I’m not going to waste my time in this review comparing this Nioh to Dark Souls. As every reviewer and their mother has already made this comparison, and so for me to make that comparison so late is a little redundant.
Any ways, in Team Ninja’s Nioh, you play as William, a significant historical figure in 1600s Japan. William is on a mission to stop the antagonist, Edward Kelley, from using the civil war in Japan to obtain a mystical energy called Amrita, which can create the Philosopher’s Stone. Throughout the game, William meets and helps historical figures in their quest to quell the Yokai and civil war plaguing the country. If it sounds convoluted, it really is. In fact, I would say that the story is the absolute weakest part of the game, which is a shame.
The game’s story isn’t clear unless you read the tons and tons of logs found in between missions. There are logs covering the history, the plot of the main game, the side characters, and even logs covering the lore of the Yokai you can encounter. However, that’s what I hate about games like this. If a game is well-written, we shouldn’t have to go through data in order to understand what’s going on and why we care.
I harp so much on the story because honestly, I don’t have too much problem with the game otherwise. As far as gameplay goes, there are a ton of options. There aren’t many weapon classes, namely Swords/Axes/Spears/Dual Swords/Kusarigama for the melee weapon, with Bows/Rifles/Hand Cannons being your range weapons, though you’ll be relying more on the melee weapons as you can only hold so much ammo. The best strategy for this game is to go for two melee weapons and two range weapons. Being the idiot I was, I went straight Dual Swords with a Bow and Rifle in the back.
As a result, I didn’t have the same range in melee combat that the Axe and Spear would have given me. With weapon drops from enemies, you will almost never find the same weapon twice, leaving you to make some difficult decisions. If you have a few weapons that you want to get rid of, then you can sell them to the shrine for Amrita (spirit currency), the Blacksmith for Gold, disassemble them for parts to make other weapons, and more.
Other than that, you have your Onmyo and Ninjutsu. Onmyo allows you to craft talismans and conduct other magic, which can slow enemies, launch projectiles, or allow you to put an elemental power on your weapon. Ninjutsu is more concerned with giving you kunai, bombs, poison gas, and other tools of the ninja. Then there are skills you can purchase with points based on your skill throughout the game.
The multiplayer handles really well too. If you have PlayStation Plus, you can help or get help in certain missions. I’ve only had two issues within the multiplayer. One where my partner experienced temporary lag, and one where after completing a boss near the end of the game, because the mission hadn’t ended, he couldn’t leave the boss room, so I had to commit suicide to send him back (the boss stayed dead). There’s also a password system that you have to make sure both you and your partner use at around the same time.
If you put in a password and there’s no one on with the appropriate password, it defaults you to a random person as if there was no password. If you don’t have PlayStation Plus, you can still access limited multiplayer, that being Revenant graves. With Revenants, you can see how someone died and even fight them. If you fight them, they have a chance of dropping their armor or weapon, leading to some impressive drops or even one-of-a-kind items. Needless to say, this game gives you a lot of options. So much so that it’s almost overwhelming. Top that off with three armor types, namely Light, Medium and Heavy armor, as well as just over 20 Guardian Spirits, and you have yourself the basic gameplay of Nioh.
When it comes to how the game looks, surprisingly you have three options. You can choose Movie Mode that gives you either 1920×1080 or 3840×2160 resolution (depending on your TV) at a locked 30fps, Action Mode, which gives you 1920×1080 resolution at 60fps, or Movie Mode with Variable framerate which gives you 4K resolution at a framerate that can exceed 30fps. I played through the game on Action Mode, since I don’t have a 4K TV, but for the most part, it seemed pretty consistent. I’ve counted maybe two instances where the game had a frame of lag, so overall, it runs very well. In terms of environments, I wish there was a little more varied set of locations, but given the location and time there’s only so much that can be done. Occasionally in a big, open area, you can see an enemy in the distance chug a little in their movements, but that’s to be expected.
The music is also really excellent, especially on bosses. There’s nothing like a good boss theme and this game has plenty of them. In fact, the main reason I didn’t lose my sanity when I was going through the castrating-ly difficult bosses is because I enjoyed their themes as much as I did.
Speaking of difficulty, for the first few parts of the game, get ready to get your rear handed to you in a nice box. Make no mistake, you will die. The game’s fast paced action is something to look out for. I couldn’t count how many times my face met the road after getting tossed around just fighting the third boss, let alone the rest of the game. Even so, throughout the game’s difficulty, I never felt that I died unfairly. Each death was my fault and my fault alone. Though, I’ll be honest, a few invincibility frames would be nice, but there are so few that I doubt they even exist in this game.
As for the replayability, I know I’ll definitely be playing it again soon. There’s so much more to the game even after beating it, from more difficult modes to side-missions that will wreck you harder than the rest of the game does.
If I’m being honest, though, the game has a few flaws. I feel that magic (Onmyo) is completely broken and could use some balancing in the future, and even if you want to go straight through without using Ninjutsu or Onmyo, the game will be much more difficult than you could imagine. Going in, I tried so hard to never use either. Nevertheless, eventually the game broke me, and I ended up using Sloth Talismans (which slow the enemy) and a couple bombs courtesy of Ninjutsu that always refill at shrines (only 2-3 per bomb type, but refills nonetheless).
They also had an issue where items you couldn’t carry wouldn’t go to storage unless they were elixirs, but since starting the game, that issue has been fixed. I also had an issue with two glitches, one for infinite amrita (currency), the other where a helping NPC got stuck in a roof in the middle of combat somehow.
There are also problems with certain enemy types getting repetitive, and the game lacks unique enemy types in each region. Also, a minor spoiler I have that needs to be stated: nothing gets me more frustrated than a boss gauntlet, which this game just so happens to have. However, what I enjoy of the game massively outweighs the problems, and I feel this is a game that is at least worth the time to try. With DLC coming around in April, we can easily keep coming back.
+ Tons of options in combat
+ Great music
+ Incredibly fun, difficult bosses
– Repetitive enemy types
– Magic and Ninjutsu feel slightly unbalanced
– Lack of environment variety
Replay Value 4/5
Team Ninja’s Nioh is a really fun game. Sure, Nioh has an extreme learning and difficulty curve, as the game expects you to get good and take every opportunity in order to do as well as necessary. So it does indeed have a few problems. Even so, I still wouldn’t let that stop me from wrecking shop in 1600s Japan.
Developer: Team Ninja
Genre: Action, historical Fantasy
Resolution: 1080p – 4K
Release Date: 7 February 2018
Difficulty: Difficult, Insane
Spent time: +50 hours
Average grade internationally: 89.19% Gamerankings.com
ESRB Rating: M
Price: $60 USD
Robin Ek – Editor
The Gaming Ground
More by Justin Easler:
Save 3$ with our Play-Asia coupon code "thegg"