Review | Nioh 2
"Be a Samurai that you've always wanted to be. Don't turn your back in the dark - they will not rape you, they will just softly hold your hand while they play with your intestinal's. You died. "
Team Ninja, known for its Ninja Gaiden franchise and Dear or Alive fighting games, once again turned against us gamers in the new, fresh from the oven title. They did a damn fine job with the first Nioh and made good selling results, even though there is a divided fan base when it comes to love or hate. Bottom line, we have another Sekiro/Dark Souls on steroids. If we turn on Diablo-type loot system, we can call this genre looter-non-shooter.
Koei Tecmo published the game for the Japanese market, while Sony Interactive Entertainment was in charge of the rest. I was honored to try the Beta release before official dates. Even back then I knew that challenge was put in front of me…
Starting point looks promising. The choice about your Spirit and type of weapon does not matter much, so don’t worry about it.
I start this review with bloody fingers. I can't remember the last time I was as frustrated as when trying to beat this title. Let’s start with basic stuff and dig deeper as we go further.
Nioh 2 is a prequel of the original Nioh. Who are Yokai’s, what are all those spirit stones and what they have done with honest and loving people – that will be discovered here. Of course, they just couldn’t let go of that British accent in some scenes – remember William from the first game? He was that British samurai in the middle of Japan.
The story in the first game was a mess. Like they just shoveled it in there to fill some gaps. Unfortunately, the situation is the same here. But, not as bad. The problem is that they give you chunks of what is happening before and after main missions; but often that is just not enough to connect the dots, usually it just confuses you. The fact that your custom made character doesn’t talk, at all, doesn’t help the flow. I’ve always hated that.
Among the other stuff, your veins are the carriers of Yokai’s blood. That will help you control their powers, but it’s not going to be an easy task.
Nioh usually follows the story where corruption took over sanity. Spirit stones are those yellow crystals which hold tremendous power. The more they are consumed, the more they affect your voice of reason. Your role is to protect and fight amongst the good guys. Rulers, lords, other big shots will fight against the bad side and you will team up with them. It all ends with those yellow crystals.
I’ve never loved myself as a protagonist - in a sense when I create a character and then he/she just gives me the silent treatment. I just can’t let myself enjoy as much as I can when I control someone like Zack from FF7 Crisis Core. That always degrades the story experience. Oh yeah, the guy in this game calls you Hiddy, and since you cannot talk, you just can’t tell him that you actually have a name. Lame.
To summarize, you are the breaking point in the story and your success will be a resolution to all its troubles. Easy to say, in front of you are 1-hit enemies and situations that will rack your nerves. Just a hint – last 30% of the game is like double the quality of all the content before. Don’t know why they didn’t do it like this from the start.
I suck at this. After three whole minutes of customization, I can say I’m satisfied.
Nioh 2 introduced character customization. Man or a woman, short or long hair; those are just 2 minor things you can change. I can’t remember the last time when I had so many options during character creation. For me personally, default options are almost always the way to go, so shortly I started my journey. Just a hint – bathing in the hot springs removes almost all of your clothes. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! Anyway, you will for sure be satisfied with this part of the game.
Next thing that awaits you is the shrine where you will learn some basic combat tactics, about your guardian spirits, counter moves, Yokai moves…It looks like a hub from games like Bloodborne and it makes me happy that they changed the approach. But, that is not the truth. My ships have sailed when I saw the same ol’ map and same overview of the missions like in the last game.
Odachi was my best friend. High stance is almost invincible, while you need to use low when someone fast is across the path.
Why do I mention the maps and all that? Well, first Nioh suffered from ugly, generic and repulsive levels. Not all, but most of them. Nioh 2 is literally Nioh 1.5. It’s not a bad thing, but they managed to recycle many assets, even some of the same levels which makes the experience worse if you've played the first game. The more it passes from that moment, the better will your experience will be. Main missions are not bad, they are all unique, but sub missions are boring to say the least. Even boss rotation and presentation smells like William.
So, you start from the map. Select mission, play the mission. The whole menu is the exact replica of what you saw in the first game. The progress as well. Play main story, unlock side content and play that, pop some trophies, repeat. Almost all sub missions are levels from the previous title or inverted/shortened sections of main mission from here. Playing something 5 times in a row is not something you will love.
