Two Cent Review: Nioh

Video review can be found here.

(Nioh is available for PS4, PS5, and Windows.)

So let’s start off with the story of Nioh. Wait, actually, where do I even begin with this story? Well for one, it’s quite the difficult tale to follow along with. Nioh sees you starring in the main role as William, the first westerner turned samurai, on his quest to take back what is rightfully his from some rude guy who decided he can take whatever he wants. William’s journey takes him to 16th century Japan, where he quickly forges an alliance with some locals who agree to help him find what was  taken from him. In exchange for their help in finding the man responsible for taking William’s childhood friend and gold finder, William agrees to lend a hand in fighting  the evergrowing Yokai menace. The story found in Nioh, is certainly entertaining, but I can’t say that it’s anything groundbreaking on memorable. If anything, the plot here is nothing more than a means to travel to new locations, and fight newer, bigger, and badder demons. The story can be a bit jumbled up, and difficult to follow at times, but it’s by no means a mess or convoluted. It seems like there were chunks of cutscenes or dialogue missing from the game. I can’t recall any moments of story progression where I blanked out and absorbed nothing, yet I still found myself a bit lost as to who some of the people were and what was going on in certain cutscenes. All-in-all, the plot here in Nioh is average. It’s ultimately forgettable, but it’s still a fun ride throughout.

Presentationwise, however, this game is far less forgettable. The locations you visit are quite varied, for one. Throughout your adventures through Japan, you’ll explore caves, mines, forests, burning villages, foggy graveyards, and more. Every level has it’s own variance in design, and they’re all a complete treat to look at and explore. The lighting in Nioh is something I found to be especially noteworthy. Sun rays reflect through peeling and cracked boards of wood that make up abandoned buildings. Torches illuminate the ore mines you descend into. Some light sources can even be knocked over, which can lead to some very intense fights deep below the surface. Attacks are also beautifully choreographed, full of particle effects and slashing, swinging streaks of light. And the same goes for enemies movements as well. As far as the music and sound are concerned, they aren’t as good as the graphics here, but they’re still well done nonetheless. Musically, there really isn’t anything too memorable going on. As I wrote the script for this review, I actually found it rather difficult to recall any stand out tracks that I hear along my journey. I couldn’t think of one background song that really stuck with me, and I think that says a lot about a game’s soundtrack. None of it was necessarily annoying or poorly written, per se, but it was overall a bit unmemorable. Soundwise, the game does a hell of a lot better. The sounds of blades bouncing off of metal armor, or arrows whizzing by your face, just barely missing your skull by an inch, are common sounds you’ll hear throughout. And they all hit with the same intensity and grittiness throughout the game. Hearing your weapon cut into flesh, crack  through bone, and cripple your opponent is consistently satisfying, and gives you great feedback on whether or not your attack actually landed. It’s a difficult thing  for many melee oriented games to get right, but Team Ninja absolutely nailed it here. Not just the weapons and combat sound great, either. This whole damn game is just one big old sweet sound designed treat. Voice acting is also found here, but it isn’t anything special or unique. You have both English and Japanese being spoken throughout the game, which I though was a nice added touch of realism. Not everyone here is automatically speaking English, just for the sake of making it more approachable for people who are too lazy to read subtitles. It added a refreshing dose of believability to a game that sits submerged deep in a hot spring of fantasy. All in all, the presentation found in Nioh is very well done.

But it is nowhere NEAR as well done as the gameplay, which is the real highlight of the show, erm, game, here. Now I know we live in 2017, and many people like to refer to any challenging game in a genre is the Soulslike of said genre and we’re tired of hearing that shitty, dried out sales pitch, but I have no choice but to refer to the souls series while talking about Nioh. At least Nioh sits in the same genre as Dark Souls, unlike something like Cuphead, or even CRASH FUCKING BANDICOOT. Wait, Crash Bandicoot? Hold on, somebody actually had the audacity to make the claim that Crash Bandicoot is the Soulslike of platformers? No, no, nononono. Im not sure if you’re aware, but Crash came out a whole 13 YEARS before the first souls game was released. So based on this logic then, we’d have to say that, if anything, Dark Souls is the Crash Bandicootlike of action RPGS. Ahem. Sorry, that was an irrelevant point to make. Shall we continue? Nioh, the Crash Bandicootlike of Action RPGs in 2017. A game about collecting amrita (not souls), praying at shrines (not bonfires), and finding shortcuts. More importantly though, it’s a game about fighting giant ass bosses that’ll decimate you in one blow. It’s a game about calculated strikes, and reading your opponent’s next move. It’s a game about exploration, grinding, and making progress, only to lose all of that progress because of one poorly timed sword strike. This is a game of patience and  opportunity. It’s about slowly learning your way through an intimidating boss, and going from feeling helpless to feeling accomplished and better than you were three hours earlier. In order to achieve these things though, you’re going to have to be ready to deal with some heavy doses of menus and text. There’s a lot to learn about the mechanics of Nioh, and that applies to more than just the melee combat. Talking about the melee combat’s depth alone is already complex enough. Not only do you have a light and heavy attack, but you also have three different stances for each weapon: high, mid, and low. Each stance has it’s own pros and cons, and you have to constantly be reading your opponent and changing up your stance in order to defeat them. This is especially vital during boss fights, which the game has a heaping helping of.  Outside of the combat, you have a looting system with it’s own rarity scale. A blacksmith, who will allow you to purchase new items, melt down old ones for materials, build new gear, and level up old gear. A overworld map where you can take on side quests, main missions, and extra challenging quests. An in depth skill branch for 5 of the game’s 8 weapon types. A dojo to refine and hone your skills. A multiplayer section that I didn’t check out because I don’t have enough friends to play games with. The list goes on.

There’s a lot of stuff to do here. Like, a lot a lot. If Nioh was a house, it would be classified as a hoarder’s house. The amount of content you get here for the price the game is sold at is more than worth your money. The game can easily run you about thirty hours or so, just in the main story alone. That is, if you’re good at these kinds of games. If you’re someone like me, however, who isn’t good at these Soulslike (Crash Bandicootlike) games, then you could very well be looking at a significantly longer playtime. And that isn’t even mentioning the side quests, DLC, and new game plus modes. There’s plenty of meaty, chunky, gory goodness to be had in Nioh. And investing both your time and money into this title will lead you to find one of the most rewarding abiet frustrating experiences you will have in gaming for quit some time to come. Nioh can be a bit overwhelming at times, and to be honest, that’s a bit of an understatement, but stick with it and you’ll find yourself completely immersed in a game that I’d say is: Definitely worth full price.