Nioh Review – Written by Jose Vega
Purchased product for the sake of the review.
In 2011, a little game called Dark Souls was released that brought players a game that was gloomy and challenging. Since it’s release there have been games that felt similar to it or provided their own take and offered something new while keeping it familiar. So what do you get when you take Dark Souls and combine it with Japanese folklore, mythology as well as its history? You get Nioh. Nioh is Team Ninja’s take on the series but don’t let it deceive you. Behind its similarities is a game that offers so much and provides just as much of a challenge as any game they’ve done.
Nioh takes place in the year 1600, during a fictional Sengoku period of Japan when the country was in the middle of civil war before the rise of the Tokugawa shogunate. You play as William, a sailor who travels to Japan in search of a foe that has captured something important to William. He ends up meeting Hattori Hanzo, servant to Tokugawa Ieyasu who requests him to deal with yokai that have been coming about due to the chaos of war. What follows is William encountering many historical figures as he travels to Japan and stop an alchemist who wishes to bring ruin to Japan and eventually the world.
I like that Team Ninja has the game touch on actual Japanese history and it shows. They really did a good job. Most of the story reminded me of the films directed by Akira Kurosawa, since yes, part of Nioh was based on a script that he made but it underwent many revisions. Also it’s based off the real western samurai William Adams, minus the supernatural elements. It’s pretty interesting since after beating this, I wanted to learn more about William Adams, his history as well as some Japanese history.
As far as Nioh’s gameplay goes, you go about moving from one part of the area to the next taking down foes, collecting gear and trying to survive against anything that comes your way. You travel through six different regions in Japan and each one contains missions to go through and complete to acquire experience, money and new gear. Elements of Dark Souls are in the game but don’t let it dissuade you. Nioh’s fast paced, making the game intense as you progress. But how you go about it depends on the player itself. You have five different weapons to choose from: sword, spear, dual swords, axe and kusarigama or chain sickle. Each weapon provides a different style of combat and you can mix it up to provide an advantage. Made better is that you also have three variations: low, medium & high. You also have your Guardian Spirit, a spirit that provides various advantages to the player when activated. By relying on all of these in battle, you can take on any threat that comes your way.
Now like Dark Souls, Nioh has some familiar RPG elements. For example, you earn experience (or Amrita) by defeating enemies along with money and any items they drop. In order to level up, you need to a visit a shrine. Leveling up has you improving your character’s stats by adding points to them. There are 8 different core stats: Body, Heart, Stamina, Strength, Skill, Dexterity, Magic and Spirit. Adding points to any of the stats provides benefits to your character as well as whatever weapons you wield. This also allots to armor, having five different kinds: head, torso, arm, leg and foot. They come in different varieties, rarities and have stats that can improve the character. Some even come in sets and having all of the pieces provide numerous benefits but it all depends how you make your character.
You will need everything this game has to offer if you wish to survive. Nioh is a long game. It’ll take you approximately 20-30 hours and you’ll spend it completing various missions. There are three different kinds of missions: main, sub and twilight. Main focus on the story whereas Sub are devoted to providing you more experience and goods and Twilight are basically the same Main missions only harder. Main missions also have boss battles, requiring you to plan before striking. What makes this all work is that you have a hub menu to choose whatever mission you like. It’s the one thing I find that sets it apart from the Souls series. The hub is also used to access places like a shrine, blacksmith and even training grounds. Training grounds help you learn the basics and even challenge yourself against teachers in order to acquire new abilities. It’s perfect. Replay value in this game is high with exploration as you can find new gear and secrets such as kodama. Considering the game is having DLC with new missions will extend the length even more. You can also connect online and team up with other players in a PvE environment or take on others in PvP. It’s good but pray you don’t end up taking on someone who can kick your butt fast.
Nioh’s presentation is solid. It’s amazing to look at with the Japanese atmosphere, beautiful visuals and can be colorful depending on the area you visit. It does carry the dark omen in some areas and when you enter a Twilight Mission, the feeling of dread exudes all over. The game also has cutscenes that tell the story with voice acting to back it up. Surprisingly, Anjin’s the only character that is in English while the rest are in Japanese. Not that it’s a bad thing but it does fit the game’s atmosphere. Voice acting is great and the performances are well done. It’s impressive on all aspects. The music is awesome with an orchestrated feel especially in fights where you take on tough opponents. It’s exhilarating and a blast to listen to.
But though there are a lot of good things about Nioh, there are some minor issues. Yes, Nioh is a difficult game and the learning curve for it is strict, requiring a lot of practice, as well as trial and error. In some cases it’s luck based since the game can sometimes throw you for a loop & put you in a situation you can’t get out of. Thankfully you can always find ways around situations if you know the layout. Also the layout for your item box is a bit of a mess, made no better by the fact you don’t have an option to sort them all. Instead it slows down by having you scroll up or down until you find what you need. Nioh does let you search them via rarities but I feel a sort option would help. Since it shares elements with the Souls series, expect to die a lot. At least it isn’t as punishing. Plus the AI will ensure you go down, even if you are at a weaken state. Expect the unexpected.
It’s strange that a game that is brutal and challenging can be a lot of fun. Nioh perfectly fits this to a T with its superb gameplay, amazing visuals, great length and replay value, solid exploration as well as amazing music. The challenge is there and only those that have the skill to do it will persevere. Don’t let its difficulty fool you. Nioh is certainly a game that you want to have on your PS4 library. Team Ninja brought their own take on the Souls series. I can honestly say that it is very well done. If you have a PS4, get this game now. You won’t regret it.
I give Nioh a solid 9 out of 10. It is a must-own game for anyone that has a PS4 and earns my personal seal of approval.