|Dev: Team Ninja|
|Release: February 7, 2017|
|Players: 1-2 Player|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Violence|
by Patrick Tretina
Nioh’s pedigree is rich in elements borrowed from several similar titles, including Bloodborne and Dark Souls, but it ultimately fails to differentiate itself when all is said and done. The Japanese-themed samurai story is intriguing upon initial glance, especially with it’s seemingly extended replay value. However, when you start to peel back the layers and get into the thick of things, you’re left with a shell of its predecessors and superficial title that couldn’t possibly hold a candle to even the least of them.
My initial first impression of Nioh was a mixture of curious intrigue that quickly faded into uninspired frustration. Taking control of an imprisoned William Adams within a maze of an old prison in London sparked my curiosity. Your first task is to break out of your prison cell and battle the first few guards barehanded until you can obtain one of their weapons. Needless to say, I died several times before figuring out what the button combinations were and how to actually equip a sword once one was obtained. This “thrown in the fire without any direction” setup is very risky, but is immensely rewarding when pulled off correctly. Unfortunately, Nioh is not one of those games that does it well.
It took several hours before Nioh provided any type of tutorial explaining how to navigate the world, use weapon attacks, or equip and use items. In fact, we don’t quite figure out the purpose for playing until we’re deeply invested. This was incredibly frustrating as I attempted to work my way through each new portion of the game. This type of methodology makes sense on paper; break down your user until there’s literally nothing left, then blow their minds when they overcome adversity. Unfortunately, this game just doesn’t offer the type of satisfaction the developers were hoping for. Rather, it leaves you wondering why you’re still holding onto the controller and navigating through this maze of irritation.
The controls are one of the few highlights within Nioh, but you must absolutely press R3 to lock-on, or you're going to spend hours swiping at air and tumbling behind your opponent. If you’ve played any of Team Ninja’s previous games, like Dead or Alive and Ninja Gaiden, you’ll know exactly what I mean. Nonetheless, the game’s combat is exhilarating. Players can literally string together hundreds of combinations within the three-position battle system. Perhaps the best part is adding new weapons as players progress to further, which allows you to customize the delivery of attacks and absolutely lay waste to the hordes of enemies.
The action is very responsive and blends nicely with the button layout. This allows players of all skill levels to jump into the thick of things and progress along at their own pace. The more hardcore gamer will fall in love with the ability to customize their strike delivery from top to bottom, while the casual crowd can survive for a relatively long time by button-mashing their way through. Unfortunately, Nioh will eventually force you to learn a few basic maneuvers to continue progressing forward, but even the greenest of players will be able to pick those moves up quickly.
The maps, as a whole, are rather massive and filled with hordes of demons, soldiers, and other terrifying folk. The downside is, they all seemed to blend together as time wore on. Each story mission was initially intriguing, but soon fell into the void of feeling like every other grindy brawler. The main objective within each map is to battle through a series of enemies, all with a goal of making it to a new checkpoint. Reach the final checkpoint and a boss fight is triggered. This is where Nioh’s glaring deficiencies truly reveal themselves.