Nioh (PS4) – REVIEW – A’s GAMING moments

Nioh was the story of William, a western warrior who’s quest to recover his guardian spirit from an evil sorcerer led him to the shores of Japan. However on arrival to this war torn country, with its battlefields still fresh with the smell of blood, William found himself caught up in the struggle for power with none other than Tokugawa Ieaysu, the famous Japanese leader. Basically it was a Dark Souls game set in feudal Japan. It had the same ‘souls’ mechanic where if you died you dropped your XP, with one chance to recover it. It had the same giant bosses, the same high level of difficulty. It even had that same dark, almost horror feel to it, with settings such as creepy cemeteries, old tombs and rainy, ninja filled ancient temples. It was a world that was filled with war and despair, where the barrier between life and death had become blurred.

It drew a lot of its influences from traditional Japanese mythology, with spirits, demonic Oni and undead Yokai wandering the lands, drawn towards the misery and death. Even the combat stuck to the Japanese theme, with an almost martial art feel to it. You could fight in three different stances; high stance, middle stance or low stance. High stance provided you with better attack but was slow, middle was good for guarding and low was good for moving and dodging. As you levelled up you’d learn new moves, which were often tied to a specific stance. So knowing which weapon and which stance to use on which enemy was all part of the game’s challenge.

Whenever you finished an attack, you’d let off a little ki blast, which if would hit R1 at just the right time, would regain some of your stamina, adding another level of challenge to the combat. The best players wouldn’t just randomly mash buttons, but would instead carefully remember to hit R1 after each attack, calmly and collectively. Just like in a real fight, where you have to remember breath. Now, I’ve heard a lot of people say that Nioh was more difficult than Dark Souls, which I guess wasn’t really that surprising, considering it was made by the team behind the extremely difficult Ninja Gaiden games. But personally, I didn’t actually find it that bad. Sure it was challenging, but very rarely did I hit that brick wall where you have to grind it out levelling up in order to progress.

Some bosses definitely took a few attempts, but once you worked out a good strategy or tactic you could definitely take them on. And it was the kind of game that I don’t believe you could cheat in. Anything was fair game. Any glitch or advantage you could abuse, was fair enough. One boss I beat by just keeping a rock in between me and him and then just running round in circles, occasionally chipping away at his health, but as far as I’m concerned, you did whatever you could to win. One major difference between Nioh and Dark Souls was that in Dark Souls the game took place in one big interconnected world, whereas here, you had a world map with a stage selection on it. Personally I preferred the Dark Souls method, because there was something exciting about going round the same area for hours and hours, only to eventually find a big door leading to somewhere new. Then you had to ask yourself all the usual questions like, is this the right way, am I meant to be here, is it going to be too difficult in this new area? It captured that sense of exploration and discovery.

But in Nioh, it’s always kind obvious where your meant to be going and how difficult a level is because it clearly tells you on the stage select screen. What I did like though was that, without wanting to compare it to Dark Souls anymore, it also had a bit of a Borderlands or Division feel to it, where you would pick up a ton of loot, all varying in rareness and each with their own little stat changes like plus two percent poison resistance or plus six percent damage from behind. I found myself constantly switching out my items, my armour and even my weapons as I was constantly finding something new that was better than what I already had. But when you did find something you really liked, it was possible to customise it however you liked. One area that I think the game got perfect was the blacksmiths. You literally couldn’t ask for a better blacksmith in a game.

You could upgrade your lower level items,by soul matching it with a higher level item. You could change the appearance of any piece of armour or weapon, so say you got a really powerful piece of armour, but it looked like shit, you could transform it to make it look like any other piece of armour that you’d already found. So basically you could run around looking like you were in light armour, when really you had all the defensive stats of the heavy stuff. I think this is important because there was a hell of a lot of cool looking armour in this game. Ancient Japanese armour has something special about it, where every Samurai used to personalise and maintain their own set to make it unique. So it was important that the game let you do the same. As a fan of both Dark Souls games, and of feudal Japanese history, Nioh was like a match made in heaven, with a rich, deep world to get lost in. I even got to fight alongside Musashi in the aftermath of the battle of Sekigahara. It was the kind of game where you’d get messages from friends saying stuff like, “How’d you kill that harpy bitch- which weapon did you use?” Or- “Aced the fucker.

Having a fire weapon made it piss easy.” Oh, and of course- “I swear every side mission in this game is because someone lost their sword.”

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