Review: Nioh – The Dark Souls We’ve Been Looking For?
Developer: Team Ninja
Publisher: Koei Tecmo and Sony Interactive Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation 4
Genre: Action Role-Playing Game
“Cross blades in brutal hand-to-hand combat, wielding swords, axes, spears and even war hammers against foes both human and demon. Endure the vicious encounters and learn from your mistakes: each death will bring you resurrection and each resurrection a greater resolve to overcome your foes.”
Nioh is too often mistaken as the newest entry in the “Souls” genre of gaming. The title requires your full attention as you take on deadly enemies, blocking, dodging, and slashing against an eternity of foes. Letting go of that concentration for a second may leave you vulnerable and helpless, returning back to your last save point and having to retrace your tracks. The user interface can be compared to From Software’s original designs. However, the variation among the two become more apparent the further you delve into Team Ninja’s newest IP. The title is much more action and linear, with levels and loot akin to that of a dungeon crawler rather than an open world with multiple passages.
Nioh is a title for those who despised the frustration of From Software’s devilishly difficult universes but enjoyed the gameplay. Nonetheless, the challenge and mysterious lore are streamlined for focus upon fast and aggressive combat. Nioh is part Dark Souls as it is Ninja Gaiden, and it presents excellent gameplay that is surrounded by a dull story and lacking depth.
Team Ninja’s development of Nioh is clearly influenced by their predecessor games and the popularity of the Souls series. Koei Tecmo and Sony attempting to dip their hands into that sweet, sweet Souls craving through the marketing of the title as “brutally challenging world“. In reality, the title really stands it’s own ground as a new release some elements from other titles. Honestly, the closest similarity would be that of the main character to Geralt from The Witcher. Character customisation doesn’t exist in Nioh. Players are introduced to protagonist William Adams, an English Samurai from the historical period of the 1600s. Despite Adam’s documented being, the Yokai he’s determined to stop from invading the real world aren’t recorded in the history books.
The title looks up to par with what you’d expect from a Team Ninja game on a PS4. Running at a noticeably smooth 60 frames per second, animations look fluid and the textures on your foes, alive and dangerous or as you slice their necks into two, are great to look at. What is disappointing in the terms of visuals is the environments. They can feel repetitive and drab at times, reusing similar assets in various areas and seemingly always dark and full of shadowy reds and blues. This becomes even more apparent when replaying on twilight missions or side missions where the only differences are slight level design paths or a red fog.
There are some pretty sights to see in the backgrounds, they just aren’t as common as you’d hope. The audio follows closely. The main menu soundtrack is really the only distinguishable piece of music the game provides, though a majestic piece of that. Sound effects sound as they should, the clash of steel against steel, the taunting, and the growls of enemies can even be frightening at times. However, the crunch of critical attacks don’t feel as satisfying as they should, and the voice acting isn’t particularly the best around.
Players will progress through the title’s story with a series of chapter-based linear levels. Adam’s begins by escaping an English jail in his undergarments and his bare fists to fend for himself. He arrives on shore in Japan after falling to a menacing demonic presence and drifting off to sea. From here, he’s determined to end the evil reign, save Japan, and rid the Yokai of the world. What you’ll notice first off is how shoehorned the story is. It’s pretty much there just to exist and carry your character through different areas, it’s honestly completely forgettable and totally ignorable. You’ll meet various NPCs in the form of companions, mentors, and fellow samurai, though you really don’t learn much about them or begin to care for them at all. The story is just there. After defeating foe after foe, reaching your first Yokai battle, collecting yellow Amrita dropped by fallen enemies, you Adams gathers various weapons and armour to boost his chances in battle.
The loot mechanic is constructed in the way of a dungeon crawler, an RNG system that provides you with different rarity’s that have increasing special abilities the rarer the piece. Gear is generous based not only on stats and buffs. A common practice will be opening the menu to find several of the same sword or bow, only to examine damage stats. Extraneous loot can be sacrificed for gold or amrita at shrines, and you’ll spend noteworthy time distinguishing what to part ways with. Continuing on, you fight through level to level, side mission to side mission, until you reach the region boss. After defeating what would be the most challenging aspect of the area, Adams can move onto the next region, or alternatively, collect the remaining bonuses, in the form of little green men called Kodama, scattered around the areas and attempt the “Twilight” missions. Essentially, they are the same levels with tougher enemies and rarer loot, adding a level of replayability to the title.
Combat will require initial care and thought, however, as you extend through play players will learn shortcuts to defeating each Yokai with a combination of weapon proficiency and elemental weaknesses. This allows for some further depth in the combat though also introduces a sort of tediousness when having to rerun an identical area multiple times. It’s less about timing in Nioh, and more about what weapon you are using and how you are using it. Having various stances is an interesting mechanic, players must select a low stance for dodging and light attacks, high stance for the strongest offence, or mid stance for a balance between the two. From high to low, stamina or Ki is utilised to determine how many attacks you can make before tiring Adams. If depleted players are vulnerable to a devastating blow, same goes for all enemies. Nevertheless, more often than not high stance is the go to so players can finish off enemies before they even get a chance to attack. This becomes particularly useful when distributing most of your skill points into increasing your Ki. The only time to switch would be when encountering an unknown enemy that may throw something unexpected your way. Granted, there are bosses that exist entirely to break that rhythm, but studying their move sets is part of the challenge.
|Nioh has promise with its fun combat and intriguing mechanics, and for those who enjoy being a completionist, there's plenty to do. Fighting enemies and bosses is gruesome and brutal yet doesn't come without it's few exploitable downfalls, and the repetitive environments will become a drag with time. Team Ninja's newest title is a welcome addition to the Action-RPG genre, though not without flaws.||3.5 3.5 ( on 5 rating)|