+Creative use of Japan’s Sengoku Period
+A unique take on the Bloodborne and Dark Souls franchises combat systems
+Each stage requests players to spend hours clearing every inch of them
+Each boss provide a unique scaling of difficulty
+Armor designs feel historically accurate and quite well rendered
-Stats feel almost useless in comparison to Dark Souls or Bloodborne
-The approach to coop decreases the games overall difficulty
-Little variation or importance of different builds
-Graphics and performance could use some better PlayStation 4 Pro optimizations
What do you imagine when someone mentions Japan’s Sengoku Period? Cities lavished in lanters lit to walkways, Sakura Tree’s dropping beautiful pink petals upon the ground, and perhaps Samurai clad in their armor walking among dirt roads? Or do you imagine a land filled with mystique and fantasy where mystical creatures roam? That’s exactly what Koei Tecmo has done as they show their fondness for Japan’s rather sumptuously rich history.
Nioh is one of those games that follows the tradition of the Dark Souls-inspired combat while also entrenching itself with touches of Ninja Gaiden. After all, what more could we expect from Team Ninja, the minds behind the Ninja Gaiden franchise? Much as you’d expect, this is a game that balances out the virtue of patience and the value of learning how to defend yourself against a lethal enemy. This is something Team Ninja has been known for in the past and continued to do so quite well to this day. This means tactics, dexterity, and a keen memory will play a rather large role in order to overcome the inevitability of dying, and dying a lot.
The game takes place during the explorations of protagonist William Adams, a true Western Samurai, whom adventured to Japan in the 1600’s. Our story uses this factual piece of history as its smelting point and forges forth from there. The game, however, depicts him as a an hunting down an antagonist whom just happens to be an occultist, by the name of Edward Kelley, whom actually exists in English history. Both of these men are hunting down one of the same thing: Amrita. This magical stone is abundant and Japan, it has also been seen as an artifact that holds power, and could turn the tides of war in Queen Elizabeth I’s fight against Spain.
However, this also means death is a heavy feature in this game and it’s not tied to the frequency of player deaths, but also the fact Japan is torn in war and ridden with yokai (demons). If you ever wanted to see a blend between anime, gaming, and a good Akira Kurosawa film, here’s your chance. Koei Tecmo blended perfectly the chaos of ruins and corpses littered across the lands. However, Nioh’s elegance isn’t due to the scenic creativity that Koei Tecmo exhibits with this game, but rather its combat.
Much as you would expect, Nioh is a title that thrives upon creativity and its artistic measures. It’s a game that bases itself around the premise of combat with multiple enemies. Combat is one that shines most when players are taking on enemies in one-on-one duels. Here players will exhibit choreographed combat based upon the stance in which they choose. Whether it’s deducing an enemies combat capabilities by standing in a over-head stance or whether or not it’s by making low-stance quick attacks. Here players will take on enemies decorated in ancient Japanese armors. Even the Yokai themselves dawn these kinds of designs. However, it follows through with their discipline and attack with their greatest combat efficiency. However, this game will make you debate upon whether or not to attack enemies in crowd.
The highlight to this aspect is it follows rather well into the game as players will find themselves moving between Jutsu or Onmyo focused builds. This will determine whether or not players will alternate between using ninja combat tactics or magics to enhance their combat prowess. As players gain experience from combat, they will notice Amrita serves much the same purpose as souls from the souls series. They will invest their Amrita into specializing William to their play-style. Unlike Dark Souls, however, it’s no longer about how well you can balance your talents, but instead, what weapons you decide to use and how you want to use them. If you prefer sickle and chain, then you may want Kurisagama, while Body will drive you to be more efficient in combat with spears.
When looking at Nioh, managing stamina, rather ki for the sake of this game, is quite the task, and something that you’ll find yourself doing quite often. To complicate matters, enemies will find themselves moving away from combat, and even letting ki regenerate before diving back into combat once more. To alleviate this players can opt to use stamina enhanced consumables as well as ki-specific weapon enhancements to allow combat to last longer. If you’re a more dexterous player, a quick shoulder button push of the R1 will help you refresh your stamina recovery boost. Also, this will help you bolster against enemies who corrupt the ground around you and ensure ki can’t regenerate.
Outside of combat, Nioh is aesthetically as well as audibly pleasing. Followed by its carefully crafted Japanese aesthetics, the game serves up a rather palpable dish of creativity, and authenticity. In comparison to most modern games, it’s one of the closest things players will find themselves enjoying for such a challenging adventure. Artists Hirohisa Kaneko and Tsutomu Terada deliver a pleasing art style that serves Nioh quite well. Between their delectable art style and Yugo Kanno’s compositions, players will find themselves sucked into Nioh for hours on-end.
Nioh – PlayStation 4
Developer: Team Ninja
Publisher: Koei Tecmo, Sony Interactive Entertainment Japan
Release Date: Available Now
With the Twilight missions offering a rise in difficulty and rare pieces of crafting materials as well as armor, there is surely quite a bit for them to take in until the DLC releases later this year. Just remember, the Dojo does serve a purpose and will offer rare resources that you will quite frankly need later on within the game.
That brings forth the need for players to enjoy such a unique title and spend the hours they should on it. Just note that this game is not for players who haven’t played games such as Dark Souls and Ninja Gaiden and will offer a challenge that surpasses that of what they might be used to. With that being said, Nioh is a unique title, one that offers up new challenges around every corner and will keep gamers busy for hours on end. Just remember, this game will kill you, over, and over again.
Our review is based upon a retail version of the game we purchased. For our review, we used a PlayStation 4 Pro with a 7200RPM HDD. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
Final Score: 9 out of 10
About the Writer:
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter, Google+, and or you can find him on PSN with RaivynLyken.