After untold hours ploughing through Team Ninja’s Nioh 2 The Complete Edition, I feel torn about it and somewhat contemplative. It has presented a tough, action-based adventure which I feel some players won’t make it through the opening hours. So is it worth a buy and do you get your monies worth?
Let me answer the last part of the question first. Yes, wholeheartedly, you get your monies worth ten-fold. The price might be high on PC, just shy of fifty quid (£50), but the amount of content offered means you can easily spend over 100 hours in its devilish grasp. To clarify, the Complete Edition comes with the base game alongside several PC features. Including native 4K support, HDR, 120 fps mode, widescreen resolutions. Then the 3 DLC expansions, The Tengu’s Disciple, Darkness in the Capital, and The First Samurai. That is a lot of content. I found myself on numerous occasions putting the gamepad down and declaring an end to my endeavours, only to come back and delve deeper into its warm embrace. Nioh 2 is that type of game and one I feel isn’t suitable for the impatient. You are going to die, a lot, and if the pattern of death and slow progression gets to you, then perhaps this is a game to avoid.
Taking a step backwards, Nioh 2 released on Playstation 4 in March 2020. The game received solid praise with a current 85 rating on Metacritic, – its predecessor managed 88. Nioh 2 Offers an open mission-based experience over the story-driven antics of the original, and improves in pretty much every area as far as I am concerned. The gameplay is strikingly similar, but the overall presentation appeals to me far more. Tokyo based Team Ninja had great success with their Ninja Gaiden games under the former direction of Tomonobu Itagaki , but in this series free and decidedly fresh from his input offers a less frantic combat game. Dare I say, souls-like using common terminology.
In the beginning you chose a gender and develop the looks of your silent “protagonist”. That’s a massive boon for this game from the off, and one where I spent quite a bit of time perfecting my very own female warrior-cum-ninja. Unlike some games, your creation appears during cutscenes as-is, which is a great feature. It means, spend some effort on the creation so he or she looks the part during each dramatic moment. You can opt for a goofy looking monstrosity if desired, but that is not my style. Actually, I found the customization tools pretty comprehensive where you can quickly create some pleasant looking models or spend an age attempting to recreate your celebrity crush. Just a heads-up, you can change to the Nioh hero William if you’re after some continuity.
Nioh 2 gameplay follows the same formula as the original. Attack, defend and dodge various human and spirit form enemies (Yokai), and some in-between. It is familiar ground, but includes a new burst counter move. You perform a two button counter when an enemy glows red before they attack. The result either nullifies the attack (if your timing was out) or counters with a damaging blow. Position is everything, and much like the rest of the game learning the attack patterns is a must. A Yokai Shift ability allows you to transform into a spirit demon for devastating attacks, and a new demon realm where the aura drains your stamina quickly. You can counter this using Ki Charge moves and taking out specific demons. It just adds to the horror, but are neat additions as far as I am concerned. I stuck with the Brute style Yokai which suited my playstyle better.
I feel somewhat conflicted though amongst the kerfuffle. The AI tends to read your moves and calculate the response based on several factors. Your remaining stamina, which if depleted via blocking, evasion or attacking too much, leaves you rooted to the spot. I hate this because the recovery seems to take forever and your blocking capability reduces considerably leaving you open to cheap overpowering attacks. Remaining health, and character stance also factor ( the high, mid, low stances return). On many occasions, so many times in fact, the AI stun locks and subsequently kills you. That is by regular enemies and bosses alike. Enemies also work in teams if there are more than one. The enemy lock-on feels quite unfair at times too, although requires cat-like reflexes and an understanding of animation frames to counter. Then there are moments where off-screen enemies jump-out or range attack. The level design at times doesn’t sit right with me either, because there are several moments where a screen filling boss either blocks your view against an edge due to poor camera work, or the tight space they put you in means you can’t see your character, or you just get pinned.
As far as I am concerned, a lot of the game deliberately stacks the odds against the player to the point of much frustration. I can remain fairly calm at the best of times, but on occasion did shout out loud in disgust. As previously mentioned, I put the gamepad down for a much needed break several times. The game keeps pulling me back though, and that is what I like. I am not giving-up or letting myself lose to any particular enemy. A respectable mantra to follow. That is the making of a good game then, right?
Visually the PS4 version looked pretty nice although sporting some low res background textures at times, but came with a 1080p 60 fps mode and 30 fps in checkerboard 4K. This isn’t a problem on PC as it runs nicely in 4K at 60 fps. Unfortunately, the press build I am playing has an option for 120 fps but this does not seem to work at present. I am wondering if 4K 120 fps is even possible. I can see at times dips in frame rate even at 60 fps, interpret that as you will considering this isn’t the most intensive game for a top end GPU like the RTX 3090 I am using. It is a straight port here with very few graphics options compared to other PC games. You can change dynamic shadows and their quality, ambient occlusion, effects and texture resolution alongside the usual render resolution.
Audio, voice-overs come at you fully in authentic Japanese with English subtitles for comfort if that is preferred. You can opt for fairly decent English voice overs as well. For my tastes, Japanese comes acted to a high standard with English slightly behind. The story provides some needed humour, and as mentioned the cutscenes are pretty good and a nice way to look at your character outside of combat. Admittedly, I didn’t pay too much attention to the finer details of the story, other than taking over regions of Japan during the 1500s with Oda Nobunaga in charge to begin with. Music, ranges from standard fare to compelling.
I think I covered the longevity aspect of this game in the first few paragraphs. It is a long game that offers great value for money. Although I will suggest the gameplay loop doesn’t differ too much from hour one to hour fifty and beyond. You can try numerous weapon styles and Yokai forms, but the loop remains unchanged. You do get a fantastic variety of enemies and bosses though. Oh, and did I mention some of this game is tough-as-nails. You can call in AI support which is good and bad considering the lacking skills of some AI companions. You can also indulge in online co-op play, but no one playing at the time of writing this review. It is a good thing then you can replay completed missions and sub-missions to level-up. One particular snake boss early-on had me beat for some time, I had to go back and teach it some manners once I was totally overpowered. Just so I could give it a massive F.U.
I love Nioh 2. I hate it as well, and there is the conflict within me. It messes with my emotions like deliberately as if by design. I think it’s harder than the original game , and in some ways feels cheap. But, there is a compelling nature to the exploration, the investment in your character and the fact that even if you fail, persevere and you will win in the end. It’s a massive time-sink though, but that is a good thing in this case. Methodical combat, great enemy design and a sprawling package overflowing with content makes this a game I can easily recommend for hardened gamers and souls-like fans. No difficulty options exist here, so if you are looking for a chilled gaming experience then cast your gaze elsewhere.
Score 8/10 – Review code supplied by publisher.