Check your map in depth, you can find hidden items. And tell me that this doesn’t like like you are playing first Nioh…
The brightest point of this game is most certainly action and gameplay segment. Those are just fluent and ton of fun. It’s wonderful how the game runs smoothly. They even introduced some FPS options with choice for 3 different modes of your experience. I don’t see a point of going to 30 FPS where rotation stutters, while you can play at stable 60. Maybe it’s for regular PS4’s, I have PRO and it runs beautiful.
Nioh 2 is better than its predecessor in every single aspect. Graphics, 4K with HDR support, check. Enjoy the beautiful landscapes covered in blood while the sun shines and points it out. Animations are top notch, level design can be similar, but some, like last 2 region mission are just breathtaking. They did a good job with connecting parts of those levels; they are just full of shortcuts and you will use them, believe me.
Surprise! I’m a beautiful level, play me.
Imagine a Souls game chopped in small bits and pieces shattered throughout missions. That is more or less how Nioh is presented. They all follow the same goals, small puzzles in a way of killing groups of enemies and collect some keys to open locked doors. At the end of the each level there is a boss fight. At least, for main missions. Don’t expect great experience through those levels, they reuse many assets and just few of them are cool enough to remember them later.
We have Kodamas and Sudamas to collect. Remember those small, green creatures with utensils on their heads? Sudamas are purple Kodamas and they can exchange items for you. If you drop a weapon of yellow rarity, they will take it and replace it with some other of the same rarity. That’s a good way to get what you want and rid of what you don’t. Kodamas will raise some regional buffs, as it was in the first game. The best one is to raise percentage of Elixirs – those you use to heal yourself. You are going to need a ton of them.
If I could, I would steal those utensils on their heads as that is the requirement for one grindy trophy.
The thing I need to praise is the number of surprises and mischief you will encounter in every mission. You see an item, crawl there and something will fall on your head. You see something in the distance, rotate your camera and you will fall down through the hole. Good job making our life miserable in addition to its difficulty. I love it. That will not save you from often frustrations, but you have to admire the dedication.
On the first glance it looks nice, on the second you are dead. Take a cover behind the tree to mess up with AI of this fellow.
You can repeat each level. But, since you have like a gazillion missions, there will not be any need until late game maybe, or while working towards the platinum. It also depends how good you are with collecting your grave and experience when you die; remember, when you die and if you die again – experience and soul cores are lost forever. And you die every minute. In general, every next missions is 4-6 levels harder. By completing a mission you can gain around 2-3. You do the math.
That is sometimes the fact that divides people. The game can be a massive grind. Combine that with some really tough missions, equipment loot system (which falls every few seconds) and the fact that you will have to play sub missions to get stronger. It can all be overwhelming.
What surprises me how the game feels and reminds me of the first one. Weapons, armor sets, sub missions – we’ve all seen that. You will also find some boss connection when it comes to presentation and strategy. I have like 250 hours in the first game and every moment something buzzed in my head. As a fanboy, I don’t worry about it as much, but I want to let everyone know what to expect. The worst thing is that they shuffle small number of enemies throughout the whole game. They really need better design both here and for levels. I hate the repetition.
The effects are top notch. Do not go through the blue fire.
Most of your time will fall on collecting equipment sets, customization, running around and carefully planning how to beat some parts. One wrong move and you are dead. Some parts are hard as hell and they will test your patience in real time. Do not expose your back and always try to block incoming attacks. This action RPG will find you and hunt you down, beware. Those long range enemies will be your nerve breaking point, so really, try to be chill, otherwise you will end up with broken controller. When you survive all of that, prepare for something even worse at times – boss battles.
10 points for Nioh 2! I love and I love the boss battles. They are epic, hard and really worth beating the whole level to see them. To survive means you will have to use everything you own. You will need to learn the strategy, find out the weaknes and try to be alive while doing so. I love the fact that you can destroy glowing parts to destroy stamina. Every boss is different, interesting and hard. Shibata was killing me for few hours, although I was weak at that point, but I never let go until he was dead. Animations are great. Countering moves is great. Everything about them is great. Mostly I switched to low stance later on, some are just too fast to survive using high stance. Just jump behind their back, kick 2 times and run like the wind.
