If you're a returning Niohplayer, you're probably counting the seconds until you can unlock nodes on the Onmyo and Ninjutsu skill trees in Nioh 2 and start flinging your comfy old spells, buffs, and traps.
You'll still want to keep an eye out in missions for Mage's Locks and Ninja's Locks, respectively – they award skill points like before – but in Nioh 2, you can also earn skill points by just playing. It's fantastic!
I'm still waiting for some brave soul to crunch the raw numbers and figure out precisely which abilities earn "proficiency" experience points the fastest, but in the meantime, I figured a quick PSA was in order for new players. The sooner you can get points on your skill trees, the sooner you can begin using your Onmyo and Ninjutsu abilities to unlock newer, stronger stuff further down the skill-tree branches.
To check your current proficiency level progress, press the PS4 touchpad, scroll right to "Status," and then hit the R1 button until you see a page with XP bars for all 13 skill trees (nine weapons plus Samurai, Ninja, Onmyo Magic, and Shiftling). This is a super valuable menu in Nioh 2 – it shows exactly how close you are to hitting the next proficiency level and earning a new skill point in each category.
Here's a big tip: there's an easy way to see which Mage's Locks and Ninja's Locks you're missing. On the map screen, click on a story mission to bring up the summary and then press the R1 button – this will tab over to a page showing how many locks you've earned, how many hot springs you've used, and how many Dark Realms you've dispelled. These are finite collectibles, so you'll see the exact totals.
Another quality-of-life tip: you can set Nioh 2to automatically use/activate locks so they don't get buried in your inventory. Just press the PS4 touchpad, scroll right and select "System," move down to "Basic Game Settings," and then toggle on the option "Automatically use acquired locks of hair."
It won't take long before you find your first Locks and start building out your skill trees. With all that said, which Onmyo and Ninjutsu skills should you focus on in the beginning? I have a few suggestions.
For the Onmyo skill tree, I would make a beeline for at least some of these skills:
A few other Onmyo staples:
You could also use any number of offensive spells or elemental weapon buffs, and that can be a good way to earn Onmyo proficiency, but keep in mind, there's only so much room on the shortcut menu.
For the Ninjutsu skill tree, I only have a few wide-ranging suggestions:
There are plenty of other useful Ninjutsu skills – including Tiger-Running and Catwalking when you just want to zip past all the bullshit and get to the boss – but your mileage will vary depending on your build.
As Chris mentioned in a separate article, it's imperative to trigger your Yokai Shift (Triangle + Circle) and collect and purify Soul Cores as often as possible to earn points for your Shiftling skill tree. This is where you'll go to make the Dark Realm much less punishing. The tree is full of passive benefits.
This probably goes without saying, but make sure you have the Running Waterabilities for low, medium, and/or high stances in the Samurai skill tree. You need all the extra Ki recovery you can get.