanically-complex games of this generation. Because of the game’s unique mix of fighting game mechanics and Soulsborne-style action combat, you’ll need to approach it right. Our tips will help beginners to get in the zone.

  • How to parry and guard break with the right timing

    There’s not much that’s more important in a game about melee combat than learning how to block properly. The parry is even more important, since doing so properly allows you to not only mitigate incoming damage but also use the enemy’s attack against them. It can be difficult to master – but we explain how.

  • Honorable and dishonorable kills explained

    Fitting to the name of the game, For Honor features two types of kills: Honorable and Dishonorable. Sometimes you’ll be tasked to get a certain number of one or the other, but to do that you need to know how the game classifies the pair. That’s where we come in…

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For Honor Character Guides

For Honor Patch Notes, Bug Fixes & other fun stuff

  • for Honor Emblem Ideas: players are already being super creative

    For Honor’s Emblem creation system is already proving popular with players, and some are having some wild ideas. People are already managing to twist the limited tools in brilliant ways to create impressive custom creations. Here are some of our favourites.

  • Here’s all known issues and bugs and how to fix them

    Ubisoft has posted a list of bugs and issues that are on their radar for fans to openly see, plus a list of suggested workarounds people can try out if they encounter them. Having a problem? A fix may already be on the way.

For Honor guide: how the reputation system works and how to earn reputation points

15 Feb

Build a sterling reputation.

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How the Reputation system works in For Honor – Earning Reputation Points to equip new gear

For Honor is comfortably sitting pretty as February’s go-to multiplayer title. Ubisoft’s brawler features an interesting take on the things that make a lot of competitive multiplayer games great, taking mechanical ideas from a variety of places: there’s the mood of Chivalry, the focus on animation priority, frames and character positioning of fighting games and the frantic action of shooters, all in one. It’s being critically praised for a reason.

One system that appears to be causing a little confusion among fans first getting stuck into the game is the Reputation System and the concept of Reputation Points. Just what are they? What do they do, and how do you earn them? As we’ve done for a few other of For Honor’s systems including the Parry System, Guard Breaks, Honorable Kills and more, allow us to break it down real quick:

For Honor’s reputation system actually bears a striking similarity to a popular system from another major multiplayer series. Call of Duty fans listen up: It’s basically the same concept as a prestige. We’re not even joking.

For those of you who don’t play Call Of Duty, Reputation is basically a feature which is a secondary judgement of your rank. Player levels are one thing, but reputation is a side that levels up every certain number of levels incrementally, and this secondary number has its own bonuses associated with it. It’s important to pay attention to it.

If you look at a character name you’ll notice two numbers next to it. The first number is your player level. You might notice some players have decoration around that number. That decoration serves to show off your overall reputation level. A reef, for instance, indicates somebody has reached the first reputation level.

The first level up of reputation happens once you’re done with Player Level 20 – so basically Player level 21 is the first reputation level. As you level up your reputation will also increase. This is fun to show off, but For Honor also rewards you in a more important way: you unlock new potential equipment with each reputation point earned, since some high-end equipment is locked behind a certain number of reputation points. You’ll also be more likely to see better gear drop the higher your reputation is.

Like Prestige in COD, Reputation basically gives you a reason to keep on grinding… pretty much forever. There’s more in it for you than just bragging rights, however, and that’s nice.

How to earn Reputation Points – Level up fast

The above should make this all pretty obvious, but for the avoidance of any doubt: you earn reputation points by levelling up to certain points.

The best way to level up quickly in For Honor is to follow orders. Orders are basically randomly generated missions that encourage you to play the game in different ways, such as by trying to specifically rack up honorable kills or by trying out a different character. Look at the orders menu on the multiplayer menu and check the available tasks – each you complete will go some way to raising your level.

Don’t also forget that there are boosts in For Honor, and those of you who pre-ordered will have access to some experience-boosting bonuses – don’t forget to use them.

For Honor character guide: meet the Lawbringer, deadly tank and parry king

15 Feb

Get to know the Lawbringer, a deadly combination of a Tank and Vanguard.

For Honor has a wide range of characters available to play, each coming with their own unique set of abilities and a play-style to match. In the past we’ve had videos from Arekkz covering Shugoki and Peacekeeper, but now it’s time to tackle somebody new: The Lawbringer.

Lawbringer is part of the Knights faction and is an interesting combination of a Tank style character and a Vanguard style character – by which we basically mean he has the ability to take hits like a tank but is really built around his wide range of abilities and his natural predilection for counter-attacking.

Key to using the Lawbringer is the ability to properly parry – he’s all about parrying ill-informed attacks and then letting rip on a newly opened-up enemy. Thankfully, we’ve got a guide all about parrying – go read it.

Lawbringer has a unique ability called Stunning Top-Heavy attacks. This unique little extra ability basically means that if you hit an enemy with any attack the game considers ‘top heavy’ the enemy will be stunned, leaving them open for free hits or the start of a nasty combo. A top heavy attack is any high stance heavy attack, and this ability can thus be paired with some of his combos to leave an enemy stunned at a combo’s end.

One particularly useful combo for this is Judge, Jury & Executioner (Light Attack, Heavy Attack, Heavy Attack), since the final hit of this chain is unblockable. Make it top heavy and make your enemies pay!

Other useful moves for the Lawbringer include the Impaling Charge (Sprint + Heavy Attack), a move that you can use to impale enemies and push them into a corner or even off a ledge if you’re going for a dishonorable kill. There’s also the Polearm (Back + Guard Break), an unblockable throw that doesn’t deal damage but does leave the enemy on their ass, ready for a beating.

There’s more on the Lawbringer’s devastating techniques, plus some suggested combos and strategies, in Arekkz’ video – go give it a look!

For Honor guide: honorable and dishonorable kills explained

15 Feb

It doesn’t always have to be for honor, as it turns out. Sometimes it can be for the opposite.

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For Honor appears to have sealed the deal for its status as this month’s hot must-have multiplayer game, with Ubisoft’s new hack-and-slash based brawler doing well with critics and seeing its matchmaking servers slammed with over-eager traffic from people wanting to get online.

As you might expect for a game entirely built around melee combat, For Honor is rammed with a lot of different ways to off your enemies thanks to the range of characters and weaponry available. Within that there’s an interesting little concept – the idea that there are kills that are honorable and kills that are dishonorable. Which fits the name of the game, obviously.

So… what’s the difference? How do you get each? Allow us to break it down:

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How to get Honorable Kills in For Honor

Honorable Kills are a pretty simple concept, all told: they’re kills that are achieved in the ultimate mano-a-mano fashion: just you, your opponent, your weapons, and no other assistance.

At the obvious top flight level this means you can’t pick off somebody already damaged by another player or double team someone with another player, but there are other wrinkles beyond that: you also can’t get an honorable kill by shoving somebody off a ledge to their death, for instance, or by using traps such as spikes, fire or other environmental hazards. It has to be a one-on-one duel between two warriors – as simple as that.

All kills count to your basic match-winning objectives, of course, but there are absolutely times when For Honor will ask you to rack up Honorable kills as well. In order to do this, be honorable: Fight them man-to-man. If that’s a struggle for you, hone your parrying, guard break and guard break interrupt skills with our guide on those gameplay elements.

Making the most of Dishonorable Kills

If you’ve read the above, you already know how to get dishonorable kills – they’re kills you get by making use of anything and everything around. To be honest, dishonorable kills should make up the bread and butter of your scoring, since they’re easier to get. All kills count, so don’t be afraid to rack a dishonorable kill up.

We’ve added this heading to this page just to point out something general as a helping hand – you should absolutely make use of For Honor’s environments. Every single environment in the game is filled with hazards that can be as big an enemy to you and your opponents as the blades of the enemy. Ledges are particularly deadly, as you can often be driven back to one – by the time you realise, it’s too late.

Some orders will also task you to get dishonorable kills specifically, but even with that considered, don’t sleep on them: they should be your go-to kill. Only keep it honorable when the battlefield situation allows.

For Honor guide: how to parry and guard break with the right timing

15 Feb

Parry and shatter your opponent’s defences like a pro.

