So I picked up a title unexpectedly a couple weeks ago.
Nioh popped up on my radar briefly at the PSX show in December, the developer took the stage to talk about his title, and when asked how long it was, he casually said to do the story and some side quest, like 70+ hours, oh, and this is a “Dark Souls” like game in difficult, and plays a lot like Ninja Gaiden with a splash of Onimusha tossed in.
I was instantly sold, but due to length, I was going to pick it up later in the year.
Well reading a few stellar reviews on other site, I decided to jump in an man am I glad I did.
I just finished my play-through, which consisted of 100% of the side missions and 100% story and it clocked in a total of 68h 23m.
I didn’t manage to finish all the Dojo challenge missions, or more than 2 Twilight missions, so there is still a good 10+ hrs of content left.
On top of that, a NG+ mode unlocks post game, where the original story missions from the first 3 regions are now in uber hard mode, but have very big rewards too.
So needless to day, there is likely 80-100 hrs of content available day one, with the dev promising a new difficulty mode coming soon as well.
The game play is similar in spirit to Dark Souls or Bloodborne, you have to be good at this game to succeed, and you will die… A LOT. I am no slouch when it comes to hard mode, and I still manage to clock in over 200 deaths start to finish.
Something in the way of a surprise with Nioh is how fast paced it is, I love Dark Souls, but those games tend to be a lot slower and more calculated. Where Nioh is a very twitch based game, but requires a great amount of skill to proceed.
As the game progresses you will get better, not stronger. While armor and weapons increase your damage, the monsters you fight are on the same sliding scale, so things you fought as mid level bosses in stage 1, will be run of the mill enemies by the end of the game.
As levels progress the challenge not only revolves around the enemies you fight, but the environment as well. Take a large Armita Fiend in an open area and you can usually dodge your way to success, but put him in a cramped hallway and the game changes completely.
This is the beauty of Nioh, it is ever changing and evolving from start to finish, with not a single of the games 20+ story missions having the same level. And every single level offering a very unique experience or location. From a flotilla like village with water graves and broken ships everywhere, to mansions in Kyoto or the bloodied battlefield with hundreds of soldiers fighting in the background.
Variety is something I did not expect from Nioh but was thrilled to find it. There is no fetch quests, no doubling back to cheaply fill out a level, this game is large and very well designed.
The side quest offer smaller snips of the larger levels, and oft explore some areas you never saw in the main mission, That mansion you explored may have a back garden you could not reach, in a side mission you may begin in the house proper, but go out a door that was previously locked. So even most of the side mission feel substantial.
The leveling system is also akin to the “Souls” games, in the fact that you gain experience (Armita) by killing enemies or searching bodies and Soul Stones.
If you are bested in battle, your guardian spirit lays in wait for you to return and collect it and the souls you dropped, but die again, and you will lose all you have collected forever.
This adds a real challenge to every confrontation, you can cash in your souls at a shrine strewn about the levels, and touching one gives you a place to respawn, but the cost is that all enemies you have killed thus far will respawn as well.
So the game is a constant balance of should I spent my souls and level up, or chance making it to the next Shrine and maybe losing everything I have done thus far.
This really forces you to play the game like intended, cautiously and with skill, not just brute force, because that is the road to dying guaranteed.
The game itself is split into 6 main regions (and a couple bonus ones I will not go into) as well as random Twilight Missions.
The Twilight missions are like Nioh on steroids, levels have about 2x-3x the enemies of regular level, and the creatures here are HARD, double or more the HP and strength. You will die here, and die often.
There are 9 in total, and only 2 are ever available at one time, they reset to a different level every day at 11pm est I believe.
This makes getting them for the trophy a bit of a pain, as the appear and change randomly, you may have to wait days or even week to see all of them come up.
But in all fairness, you will be playing this game for likely weeks as it is, so they should all appear in that time frame.
Visuals and sound is top notch in Nioh as well, with lots of small details that really sell the environments, small fires burning, birds picking corpses clean, everything is meticulously designed.
Audio is top notch too, with lots of subtle sounds giving you an idea of where enemies are located and hiding.
There is also a heavy crafting component to the game in the way of a blacksmith shop. Where items, armor and weapons can all be crafted, merged to make better stats, de-synthed for materials, and created anew.
The loots system is not so dissimilar from Destiny or Diablo, with random loot drops from chests. monsters and the like.
All and all Nioh scratches a real itch that is missing, good Ninja / Samurai games, since the departure of Ninja Gaiden and Onimusha years ago, it is refreshing to see Nioh come along and completely fill that niche and take it to the next level.
Here’s to hoping it is the first in many sequels, because even after 68hrs I am looking forward to more!
A superb game, and a complete 10/10.