By Sam Coles:
Nioh is a game that is not ashamed of wearing its influences on its shoulders as you can clearly see what game inspired it. It’s a new take on the Dark Souls experience set in feudal Japan with high difficulty coupled with punishing yet satisfying combat.
You play as a character that is based on a real historical figure named William Adams who is an Englishman who sailed to Japan and became a samurai however for some reason in this game William has an Irish accent, not an issues if you’re not familiar with the history but it can take you out of it if you do. You find yourself locked up in the Tower of London and you must escape the catacombs and this is where the game lets you get to grips with the basics and throws in an easy boss, I like this as it eases you in.
Once you get to Japan the game starts to throw more mechanics at you and this is where things get a tad more complicated but if you take your time you’ll find that it is not that hard once you get to grips with it. You’re first presented with three stances, you have high stance which let you do slow but powerful attacks however you’re open for damage. There is the middle stance which is a mixture of powerful strikes and fast pace reflexes, this is the stance that is most useful as it is a happy medium and is great for crowd control. Finally you have the low stance which allows you to strike quickly but it does not deal a lot of damage.
The fighting is not slow paced like Dark Souls but it does not take an aggressive route like Bloodborne, as it is made by Team Ninja who are most famous for making Ninja Gaiden a notoriously hard game with fast paced combat. It even has the over the top gore and violence from the that series as you can decapitate your enemies.
Like Dark Souls you collect experience points when you kill enemies and the tougher the enemy the more experience you gain. However when you die you lose all of your experience and you have to reclaim it by visiting the location where you died, this encourages you to tread carefully and take note of fighting patterns of foes as they all have wind downs and wind ups with their attacks.
Managing your stamina is important as well because otherwise you’ll get destroyed and the game punishes you for sloppy fighting. Stamina is called “Ki” in this game which will run down if you attack or sprint, there is a technique where you can regain some if timed correctly called a Ki Pulse. How this works is if you hold R1 for a certain amount of time you’ll regain Ki which is vital for some fights as some enemies will drain your stamina and you have to master this technique to push through this game.
The game looks beautiful as it recaptures the ancient Japanese period however the environments do start to repeat as you either go through villages, forests or a village within a forest. The game runs at buttery smooth 60 frames per second which is essential for a game like this as it requires quick reflexes, what makes me laugh is that they offer the option to play at 30 frames per second calling it “movie mode” why would you play at that frame rate?
The only issue I have with this game is that it can feel a bit cheap with its difficulty as enemies can kill you really quick because once they have started a combo on you there is nothing you can do to defend or retaliate.
I was surprised how much I loved the meaty challenge of Nioh as it keeps throwing surprises at you and encourages you to try again making you better. This is another solid experience exclusive to the PS4 and it’s a good year so far for Sony’s console let’s hope they can carry on the streak.