Nioh is a game that lends its style from games like Dark Souls and Bloodborne. You might be thinking oh it’s another Dark Souls clone *groans* but don’t count out this game just yet. Nioh is a new IP developed by Team Ninja the creators of Dead or Alive and Ninja Gaiden. What sets Nioh apart from these games is in its content and its well-crafted story. Something that games like Dark Souls does not focus on.
Platform Reviewed: PS4
Platform Available: PS4
Developer: Team Ninja
Publisher: Koei Tecmo, Sony Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: February 7, 2017
This review is based on a review build provided by the developers/publisher.
Nioh is set in 16th Century Japan. A time where a civil war broke out through Japan. The game loosely follows the events that happened in the said period and is witnessed through the eyes of an englishman named William. William was held prisoner in a UK prison but escaped thanks to the help of a spirit. But after a fight with a yokai (which are the monsters in the game) the spirit was captured by a mysterious man and so William pursued him in Japan.
This here sets Nioh apart from Dark Souls. Although Dark Souls has a “story,” Nioh establishes its story from the get-go. It’s what hooked me to the world and got me engrossed in its lore and story. They have also tied the story to historical events that happened in Japan at this era. So think of it as a historical lesson with a twist of supernatural proportions.
The controls I would say are fluid in Nioh. The buttons for each action respond really well and I have no problem executing combos and commands. Yes, you get special skills in Nioh that can be anything from martial arts, ninja arts, and magic arts. Each time you use a specific weapon, the game awards you with skill points that you can use to learn new techniques and passive skills that helps you in your combat against yokai and humans alike. So it’s not just a button mashing spectacle but a flurry of combat moves that are so awesome to look at that you’d want to perfect executing those skills.
The game has a leveling system much like in Dark Souls where you collect soul points called Amrita. Amrita is said to be the energy that comes from the Philosopher’s stone which the empire is using to gain incredible strength and abilities to kill their enemies. In the same way, William uses Amrita to level up key aspects of his character. Each of which are tied to a certain weapon, ability or spirit.
Speaking of weapons, Nioh provides you a wide range of arsenal to your disposal. There’s the ever traditional samurai sword or the kusarigama, a hook and chain kind of weapon that is wickedly fast if you have allotted the right attributes. There are all in all 5 types of weapon and two types of cast-type abilities which are the ninjutsu (ninja-style skills and items) and onmyo, which focus more on elemental skills and damage.
You can also equip different kinds of armor that cater to whatever playstyle you prefer. Giving you the freedom to choose what to wear or what not to wear. Each armor you pick up has different attributes that can help you in your adventure. They could be anything from adding to your stats like HP or miscellaneous abilities like Treasure Sense or Enemies Sense. Giving you a fighting chance in a world that’s very unforgiving.
Another feature that you can weaponize against the hordes of evil is your Spirit Animal which are called Living Weapons. These living weapons have different attributes as well that can range from having reduced damage or getting half of your Amrita back should you die before picking up the previous grave that you created. Speaking of which, when you die in the game, you leave behind the Amrita you have gathered and your Spirit Animal guards it for the meantime. And as what I’ve mentioned if you die before reaching the grave of your last death, you lose the Amrita you left behind and your Spirit Animal comes back to you.
The way the world works in this game is dungeon-like. You have an overview of the world map and you get to choose which area to go to depending on the missions that are available to you. You can freely roam within the dungeon and its size can vary from just a single room to a large area map that you can explore. Completing a mission clears the dungeon and you are then transported back to the world map to take others missions that gets unlocked. There are two types of missions, the main mission and the sub missions. It’s pretty self explanatory that the main missions are the missions you need to complete to progress through the game while the sub missions provide additional stories and unique rewards that may include rare weapons and armors and sometimes even new Spirit Animals.
