Title: Nioh 2
Developer: Koei Tecmo
Release Date: March 13, 2020
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Genre: Action RPG
I was on my 17th attempt against a boss in Nioh 2 when I proclaimed that this would be my last attempt after being stuck on the boss for over an hour. My dodges were perfect; I could read my opponent’s moves with ease. I felt unbeatable. However, it wouldn’t be until the 20th attempt that I actually beat the massive creature. Still, I can’t tell you how empowered I felt after claiming a victory.
This series of events is what happens during each considerable enemy encounter in Nioh 2. To say that the game is challenging is an understatement. This game loves to make you feel safe and powerful and then throw something new at you that will test and frustrate you until you’ve mastered it. One thing is undeniable; this entire experience accumulated to one of the best gaming experiences I’ve had to date.
Nioh 2’s narrative is something that players will want to explore. You assume the role of a half-human half yokai, which makes you not very well-liked by those who make it their goal to hunt yokai. You find yourself traveling with a merchant in the middle of a war. While you don’t really play sides, throughout the story, you do end up seeing the battle on both ends. Each character plays a role in the narrative and affects the overarching story.
The entire game takes place over several years, which creates an interesting passage of time on the game’s world and characters. It makes sense that elements within the world are changing because a few years have passed. Still, the story does a great job of keeping the player up-to-date on the state of the world and the role that they play in it. What works well here is that you can create a character and experience that world through that character’s eyes. The character doesn’t have a voice but this doesn’t hinder the impact of the story.
Nioh 2 doesn’t have an open-world. Instead, players will select missions, both main and side-missions. Each mission takes players to a level where they can freely explore as they make their way to the mission’s goal. It’s incredibly straightforward for such a complex game, but some missions show the passage of time on the battlefield, so returning to a town that was once in good condition could be on fire the next time you visit. This makes each mission unique, even if you are returning to the same general area multiple times.
Most of the time, missions have you fight against a powerful yokai. Side-missions end with a weaker boss fight, while the main missions put you up against some rather powerful foes. An issue I encountered was being able to read the map accurately. Sometimes I would have much rather wondered aimlessly that follow whatever circle with dots was on the HUD. This is especially jarring when there are multiple objectives.
I’m sure most of those reading this will mostly care about one thing, the gameplay. Nioh 2 has a knack for rewarding many types of gameplay styles within this genre. For patient players, turning corners slowly and guiding enemies one by one to an open area to fight can be quickly done. On the other hand, those who rush into the battle can easily take out a room full of enemies if they are skilled enough to do so. It’s as if the developers gave players the tools to do something, and what they do with those tools is up to them.
In battle, players need to take notice of their HP, Ki, and Anima. However, players also need to understand how to counter, break enemy guard, use their yokai souls effectively, and adequately demon counter. All this while making sure they are holding their weapon in a way that is working for them. Yokai cores are collected from fallen enemies that allow players to use their power. It definitely helps in combat when things are looking bleak, but you have a potential wildcard up your sleeve
The tools provide to players are also found in the game’s menus. Players can pretty much customize each aspect of the experience to fit their playstyle. Using a weapon earns you Familiarity with it as well as provides you with skill points to improve the combos with that particular weapon type. Each weapon controls differently and has its pros and cons. Furthermore, even though a weapon may be of the same type, its rarity and stats differ. Moreover, weapons can be created and improved at the blacksmith, but most of the time, I was so attached to a weapon I found that I didn’t want to mess it up by altering it too much.
Players are also able to level up using the souls they’ve collected from fallen enemies. Areas that can be adjusted are Constitution, Heart, Courage, Stamina, Strength, Skill, Dexterity, Magic. Leveling up specific stats was strange for me at first since it appeared to scale the difficulty and make early game encounters more relaxed than late-game fights. However, over time, I found a pattern with the upgrades and thought that it scaled the game’s difficulty quite well. If that’s not enough, players can earn titles through gameplay, which can then be used to upgrade a character’s stats even further.
Nioh 2 is a gorgeous looking game that takes its enemies and level design seriously. Those who wish to explore each stage will be treated to some demanding battles and powerful loot. The enemies in this game can be relentless, but it’s still a video game that allows for some fights to be cheesed through.
Enemy attack patterns can be learned and mastered, which makes an enemy who killed you multiple times at the beginning of the game become one that you take out like nothing in later parts. It’s this sense of improvement that Nioh 2 uses to keep you hooked, even though it will also kick your ass at any given moment.
One complaint that I have would be navigating the menus. There’s just so much here and no real incentive to do much it. Players who dive deep into the menus and utilize all the features will get the most out of the game, but their intricate design had me avoiding doing anything in them that wasn’t necessary.
Nioh 2 shows how much the developers have mastered this genre of brutally difficult games. They have created what is one of the best releases of 2020 with their dedication to refined combat mechanics and storytelling. Every moment of gameplay is thrilling, with the threat of impending doom lurking around every corner.
Did I get frustrated? You bet your ass I did. And yet, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. It might not have been the first or second time against an enemy that I won, but as my knowledge of the systems improved, so did my skills of survival. After the game ended, no part of me wanted to put the controller down, so like many during my time with the game, I will lend my aid to the online portion to help any in need. Anything to distract me from taking on the challenge dungeons, which just give me nightmares at this point.
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