Nioh 2 Review: Building on the tough reputation of the original, Team Ninja’s second samurai action, RPG brings back the original’s tendency for punishing and highly nuanced combat. The sequel outlines the original’s signature take on the Souls-esque without completely reinventing itself. The result is a long, heavy clump that will push even the most challenging players to their breakpoints as they fight for every inch of ground and become master samurai.
Nioh 2 Review: About
- Platform: PlayStation 4
- Developer: Team Ninja
- Publisher: Koei Tecmo, Sony Interactive Entertainment
- Genres: Action role-playing game
- Release Date: March 12, 2020
Nioh 2 Review: Official Trailer Video
Nioh 2 Review: Gameplay
Despite the name, Nioh 2 is a prequel and reveals the secret history of a decades-long war in medieval Japan. As the silent, adaptable hero Hide, you fight to discover the mysterious nature of spirit stones, which impart supernatural power and defeat hordes of Yokai across the country. The plot, which you mainly hear through cutscenes and exhibitions between missions, has an interesting historical slant, but it is just glued to keep the levels together.
But that’s okay. Nioh 2’s story offers just enough context to follow along and make you feel like you’re progressing without getting in the way of gameplay. The definitive feature of Nioh 2 is the challenge. With core mechanics refined from the bones of Dark Souls, Nioh 2 amounts to a series of battles and duels in a variety of situations. These battles require intense precision: not only are your attacks and abilities limited by an endurance meter – called Ki – but every additional attack or wrong move will expose you, often to an attack that will cost you a significant amount of health.
Nioh 2 builds on the wonderfully diverse range of options for developing a personal fighting style. The original systems return: each of the nine weapon types offers a unique balance of speed, power, and range, which you can instantly tune by switching between three modes (low, medium, and high). Each weapon type has its skill tree and progress, for which you earn points by using it. The nuclear weapon battle remains mostly unchanged from the original, apart from some new abilities and two new weapon types, the fast two-handed Switchglaive and fast double axes.
You will also learn Yokai skills through harnessed Soul Cores that allow you to temporarily transform into the enemies you have killed using one of their attacks. More than Ninjutsu and magic, returning from the original, Soul Cores add a much more comprehensive range of contextually useful skills. For example, as the Monkey Yokai Enki, you jump into the air and throw a spear, which is entirely new because Nioh 2 doesn’t have a jump button.
Last but not least, Nioh 2 adds a super-powerful “Yokai Shift” transformation, making you temporarily faster and more reliable. Activating the transformation does not eliminate the need for tactics. While you are invulnerable, using attacks as well as taking damage reduces the amount of time you have in your more definite form. A failed attack in Yokai mode not only wastes a powerful slow-charging asset but can also expose you unexpectedly when you return to your old self because your opponent caught you by surprise.
It’s a lot to learn, and again, you have to get it correctly sorted out to overcome what Nioh 2 throws at you. You are likely to make many mistakes and die many, many times. Sometimes it feels like you’ve hit a brick wall and can’t win. In those situations, you have to take a deep breath, find out why you fail, and adjust your strategy. If you refuse to switch weapons or take risks or otherwise think about how you play, you will get frustrated. The more frustrated you become, the more likely you are to lose again.
Learning your skills is only part of the experience. To excel, you also need to understand the wide world of Nioh 2. There is a fantastic amount of variation in an extremely long campaign. The winding multi-area missions span a variety of environments, from blazing castles and temples to military camps, forests and mountainsides. Many of them radically change as you explore them, giving you a great sense of “travel” and performance for covering what feels like a long distance.
It helps that the cards are more than curvy, curvy dungeon crawls. Most have at least one area with a unique fall or environmental issue. For example, in a forest level, a giant owl Yokai patrols certain areas and warns enemies when he sees you. During a castle siege, avoid artillery fire while dueling enemy soldiers. There are also Dark Realm zones, black and white areas chased by Yokai, that pose an even more significant challenge by slowing down your Ki regeneration across every level.
Even for all its variation, Nioh 2 stretches all of its content as much as possible. There are two to three side missions for each mission in the core campaign, many of which remix part of a story mission. Besides, there are rotating Twilight missions for high-level players. Also, upon completion of the campaign, you will gain access to a difficulty level with higher-level enemies and equipment. While playing the same section of a level three to four times can be a bit tedious in principle, each version finds little ways to change your path and present new challenges to keep things fresh.
You can see this most clearly when you take on any of the extraordinarily difficult encounters with the boss. Like the levels, the bosses vary widely and are all pleasing to the eye. From a giant snake with mini snake arms to a three-story spider with a bull’s head, every enemy flagship has a lot of character and is unlike anything you’ve seen before in the game. However, they all have one thing in common: they are challenging.
Sometimes I was wondering if some of these bosses should be a little shorter as there were many bosses I felt I had mastered their cartridges but couldn’t finish because they killed a single hit late in the fight. Finally, that excruciating difficulty and the feeling it evokes becomes ingrained in Nioh’s DNA, and the battles with the boss remain compelling, even if they get annoyed and frustrated. While it sometimes feels like a curse while you play, it is a testament that Nioh 2 review successfully holds your full attention for so long.
Building on the tough reputation of the original, Team Ninja’s second samurai action, RPG brings back the original’s tendency for punishing and highly nuanced combat. The sequel outlines the original’s signature take on the Souls-esque without completely reinventing itself.