Nioh is a new game from Team Ninja, the creators of the Ninja Gaiden series. At first glance, it is easy to see that the roots of the game are in the Dark Souls genre. It uses a darker graphical style, combat system, and punishing enemies that were popularized by Fromsoft’s giant. Where many have tried to reproduce the Dark Souls formula, Nioh attempts to not only use this formula but also to make it its own. Although not perfect, Nioh creates a fun experience for the player from start to finish.
Most comparisons made between Nioh and Soulsborne games are in the combat system. The fighting plays out similar to the speed of Bloodborne and Dark Souls 3 in that its faster pace and dodge mechanics are vital. Where Nioh’s fighting mechanics stand out from the rest is in its Ki Pulse, fighting stances, and Guardian Spirits. Nioh’s stamina system, or Ki, is similar to other games in the genre in that most actions you do takes down your Ki, with different factors affecting the amount used. Ki pulsing, the act of pushing a certain button at the perfect time after attacking, allows you to regain your Ki at an accelerated rate. This allows combat to stay fast paced and with some practice allows you to stay in the battle longer. Nioh lets you use your weapon in different ways with its different fighting stances. Each stance is unique and has its own strengths and weaknesses. Being able to switch stances on the fly allows you to go from all-out attack to a dodging fiend in a matter of seconds Leveling throughout the game allows players to learn new skills for weapons and gain the ability of different magic abilities. These abilities allow the player to add even more variability to their playstyle to go along with fighting stances. Guarding Spirits are acquired throughout the game and give the player different abilities. These abilities differ from Spirit to Spirit and can depend on the player’s spirit, an ability that can be increased when leveling up. Once the player has defeated a certain amount of enemies in a mission, they can use the spirit as a living weapon. This allows the player to do a significantly higher amount of damage and keeps the player from taking damage. Used at the right time, a living weapon can keep the player alive and finish fights.
Levels, Enemies, & Bosses Oh My!
Where it was obvious that Team Ninja put a lot of time and effort into the combat system, you can see where the also put less effort into. The levels of Nioh are extremely diverse as you go from beach town that was recently pillaged to a dock that is being overrun by demons, but the enemies remain mostly the same. The grunts in the game are composed of the same 15-20 enemies. The enemies you see in the first level will be the same that you see in the last level. Learning the move sets of these enemies allow you to progress in relative ease throughout the game. Bosses vary from different Yokai, or demons, to different humans from the story. Yokai bosses were the more entertaining for myself, but they all have relatively small move sets, 4-6 moves. Much like all the grunts in the game, it is not too difficult to manipulate the Yokai bosses into doing a certain attack and then punishing them until the fight is over. And if you can’t be bothered to learn the move sets, most bosses attacks can be dodged by walking into them and circling left around them. Human bosses almost all boil down to dodging while they use all their Ki, attacking them once to stagger them and then punishing them with a strong attack. Repeat this pattern until the fight is over. Many of the Yokai bosses are even reused as enemies in the later missions which again comes down to manipulating the AI.
Blacksmith & Gear
Another thing that sets Nioh apart from the rest of the genre is its gear system. It has a gear system that could be compared to many dungeon crawlers with rarity, item sets, and unique items. An in-game blacksmith will be your best friend throughout the game. She allows you to forge new gear, reroll your current gear and “soul match” your gear. Enemies throughout the missions will drop loot and lots of it. Most of the time you’re better off dismantling most of it so that you can forge certain items at the blacksmith. The better quality of parts you have for the gear, the more likely you are to get higher quality gear. With higher quality gear having more properties on them, the better the gear you have the easier the game will be. The blacksmith also allows you to reroll the properties to better suit your playstyle. And if you find the perfect sword or helmet for you but it’s too low a level, the blacksmith allows you to soul match it with higher level gear. This lets you raise the level of the equipment you have to another’s level. This makes it so that you can make any gear viable for play. All gear also has a familiarity level that as you use it more, raises the different attributes on the items. The familiarity system is a way for the game to reward players for using the gear they like more often.
Story & Endgame
The story is one that has taken a lot of influence from actual Japanese lore. It starts with an English politician, John Dee, who wants to use Amrita, a fiction type of soulstone, to create an army of demons to conquer the world. The most powerful of Amrita resides in Japan, and Dee wants to send one of his best men, Edward Kelley, to go get it. The player controlled character William is in the process of escaping a prison in the basement of the Royal palace when Dee is deciding to send Kelley to Japan. After a short fight, William gets his Spirit Guardian taken from him by Kelley and follows him to get it back. Team Ninja crafts a fairly entertaining story that can keep the player involved until the end. Once the player has completed the final mission, excluding the epilogue, they unlock the ability to find divine gear. Divine gear serves as one of the driving factors for NG+. Once the game has been beaten, the game mode The Path of the Strong is unlocked. This unlocks the first three game areas with all the missions and side missions at a much higher level. These missions have higher drop rates for divine items and have much harder enemies than the original missions. NG+ in Nioh is very similar to any min/maxing game. You can replay the same missions over and over to get the gear you want with the attributes you want.
Nioh does its best to stand out in a genre that has been entirely dominated by Dark Souls. It has crafted a great fighting mechanic with its stances. The problem with this is that I was able to finish the whole game and all but two side missions using nothing but a single stance. Although I understand that the weapons stances are used to create a variety of playstyles, I feel that it could’ve been used to create a more varied experience throughout the game forcing players to change stances. Endgame in Nioh also does not hold up. Towards the end of the base game, I already felt that it was getting repetitive and that I just wanted it to end. And then I was rewarded for beating the game, with being able to do the same missions, again. Co-op was almost completely taken out of the game because Team Ninja thought it made the game too easy. The only way to use co-op in game is to have already beaten a boss and joining a queue that allows you to play a certain or random mission with a person to help them beat it. The only semblance of PvP is a system that allows a player to touch a bloodstain in a level, which summons an AI version of the dead player to fight. If you defeat the remnant, you have a chance to get their gear, which is my main source for divine gear.
Overall Nioh was a great idea for a game which had some poor execution that ruins the overall experience.
+ Innovative combat system
+ Storyline that can keep you hooked
– The game gets repetitive
+ Gear system – Endgame is lacking at this point
+ Initial boss fights were entertaining – Co-op is not what we were promised
– The game gets repetitive
– Endgame is lacking at this point
– Co-op is not what we were promised
-Oh, the game gets repetitive
Kevin Kapsiak is one The Geekiverse’s hardcore gamers. You can follow him on Twitter.
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