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There’s not much that’s more important in a game about melee combat than learning how to block properly. The parry is even more important, since doing so properly allows you to not only mitigate incoming damage but also use the enemy’s attack against them, just as in real armed melee combat you’d use momentum to gain the upper hand. For Honor is aiming to replicate that melee combat feeling, and so parrying is as important as dodging or attacking in general.

The first thing you need to be able to do is read the in-game animations. We highly suggest you run through the in-game tutorials first and learn in-depth how the mechanics work and get a feel for how the animations play out, as that sort of knowledge is vital and is difficult to explain in text – then we can get into the nitty-gritty of the deeper mechanics below. A great way to get used to the animations is simply to practice blocking so start with – so start there.

In many ways For Honor is a more traditional fighting game – it might look more like an arena battler with swords instead of guns, but the way animation priority and move frame data works is actually a little more like a traditional fighting game like Tekken or Street Fighter – and it might help you to think of blocking and attacking in those kinds of terms – it certainly helped me.

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How to Parry correctly in For Honor

Parrying is a pretty simple action input-wise. You’ll most likely be blocking but either way you’ll be waiting for your opponent to come in and attempt to attack. Watch them carefully, keeping up your guard. All characters in For Honor parry the same way – by pressing heavy/strong attack towards the opponent that’s attacking you.

Timing is absolutely key: you want your attack to connect with your opponent’s attack mid-air, thus stopping it from coming in and hitting you properly. Attack too late and you’ll eat the blow as if you weren’t blocking. Attack too early and you’ll whiff your blow and leave yourself open – neither of which is ideal.

Practice will make perfect with the timing, but you should also consider keeping an eye on the icon that tells you which direction the enemy is attacking from – it’ll flash red but then also flash again right as the attack is about to connect. This is a serious helping hand when it comes to timing.

If your attack connects with theirs in the proper way, the opponent will be pushed back and you’ll have an advantage. This is a lot like the move priority in traditional fighting games, as mentioned above – basically, if you act quickly your next action is almost certain to beat out their next action. You must be swift and decisive, however. You can just let rip with a raw attack, but what we recommend is that you go for a guard break. On that topic…

How to Guard Break correctly in For Honor

One of your options after a parry, and a strong option in general when you hit a stalemate against an enemy is a guard break This move basically exists to break through an enemy’s block and leave them wide open for you to lay on some real hurt. This is arguably one of the most important aspects of For Honor, and doing it right will mean you’re significantly more deadly on the battlefield, especially in one-on-one encounters.

A Guard Break is performed by hitting Square on PS4 and X on Xbox One, and it essentially lashes out (usually with a kick) to break the enemy’s concentration. If you hit the Guard Break button again after your kick connects you’ll then let loose with a tackle or a throw that’ll send the enemy to the floor, and you’ll have more than enough time to deliver a blow to them while they’re getting up from that humiliation.

One of the reasons you’ll want to toss out a guard break in a situation such as after a parry is because guard breaks don’t interrupt attacks in progress. If your opponent is winding up a big attack a guard break isn’t going to stop that attack – you’ll kick them and then get a sword to the torso for your trouble. Only guard break when you know it’s safe.

On the topic of safety, Guard Breaks can also be interrupted – and you may want to interrupt a few yourself…

Guard Break Interrupt – aka how to Counter Guard Breaks

The Guard Break counter is covered in For Honor’s ‘Advanced Practice’ tutorial, but as the video from YouTube user Aeon Amadi above shows, the Advanced Practice tutorial actually is rather poorly phrased and doesn’t really tell you how to properly use this feature of For Honor.

Basically, when a Guard Break is incoming you have an opportunity to break out of it by doing a guard break of your own with exactly the right timing. This is where the in-game tutorial goes astray – it tells you to perform your own guard break the moment the enemy’s starts up, but that’s actually incorrect.

Instead, time your guard break so that you trigger it right at the moment your enemy’s guard break makes contact with you. You can practically use the sound of them hitting your shield as your trigger, if you want.

Much as with Parrying, too early or too late and you’re going to eat your foe’s blade, so time it right – you’ll know when you do as the enemy will be sent recoiling and there’ll be a flash of light. This resets the situation, and from there you can loop back to the top of this article – trying to find an in through a clever parry.

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For Honor: Here’s all known issues and bugs and how to fix them

15 Feb

Having a problem? Ubi might already be aware and have a suggested fix.

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While the matchmaking servers appear to be struggling a bit under the load of a horde of warriors desperate for blood trying to find a match, it does seem Ubisoft is on top of For Honor’s issues – and the company has now posted a list of bugs and issues that are on their radar for fans to openly see, plus a list of suggested workarounds people can try out if they encounter them.

The bugs are pretty wide ranging. Known PC bugs and issues really run the gamut, from some overzealous anti-cheat software preventing the game from launching at all right through to stutters during gameplay or the complete inability to quit back to desktop. Each comes within a suggestion from Ubisoft on how to fix it – some very useful, some less so. On the console side things seem more stable, though Ubi does acknowledge the ongoing connectivity and online issues.

Here’s the list, via a thread posted by a Ubisoft community manager over on the For Honor section of the official Ubisoft Community Forums.

Known For Honor PC Bugs & Issues

  • Easy AntiCheat – Impossible to launch the game (Error 006000043)

    Easy AntiCheat sometimes displays an error message. Afterwards the game doesn´t launch at all or just closes after the intro videos.
    Workaround: Use the “Verify File Integrity” option in Uplay PC client. Open your For Honor game page, click “Properties”, and in the “Local files” section select “Verify files”.

  • Easy AntiCheat – Easy AntiCheat sometimes displays an error message with error code 10018

    Easy AntiCheat sometimes displays an error message with error code 10018.
    Workaround: Close the game, check that all game processes have ended correctly (or close them using Task Manager), and restart the game. / Close the game and restart Uplay PC client.

  • User may be unable to quit to desktop

    User may be unable to quit to desktop after getting a “connection has been lost” error message while being idle on matchmaking.
    Workaround: Player must restart the game.

  • TITAN X GeForce GPU Support

    We are aware of an incompatibility introduced in the For Honor Beta with the early generations of TITAN X GeForce graphics cards that make it so the game does not start.
    We were able to reproduce the issue with our Open BETA version but have yet to successfully reproduce it on our official release version of the game.
    If you encounter this issue in the full release version of the game, please contact Customer Support and share your DXDiag report in order to help us reproduce it.

  • Gamepads not working

    Workaround: Unplug all other non-necessary peripherals, especially Steering Wheels and Flight Joysticks.

  • Controller switches Right & Left Trigger (Xbox One S & Xbox Elite)

    Issue might be connected to BLUETOOTH Controllers.
    Workaround 1: Connect the Controller using USB. / Workaround 2: Install Windows 10 Anniversary update.

  • Game stutters when you are hit

    Could be Connected to BLUETOOTH Controllers.
    Workaround 1: Connect the Controller using USB. / Workaround 2: Install Windows 10 Anniversary update.

  • NAT Type Group Issues

    Groups with more than 1 Strict NAT are not recommended as they will not be able to reach matchmaking.
    Workaround: Preferably invite friends with open or moderate NAT types.

  • Mixed Region Group Connectivity Issues

    Users might encounter connectivity issues when grouping with players from other regions.
    Workaround: It’s not recommended to create mixed region groups.

  • Duel rewards (1v1 VS AI)

    User is presented with a pop-up stating that the Rewards will be added automatically when the response comes in. However in that game mode there is no Reward.

  • Host stuck for 15 seconds after selecting “Change options” after a custom match

    After playing a “Custom Match” in a group, if the host selects “Change Options” in the post-match screen, he will be stuck for about 15 seconds on the pop-up.
    Workaround: Currently no workaround.

  • Menu issues in 21:9 resolutions (Faction war orders & Hero Customization tabs)

    No workaround for now.

Known For Honor PS4 & Xbox One Bugs & Issues

  • NAT Type Group Issues

    Groups with more than 1 Strict NAT are not recommended as they will not be able to reach matchmaking.
    Workaround: Preferably invite friends with open or moderate NAT types.

  • Mixed Regions Group Connectivity Issues

    Players may encounter connectivity issues if their group contains players from different regions (example : North America and Europe).
    Workaround: It’s not recommended to create mixed region groups.

