Nioh will test you. Encompassing some of the best aspects of the From Software games but to simply compare it to the Souls games and Bloodborne wold be selling Nioh incredibly short. While some of their inspirations are obvious, the features and mechanics in Nioh make it much more than a clone and, in turn, one of the best games in this genre.
Developed by Team Ninja, the developers of the Ninja Gaiden series, this legacy can be felt throughout Nioh. Combat is fast, fluid, and ultimately brutal. It feels much more like Ninja Gaiden than it does anything like the Souls series. Treat it with the speed of From Software games are you’re most likely going to be overwhelmed
You’ve got to manage your stamina, known as Ki. Every swing of your weapon diminished this meter but Nioh also features a thing called “Ki Pulse”. This Ki pulse allows you to regain a chunk of your Ki when a press of R1 is timed right. Utilising this mechanic can be vital in key battles, especially given the penalty for running our of Ki. Should you deplete your entire meter, you will be stuck to the spot for a few seconds and be left open to an attack from enemies. The Ki pulse is not mandatory to succeed but it certainly improves your chances.
There is a level playing field though. One of the more unique features of combat in Nioh is that not only do your enemies have a similar stamina bar but you can see it at all times. This is essential for planning your attack. You know that if someone runs and swings at you with an axe, they might be almost out of stamina which you can see under their health. This allows you to know when to attack and maybe lay into them with an all out attack should they also be out of stamina.
To further add depth to the combat, Nioh features a three-stance system that allows you to switch up not only the stats of an attack but how the are delivered in combat. High-stance uses more Ki, is generally slower, but deals larger damage, mid-stance is slightly more defensive while low stance is faster attacks but less damage. You can also pay attention to your enemies that hold weapons and see their stance. This way, you can know which stance to use and counter their incoming barrage of attacks. This results in a combat system that is not only fast but strategic.
Nioh is not an open world game; Instead you have hubs that allow you to choose your mission as well play the tougher Twilight missions. Twilight missions are an even harder version of a previously completed mission but the rewards are rarer.
Rewards are quite a different beast to what you might expect from a game like this. Regular enemies as well as mini-bosses and bosses all drop loot to the level you might expect in a game like Diablo. Chances are, you will not stay with the same weapon for a long time as new weapons will be consistently dropping. It’s a surprising mechanic for a game like this but it’s implemented well and adds further depth to the moment to moment gameplay. Plus, finally downing a boss that has been making your life hell feels extra gratifying when they explode in rare loot.
Visually, Nioh is spectacular. The 16th Century Japanese aesthetic makes for a dark but stunningly pleasing look with architecture stretching from realistic to fantastical but nothing feels too out of place. Levels start generic enough but eventually they open up and begin to tell the story of the world in gratifying detail.
Nioh goes so far beyond being a copy of a game with its own twist. Instead, Nioh feels fresh, taking the mantle from the best of the genre and creating one of the best games of its kind and potentially Team Ninja’s best game to date. Not only is this a stunning return to form but it has paved the way for the genre, showing just how diverse you can get and be your own thing yet keeping the heart of what players love about the genre.