It’s difficult to talk about Nioh without talking about Dark Souls. There’s a lot of obvious borrowed mechanics from Dark Souls like shrines being bonfires, losing all your Amrita (souls) when you die and given one last chance to get them back. The creative director has gone on record saying he was greatly inspired by the Dark Souls series.
Yet, I feel giving a game the title souls-like sets a pretty high bar to reach in a game especially in the 3D space. Putting Nioh next to Dark Souls seems a bit unfair in my opinion, and I wonder how many people went in thinking that Nioh was going to replace Dark Souls, because in no way it does. But that’s not to say Nioh isn’t good. From what I played, I can say that I had a kickass time.
There are quite a few things Nioh did that I like a lot that made the game feel more than just a Souls game reskinned.
For example, Nioh’s combat, which is souls-like in the way you must manage your Ki (Stamina) and time your attacks, adds a layer by introducing stances. There’s three stance in total: a low stance that allows for quicker attacks but less damage, a high stance that allows you to perform strong attacks for the price of speed, and a mid stance that mixes the two.
Going in I feared that at the end of the game I would have spent a majority with one stance with I assumed was the mid stance since it’s the best of both worlds, but surprisingly the stance changes become intuitive as you adjust to the mechanic. The action to switch stances doesn’t feel abnormal or awkward. You’ll find yourself switching to low stance for mobility, and then maybe switch to mid as you go in for an attack. It provides for a hack and slash-esque combo feel, while still maintaining that precision and methodical movement of the souls series.
The stance switch action is conditioned with the Ki Pulse recovery action, doing this gives back any Ki used during an attack, which adds another layer of management on top of the stances.
The ability to see the enemies’ stamina bar is also nice. It makes it so it feels like the AI is playing with the same rules and restrictions as you. Some battles may turn into a cat and mouse chases as you try to bait any enemy to attack to have them run out of stamina, then go in for heavy attack as they try to recover. These mechanics to the combat helps make the game feel fresh and fun to play, especially during boss battles or when your opponents are humanoid.
Being able to refashion your armor to look like a piece of armor you want it to look like is also cool, considering I’m the type of person who would choose style over efficiency. It’s defiantly something I would like to see in other RPGs.
Of course, Nioh isn’t without its flaws. For one, during your journey you’ll encounter different enemy types with their own set of attack patterns and moment, you’ll later encounter different variations of those enemies. The problem is that enemies don’t change up their attack pattern. There is no difference between an Onyudo (big buff guy with a long tongue) and an Onyudo that may have an ice skin over it, since it’s attack pattern is the same you’ll know how to easily dispense of it.
Then there’s the story, which feels a bit off in the beginning. The first act of Nioh is convoluted. A lot of names with no faces are thrown around for a while, and I’m sure if I study Japanese history I would know the importance of those names since the game takes place during a real Japan civil war in the 1600s.
It’s the main protagonist William Adams (who’s also a real historic figure) that feels underdeveloped in the first act. I think it’s the way they try to mesh the supernatural of the yokai world with real history. After a while, William’s story took a backseat and I instead got invested with the war and everyone else’s backstory.
During the climax around the second act, the story gets more structured. You’ll meet characters whose ambitions are their flaws, but of course these characters are nonfictional people so their moral story is already written in the books. However, Nioh did peak my interest with this piece of history and has me wanting to research more of it.
As for the difficulty, it’s really in the boss battles, they provide that great sense of accomplishment that Dark Souls does, as they can make your hands sweat close to the finish (I do have to say out of all the bosses I’ve battled the first one was the most difficult).
If you ever passed a souls game, getting though the levels to get to the boss isn’t too hard. The game does offer a harder version of the story mission in the form of Twilight Missions, which offers you more experience point and rare loot. I’ve done maybe two of them.
Overall, Nioh is a great game. With its layers of management during battle and the lore being tied down to Japanese history, Nioh feels more than just a copy of a souls game. It has it’s own identity and doesn’t try to be hard for the sake of being hard. If you never played a souls game, you can easily pick Nioh up and give it a go. It’s really worth the time.
Well that’s my thoughts on Nioh. What did you guys think about the game? Did you love it? Did you hate it? If you need help or just want to play shoot a comment below and let’s play. I’m currently on the Sekigahara mission fighting the boss trying to wrap up the story.