Checkpoints in the dungeon comes in the form of Shrines where cute little creatures called Kodama lives. You will also find Kodamas scattered in some of the main dungeons that you need to collect. There are 5 different types of Kodama that are distinguishable by the type of bowl they are wearing on their heads. Once you find these little creatures they can provide you a blessing that take effect in the region you are currently. Each of which can either get you more Amrita or more items. The shrine also allows you to level up with the Amrita you have gathered, there are also other functionalities that gets unlocked along the way.
You can also customize William’s hair and beard and you can even transform him into different characters from the game once you unlock the Hidden Teahouse on the world map. The Hidden Teahouse is a shop in the game that uses Glory Points as currency. You can get Glory Points by fighting off dead replicas of players who played the game. You can also use the Glory Points to purchase new gestures or items that are also located in the Hidden Teahouse.
Another feature of the game is the Blacksmith, where you can buy/sell items, forge/dismantle weapons and armor, and do another feature of the game called Soul Match. Soul Matching is basically upgrading your current weapons/armor by infusing them with another weapon/armor. Each weapon has a familiarity gauge that fills up the more you use that weapon. Once you have max familiarity, you can use Soul Matching to transfer certain attributes of that weapon to another one if you plan to change weapons.
Online features of the game includes the Coop mode which is done through the Shrine. You offer an item called the ochoko cup that gets consumed once you summon an ally. I like that they did not make the coop some unlimited feature but a feature that is limited by how many ochoko cup you currently have. This forces you to think twice before summoning that friend and think “Do I really need help with this boss or can I do it on my own?” Also take note that you need to have PS+ to access this feature so that is also another limiter for this one. I tried summoning an ally just to try it out and of course help me with killing the boss (lol). I had a 3mbps connection but I had no problems with connecting online or hosting for that person. I didn’t experience any lag and the game continued on like normal.
The game has a smart AI much like Dark Souls, where they can really think for theirselves and know how to defend, attack or trick you. It makes each and every encounter unique because you can’t really tell what the enemy will do as it also reads your own patterns. No matter if you’re killing the same yokai from before. It really requires observation and patience to figure out enemy patterns to know when to attack or defend. It’s very unforgiving but with lots of practice, you will find the game can be manageable. I have managed to defeat almost all of the bosses on my own except for one where I really got frustrated that I enlisted the help of a complete stranger to help me defeat them(yes, I am a human afterall, not some demigod who rules the world.)
In terms of graphics, the game is so detailed. Each armor or weapon has intricate designs that can be common or unique to that item. The environment interacts with the character in a sense that a downpour will make your character look soaked. The game feels so alive. His hair gets whipped by the air around him and the grass sways and dances in tune. The setting looks so authentic that it really feels like you were living in that era of Japan. The game also three modes of graphic quality that also utilizes the graphic capabilities of the PS4 Pro. I only have the original PS4 so I’m running the game at a stable 30fps but it has been said that it can run at a stable 60fps on the PS4 Pro.
Sound quality is really good. I often find myself feeling that adrenaline rush during boss fights. You may also find that the sound is also essential in surviving in the game. It can cue the enemy’s certain moves or use it as a cue to know that there’s an enemy just lurking beyond that tall grass at the end.
I could really go on and on about how awesome this game is but I think it is best that you discover all of the game’s features on your own. To wrap it up, it would be a travesty to say that Nioh is just another Dark Souls clone. I believe that Nioh is a game that can stand on its own. Let’s break the stereotype and stop calling these games as Souls-like. This game is not Dark Souls, this game is Nioh and it’s a game that’s unique in and of itself. If I were to name this genre, I would call it Action RPG with smart AI (AI enhanced RPG?) I don’t really know what to call it but I refuse to call it Souls-like.
This is an excellent game and a game like this deserves to have a spot in your collection. Whether you’re a newbie to challenging games like this or you’re a veteran who knows the mechanics too well. This is a game that’s worth your money and time. I would happily go back into it to kill another yokai.
I HAVE NOTHING TO SAY MORE BUT YOU’LL MISS YOUR GAMING LIFE IF YOU DON’T HAVE THIS GAME.
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