One imagines this list of bugs will also be treated as a list of targets by Ubisoft in their next patch, but in the meantime if you hit a snag in the game it’s well worth checking this list to see if there’s a recommended workaround from the developers.

For Honor is out now after what feels like an absolute age of server tests and beta dry-runs. We’re having a blast with it, as are other critics. Once you actually get into a match, you might want to use our top tips for beginners to help you kick ass.

For Honor players hit with network errors as matchmaking servers struggle

15 Feb

Matchmaking servers groan under the weight of For Honor’s launch player base.

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For Honor had quite a lot of betas, but even they might not have prepared Ubisoft for the sheer number of players trying to get on board with their frantic melee combat battler – as a mere day after launch the game’s matchmaking infrastructure appears to be groaning under the pressure.

Players are reporting a wide variety of errors across all three of the game’s platforms, from basic network and connection errors down to more specific matchmaking errors, the blunt ‘matchmaking failed’ and even a particularly dreaded error message more common for Xbox players – ‘Requirements not Met’.

The requirements not met message seems to be a particularly strange one, since as far as we can tell it’s related to the game thinking you’re in a one-man party but still aren’t the party leader. That, of course, should be impossible… and that seems to be just one circumstance in which this bug can trigger.

This particular error has people on places like the Ubi Forums, GameFAQs and other communities tearing their hair out, though it does seem like for many the problem is naturally going away once the servers are done playing catch up. As previously mentioned, that particular error seems to be most prolific on Xbox One, though there’s errors outside the requirements not met bug popping up across all platforms.

Ubi has also released a list of currently known bugs, plus suggestions on how to fix them all.

Online-only games are no stranger to rocky launches, of course, and players have a pretty good reason to keep plugging away at trying to make For Honor work – it’s a pretty damn good game. We fully understand why so many people are slamming the servers, because slicing people up in this brawler is, well, super cool. Once you actually get into a match, you might want to use our top tips for beginners to help you kick ass.

Resident Evil 7 Daughters walkthrough: how to get the true ending in Banned Footage Vol 2 DLC

14 Feb

Be a model daughter. Get the good ending.

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Resident Evil 7’s second DLC drop has now arrived, featuring two more story expansion chapters for the game paired with another non-canon adventure. The story chapters continue the long suffering adventures of Clancy and also offer a bit of insight into the life of the Bakers before they befell a terrible fate… and here we’re going to talk about the latter.

Daughters, as the chapter is called, puts you into the shoes of Zoe Baker, at first on the fateful night when their lives would change forever. A word of warning here – this DLC hinges upon major events that are revealed very late in Resident Evil 7’s main story, so if you’re looking for the maximum impact out of the main narrative you should play this DLC after finishing the core game.

Daughters has two potential endings – a bad ending that spells disaster for Zoe plus the ‘True Ending’, the ending which also isn’t so hot for her but ultimately leads into the events of Resident Evil 7 proper.

We’re going to keep story elements to a minimum in this guide, but here’s how to get both endings in a nice easy-to-digest breakdown. SPOILERS, obviously.

Resident Evil 7 Daughters Banned Tape: how to get the true ending

In order to get the ‘true’ ending of the daughters tape you’ll actually have to head to a place not quite so obvious at first. Here are the basic steps:

  • When instructed, head to the laundry room (the first save room from the main story after the dinner scene) and pick up the change of clothes.
  • Instead of just leaving the laundry room, hop down into the crawlspace (again, familiar from the main story) and crawl through towards the pantry. On the way through the crawlspace, grab the LOCKPICK – it’s hard to miss.
  • When you head upstairs, don’t head straight to the indicated room, but instead duck into the bathroom. (Remember where you got the first wooden puzzle piece in the main game?) There’s a locked drawer in here – grab the SMALL COMPONENT inside.
  • The small component you just grabbed actually isn’t vital to the true ending, but it will give you some cool story background. Once you’re in Lucas’ room (where Eveline is), after the short scene when Jack leaves don’t go up to Evie right away. Instead, turn right and look in the corner of the room….
  • There’s a trophy in the corner of the room. Use the component on it to insert the component into the trophy. Stairs drop. Head on up!
  • Upstairs, read the note and then use the laptop. Earlier on if you’d snooped around Lucas at the dinner table you’ll have seen him put his code into his phone: the code is 1019. Input it into the computer. Have a read.
  • With that done, head on back downstairs, interact with Evie. Yeesh. Head downstairs, you’ll find Lucas. Check he’s okay. You hear a noise upstairs, head upstairs, find Maugerite.
  • Out of the bathroom when ordered, run down to the garage! Open the door with the button, then grab the ROPE from inside.
  • Once you return upstairs, the situation changes again. Run away and hide in the Recreation Room (the room where you found the Mia tape). As you head through the door, turn around and face the door again – use the rope on the door to tie it shut, buying yourself time.
  • Go into the room marked as Grandma’s Room (remember where you get the Broken Shotgun as Ethan?) and find a FORK.
  • Leave grandma’s room, and use the fork to pull the nails out of a boarded-up window in the Recreation Room to get out onto the balcony.
  • Outside, turn right. Walk as far as you can. Notice right in front of you there’s a bright red box, out of reach… take note. On your right you’ll see a tiny opening – go through it.
  • Once through the opening, turn left. Look for the red box you just saw. Open it to find a DOG HEAD RELIEF. You’ll know all about these bad boys from the main story.
  • With that done, head inside and enter the main hall. There’s an enemy down here, prowling about. Don’t get spotted.

This is where things branch.

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How to get the bad ending of the Daughters DLC

If you head back towards the main area of the house where the Kitchen and so on are, Maugerite will appear. She’ll scare you, but then have an attack of conscience.

She’ll give you keys to the Baker’s car and tell you to go. Run to the garage, but be aware on the way you’re going to have to dodge daddy. Get to the garage and get into the car… welcome to the bad ending.

How to get the good ending of the Daughters DLC

Either after Maugerite gives you the keys or before she has the chance sneak to the main door of the house out into the yard. Instead of going to the car, even if you have the keys, head out to the trailer instead. To do this you’ll need the Dog Head – slot it on into the door.

An earlier note in this DLC indicated the Bakers’ other sudden guest was out in the trailer. Go out there and find her. Examine the note on the table and the item the unconscious Mia is holding. This is the true ending.

Nioh guide: strategy and tips for combat, bosses, elements, co-op and more

13 Feb

Become a master yokai-slaying samurai.

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Nioh has been a long time coming, and its development was no simple matter. At first it was a traditional Japanese RPG, then a Musou-like hack-and-slash style game. Its final release takes a very different form indeed – a thrilling and difficult action RPG that seems to take a number of cues from Dark Souls while also featuring pretty damn cool action-based combat that Nioh’s developer Team Ninja are known for in their Ninja Gaiden series.

It’s good stuff. The reviews agree. Much as with Dark Souls, however, elements of the game can sometimes be a little obtuse or frustrating, so if you’re preparing to go in or if you’re already knee-deep in William’s adventure but struggling, we’ve got some top guide pages and top tips and tricks for you based on our many hours with the game pre-launch.

From understanding the level up stats to fiddling with weapon stances, weapon familiarity and stamina management, we go over some of Nioh’s systems, preparing you to make the most of them to avoid too many deaths… though be warned, you will still die. A lot. So, let’s get to it…

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Nioh Strategy Guide & Tips: Major things you need to know

Nioh is a bit of a weird game at times – sometimes it’ll obviously hold your hand and direct you while other times it seems to take a sadistic pleasure in letting you flounder a bit. Allow us to fill in the gaps some – our guide pages will help you not to get so lost in Nioh’s myriad systems.

Tips for Combat: Stance, Stamina, Ki Pulse, Ninjitsu and more

Nioh’s combat is hard. It aims to recreate the precise, perfect movements of a samurai in a sense – and as a result some might even argue it’s a little bit harder than Souls, with more core combat mechanics to worry about at any given moment. To help ensure you don’t get lost, read this – our top beginners’ tips for samurai combat in the game.

