Developer: Team Ninja
Release Date: 07/02/2017
Publisher: Koei Tecmo, Sony Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: PlayStation 4
If you are thinking this game is Dark Souls with Samurai’s then leave right now.
Brutally Challenging? - Yes
Dodge and Roll fest? - Yes
A vast range of weaponry? - Yes
Dying a lot? - Yes
Ok so at first glance Nioh is very much like Dark Souls, and you wouldn't be blamed for saying so. But once you dive into the vast world of Nioh, you are drawn in by a very different setting and style of play.
I admit as a big Demon and Dark Souls, Devil May Cry and Bloodborne fan I was constantly comparing Nioh to the aforementioned games in the back of my mind as I progressed. It does have a similar style of play and format as these games but it's slightly deeper and more nuanced than its counterparts.
Nioh borrows a lot from Dark Souls, and other games that have done this have struggled to find their own identity. But Nioh does this with its own depth in combat, room for customization, weapons, armour and its setting.
Nioh takes place in the early 1600s in a fictionalised version of the Sengoku period. When Japan was in the midst of civil war prior to the ascension of the Tokugawa shogunate.
You play an Irish-born English sailor named William who stumbled upon a secret military project to weaponize Amrita (Amrita is an energy source in the world of Nioh) so he was subsequently thrown into the Tower of London.
Just before William escaped the Tower, alchemist Edward Kelley (bad dude) stole Saoirse(Guardian Spirit) from William.
Determined to get Saoirse back, William followed Kelley doggedly across perilous seas all the way to Japan. But nothing he had heard about this fabled "country of gold" had prepared him for the realm of supernatural peril and death it proved to be.
Upon arrival our "hero" is enlisted by Hattori Masanari, servant to Tokugawa Ieyasu, to aid in defeating the yōkai that are flourishing in the chaos of war.
I wasn't so much captured by Nioh' plot or by William's character himself to say, but I was captured by its setting that mixes doomy darkness, war-torn fields and a disturbing airy silence over the course of the more than 50 hours of main missions and side missions. Heck, it could take you over 100 hours to master everything and the amount of dying and repeating, good grief! I haven't really had the time to go through everything to be perfectly honest but Nioh’s world really intrigues me.
Nioh is a very surprising title I must say. I just so happened to try it out the alpha late 2016 and was left wanting more ever since. There is a strange mix of history and fantasy that brings an unexpected twist to what I played from the alpha and beta. It was obvious then that there'd be a strong emphasis on setting and theme in the game.
The fighting in Nioh is a twist on the Hack-and-Slash genre, with William being able to attack and block enemies in turn. William can run, dodge, and sprint with these and combat actions draining his Ki stamina bar. When Ki has been depleted, you are left vulnerable to attack.
Nioh does not force you into a play style instead switching between heavy, light or ranged weapons while changing stance with each weapon from a high, mid and low attack provides the player with various means of dispatching foes. When timed right, William is able to replenish lost Ki with an action called "Ki pulse”. The “Ki Pulse” also grants stat buffs onto William along with dispelling patches of miasma generated by Yokai and other supernatural enemies which rapidly saps Ki.
At the Shrines (checkpoints) you can level up, offer up unused loot to receive gifts or Amrita and unlock over 20 spirit animals. All which have different benefits from when you use your “living weapon” ability.
You can also summon visitors to help you out, but it seems that the enemies do not scale to factor in an extra player as getting through enemies and bosses with a friend is far too easy.
On your own, however, the bosses are no cake walk and *suprise surprise* they only get harder as the story progresses. They range from hulking giants that sponge damage better than Vince Offers sham-wow to moving foes that are harder to predict, each boss is more memorable than the last one and none are repetitive.
It took me a long time (around 40 hours) just to get through the main story. Because I was reviewing it I just took the straight path, but I'm very excited to try all the side missions and find all the secrets on the next playthrough since Nioh offers a fair amount of replayability.
Nioh may at first appear to be a clone of the Dark Souls formula and it's very easy to make that comparison off the bat, but don't be fooled as it's a worthy challenger and will certainly shine and stand out from the rest.
Nioh confidently goes away from these comparisons and achieves its own identity by bringing in new aspects such as the fast-paced combat and KI Pulse system. The fantasy elements have deep, meaningful connections to the history of Japan around the middle ages, its lack of character development and story is made up by its fast-paced combat system, extremely unpredictable and hectic nature of boss battles throughout is where Nioh truly shines.