Nioh 2 originally released for the PlayStation 4 last year, with a few DLC’s to expand on the games story released in the subsequent months. The complete edition has now made its way to PC, as well as PS5, with all the additional content wrapped up in a single package. Is it worth the inevitable tears of frustration? Let’s find out.
Set in Japan during the late 1500s, You take on the role of Hide, a half-yōkai that witnessed the murder of their yokai mother at the hands of an unknown assailant as a child, now working in the Mino district as a hired mercenary hunting yokai. Hide’s journey through the Sengoku Era truly begins when they befriend the merchant Tōkichirō and the Sohaya group demon hunter Mumyo, as the trio will later go on to play a key role in the rise and fall of the warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
The game acts as a prequel for the most part to the original game, events later on do crossover and pass that as William makes an appearance towards the end. If that’s not enough then this complete edition also features 3 DLC’s that add even more story, some as a prequel to Nioh 2 and some going even further back in time to previous Yokai events of the past. There’s plenty to sink your teeth in here as you battle demons through the ages. If you ever feel like a change of pace is needed, the game does also offer a 3 player cooperative mode. Here you can team up with friends to get missions done, or just search for a random opening and hope the chemistry clicks quick enough with your new teammates.
Whilst the game does have a generally drab & dreary outlook, that doesn’t stop it from occasionally looking good with it’s raided villages and eerie forests. As you would expect the boss characters can look quite extravagant compared to the ‘easier’ rabble you’ll face, tho even these have enough character and differences to keep the enemy repetition at bay. The real highlight is likely the dark realm you’ll encounter during levels. These are areas around a powerful foe that changes the environment as it takes on a more monochrome look with some colour popping from plants & beats alike. You’ll likely not want to gawk too much here as it can effect your Ki in battle.
Performance is pretty good for the most part, anyone looking forward to the DLSS support to boost that has been mentioned in pre-release material may be disappointed as it still hasn’t been patched in. On my system (R5 1600/16GB/RTX 2080ti) the game could be cranked up to max settings at 4K for a relatively smooth 60fps – there’s the odd drop into the mid 50’s here & there. It should be easy enough to tweak some settings to suit your needs, the game will go up to 120fps should you need those extra frames to try and get some kind of an edge. The audio side of things will pass you by easily to be honest. There’s isn’t much BGM when exploring, there is some good ambience to the stages to fill the void, and the silent protagonist can make some of the well voiced cutscenes too one sided. Still, it serves its purpose without trying to force its way to the fore and gets the job done.
Usually touted as a soulsborne, I don’t really see it that way myself. Sure it has the challenging aspect to it, but the combat itself goes much further. There’s a surprising amount of depth to most aspects of the game, stances for example will change how you should approach different enemies as your attack patterns change. Equipment also plays a key role as the abilities & weight can differ enough to change how your character feels, an unbalanced loadout can make the game a slog. It makes for a constant balancing act, especially when the extensive skill tree & weapon familiarity is factored in, that makes it a step above almost all others within the subgenre.
The general gameplay loop is pretty much soulsborne. Defeat weaker enemies to build up XP to hopefully not be killed by boss characters and drop it, you can try to collect the dropped XP later if you need it. The key to having a better chance of survival here is the Ki (stamina) and how well it is managed. A well timed Ki burst will refill the meter and allow you to keep the pressure up on enemies, running out is effectively a death sentence. Do be sure to visit shrines often too so then you can then access the games crafting and offerings systems whilst levelling up. Wouldn’t hurt to seek the help of other players ghosts either when things get tough, best trade for some Ochoko cups while you’re at it.
So what’s different with this one? Not much. For the most part it plays similar, minus the ridiculous difficulty that seemed all over the place but is more consistent here, with only a few additions – most notable being the likes of Burst counters and the Yokai transformation which can be lifesaver during the toughest fights. Whilst I noted before that the difficulty is more consistent this time around, that doesn’t really apply to the opening section of the game. The footsoldiers alone will prove tough when more than one turn up, never mind the demon bosses blocking your path. Things slowly ease up as you slog through the opening missions until your character is built up enough that it feels right which then gives you confidence going in, but it’s a far cry from the originals Tower of London escape that eased you into the game.
Nioh 2 does what you would expect a sequel to do, prequel story aside, and offer up a refinement of the previous game with improvements where they were needed. The gameplay overall is similar, still sports the ridiculous amount of depth it’s peers lack, with a couple of additional benefits that favour the bold. Difficulty could be the biggest win of the game as it feels more consistent than the, at times, unfair original – which seemed difficult for the sake of being difficult on occasion.
This doesn’t mean the game is easier though and Nioh 2 will still bring forth tears of frustration, even for soulsborne veterans that take it’s depth lightly, it’s just now pretty much entirely your own fault when you fail. Nioh fans will probably have this already locked up in their steam library, but newcomers can easily settle in without any knowledge of the original – so long as you know what is in store for you once the fight begins.
If nothing else, Nioh 2 proves that demon hunting isn’t for the faint of heart. Leave your hat at home and wear those bald patches of hair torn out in frustration like a badge of honour!