16 things you didn’t know you could do in Nioh

First off, let us guide you through some aspects of Nioh that the game itself isn’t all that good at exposing you to. Some of its mechanics and systems are surprisingly hidden – so here’s sixteen points we think you should know.

What the elemental effects do, and how to use them

Like most RPGs, Nioh features the classic elements such as Fire, Water, Lightning and Earth. Each element has its own unique effects, though not all of those effects are as as obvious or as clear-cut as you might think. Here, we explain what each does, and offer up some strategies for their use.

How to get Ochoko Cups to summon visitors for co-op play

Ochoko cups are the all-important item that allows you to summon other players into your Nioh world to help you out in co-op. The catch? They’re pretty rare. We explain how to farm a bunch of them with ease.

How to respec your character and reset your skill points

If you make a mistake and take William down a path you come to regret, all isn’t lost – you can fairly easily reset him for a relatively reasonable price – we explain how to do just that in this guide page.

The Sloth Talisman in Nioh is so broken, it makes boss fights a joke

This little strategy is very likely to be patched because it’s so damn broken, but if a boss in Nioh is giving you a lot of trouble you might want to consider deploying the Sloth Talisman – a powerful little item that really makes mincemeat of bosses. Some might call it cheating, though…

How to beat every boss – strategies, weaknesses and tips

One of the things Nioh kindly borrows from the Souls series is its super-hard boss encounters, each with their own unique weaknesses that, when tackled right, can make an impossible encounter far more reasonable. On this page, we break every boss down in detail.

Nier Automata: “That really crass, really odd, weird shit you expect is still there”

13 Feb

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Taro Yoko is a bit of a game design hero of mine. He’s a game design punk; he makes what he wants, and the end result is often weird and wonderful all at once. He’s best known for his work on weird, outlandish JRPG titles Drakengard and Nier, bizarre games that beneath their quirk usually have something real to say too.

“Don’t worry. That really crass, really odd, weird shit you expect from Nier is still in there. We’re quite confident in creating content like that!”

He’s made a reputation of his unique style. In public appearances, he dons a mask. When I sit down to interview him alongside Nier Automata producer Yosuke Saito and game designer Takahisa Taura, he seems all too gleefully happy to lean into that reputation.

“I do want to reassure everyone,” he chuckles when I ask if Automata will live up to his trademark style, “Don’t worry. That really crass, really odd, weird shit you expect from Nier is still in there. We’re quite confident in creating content like that!”

As I touched on in my previous hands-on it’s something of a shocker that Automata exists at all. The original Nier was the very definition of a low-selling cult hit, but Automata appears to be finding a new audience, especially in the wake of an impressive downloadable demo. Yoko puts this down to the addition of action aficionados Platinum Games as a development partner.

“We’ve got this real feeling coming out of Japan and seeing the markets overseas,” Yoko says. “Platinum Games has this great brand recognition; a great reputation abroad. It’s really thanks to us partnering with them and them being involved with the project that we’ve got this recognition for Nier now, I think.”

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Putting Automata’s sudden surge in interest down to Platinum fits in with a theme about Yoko; he’s self-deprecating. Nier’s weirdness comes due to him not having the mainstream pressures of other games rather than him having a stand-out vision, he says. “I thought – well, it’s Nier, it’s not going to sell very well whatever,” he laughs when asked about a specific decision.

The original Nier was in a sense the best six out of ten I’ve ever given. The game was rough around the edges in a way that displayed its limited budget, but it was bursting with mad, subversive ideas and an ambition at the time not on display in even Square’s big-budget efforts. The exciting thing about Nier Automata is that it pairs Yoko’s crazy vision with Platinum, a development house skilled at delivering tightly-wound experiences.

Or, as Automata producer Yosuke Saito puts it: “I had a feeling that when I managed to finalise the contract for the partnership 99 percent of my work was out of the way!”

“I personally don’t think it’s just down to Platinum Games,” Platinum employee Takahisa Taura offers. “I think what people are interested in is this sort of almost impossible to expect collaboration between Square Enix and Platinum, or Yoko Taro and Platinum. That really weird and quite great potential from that collaboration is what people are watching.”

Before I go in for the interview I have some time to play an extended build of Nier Automata. It opens up with a bad ass segment that leads into the demo content and features… well, there’s a lot of stuff I can’t talk about. It’s a long bullet-point list and it’s easier to just say: look, it’s pretty good. Combat feels good. Its narrative intrigues, and though I have concerns about how repetitive certain content will be I’m pumped to play the final thing.

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In areas we can talk about, Automata seems an interesting mix of Platinum-brand action, Square brand RPG and Yoko-brand madness. At one point I end up in a wide open area, a city partially reclaimed by nature in the post-apocalypse. Here I have a surprising amount of freedom for an action-based game: I can take on side quests, I can buy items to tame a deer and ride it, I can dabble in combat or I can seamlessly walk into a town where beautiful and relaxing music swells as an indicator of your seamless transition into a safe zone free of potentially violent wildlife or definitely violent robots.

“That’s something I really want people to experience – Platinum aren’t just about the action, but their RPG stuff is really good, too.”

When you die, you mysteriously leave behind a corpse like a Dark Souls bloodstain. When you reach it you can either retrieve some lost stuff from your fallen body or revive it to fight alongside you as an NPC. You can even leave bloodstain-style messages that curiously take on a haiku-style 5-7-5 syllable format alongside corpses, though Square, who aren’t yet talking about online features, wouldn’t explain what for.

If you want you can take time out to go fishing, where in a cute touch your little robot pod buddy is also your tackle. If you buy the right stuff from a store, you can tame the local deer and ride them, or you can just kill them for resources. Basically: it’s a proper RPG as well as a Platinum game.

“The guys at Platinum, they really love RPGs as well, Taro notes. “They came up with loads of great ideas and elements for out-there character development growth systems and all kinds of really cool aspects for the game. They put a lot of effort into that. That’s something I really want people to experience – Platinum aren’t just about the action, but their RPG stuff is really good, too.”

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Enter Takahisa Taura, game designer on Automata from the Platinum side. With the likes of Madworld and Metal Gear Rising on his resume, he clearly has the chops. Taro teases him throughout the interview by repeatedly telling me he’ll be the next Hideo Kojima, which Taura vehemently and humbly rejects, embarrassed. “Taura Productions!” Yoko gleefully yells out after the younger developer finishes an interview answer.

“I think people will obviously expect the action from us and expect that everything will be completely action focused, but there are a lot of really cool other RPG elements in there too,” Taura says, following on from Yoko.

“There’s stuff like collecting money to upgrade your weapons, collecting materials, the ability to customise your characters… those proper, classic RPG elements you expect. People may think that’s not very us, that it doesn’t reflect on what Platinum Games is known for, but we think that people will have a lot of fun with those elements, so I really hope people pay attention to those as well.”

“Platinum Games has this great brand recognition; a great reputation abroad. It’s really thanks to us partnering with them and them being involved with the project that we’ve got this recognition for Nier now, I think.”

One of the interesting facts about Automata’s development partnership with Platinum is that the game is largely coming from a new, younger team within the studio. It’s a team perhaps less shackled by past experiences, and as a result they’ve been able to lean into the ‘crass, weird shit’ Taro is known for and boasted of earlier – all while retaining the tight feel of a Platinum action game.

The ‘OS Chip’ item that fans found in the demo that when unequipped causes your character to instantly die without warning (how can an android survive without an operating system?) was, for instance, a Platinum pull that Yoko merely approved of.

Through this and other comments it’s clear that Platinum has fully embraced what made Taro’s vision of the original Nier so special, but they’re combining it with much more exciting gameplay mechanics. The hands-on drives this home too, with even a two hour slice bursting with ideas clearly inspired by a wide variety of Nier’s peers.

Broad as it may be, Nier still proudly clings to its niche credentials. “The good thing about [more niche] games is that you kind of go deep,” says Saito. “You go deep and have a good core, loyal following rather than trying to spread out too widely.”

The Nier series is unlikely to set the world ablaze and I remain curious in how its mechanics will hold up over 20-plus hours, but already Nier Automata looks like a cult classic in the making. That’s hard to complain about. Indeed, that focus on its niche might even be its greatest strength.