It’s important to counter. R2+ Circle in the moment when they attack you while they show the red light is what you wanna do. If you have a Phantom type guardian…
If we extract what is new, we don’t have much to show. Yokai moves are great. They are basically special moves from Yokais you defeat and when they drop a core, take it and bring it to the shrine to purify them before dying. You will find 49 different cores, each with unique buffs and most of them with different special attack.
The next thing is Yokai counter move I’ve already mentioned. You want to counter at the perfect moment when you see the red light (they stole from Sekiro!). Depending of the type of your guardian spirit, you will counter differently. Phantom is the best as you have the most time to counter.
Guardian Spirits don’t matter much, they just raise attack or defense and you need to put soul cores on them to buff those. Not much here to say, I’m a bit sad that there is not much in this segment. But, combining those soul cores is fun and it can save your ass. Mezuki is still my favorite, huge wide sweep that chops everything in a wide circle…Limited usage of course, Anima bar (purple one) will deplete as you use them, so no spamming sir!
Lastly, transform into your inner Yokai and in that moment you are invincible. Until they deplete your health that is. It is much harder to abuse this here, while in the first game it was the best thing to have.
I have nightmares from those Yokai’s. But I love this move.
The weapon arsenal is more than enough. 9 types of weapons, ninjitsu and omnyo magic. Wow, that’s a lot! Every weapons have 3 stances and every weapon has skills which multiply your move set. I think everyone will find something to like. Some weapons are imbued with inner power which you awaken every now and then. They will shoot beams for a limited time. Not bad, but nothing spectacular.
The best is to collect certain sets which give you good boost. The problem is that on every level you will get better equipment so this strategy is somewhat lame. But! You can refashion your equipment to look like any set you already discovered. That, I love. And that, I use.
When it comes to weapon skills, there is just enough to keep you entertained. Using a weapon raise its proficiency. By doing that, you unlock skill points for it and you can exchange those for buffs or new moves. I dislike the skill menu itself, but skills are great. Sekiro approach, but then again, Nioh was out before and already had this skill approach.
I’m sad that they did not develop more finisher moves. You will enjoy them, but very shortly they will get boring as you have only a very different ones to finish off a staggered enemy. Even though, taking out someone’s guts is always a pleasure.
Until you learn the backstab technique, do not try this at home.
A few other things to mention – A blacksmith for creating new weapons is also here. You can templer, remodel, disassemble and refashion your equipment. No need for either as equipment drops like bitcoin these days.
You can chillax in your Hut and hang some scrolls and tea utensils – they do give some buffs. You can also read some lore and learn more about the game events or read again what happened.
Furthermore, you can play Dojo mission to unlock new skills on your weapon skill tree, but beware of the challenge. It makes sense to do them, especially if you are going for a platinum; you will need to in that case. Like you see, many RPG elements are present and all of that combined makes this game worth the money.
Now you see why I aim to carry less clothes.
If you are scared that this will be too hard for you, you can summon people online to help you on hard levels. You will use cups which you can get by defeating those red grave enemies. You can also raise some allies by using the blue graves, which is another new thing here. Unfortunately, I was level 80 before the game was out, so no one was there to help me.
Just to mention, you level up in Shrine, change your guardians, offer equipment in exchange for exp…Same as in all games of this type.
The hardest thing will be this last part.
Those who loved first Nioh and expect something similar – go for it by all means. For those who didn't, you don’t even have to bother. If you expect something out of the story, think again. If you expect great level designs, not going to happen. Well, partially maybe. Those that played Nioh recently, expect recycle of many assets and many many similarities here.
In the end, it wouldn’t be wise to say many bad things. Nioh 2 (Nioh 1.5 if you will) is better in everything than its Daddy. A big minus is for all the negative things I’ve said, but the quality of this title is high. I don’t see it as Sekiro quality for example, but it’s not so far away. To grade this is harder than to finish it hehe. I wish you all good freaking luck!