Nioh borrows its inspiration from a few games, and while playing it, these inspirations come to light. Dark Souls, and Ninja Gaiden are a clear focal point for Nioh’s gameplay mechanics and intense difficulty. There were times where we loved the game’s magnificent art style, and there were times that we hated the lack of polish when it came to the things that made Dark Souls one of our favorite games of all time. Nioh is an excellent piece of art, one which you want to sit back and enjoy for hours on end, but its difficulty does get a bit overwhelming, so much so that it becomes frustrating and tedious.
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Reviewed On: PS4
Developer: Team Ninja
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Distributor: Ster Kinekor Entertainment
Release Date: 8 February 2017
Nioh teaches you many things throughout the campaign. How to be alone and face your demons, patience of the fight, and how to learn from your mistakes of a battle. Set during the Senguku period, Nioh follows the main character William Adams, a man from the west who finds himself in the center of Japan. He is hunting down Edward Kelley, the game’antagonist, who is searching for a way to turn Amrita into a powerful weapon to help Queen Elizabeth with the war against Spain. While the story sounds simple enough, during William’s escapades through Japan, things expand from much more than a simple “chase”, to a full blown war against the Yokai – demons made popular in Japanese folklore. There has been lots of work done to bring all of these demons to life, and Team Ninja’s spin on these classic Japanese beasts, brings out the game’s true colours.
As we walked through the missions, each location was a true representation of what the war might have looked like back them. Burnt down villages, corpse-ridden battlefields, and desolated Japanese castles. Sure the giant man-sized spider clinging to the wall might not have belonged there, but Team Ninja brought every location to life, and fully imagined a world swallowed by the darkness.
Instead of an open world to explore, Nioh takes a chapter-based approach to missions. You start at one end of Japan, and as you complete missions, more will unlock which will end up with you moving from that region to a whole new one. Some missions have side missions to them, which are in theory re-skinned locations that take William to the same place, but a different time of day, with perhaps different lighting. These side missions are normally smaller, and require a said enemy to be defeated, or object to be found before you can venture forth. The main missions on the other hand always end with a boss fight of some sort, and these all need to be completed in a set region before moving on.
While the missions and their locations are exciting, and every time we went into a new one we could not wait to see where it took us, they often got us sidetracked and we ended up losing focus on the story. Many of the cinematics between missions are Japanese with English subs, which were enjoyable to watch, but often the story would be all over the place and we would struggle to keep up with it.
There is no doubt that Nioh’s combat inspiration is part copy-and-paste from Dark Souls, and has a touch of seasoning from the Ninja Gaiden series. As you level up your character and focus on specific skills points, different weapons will become more powerful.
Different skills sets lets you unlock new ways to attack, and different combos to pull off. One of our favorites was the pulling ability that let us throw as Kusari at the enemy, and pull them towards us. If the enemy was too big, we would fly into the enemy. There are so many different skills to master, that often we would unlock one and use it for an hour, and then unlock another one and never go back to the first one that gave us a different play style. The move sets also depend on the stance, and while we only started using the low stance, by the end of the game we had mastered all three and had skills for each.
Nioh relies heavily on elemental effects, these being water, fire, lightning etc. Going into a water boss with low water resistance was pointless. After a while, we got to know the different types of enemies, and how to bring them down thanks to their weaknesses. The same goes for the guardian spirits in Nioh, as each one buffs the player permanently with a specific buff, while at the same time can be used in magic, and a special attack that summons the beast to imbue your weapon with magic. There are so many different ways to approach an enemy.
Dark Souls had a great co-op feature, that saw you summon your friends to your world to play with them and kill the boss of the area. Unfortunately, this is where Nioh falls short as the feature has been cut from the main game’s release. In the beta you could invite and play together at any time, but in the main game, it requires that you complete the mission before you can help a friend out. We did not want to replay all the missions again just to help friends out, which ruined the co-op for us.
In the end, Nioh is a magnificent experience that Dark Souls player will love. Is it better than our Game of the Year for 2016? No, but it is a good substitute that does a great job in bringing a new world to life in the grittiest way possible.