Nier Automata is out in Japan on February 23, while the game will be available in Europe and North America on March 7 for PS4. A PC version is coming, but that doesn’t yet have a release date.

Rime hands-on: 4 years on, this platform-puzzler has found its focus

10 Feb

Rime resurfaces, and does so in a gorgeous, smart and focused state.

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“Everybody always wants to compare,” says Raul Rubio, co-founder of Tequila Works and director of Rime. “And that’s fine, it’s flattering,” he quickly adds, though one also gets the sense that this is a topic that provokes mixed feelings for him and his team.

Rime has been compared to other games a lot. It’s also a game that keeps good company in terms of what it’s compared to. Its beautiful art-style is compared to The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, while its young protagonist is rightly compared to Ico. Something of the game’s energy seems to channel Ico, too, though then there’s a more recent touchstone that actually released a good while after Rime began development – the bright colours and challenging puzzles of The Witness.

“This is Rime. No HUD, no combat, no voice over, no quests or pestering NPCs – just a boy and a beautiful world, with lessons taught to you through clever visual design and contextual inference.”

I played Rime for a few hours and yes, all of these comparisons are accurate. It is, as I note to Rubio, damn good company to keep – but I also see where that little grimace at the comparison comes from – Rime feels like a great deal more than that besides.

Rime has been a long time coming. When it was first announced four years ago it was a PlayStation exclusive title, and back then it was a very different game. In some ways it resembled a survival game, with a mostly open world to explore and the need to do things like find food to stay alive. Things changed. Almost everything changed, in fact – all the things I just mentioned are no longer true. When I played it last week, Rime was a rather different beast indeed – but it might be a perfect example of how sometimes less is more.

The opening of Rime sees its protagonist wash up on a beach in a strange world, and little other context is provided. This is deliberate: the game takes a hands-off, light-touch approach to story in order to let players interpret their own meaning. Slowly you’re eased into the world, and the basic loop of Rime’s gameplay becomes clear: encounter an area with clear paths you need to take, then solve puzzles in order to progress.

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This is Rime. No HUD, no combat, no voice over, no quests or pestering NPCs – just a boy and a beautiful world, with lessons taught to you through clever visual design and contextual inference. It’s refreshingly focused. Occasionally a little fox will appear in the distance as a hint system of sorts – if you’re lost, look for and follow the fox. Other than that, you’re left to your own devices. The boy can climb, run, drag objects, hold objects or shout. The world reacts to these simple inputs.

As for narrative, the game doesn’t seem to offer much of a reason for why, but more asks why not? The island itself and your appearance there is just another puzzle to unravel, though getting to that point will require you to unfurl a great many other puzzles along the way.

I’m a big fan of these sorts of games – I loved The Witness, and there is definitely a comparison to be made here, even if it is a little reductive. There’s less a similarity in the style of puzzle (those I played represented a typical Zelda dungeon puzzle far more), but definitely a similarity in the ebb and flow of Blow’s puzzler in how the game encourages you to explore your way into a dead end and then think your way back out of it while layering on abstract and curious story elements.

“The game encourages you to explore your way into a dead end and then think your way back out of it while layering on abstract and curious story elements.”

Some puzzles are obvious to me, some make me sit and scratch my head for a while, and some I accidentally stumble into the solution to. Rime feels to strike the right balance between these areas, but it’s always difficult to exactly know where a game like this stands on that front until you experience the whole thing start-to-finish. At this event, I was limited to two levels. I mentioned earlier that the open structure was replaced by a more typical level structure, and that’s another change Rime absolutely, confidently owns.

Each of the levels I played had a completely different tone and style. The first is bright and wide-eyed with exploratory wonder at rustic towers and other abandoned structures. The only other life is an occasional puzzle-crucial pig or two that you can herd about. The second level is darker – not just in tone, but in its entire colour palette. Everything has shifted, and as the level opens you stand atop a sort of altar surrounded by petrified stone figures. Just what happened here…? Later, similar figures pop up in a desert but not petrified. They look sinister, but run from you in fear. What could have them so scared of a young boy half their size? These mysteries are layered atop each other repeatedly.

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The second level also contains the first real threat other than a mistimed jump – a bird that wants to snatch you up and requires you to hide from it while still solving puzzles. There’s pressure added, a time constraint to your actions, but Rime still retains its relaxed tone – it doesn’t seem to have a concept of Game Over, but just sets you back to safety so you can try again. Ancient-looking murals give you clues on how to strike down the bird, and just when the level seems to be hitting a predictable stride of ‘activate towers to take down the bird’, you’re funnelled to water and encouraged to dive where a whole other world opens up impressively before you.

“The puzzles are fun and intuitive, but that actually came second at this hands-on. Far more important was the sense of discovery it managed to deliver on a couple of times in as many hours, a sort of rare, unbridled joy that few games can match.”

The feeling I got off seeing the fact that there was a whole new world underwater rather sums up what has me so excited about Rime in general. The puzzles are fun and intuitive, but that actually came second at this hands-on. Far more important was the sense of discovery it managed to deliver on a couple of times in as many hours, a sort of rare, unbridled joy that few games can match. Here the comparison to Ico and Zelda makes sense: they’re other games that can make me feel that way.

With a puzzle game, a big question is how its gameplay evolves and how much a chance it stands of keeping a player engaged over an extended period of time – two hours of puzzle mechanics are easy, ten hours of them are not. Many games break this up with combat or other mechanics, but Rime seems focused on remaining pure. That focus seems to be one of its greater strengths, so hopefully it pays off. For now, at least, Rime has rocketed up my most anticipated list for the rest of the year.

Rime is releasing for PC, PS4, and Xbox One in May. A Switch version will follow at some point later on.

This preview is from a promotional trip to Tequila Works to see their work environment and play the game. Travel and accommodation were paid for by the publisher.

Nioh guide: how to get Ochoko Cups to summon visitors for co-op play

9 Feb

Get cups, offer booze, enjoy co-op.

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Ah, video games – how we love you and you predilection for rare items that people will want far more of than you easily make available. Oh, sweet frustration… In Koei Tecmo’s excellent Nioh, one such item that fits that description is the Ochoko Cup – and that’s because they’re actually required for a major game mode.

Ochoko Cups are the items that allow you to summon other players into your game as visitors. You’ll then be able to play co-operatively with them. In the world logic of Nioh, you fill one such cup with Sake and offer it at a shrine, which summons a visitor. They then have some of your booze (not from your inventory, mercifully) and join your quest. Makes sense. The power of booze…

Anyway: they’re quite rare. Here is how you can get some to get your co-op on – once you have a few, just hop into the menu and use them.

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The best way to farm Ochoko Cups in Nioh

Ochoko cups are remarkably rare considering how important their usage is, but there are a few relatively reliable ways to get your hands on them scattered throughout Nioh. The first way is the obvious – Ochoko cups are offered as rewards for some side missions in the game.

Use your map screen to track down Ochoko cups by viewing mission summaries – you’ll be able to spot them in the rewards list. Ochoko cups can also be found around the world in chests and the like, and I’ve certainly found a decent number throughout my main save just by exploring. This will do you for your first co-op sessions. Later in the game they seem to get more scarce.

If you desperately need more, there is a more reliable method to get them that tends to be pretty fruitful – but it is a little more painful and challenging: fight revenants.

Fighting Revenants for Ochoko Cups

Revenants are the ghosts of other fallen warriors in Nioh’s world. You can’t really miss the opportunity to fight these guys: their graves are out in the world. Sometimes these graves represent real players while other times they’re developer-set NPCs.

Head on over to a grave and it’ll tell you their level, mode of death and other information about them. This information can serve to help you figure out if you stand a fighting chance. If you do, summon them and engage them in battle. Revenants are combat encounters that are generally hugely difficult one-on-one encounters, but they’re more likely to reward you with Ochoko cups than anything else as far as we can tell.

Generally speaking it seems like Ochoko cups are more likely to drop from Revenants that are more powerful than you. Find a Revenant that has a gear and load-out that you can think you can best that’s a level or two higher. Battle, win, and there’s a strong chance you’ll find an Ochoko Cup among their drops. If you want a higher chance, battle even higher level revenants. Don’t forget our combat tips, and to use items to buff yourself and inflict elemental effects on the enemy.

