Looking at this at first glance, it’s easy to pass Nioh off as another Dark Souls clone. Which would be a fair assessment, it’s easy to see the comparison. However while the structure is very much Souls-Like, Nioh has a lot of its own traits that it brings to the table.
Now firstly, everyone wants to know one thing when it comes to Nioh. Is it better than Dark Souls/Bloodborne?
Does that make it a bad game?
Nioh is pretty f**kin’ awesome actually. It’s a blend of Dark Souls, Ninja Gaiden and Diablo. Holding it up to say, Bloodborne, isn’t really fair. Bloodborne is, in my opinion, one of the best games ever made. It’s going to take something very very special to top it.
William can overpower a lot of the basic enemies
Nioh is primarily set in Japan as you land on the shores and begin your adventure. You play as William Adams, based of the real man himself. Unlike the real man himself, you become a demon slaying super samurai. Joining him are other famous heroes such as Hatori Hanzo. The story to the game is… pretty lackluster. William doesn’t really grow as a character and he hasn’t actually said a lot at all throughout the game. The challenge is to beat the game, story seems to be a bit of an afterthought.
Now, unlike Souls games, the game is split into levels. You go through the level, kill the boss and get taken to the map screen to select the next mission. Some of these levels are drab and pretty boring and some are bloody incredible. My favourite so far has been on an actual battleground, with people fighting all around you as you make your way through, dodging blade and bullets. It’s hard to see, there’s noise all around you and you can’t figure out where you are going and what’s ahead of you. Along with the game having no map, which is a great feature because hand holding is getting too much nowadays, really adds to the lost feeling. An incentive to exploring is the Kodama spirits, little green dudes with bowls on their heads that need to be found and sent back to your shrine (bonfire). Touching the shrine lets you level up and assign magic and ninja skills as well as receive a blessing from the Kodama. The more Kodama you find, the stronger the blessing. Also, they are bloody adorable. Visually the game is pretty good, we aren’t talking FF15 or Horizon but still pretty good. I was impressed with the lip sync for several characters.
Look how cool this image is. LOOK AT IT!
The combat is where Nioh shines. You have five weapons to choose from and can have two equipped at any one time (asides from bows, rifles or cannons). The sword is your basic katana wielding style with good combos and fair damage. The axe for those bruiser builds where you tank through hits and squash people. Dual swords style to becoming a whirlwind of death and fury, the spear for long range sweeping strikes and finally the Kusarigama, a hand scythe attached to a chain for the fast ninja choice. Along with your weapon choices are stances, low, middle and high. Each has it’s own strengths and weaknesses. High stance is more damaging but slower. Low stance is fast but weaker and Middle is your basic middle of the road style. When fighting your enemies you learn when to switch stances on the fly to deal out the most damage and it’s immensely satisfying to flawlessly take down your opponent in a flurry of skills.
As you progress you will also gain skills to learn new moves and techniques. Coming from Dark Souls I immediately gravitated to the parry skills. Massive damage if you can get the timing down and you feel like a boss when you step away from the enemies attack and, with a flick of the wrist, cut them down. More points if you do this and kill them in front of their buddy who knows it’s his turn next.
Combat is measured by Ki, your stamina bar that is used when you attack, block and dodge. Early on, you learn how to ‘Ki Pulse’, a skill that reclaims used stamina and it becomes pretty important to learn this so you can maintain your offense. Enemies are also locked to stamina and will lose it the same way, giving you tactical options of when to attack and when to hold off. Sadly, enemy variety is pretty lacking and you will learn which tactic works for each enemy pretty quickly and be able to punish them throughout the game.
Boss battles are intense and brutal, ranging from fast moving humans to huge beasts. All can kill you within seconds and all require attention. Or… learn the Sloth spell which slows enemies by a billion percent and make every fight a f**king joke. I don’t recommend it as it really takes away from the game and challenge.
You also have Guardian Spirits, beings that provide buffs and abilities. When your in a bind you can call forth the spirit to power up your weapon and become invincible for a short time.
One of the spirits is a shark and should be the only one you pick ever.
Loot is pure RNG fest, with almost every enemy exploding into a shower of blood and items. Armour, Weapons and usable items are plentiful and you will find your inventory fill up very quickly. These items can be sold to the blacksmith or offered up for Amrita which is used to level up with. You can also disassemble them with the blacksmith to get crafting materials which will allow you to craft your own items. MORE IMPORTANTLY you can use the blacksmith to make your armour and weapons look like other items and weapons so your character doesn’t have to look like a mis-match of random pieces and can be as bad-ass as you like.
William starts his battle with your mum
Nioh is a very good game, it is a huge campaign that goes around 50-70 hours. Combat is engaging and fun and learning your skills and when to use them is very satisfying. The lack of enemy variety and the odd filler mission does bring it down a notch but if your missing that souls-like experience and enjoy the Japanese style then this game is for you.