Perhaps the game I’ve been most hyped for this year, Nioh has finally been let loose upon the world, and it’s fair to say that it’s doing well. A lot of people have been it to Dark Souls, myself included, but no more. It’s time to see whether it’s a good game as its own thing. Spoiler, it is. *WARNING, THIS WILL CONTAIN SOME SPOILERS ON THE GAME*
Let’s take a look at the story. Nioh is set during the 1600s in Feudal Japan, and follows Scottish (don’t quote me on that. He does sound Scottish though) pirate William, as he chases after the man who stole his guardian spirit for nefarious purposes. The story is interesting and moves along at a brisk pace, so as not to seem like it is dragged out. Though there are plenty of sidequests to do along the way that give more information on the world you find yourself in. Alongside his hunt, William finds himself in the middle of a civil war, helping a clan leader to rise to power with the help of ninja Hanzo and a whole cast of interesting characters. The voice acting, despite being in Japanese for the most part (William speaks English of course, and a who of the others do too), is solid and well done. Overall, the storyline is well-written and keeps you hanging, hoping that William finds his spirit.
The gameplay, aside from a couple issues, is amazing. Character control is tight and ; no delay in movement that results in you propelling yourself off a cliff. It’s almost perfect. I say almost, because there is a bug that keeps it from reaching perfection, and that bug, albeit one that doesn’t always occur, can result in your death. Sometimes the game won’t recognise your button press of the X button as a dodge, which means you stand there as a huge weapon smashes you in the face. It is a small bug, but one that does need a change.
Combat is smooth and fast-paced, and relies on you to change your fighting style often. There is a light and heavy attack as is native to these games, along with three stances to use; low stance for fast but low damage attacks, mid stance for guarding and blocking, and high stance for hard hitting yet slow attacks. Alongside this, is the Ki Pulse ability, which works like an active reload from Gears of War – as your stamina regenerates, a white bar will fill up to the amount of “Ki” you had before you began attacking. Pressing the R1 button at the right moment will return this instantly, as well as giving a faster regeneration for a moment. The Ki Pulse is a technique that the game almost requires you to learn, because if you don’t then it’ll almost definitely punish you. Each weapon requires a different amount of Ki to use for a combo, as does each stance. Luckily, there is a vast array of weaponry for you to use, and the game allows you to equip two melee weapons and two ranged weapons.
Another feature in combat is the Living Weapons; an “ultimate” of sorts that gives you various bonuses. As you play through the game, you’ll unlock more and more guardian spirits to use, and each has a different animal representation and different ability. Which you choose depends on the kind of playstyle you’re using – I’m using the Paired Raiken, which is represented by two Shiba Inus and gives me a lightning buff on my weapon. Each has a various element to it, so you can pick and choose based on your preferred element if you wish. Overall, combat is a lot of fun and very intricate, keeping you on your toes as you trek through the harsh world.
And it is indeed a harsh world. When you die, it’s usually something you did wrong, such as walking into an ambush or trying to parry a battleaxe, causing you to have your head split open. Enemies will destroy you quickly if you mess up, and you will be punished severely for your mistake. But it isn’t unfair. You begin to develop strategies as you play, and learn how to effectively use the Ki Pulse and other abilities in the game, and suddenly you find yourself winning more and more. It has that same feeling of euphoria and adrenaline hit when you defeat a challenging boss. It keeps your heart pounding, and rewards you for learning how to overcome your foes. For me, this is what keeps me hooked on a game, and so scores big there.
If you find yourself struggling to the point of quitting, however, you can summon another player you join you, which brings us into the online component. Summoning another player is smooth and little to no lag in my experience, but is rather finicky to get started. If you want to be summoned, you’ll have to go to the map screen out of missions, head to the starting point and use the torii gate, then wait in that screen until it finds someone on the mission you wish to co-op on. This can sometimes last a while, leaving you with nothing to do while you wait. If you wish to host instead, you need an Ochoko Cup, and must use it at the Shrines. You start with three cups, but if you run out of those, you can get them from Revenants. Revenants are this game’s version of pvp, but it’s not against other players exactly. When someone dies, their grave appears in another player’s world. The player can then summon the revenant, which spawns an AI-controlled version of the dead player, using the same weapons and armour they had when they died. Should you win, you’ll sometimes get a piece of their gear, meaning that you can farm revenants with good gear to stock up on the best weapons and armour. I fought a revenant that dropped me a katakana with over 400 damage in an early area of the game, which has been an absolute beast of a weapon against every boss I’ve faced since.
There are a couple issues with the game however. As said earlier, the unresponsive dodging bug that can result in death, as well as the summoning mechanics leaving players bored with nothing to do, which can put some off being summoned in general. Another issue is that enemy variation is fairly lacking. There are a fair number of different enemy types, but as you progress, less and less new ones show up, leaving you to fight Skeletal Warrior number 596. Another issue is that maps often have more than one mission on them. This is fine, until you return for the third time and start to get a little tired of the same scenery.
Despite those, Nioh is an astounding game. Boss designs are amazing, the gameplay is well done, the story is gripping and co-oping, despite the waiting, is almost lag-free and a lot of fun. The game stands out as a brilliant RPG, and so scores 90%.
Gamer Pantheon Score – 90%
• Well-written story
• Smooth gameplay and combat
• Excellent online co-op
• Incredible boss designs
• Tough but fair
• Occasional unresponsive dodging bug
• Waiting to be summoned can be tedious with nothing to do
• Recycled enemies and maps