Nioh guide: what the elemental effects do, and how to use them

9 Feb

Master the elements to exploit enemy weaknesses.

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Nioh has a few areas where it can be a little obtuse – that’s perhaps part of its ultra-difficult charm. We’ve been producing tips on various aspects of the game for a few days now, but one aspect of it evaded even us: the nature of the game’s elemental effects.

Like many RPGs, Nioh features status ailments that you can afflict enemies with. Plan ahead in the right way and you can set enemies ablaze or afflict them with other things that’ll make their lives a lot harder – and shorter. For some tougher enemies status effects can really make all the difference, which makes it all the more perplexing that Nioh is actually pretty bad at telling players what exactly each effect does.

We’re here, though – have no fear – thanks to a tweet from the official Japanese Nioh twitter account we now know how they work. Magic!

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Understanding Nioh’s Elements & Elemental Effects

  • The Fire Element deals damage to enemies over time when they’re hit with it.
  • The Water Element increases the amount of damage enemies take over time; hit them with water, then light them up with more attacks to see the bonuses.
  • The Wind Element is my personal favourite, and reduces the enemy’s resistance to break and ability to block/parry. Basically, use this to wear enemies down with relentless attacks.
  • The Lightning Element makes enemies weaker in a way that’s particularly cool for certain types of difficult foe – it significantly slows their attack and movement speed, meaning you can more easily dodge them, kite around them and so on.
  • The Earth Element is another favourite, as while it doesn’t have an immediate impact like some others, it doubles the enemy’s Ki Consumption. This is crippling, and can in turn lead to enemies being exhausted more often and thus open to some devastatingly powerful attacks on your part.
  • The Poison Element does damage over time – and to a greater degree than Fire.
  • The Paralysis Element freezes the target in place for a set time, letting you go wild.

Crucially, these elements can of course be deployed against William, too, so you’ll want to watch out you don’t get caught by something nasty.

You can get access to most of these effects through amulets, which can be used to add elemental damage to your weapon. A Fire Amulet will add the effect of fire to your weapon, for instance, making that hitting with the weapon will apply the fire elemental effect to the enemy you hit so long as they’re vulnerable to it.

If you’re clever and quick you can toss together multiple elemental effects – a combination of Earth and Wind can lead to a really vulnerable enemy who you can rush down in a way that’d be otherwise impossible, for instance. Experiment with the elements against those enemies and bosses that give you trouble to find what makes them crumble.

Nioh guide: how to respec your character and reset your skill points

8 Feb

Made a mistake? Here’s how to wipe the slate clean.

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Nioh is here, and it’s good. Tecmo Koei’s Souls-like is a proper mix of the Dark Souls brand of RPG mixed with the action combat that they’re known for from their Ninja Gaiden days. It’s a pretty sublime combination, and it manages to strike that balance between difficulty and fun pretty damn well.

But… there are still hard choices. Each time you level up you funnel points into one of eight major stat categories, plus you get Skill Points in unique categories for the Samurai, Ninja and Onmyo Magic skills. Each point invested impacts your abilities.

These things are permanent… or, well, almost permanent, as the page title suggests, there is a way to respec in Nioh, though it’s hidden away. Here’s how to rebuild your William if you come to regret the path you’ve chosen:

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How to Respec in Nioh

To respec in Nioh, the first thing you’re going to need to do is complete the first two main story missions. This will unlock the Blacksmith, who is a pretty damn important upgrade house for the entirety of the game – but is also the place you’re going to get access to the thing you need to respec.

Once you have access to the blacksmith, head there. If you’re new to this, the blacksmith can be found by heading to the ‘starting point’ of any given area on the map. This is the location that all the roads ultimately lead to that’s marked with a large building on the map screen. From here you can enter the blacksmith.

Inside the blacksmith, browse the items they have for sale. Inside you’ll find the item you need: The Book of Reincarnation. Initially it’s 10,000 gold, which is expensive but absolutely manageable. Once you’ve bought it, you can reach and use it via the Storehouse, which is also accessed from the starting point menu in any area.

When used, the book will wipe William clean: All your levels will disappear, as will all your spent skill points. The Amrita you’ve spent to level up thus far will be refunded to you, meaning you can then visit a shrine and level up all the points once again, choosing where to spend them as if they’re fresh levels. Nice! The same is true for your Samurai, Onmyo and Ninjutsu Magic skill points – all is refunded to you to spend again.

Later in the game you’ll also be able to buy Books of Reincarnation with Glory at the Hidden Teahouse store.

There is a catch, however – and one that applies to both the Hidden Teahouse and Blacksmith. Both have an many of the Book of Reincarnation, but each time you purchase on the price for the next rises. The first is 10,000 gold, but the second is three times that. This continues over and over right into millions of gold – so essentially unless you’re willing to grind a whole lot, respecs are fairly limited. Spend them wisely.

Nioh guide: how to beat every boss – strategies, weaknesses and tips

8 Feb

It’s time to slay some Yokai.

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Nioh is quite a bit more than just Dark Souls with Samurai – it’s a convincing blend of the action-packed combat Team Ninja made its name for with Ninja Gaiden with some of the RPG structure and challenging difficulty that made the Souls series great. Part of that formula are the bosses – massive, epic encounters that you’re sure to die to a few times before learning their patterns and fighting style, eventually learning to use that against them.

Some bosses are harder than others, however, and so below we’ve put together our guide to the bosses in the game. It’s a work in progress as we work through the game for the second time, starting with a focus on the bosses found throughout Nioh’s main story quest. Don’t let the frustration get you – get even!

Needless to say, there’ll be spoilers of boss names and strategies on this page.

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Derrick the Executioner – Tower of London (Mission Level 1)

This first boss battle is really about as simple as they come, since it’s the battle that tops off the starting area. It’s really designed to test your knowledge from throughout the prologue level, which is basically a lengthy disguised tutorial for what the rest of the game will be.

The good news is that Derrick is big and lumbering, meaning all of his moves have pretty obvious tells and wind-ups as you approach him. The basic strategy here is to make Derrick whiff: dodge his heavy attacks, and when he swings and spectacularly misses that’s your cue to get in there and lay on some hits to do some damage. At this point in the game you’ll have a lot less weapon choice, so allow us to make a base suggestion: use the battle axe. It’ll smash him.

Eventually he’ll transfer into a second phase (because of course he does), you’ll want to hang back a bit. He’ll charge at you like a big ol’ idiot, and once again you can sidestep him and get in on him while he’s open from his ill-considered dash towards you to attack. Keep this up and he’ll go down quickly enough.

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Onryoki – Isle of Demons (Mission Level 5)

After old Derrick, second boss Onryoki might well be viewed as the first ‘true’ boss of the game. He’s an enormous demon that swings chain balls around – and even if you’re blocking, you really want to ideally avoid being hit by them. If you’re not blocking it’s going to really, really hurt. As such, this is a test of dodging as much as it is of offence, and it can be a humbling test indeed.

Your basic strategy for this battle should be to walk in a little closer and wait for him to swing the balls about wildly. Eventually he’ll slam his balls into the ground, baited (hur hur) – just don’t get hit (great advice, I know) and watch out for the second ball, which he sometimes uses to sweep the area. Once he’s stopped swinging, dash in and lay on some pain and as he recovers dodge back. This is the rhythm for the fight: let him swing his weapon about wildly, and when he tires and comes to a point where he’s forced to stop, dash in and hit him as much as you can while remaining safe.

Elements of this boss might frustrate, but one gets the impression that the developers intend this as a deliberate skill-check on your ability to dodge. Die a few times if you must – what’s important is to learn the tells in Onryoki’s animation to have an idea of when he’s going to attack. Dodge carefully. We found the low stance was best for this battle thanks to its dodge speed and stamina/ki savings.

If things go really badly wrong you might find some healing items in the boxes in the room, so smash them or goad him into doing so. Eventually you’ll get the chance to break the chains to detach his balls – do that. This is basically phase two now: instead of swinging them, he’ll pick up the balls and throw them at you. Dodge if this happens, but also try to keep him from them, but beware of his stubby but very powerful attacks at close-range. Pretty soon he’ll drop.

