Dark Souls games have been at the helm of action RPGs for a long time but a new contender has just walked in the door. Developed by Team Ninja, Nioh is a PlayStation 4 exclusive that is releasing in just a few days. Published by Koei Tecmo, Nioh is set in the dark fantasy version of the late Sengoku period.
Nioh is a treat for those who like Souls games but the game is so much more.
The story of the game takes place during the Sengoku period of Japan before Tokugawa Ieyasu. There is so much bloodshed in the region that demons have risen. These demons are called Yokai and they roam the land, killing without mercy. The story is pretty simple and isn’t the highlight of the game. Still, it is good enough for you to actually care about what’s going on. Unlike Dark Souls where the story is completly through in the background and most of the time you only worry about the next boss fight.
You are playing as William, who is trapped and left for dead in the tower of London. While on the verge of losing hope, William is rescued by a guardian spirit and is now a free man. However, after rescuing William the Guardian spirit is taken by a mysterious man and it is up to William to save his guardian spirit.
His hunt for the mysterious man takes him to Japan. The region is in shambles as a massive war is taking place over control for the country. In this setting, your hunt for the mysterious man begins.
Those who played Dark Souls are going to feel right at home when playing Nioh. It is a perfect mix of hack n slash and Dark Souls like universe. You are dropped into a challenging and unforgiving world filled with creatures of all kinds, however, there is a perfect balance so that you don’t feel overwhelmed or frustrated by failure.
The combat is rightly paced and is based on dodging and defending your attacks. Combat is methodical, there is a stamina gauge in place to keep you in check and to make sure you don’t get too greedy with your attacks. It is exciting to roam around, the game constantly keeps you on your toes. Jump scares, sudden enemy popups, and ambushes are well-crafted and well-placed.
Enemies will gradually get tougher but so will your character. There is an upgrade system in place that will allow you to upgrade your character. You will collect souls known as Amrita which is used to upgrade your character stats such as attack, defense, stamina, speed etc.
You can also upgrade your stats by using the Prestige System. You earn Prestige Points by completing different tasks, such as killing a set number of enemies with a certain weapon type.
The souls DNA can be found in almost every aspect of the game; be it combat, upgrades, or the overall gameplay design. If you end up dying in the game you will lose your Amrita. The game will give you once chance to reach your Amrita and collect but if you die again, there is no way of getting it back.
The good news, however, is that your Amrita is protected by your Guardian Spirit (there are a handful of those in the game). The spirit can’t really do much to protect your Amrita but these spirits do offer passive benefits. They also allow you to perform powerful weapon attacks once the meter is full.
These help you deal significant damage to bosses and often one shot kills for the minions. This is a unique and effective way to cause extra damage.
There are certain elements that differentiate Souls and Nioh. For instance, player have the option to change combat style on the go. You can choose between three different styles and each will different speed and attack power. There is a balanced speed and attack power mode while the second mode will sacrifice attack power for speed. Last but not the least, the 3rd stance will sacrifice speed for attack power.
Depending on your playstyle and preference, the game allows you to select any play style. What’s great about Nioh is that it always keeps you guessing when it comes to choosing a playstyle, which is why the game allows you to change it on the fly. Every enemy is different so it won’t be easy to beat them all using just one playstyle.
It often feels like the game is forcing you to change your playstyle which is annoying. Still, it just adds depth to the strategic element of combat.
Nearly everything you do in the game will drain your Ki Gauge (Stamina). However, there is a move called Ki Pulse that allows you to regain a small chunk of the Ki Gauge. The timing for Ki Pulse needs to be right which isn’t easy but after a few trials and errors you get the hang of it.
There isn’t much breathing space between battles, Nioh keeps you busy throughout its story mode. Save points are spread across the map in the form of shrines. There is constant pressure on your nerves to make sure you save your game after surviving a tough battle. It often becomes a nerve wrecking but exciting experience.
Even though it shares Souls DNA, Nioh still manages to stand out.
Nioh does not hold any punches when it comes to tough boss fights. Each boss as well as mini-bosses are challenging but that feeling of finally taking that disgusting creature down is so satisfying. It will take everything you have to take down the variety of bosses Nioh offers. Patience is required to survive a boss fight and come out on top.
A great aspect of the game is its weapons and armour system. You don’t have to gather resources to craft weapons or grind to earn Amrita to buy weapons. Enemies drop weapons and armour, you also find them in treasure chests. Anything you find has a rarity color attached to it, rare items help you deal more damage and have other perks.
The game world is divided into different sections but it isn’t exactly seamless as Dark Souls. The entire map is structured by missions which you can select via an overworld map. You visit different locations to complete side quests or main story missions. Once you leave an area after completing the main missions, side quests will open up giving you motive to come back to that section of the world, adding value and playtime to the overall experience.
At one point you will have access to Twilight missions that are basically the same story missions but with a much higher difficulty.
Nioh’s art style, setting, and pacing is what’s most impressive. It is not the most beautiful looking game on PS4 but it is at least in the top 10. Lighting, texture quality, aliasing, all aspects are handled well by Team Ninja.
We are only little over a month into 2017 and we will see more great games this year. But Nioh is without a doubt our first game of the year contender!