Nioh Review

Nioh Review Darryl Linington
Lasting appeal
Game of the Year Contender
User Rating: 9.9 (4 votes)

Developed by Team Ninja and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment, Nioh is one of the latest titles to hit the PlayStation 4 as an exclusive. Much like Dark Souls, a title that Nioh shares similarities with, Nioh features a punishing difficulty level and steep learning curve. While Nioh does share some similarities with Dark Souls as well as Ninja Gaiden, it is not a clone of either title. This is due to its excellent storyline and well-implemented gameplay mechanics.

The games follows the story of lead protagonist William, an Irish-born English sailor, and begins in 1598 in a fictionalised version of the late Sengoku period – a time when the clans of Japan were at war prior to the unification under the Tokugawa shogunate and the beginning of the Edo period. During the opening moments of the game, we find out that William is being held in the Tower of London as a prisoner. This is where the supernatural tone of the game becomes apparent as William breaks free from his prison cell with the help of his Guardian Spirit Saoirse – a being born from the prayers of his home village who saved him from death and now prevents him from dying.

Once free, William – while being player controlled – hacks and slashes his way through a variety of guards in order to escape; however, the escape does not go as planned as William’s escape is hindered by Edward Kelley, an enemy of William who seeks a mystical golden stone called Amrita. When William and Edward Kelley clash it does not end well for William as his Guardian Spirit is stolen by Edward Kelley. Desperate to get Saoirse back, William pursues Edward Kelley across Japan – which is filled to the brim with vicious enemies and demonic spirits called Yokai.

Quick Fact: The main character in Nioh is based on a real-life figure, a sailor called William Adams. He was the first Englishman to reach Japan, stranded to the island on 1598 while sailing a ship for the Dutch East India Company. Unable to return to England, Adams settled in Japan and became the first ever “Western Samurai.”

I will end the synopsis there in order to avoid further spoilers. Nioh’s storyline is one that is a mixed bag of tricks… It comes across as a title with a heavy serious tone; however, it lightens things up quite a bit with its quirky take on history as well as its comical dialogue. While the game can be rather serious at times, there is a great balance overall when it comes to the tone of the game. Overall, when it comes to story, Nioh has a solid one that is well-worth experiencing from start to finish. To add to the overall experience, players will probably – dependent on their skill – spend between 50-75 hours on their first playthrough of Nioh. This ultimately adds to the game’s lasting appeal as there is a lot of bang for your buck right here.

While Nioh has a strong, solid storyline it’s the game’s combat mechanics that truly shine. While you are thrown in the deep end in the Tower of London, the game does, however, offer up a tutorial mode after this section in order to ease players in. In the tutorial mode, you will learn how to fight both Yokai and human enemies. Additionally, you will learn about the game’s different stances, weapons, and magic. As stated above, Nioh has a high difficulty level and steep learning curve, which is exactly why any player should pay close attention to the detailed tutorial on offer here.

Once done with the tutorial, the player will also need to understand that they will die in this game many times as it is brutally difficult and punishing. While this is a reality, there is still hope as the lead protagonist does get stronger throughout the game as he levels up – using Amrita collected – in order to become faster, stronger, and more powerful. While levelling up William does make things easier, the player should never underestimate the brilliantly designed enemies and bosses that they will face. Even at level 20, I found myself being killed by two lower level enemies due to the fact that I had underestimated them during combat.

Apart from facing off against the normal enemies included in the game, Nioh also allows players to challenge revenants of players who have perished within the game. This is a great addition to the game; however, you will only be able to access this function with an online connection. Revenants should also not be underestimated as they can be quick, powerful, and even deadlier than the enemies you face in the game.

One of Nioh’s biggest draw cards is its weapon selection/class system. Before completing the tutorial the player can select which weapons they would like to specialise in. These include: Swords, Dual Swords, Spears, Axes, or Kusarigamas. This gives players a choice, which is something that goes down well with games like this as you can either smash your way through the world with a giant axe… or strategically take down enemies with swords and bows. To add to the combat system, players will also get to choose their Guardian Spirit; however, I will not list these to avoid spoilers.

When it comes to combat and gameplay, Nioh is a top-notch title. While combat is brutally difficult in the beginning, it starts to feel more balanced the further the player progresses. This makes Nioh feel like a title that has been well thought out by its developers. To add to the praise, Nioh is also a visually stunning title that is beautifully detailed from start to finish.

Nioh is essentially a masterpiece and comes in as an early game of the year contender. Not only is it difficult and brutal, but it is well thought out and visually stunning. Team Ninja should be applauded for developing a game that is essentially almost perfect. While I have praised Nioh from start to finish, it is a game that is aimed at a certain player… Not everyone will enjoy it, especially casual players as it is aimed at more hardcore players who are looking for an intense challenge.

Nioh was reviewed by Darryl Linington
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