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Hino-enma – Deep in the Shadows (Mission Level 12)

Hino-enma is found in the third chapter of Nioh’s main story in a mission titled Deep in the Shadows and is the third boss you’re likely to face. This boss is found inside a cave, and in a cutscene this yokai will swing down from the rafters. She has wings, and, yes – she can fly. That makes things a little more complicated, though I actually found her quite a bit easier than Onryoki.

She basically has two types of attacks – projectile attacks that aim to hit you with either spikes or a blast of wind, or a dash to you that body-slams you. For most of the battle she’ll be at a distance and so these will be your primary worries, but if she gets in close she has a few different close-quarters attacks too. Generally speaking, you want to keep her at range at first and then try to lock her down once you close the distance. Spears are great for this battle thanks to their enhanced reach over other options.

The ultimate key is to avoid her projectile attacks. These things are deadly and can lead you from full strength to death in a matter of seconds – but they’re also well choreographed, with Hino-enma’s animation making well clear what she’s up to before she does it. Dodge and block.

The best bet is to wait for one of her dashing body slam attacks. Avoid it, using low stance to have the fastest available dodge. Switch stances once she’s close by and strafe around her, aiming to launch an attack each time your strafing and dodging causes her to whiff. Only get as close as you need to for your weapon to make contact – get too close and she’ll be far more likely to catch you. Eventually, she’ll be downed.

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Nue – The Spirit Stone Slumbers (Mission Level 19)

Nue is Nioh’s fourth boss and is an enormous yokai that is a mangled mix of several types of animal. It can fly and spit lightning and poison at you – it’s a deadly one. As with Hino-enma for this encounter we recommend a spear so that you can snipe damage off Nue here and there without getting caught up in its attacks by being too close. Use low stance so that you have the maximum ability to move and dodge at speed.

The key here is to wait for Nue to use its lightning or poison attacks; when it does, dodge about to the side and get in to attack. The lightning and poison attacks lock Nue down for some time, giving you plenty of time to get in, let rip some combos, then retreat before the beast is able to raise its defences once more

Once Nue takes enough damage that its Ki is depleted, then is a good time to deploy your Guardian Spirit and really go to town. Go nuts, and if you’re aggressive enough this beast won’t even have the time to recover from its depleted Ki state.

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Tachibana Muneshige – The Spirit Stone Slumbers (Mission Level 19)

Tachibana Muneshige is the second boss in The Spirit Stone Slumbers main mission and is the fifth boss in Nioh’s main story progression. He’s also just a dude, something we haven’t seen since lumbering old Derrick. Tachibana is also encountered as part of the side mission ‘An Invitation from the Warrior of the West’, and much of what we write here applies to that (admittedly harder) encounter with him.

Given that this is a one-on-one duel, it’s unsurprisingly about defence as much as offense. Try to dodge rather than block, and when you manage to dodge and force him to whiff one of his attacks, get in and counter hard. While in previous boss fights we’ve recommended low stance for speed, here we’d recommend medium – it allows you to dodge but medium stance’s heavy attacks are an ideal damage-dealer for this encounter. The spear or sword both seemed to work great in equal measure for this encounter, though given that he’s not the fastest to recover the spear allows for a little more distance for safety’s sake.

Once he’s out of ki, you’ll want to knock him over and perform a ground attack on him (Triangle) to really deal massive damage. Ultimately this isn’t too challenging a fight, and the dodge-and-weave dance that you end up doing is reminiscent of Derrick.

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Great Centipede – The Silver Mine Writhes (Mission Level 27)

Seventh on Nioh’s list of deadly main story bosses is the Great Centipede, and this boss is… pretty much exactly what you’d expect based on its name. That goes for how gross it is too, for better or worse…

The first phase of this boss is pretty simple – get in close and attack its legs. That’s the weak point. For this I used low stance with a sword, essentially getting in close and slicing and dicing like a mad-man. If it dashes at you with its pincers, don’t worry too much about dodging – just block instead and then kite around to attack the legs. The Great Centipede also rears up; if it does, be ready to dodge to the side as it slams back down to the ground.

The key trick for this fight is to try to always remain behind this boss; block an incoming pincer or slam attack, then dodge around to the rear of the centipede and go to town on its legs. It’ll turn to face you and rear up for one of its attacks – when it does, block, then again dodge back around behind it. Follow this basic rhythm for the entire fight and though while challenging the Great Centipede won’t really get a chance to deploy its nastiest, dirtiest tricks and will soon enough fall.

More to come! Bookmark this page… if bookmarks are even still a thing.

Nioh guide: tips for combat, stance, stamina, Ki Pulse, Ninjitsu & leveling up

7 Feb

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Nioh Guide: tips for combat, stance, stamina, Ki Pulse, Ninjitsu & leveling up

Nioh has been a long time coming. At first it was a traditional Japanese RPG, then a typical Omega Force Musou hack-and-slash style game. Its final release takes a very different form indeed – a thrilling and difficult action RPG that seems to take a number of cues from Dark Souls while also featuring some of the action trappings that developer Team Ninja are known for in their Ninja Gaiden series.

It’s good stuff. The reviews agree. Much as with Dark Souls, however, elements of the game can sometimes be a little obtuse or frustrating, so if you’re preparing to go in or if you’re already knee-deep in William’s adventure but struggling, we’ve got some top tips for you based on our many hours with the game pre-launch.

From understanding the level up stats to fiddling with weapon stances, weapon familiarity and stamina management, we go over some of Nioh’s systems, preparing you to make the most of them to avoid too many deaths… though be warned, you will still die. A lot. So, let’s get to it…

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Understand Stamina, because it’s the key to your survival

While it’s not actually called Stamina (in this game it’s called Ki), Nioh’s Souls-like influence is most heavily felt in movement priority, attack speed and so on, and that broad ebb-and-flow of combat is managed in a very similar way to Souls – by a Stamina meter that sits under your health.

This bar shows your Ki, as it’s known, and depleting this bar is bad: if you do William not only won’t be able to attack, but will be left extremely vulnerable, leaving an opening for an enemy to light you up with a massive attack.

Learning to watch your Ki meter carefully and manage your assaults accordingly is absolutely key (pun unintentional, but let’s roll with it) to your survival. Pretty much every action uses Stamina, so watch your Ki levels carefully. Once you master actually managing your Stamina levels, your next step is to learn how to properly wield the Ki Pulse move – a special technique that allows you to focus and use far more stamina than you naturally have. For big bosses that’s vitally important – and we talk more about it on the next page.

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Mastering use of the Ki Pulse

The Ki Pulse is a major mechanic that helps Nioh’s stamina-governed antics to have a bit more speed to them than those of Souls, since it’s basically a special move that allows you to keep your Ki gauge filled. Doing so will thus allow you to attack more relentlessly and put together more devastating combos.

Your stamina bar depletes and then slowly refills with a white bar. This white bar isn’t fully refilled stamina, but represents your potential for a ki restoration. Basically, the longer you wait to hit the Stance button (R1), the more Ki you can potentially restore but also the riskier it is, since the white bar eventually disappears. It’s possible to repeatedly restore almost the exact stamina you used in a combo with well-timed presses of R1.

A few things can interrupt this potential for stamina restoration including getting hit or acting out on your own. Forgetting yourself and doing a panicked dodge away from an enemy will cost you that potential restoration, for instance. The timing is a huge factor, so practice – perform a combo, wait a moment, hit R1 for the restoration. If you dodge, are hit or perform another attack, the white bar instantly disappears. While much of Nioh is like the Dark Souls games, this particular rhythmic pulse to combat resembles the developers’ previous series Ninja Gaiden more than anything else, so keep that in mind.

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Use the enemy’s meters to measure the situation

While it is absolutely an action game, Nioh is also still an RPG. One way it flaunts its RPG credentials is to surface some of the stats and numbers that are deciding how safe or endangered William is behind the scenes. Many of these can be turned on or off by the player, but they’re actually enormously useful.

Enemy health bars are one thing, but equally impressive and important is the ability to see their Ki levels, thus judging how much stamina they have while you’re approaching them. We’ve already told you to watch your own stamina bar like a hawk, but also watch theirs: if it looks like they’re on the cusp of becoming exhausted, you should press the attack and make them fully vulnerable so you can lay down some serious hurt.

