Nioh’s Ki Pulse and Stances

What makes execution barriers like Ki Bursting fun?

It depends on the action. It’s different for every one.

Ki bursting is fun to me because it means being very mindful during fights of my stamina, and the state of the enemy. Beyond that it means being mindful of the stance I’m in, and the stance I want to go to. Ki Bursting means I need to absolutely not miss the window of time during which Ki fills, or I wait even longer for stamina to regen. Ki bursting also introduces decisions, like do I want to cancel my attack and instantly gain back a little stamina so at minimum I’m safe and haven’t lose all the stamina I just spent? Do I want to commit to a combo while I have the opportunity to attack and potentially get hit, but also be able to regenerate almost all the Ki, or wait and see if the enemy is still vulnerable after attacking to do another attack at the expense of the Ki I spent? Do I want to attack once at a time and burst each time to regenerate the Ki back to where I had it, or commit to several attacks for more damage, but at the cost of some of the maximum ki I’ll regenerate with each attack? Do I want to do a super powered dodge instead of Ki burst? Do I want to block and sacrifice the ki burst completely? Do I want to switch stances in order to regain more Ki? Which stance do I want to change to, and what is the left over stance that I need to switch through to get the maximum boost?

It’s a really elegant mechanic. The only thing truly arbitrary about it is that there’s no reason to not press it when it’s full (and of course that switching stances twice, into an unused stance, then the stance you actually want, gives you an extra boost), and it gives you a tiny bit of extra time when it’s full to press it to make the timing easier (I’d guess 6-10 frames).

In theory you could just have the Ki burst be automatic whenever you do another action during the ki burst period. So attacking or blocking would just have it automatically burst right there. At that point it would just function like higher stamina regen for the portion you just spent. It would remove what makes the Ki burst difficult and strictly speaking it’s not technically any functionally different from how it functions right now, assuming consistent execution on a player’s part, but there’s very obviously a functional difference in player mentality from watching that gauge and trying not to miss the point where you want to ki burst, and not bothering with watching the gauge so precisely after each attack, as in dark souls.

Of course other execution tight things have their own individual appeal. They all function differently and frequently introduce more interesting choices into the games they occupy, even if they also introduce some pure execution non-choices.

What do you think of Nioh’s stance system?

It’s brilliant. It divides all sorts of abilities across the various stances, so to play optimally, you need to use them all.

On the most basic level, you have different attacks across the 3 stances, high being slow and heavy, mid being mid-speed and middling damage, but long range, low being fast, but short range.

Next, each stance guards more or less effectively, taking more or less stamina damage. Low takes the most, making it terrible for blocking attacks. Mid takes the least and recovers stamina while blocking most quickly. High takes somewhere between the two.

Then each stance has different dodges. Low can do the quickstep dodge all the time. Mid can do it once, then a roll dodge. High can only do the slow roll dodge.

So with all of these things divided, you have reasons to switch to each stance for different purposes. You can choose stances based on how heavy a commitment you’d like to make to your attacks, or based on whether you feel the need to block or dodge, or get a long range poke, or a close range get-off-me, or a max damage punish.

Then on top of all that, there’s skills, which are segregated by stance. So you only get access to some skills in some stances. These are typically related in some way to the stance, like only being able to ki burst while dodging in low stance. Skills range from being able to throw the sickle of the kusarigama to pull enemies in or draw them to you, to rapid slashing while running with the dual katanas, to launching enemies, or hopping over them while attacking them. You can also gain different parries that only work in mid or low stance, mostly mid since that’s defense oriented.

So you can do things like use low stance to dodge quickly to an enemy’s back, switch to high stance for a punish, then Ki burst and Flux over to mid to block or parry their next attack. You can space your stuff out and use mid stance to poke beyond their range. Each stance has a unique utility, not simply redundant attacks with varied startup times and damage.

Then on top of both of these systems is Flux and Stance: Heaven/Man/Earth, as well as the dispelling Yokai Realm mechanic. Flux makes it so you want to switch stances after each attack, and Stance: Heaven/Man/Earth make it so you want to do the full Ki Pulse, both of these indirectly instructing you how to use the system to its full potential.

Flux gives you bonus Ki if you switch stances during a Ki Pulse, which requires you to be mindful of what stance you’re currently in and what stance you want to go to. Flux 2 then gives you more bonus Ki if you stance swap twice during a ki pulse. This requires you to be mindful of all 3 stances at the same time. Flux 2 doesn’t let you switch back to the original stance, so you need to know what stance you are in, which you want to go to, and which you are passing through along the way.

There are 3 Stance skills, Heaven, Man, and Earth. These are prerequisites for the more advanced attacking skills for each weapon, so you need to get them. They give you a unique damage bonus for a limited time if you do a perfect Ki Pulse. Yokai Realm, created by Yokai Enemies, debuffs your stamina regen while standing in it and allows them to regen stamina, but you can dispel it with a perfect Ki Pulse. These give you a clear mechanical reason to wait the full length of the Ki Pulse time. The other cool thing about the stance skills is that their attack bonuses are unique, meaning they will stack with any other attack bonus you have, and even stack with each other. It’s possible to have all 3 of these buffs active at the same time if you’re quick enough.

So between the two, you can get switch stances to gain tons of Ki, and get damage bonuses as you go. So if you do both of these at the same time, you’ll be a lot more effective in damaging enemies, but only if you can stay mindful of all these factors, in addition to what the enemy’s doing. Not easy.

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