Bumping into the first boss after traversing a demon-haunted riverside village, I begin to reduce a health bar dominating the screen with my plundered purple ninja knife. It only falls a little before it roars, plunges me into a dark world and then summarily kills me with its saw blade. Sure, I’ve played Dark Souls. I know you shouldn’t be able to beat the first boss. This is just the taste. And then I respawn, and I realize that, no, this is just the beginning of the mountain to come.
Nioh 2 is not just any Soulslike; It’s what Team Ninja calls « masocore. » Starting from the complicated challenges of the first game, here things get even bigger and worse. But, among other evolutions on his own genre ins and outs, he can also get a little bigger and meaner.
The vast arsenal of possible weapons aren’t your only tools to spill hot yokai blood. Your custom character is half yokai. This not only means that you can spend meters to enter a state of demonic fury, but you can also collect the powers of defeated demons (such as a Mega Man led by Kurosawa). Having access to these super moves is a surprisingly cool twist on the genre, giving you the option to literally hit a « hit with a giant hammer » button if you just want to dish out some easy damage and take a break.
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The Burst Counter even gives you the option to parry the attacks of the largest bosses to seriously damage your own posture. The burst counter gives you the option to take on even the biggest bosses. Mixed in with their move sets, you’ll have to deftly dodge or block the big hits that glow red. However, if you hit the burst counter at the right time, you will transform into your demonic form for one second, dealing heavy resistance damage and stunning your enemy. More than just add-ons, it feels like this fundamentally changes your interaction with the game for the better. You’ll still die easily if you’re not vigilant, but if you know what you’re doing, Nioh 2 isn’t afraid to give you some pretty spectacular answers that get your adrenaline pumping. Few moments feel better than when you are able to perfectly react to the attack patterns of a difficult boss to tear him apart piece by piece with demonic powers.
Ki to victory
Each weapon can be wielded in three stances, from lowest to highest, hitting harder and slower for more ki (basically stamina). Pressing the right button after a combo performs a ki pulse, resetting a large portion of the meter and purifying the otherwise suffocating circles of the yokai realm. This creates a great sense of rhythm and rewards you for learning to handle your weapon.
Each weapon even has its own skill tree that unlocks special techniques and bonuses. The more you use it, the more skill points you will earn on your way to mastery. There are eleven to choose from (not counting ranged subweapons), including two new to the DLC included in the Complete Edition and available to use right out of the box. The fists and split staff join the sword and axes that were new to the base game. They feel wonderfully unique, showing off the talent Team Ninja has for creating a great melee weapon feel. Also, beating evil spirits with your bare hands is one of the little joys in life.
If we add special ninja tools and onmyo magic (which you can craft in shrines), things start to get a bit complicated. However, as you only improve what you use, the progression of skills eventually adjusts at your own pace. Elemental weapons have also been removed from Nioh, and now only the blessed ones (which do more damage to yokai creatures) or the yokai variants (forged from yokai bones, which « awaken » over time to gain temporary boosts) exist. of power).
The backdrop to all this carnage is Japan’s Sengoku period. A time of bloody wars, which is a great excuse to send you through Japan. Although, as it is always about Japan, the zones can be a bit repetitive. You will see many forests, caves, sanctuaries and fortresses. Still, each of the levels is masterfully crafted, with multiple interlocking paths along with shortcuts to the Kodama Shrine checkpoints (the mark of Nioh 2’s bonfires, where you revive without your collectible upgrade coin when you die. ).
Each of the levels is masterfully designed, with multiple paths intertwining along with shortcuts to the Kodama Shrine checkpoints.
There’s a lot to see as the game easily took me about 70 hours to get through. In addition to the main missions, it has a lot of secondary content, which transforms the previous maps into new challenges that are new. And that’s not to mention the three included DLCs that add even more hours each. Few things in the genre have such satisfying gameplay, but there is a limit to replay that can be avoided in such a long game.
It is also as lonely a world as you want to make it. Up to two friends can be summoned to fight alongside you (which makes the game much easier). The ghost data, which was previously the reserve for duels with the spirits of the players in which they were killed, can also be used to summon friendly AI-controlled help.
In my experience, the performance was great, easily handling 60fps without a hitch, and even supporting 120fps (which is more difficult when the particle effects are buzzing). At the time of writing, there were issues with the keyboard overlay not displaying, but I still have to recommend a controller for this game. Thanks to the change of posture and the synchronization of the pulses, playing this game on the keyboard is the domain of those who like to touch typing business emails directly in cryptographic keys. There’s some noticeable glitch on some distant enemies, and some environment textures look a bit dated, but the character designs and effects are on point, and its in-depth photo mode is one of the best.
Nioh 2 works and plays wonderfully. Ever since Dark Souls set the course for the world, FromSoftware has had plenty of copycats who have come for the crown. Often times, even the best come with the caveat that they are not so good. Nioh 2, however, evolves what was already unique to Nioh into something Team Ninja can call their own. It may operate in the same genre space, but Nioh 2 has its own flavor, and it’s like nothing else.