Review: Nioh (PS4)
Disclaimer: Please note that we have played 85 hours of Nioh and never completed it because it’s just so incredibly tough.
Nioh is set in the early 17th century, and follows a British pirate named William, who sets out to Japan in pursuit of a man who stole something from him.
Better late than never
When development for Nioh began in 2004, nobody that worked on it back then knew what it would really turn out to be. It went through multiple revisions as the development got delayed. So how did it turn out 13 years later?
As it would be, Nioh turned out great. It’s a return to form for Team Ninja, the makers of the Ninja Gaiden series. It’s brutally hard, punishing and unforgiving, but man is it satisfying, and pretty. The environments are good looking and varied, although almost always dark. It looks amazing, and there’s a certain attention to detail to the levels that I like. The character models, especially William’s, are a bit dated though, but not enough to distract you too much.
The enemies however are a bit of a mixed bag. While they look very cool, and are fun to engage with, they do lack a bit of variety. The game keeps introducing new enemies for each level, but most of the old enemy types remains. It takes some of the challenge out of the game, as you learn their patterns and know how to deal with them. That said, the new enemies that are introduced always provides a decent challenge. Especially the demon enemies called the Yokai.
The combat, that’s where this game shines
The combat of Nioh is probably the best part of it. It’s is fluid, fast paced, precise and fun. It works on a simple light attack, heavy attack system, and every action you take consumes your Ki, which is essentially your stamina bar. You get different stances as well, which is High, Mid or low. Each of these alter the way you attack and defend yourself, and also impacts that amount of Ki that is consumed.
You can however regain some of your lost Ki but performing a Ki Pulse. After every attack, a blue light will appear around William. If you press L1 at the right time, a pulse will emanate from William, and he will get some of his Ki back. This is especially important if you fight against the Yokai, which have the ability to halt the regeneration of your Ki. It’s a very interesting dynamic, which can be tricky to get a grip on, but once you start getting a hang of it, it almost becomes a natural thing to do.
Nioh also offers a decent variety of weapons such as swords, spears, dual swords, heavy axes and hammers and a Kusarigama, which is a chain with a sickle attached to it. There’s also ranged weapons, like bows and arrows, as well as rifles and cannons. It is 1600 Japan, so the weapons do fire a bit slowly, but they come in handy on multiple occasions.
It’s an RPG after all
Loot is not hard to come by, so getting the armour and weapons that you like is very easy. You also have an option to level up the gear you have by ways of an infusing system. So if you like the attributes or look of the chest piece you are wearing, you can keep and infuse something else with a higher level into it.
You gather XP in the form of Amrita, which becomes your currency for leveling up and becoming stronger. You have various options when it comes to leveling up, which you do at shrines which are dotted across the map. Just as the case with Dark Souls however, if you die, you make your way to the last shrine you prayed at, and drop all your Amrita on that spot. Your guardian spirit stays behind to protect it, and you can retrieve it, but if you die before getting there, you lose everything.
This is not Dark Souls
Something that needs to be said about Nioh is that it is not a Dark Souls clone. Yes, it does have its influences, and is not afraid to show it, but it is game in its own right, and this is all for the better. For the most part, Nioh is not an open-world game as it might have suggested. Each mission is set in its own level, and has its own set of objectives. Most of the levels culminate into a boss fight, which is where the game really shines.
It also comes with a pretty good story, which is easy enough to follow with beautifully rendered cut scenes. Keep in mind that it’s very Japanese though, and if you’re not a fan of the type of content that comes out of the land of the rising sun, then Nioh might not be for you. And trust me when I say it is very, very Japanese.
A Little bit too much though
The biggest issue I have with Nioh is that it can get a little bit too long. I’ve spent 85 hours playing the game and still haven’t finished it. While the environments are varied and beautiful, it can get a bit tedious. It also have an insane difficulty spike, I suddenly found myself seriously under leveled in some of the final missions, which would force me to go back and grind a bit in order to not be killed in one or two shots. It’s by no means game breaking, and it takes nothing away from my experience with the game up to this point, but it’s not something I’m too keen on doing after about 80 hours of play where I was over leveled all the way.
Well worth the wait
Nioh is a fun, challenging and entertaining game with a very good story and a surprisingly deep and engaging combat system. It has it’s flaws and it does feel like they tried to extend it a bit too long. Personally I feel this game would’ve been perfect with a 60-hour play time, although it doesn’t feel like it overstays its welcome. The game is great value for money and well worth the wait. The development team put a lot of love and care into Nioh, and it definitely shows.