By now most people have heard of the Soul’s series. The series’ merciless difficulty and thrilling boss battles have brought out a masochistic side that many gamers weren’t aware they even had. The games became so popular they sparked a wave of “souls-like” games that placed complex level design, trial and error methodology, and unique combat mechanics at the forefront. Nioh is no exception to the rule. It’s clear from the beginning that Team Ninja’s RPG places its roots in the successful formula proved by FromSoftware’s series, but the core mechanics are where the similarities end.
Nioh’s combat, while very similar to many action RPG’s born from the souls-frenzy, features its own set of unique mechanics. The first thing that stands out is the “Ki gauge” that functions as a stamina system. As usual, actions take up stamina and once your bar is empty you’re unable to attack or dodge. As if Team Ninja figured that losing the ability to dodge or dash away wasn’t enough, they added an extra form of punishment for those foolish enough to drain their Ki completely. Along with the previously mentioned disadvantages you are also rendered incapable of moving and are also more vulnerable to critical attacks. This mechanic led to what would be the first of many embarrassing deaths throughout my playthrough.
For the less versed in Japanese culture and mythology, Nioh might seem daunting at first. Being set in 1600’s Japan and the plot revolving around a feudal war, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by just how much is unfamiliar. Even as someone who’s read a fair amount about Japanese history and legends, I found myself taking the extra time to read the monster descriptions in the Yokai Illustrations menu to figure out how some of these monsters came to be. Nioh does a great deal of world building through its Amarita Memories journal. Many characters just mentioned in passing through the story are further explored in the journals with more entries opening up as you clear missions and side-missions. In comparison, Nioh’s main story is a little weak. I never truly felt very attached to William or his goal, the fact that he had very few lines with most of them consisting of the name “Kelley” did nothing to help. Aside from being the badass western pirate-turned-samurai, William as a character was rather boring, especially when placed aside characters such as Hattori Hanzo and Nekomata.
The level design in Nioh is one of its strongest points. I had some concerns about the game when I first reached the world map and noticed that the game was separated into missions. My concern was that by splitting the game in such a way would make the areas too small and shallow. Fortunately that was not the case, the levels were complex enough to keep me interested without being tediously long. The ones skilled enough to make it to the end are rewarded with epic boss fights featuring some familiar faces to those more versed in Anime and Japanese culture.
Team Ninja’s action RPG does a great job of giving players a reason to revisit levels and to take on side-missions. Between finding all the Kodama for increasing my boons, twilight levels, and gathering the Guardian Spirits, I felt like there was always something to do and I never felt lost as to what I should be doing next. Nioh takes collectables and makes them a very integral part of the game, for players such as myself who often throw caution to the wind collecting Kodama for a 25% increased chance at Elixir drops is a must.
Aside from an uninteresting main character, Nioh takes all the right steps in deviating itself from becoming another souls-like game. By offering players a wide variety of content aside from the main story there are many hours to be spent playing this game and truly experiencing a fantastic take on Japanese history.
+ Combat system is amazing
+ Kodama and Guardian Spirits make very rewarding collectables
– William’s story is the weakest part of the game
What do you think of Nioh? What was your favourite part of it?