Even with the meters off, when stamina is depleted it’ll be more obvious in enemy animation, but it’s better still if you can watch those meters. There are even special moves you can unlock in the character progression that allow you to perform particularly devastating attacks on exhausted enemies, so if you find you’re good at whittling enemies down they are a solid upgrade purchase for you to make.

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Experiment with stances and learn what works where

One of the major differences between Nioh and its peers is the stance system. We covered this a little earlier on where we talked about using the stance button to restore your ki meter, but changing stance is also broadly important throughout the game, since every weapon acts very differently in each available stance.

There are general rules about stances, though your mileage will vary from weapon to weapon. The high stance tends to be high damage but is also a little on the slow side, for instance, while the middle stance tends to be a more balanced one. Each stance comes with its own animations and its own properties in terms of how hard it hits, and this goes for all types of melee weapons in the game, though it of course feels most natural with katana. Stance also determines hit height, so shorter enemies will be easier to hit with low stance and so on.

Most important of all is that ki usage is also determined by stance – the low stance uses little ki when attacking or being hit, for instance, and allows for a lot of dodging. High stance deals a lot of damage, but attacking or taking damage melts your ki meter like butter.

Chances are that there’s going to be a particular stance that is ‘your’ stance; the one you feel most comfortable using. That’s absolutely fine, but you shouldn’t just stick to one. The real crux of Nioh alongside ki management is learning when to adjust your approach, with stance being a major part of that.

There are bosses that I bounced off 10 or 15 times who I then defeated with exactly the same load-out simply by switching from middle stance to low stance, where in low I could dodge and kite about the enemy more effectively. Experiment and explore on regular, basic enemies, then choose the right stance for the situation ahead when it comes to big encounters.

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Be aware of your equipment load, especially if you spec towards speed

This is a mechanic that’ll be familiar to Souls players, but Nioh features a light-touch encumberment system that basically lowers William’s speed based on your equipment load. Your equipment load is surfaced to you in the menus as a percentage, and it’s very important to keep an eye on that percentage, especially when searching around for loot in long dungeon dives.

70% is the number you really want to avoid, as this is the threshold that passes into ‘seriously’ encumbered that in turn really takes a toll on your ability to dodge, run or generally move quickly. We’d advise everybody push to remain below 70%, but if you’re comfortable with lighter armor and less weaponry the lower you can get the more manoeuvrable you’ll find yourself as a result.

If you do decide to go for a heavier-armor spec keep in mind that much more is impacted by this weight besides. Not only will the length of your dodge be shortened but even running will be more costly in ki terms. A tanky, heavily armored build is absolutely viable, but do try to find a balance in your build.

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Use guns and bows wisely – and shoot for the head

Some of the most satisfaction I found in Nioh was through making strong use of its ranged weapon options. Guns and bows and arrows are extremely satisfying to make use of in this game, though you do need to be aware of a few things before you use them.

First off: these guns are relatively accurate to the era in that they take an age to reload. Cannons take the longest, but rifles are also pretty slow. You’re not likely to get off more than two shots before an enemy is on top of you, so be aware of that. Longbows can be fired more quickly, but are obviously quite a bit less devastating than gunpowder and giant hunks of metal being sent flying at your foes.

Here’s the most important thing to note: headshots work. Enemies are anatomically accurate, so those that have visible heads will be hurt a lot more by shooting them there. Enemies with helmets will be protected from instant death by their headgear, but a well placed shot can first knock the helmet off and be followed up with a killshot right afterwards.

Watch your reticule, as it’ll change from grey to red when you’re within range of hitting an enemy and hovering over them correctly. There’s nothing more satisfying than a one-hit headshot, and a gun is a great way to kick off an encounter with a group of enemies from a distance.

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Don’t neglect Ninjitsu – it’s powerful

With Nioh’s big focus on the life of a samurai, most people are likely to stick to the katana and get stuck into that life of dodging, blocking and slicing up demons. However, right there in the menus is another important skill: Ninjitsu.

Take it from me based on my first play through of Nioh: it can be easy to neglect Ninjitsu and focus yourself on other areas, especially since it’s split out into a different skill tree away from some of the more immediately and obviously helpful sword stuff. It’s really good stuff, though, and can seriously help you out in difficult battles.

There are even some ranged attacks in here such as Shiruken and Kunai, thrown ranged weapons that can in the right format be as powerful as an arrow or even a bullet but are obviously far faster to execute and use given their nature. Souls players will be familiar with how Ninjitsu works, as it’s basically similar to magic in those games – when at a shrine once you’ve unlocked a skill there’ll be an option to ‘Ready Jitsu’ – picking this option will allow you to set your ninja spells ready to be deployed in combat.

Give them a try – they won’t disappoint, and we recommend the Fire Shuriken as a great powerful starting point.

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Weapon loyalty matters thanks to weapon familiarity – but sometimes you’ll have to let go

Nioh features a nice touch for those who tend to get attached to their favourite items in RPGs – the ‘familiarity system’, a mechanic that basically means that the longer you use a weapon the better it gets. You become more proficient with it and in turn have more opportunity to do serious damage with it. This can be seen in the menu when reviewing a weapon’s stats in the form of a glowing blue bar. The higher it climbs, the better the weapon is.

This system encourages loyalty, and there are definite and noticeable advantages to picking some weapons you really adore and sticking with them. Your choice of weapon should be made based on how you spec your William, as some weapon types simply aren’t suited to some types of character build.

Sometimes it might be necessary to make a sacrifice, however. Weapons can be handed over to a blacksmith or sold to free up your inventory, but you also have another important option: you can give weapons as an offering at a shrine in order to get Amrita, the vital currency you use to level up. In a cruel twist, weapons with higher familiarity are worth more Amrita, so you may want to part ways with a familiar friend in exchange for a hefty amrita boost.

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Understand what each stat impacts when leveling up

When you level up at a shrine Nioh gives you the option of pumping your hard-earned progression into one of 8 different categories. What isn’t exactly clear is what each category of stat does from its name alone. Each stat is also linked to a weapon type – boosting that stat in turn boosts your ability to use that kind of weapon.

This won’t be so confusing for RPG stalwarts or Souls fans, but we think it smart to just cover what each stat does here all the same:

Body impacts health. It also offers bonuses to your resistances and rewards samurai skill points. Its linked weapon is spears.

Heart impacts Ki, but will also raise your HP stats. Its linked weapons are Swords and Bows.

Stamina raises how much equipment you can carry and also boosts your life. Its linked weapon is the Cannon.

Strength raises your overall, well, strength. But it also offers small boosts to your carry weight and gives up samurai skill points. Its linked weapon is the axe.

Skill will increase your ability to use more technically complex weapons. It also gives up samurai skill points and boosts the power of ninjitsu skills. Its weapons are guns and dual katana.

Dexterity significantly boosts the power of your ninjitsu skills and gives you ninja skill points. It can also add bonus power to some weapons. Its preferred weapon is, unsurprisingly, Ninitsu.

Magic impacts Onmyo skills and the associated skill points. Its linked weapon is onmyo magic.

Spirit increases your link with your spirit guide and also offers bonuses to onmyo magic, and its linked weapon is the Guardian Spirit itself.

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Hone your skills with the rest of our guide pages

Beyond this general tips article, there are also a variety of Nioh topics covered in our individual guide pages. If you’re struggling with a particular aspect of the game, be sure to give them a try: they might just save your bacon through some trick or piece of advice.

How to beat every boss – strategies, weaknesses and tips

Strategies for every boss – a work in progress.

What the elemental effects do, and how to use them

The power of the likes of fire, water, lightning and earth in Nioh explained – and it’s not always as obvious or as clear-cut as you might think.

How to get Ochoko Cups to summon visitors for co-op play

Ochoko cups are the all-important item that allows you to summon other players into your Nioh world to help you out in co-op. The catch? They’re pretty rare. We explain how to farm a bunch of them with ease.

How to respec your character and reset your skill points

If you make a mistake and take William down a path you come to regret, all isn’t lost – you can fairly easily reset him for a relatively reasonable price – we explain how.