Wait… what? A Samurai/Ninja/Fuedal Japan-based adventure game that was also a blend of Dark Souls and Ninja Gaiden?
To be honest, I hadn’t heard about this game until about two weeks after it was released. Once I saw Team Ninja was the developer, I was sold. Paying homage to Sergio Leone, here’s what I liked (spoiler: a lot) and didn’t like (spoiler: not much) about Tecmo Koei’s Nioh:
[Takes a deep breath….]
Combat: An astounding combination of Demon's Souls; Ninja Gaiden (Xbox 360 version); and - Old School, hardcore gamers will nod approvingly of this - the Bushido Blade series.
This game is more in-depth than you think; there is more to this than just hacking and slashing until the other guy goes down. There is a strategy (some cheap, some not-so-cheap) to kill each enemy. There are patterns you have to know. You have to know when to dodge (and which direction to dodge), and when to block. You have to manage your Ki (stamina); if you run out, you cannot move or block. Some combos are very effective, while, some combos – if they don’t finish off your opponent - leave your character open for a counter-attack. Status changing items (which can buff you or nerf your enemies) are another element borrowed from your garden-variety RPG that cannot be ignored.
Weapon/Armor/Item Variety: Almost half a dozen close-combat weapons; half a dozen distance weapons (from the shuriken to the hand cannon) to choose from. The only thing missing is a pair of nunchucks!
Replay factor: Tons of side-missions to go through. The higher-difficulty Twilight Missions are a controller-throwing level of frustrating. Much like Dark Souls, there are a myriad of ways to develop your character, and different weapons to master fighting with. Get ready for a late night (or two or three) ….
Item Management: Although very expansive and offers hundreds (if not thousands) of ways to customize them, can get overwhelming quickly. Luckily, you can sell items for money or disassemble them for parts. Choose wisely, though; some weapons and items have effects that are extremely hard to find. Oh, and be careful not to lose any when Soul Forging two weapons together!
Challenge: The high difficulty level is a double-edged sword. Some will get frustrated and stop playing. Others are willing to step up to the task. For me, I enjoyed the difficulty. It was a complex puzzle to solve, and the sense of satisfaction when you complete a mission after dying so many times is almost describable; it’s a cross between relief and finishing your taxes! Just when you think you beat the final boss (whom I thought wasn’t that challenging), the game makes you go full-circle. Good luck handling the later Sub-Missions. The Dragon of the North DLC kicks the difficulty up even higher!
The Yokai: The supernatural enemies in the game are pretty hideous (esp. in the current DLC). Halloween is still four months away, guys!
In all seriousness, the game is beautiful from a graphical standpoint. I played the PS4 version and, after 50+ hours of gameplay, cannot recall any serious drops in framerate or any other graphical faults. The enemy design might be too repetitive (lots of palette swaps), but I’m admittedly being nit-picky.
I don’t have that much time for gaming nowadays, so I have to pick and choose which games I play very wisely. Not too many games keep me up past my bedtime (which is already pretty late). Nioh manages to successfully blend the best elements of some of the best games in recent memory, thus keeping me awake until the sun is almost up again. Action-Adventure gamers, look no further than Nioh for the best Adventure Game of 2017 (so far).