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Thread: Nioh 2 (PS4)

  1. #1

    Nioh 2 (PS4)

    Sequel to the first Nioh (unsurprisingly) and very much in the same mould: a brutally hard From Software/SoulsBorne type game-loop combined with intricate Team Ninja/Ninja Gaiden type combat.

    The goofy plot and setting is very appealing if, like me, you are a big fan of the PS2 Onimusha games, i.e.: historically informed Sengoku-era shenanigans mixed in with demons and yokai. You play as a half human/half yokai warrior making good on that by going against your own kind and cleaning up the plague of yokai infestations that now blight the land as a result of war. Eventually you'll cross with historical figures of the period, probably learn the truth of your own mysterious birth and destiny etc. Top notch Onimusha guff, in other words.

    What this means for gameplay is that your combat is a mix of samurai/ninja and yokai attacks, and there are a lot of interlocking systems in this game. Here are some of them:

    Combat is based on a choice of nine traditional samurai or ninja weapon types (although a ‘switchglaive’ has been thrown in as a clear nod to Bloodborne), each with its own extensive unlock tree/control scheme across three weapon ‘stances’ (low, medium, high), and you can hold any two weapons at a time. As well as the unlock tree for each type, which happens quite quickly through use, each weapon also has its own unique attributes/stat modifiers that also level up (slightly) through use. Loot drops are frequent so this makes for a lot of options, and you are encouraged to switch to newer items due to higher trade value of well-used stuff - so even old low level junk can be quite valuable.

    Combat is all about switching between the three weapon stances to best suit the situation while also topping up your ‘Ki’ (stamina). Without Ki you’re a sitting duck and are dead, basically. Ki recovers slowly on its own like ordinary stamina but to get enough of the stuff you need to activate a ‘Ki Pulse’ (R1) precisely throughout battles. So as well as trying to remember your 6 control schemes (2 weapons, 3 stances apiece) in the thick of battle, you also have to juggle the equivalent of a rhythm action mini-game to top-up your Ki. An effective Ki Pulse also dispels the black pools of bad Ki that yokai will conjure up and sit in to power themselves up, and demons will occasionally drag you into the yokai realm where normal stamina regeneration doesn't work, so all in all mastering the Ki Pulse is probably the most important mechanic in the game.

    As well as this you have yokai powers that allow you to do three things: 1. transform into your ‘Guardian Spirit’ for a burst of mega-damage; 2. affix ‘soul cores’ dropped by powerful yokai in order to use their attacks, which are varied, great fun and visually excellent; 3. deploy a ‘Burst Counter’ (R2) which blocks and staggers the most powerful yokai attacks. Burst Counter is probably the second most important mechanic in the game and will save you from many a one-hit death, even from low-level grunts. Fortunately, it's well-telegraphed by a glowing red aura from the enemy and is more forgiving than the Sekiro parry system. Oh, yokai abilities are powered by their own thing - ‘anima’ - which you have to keep an eye on too.

    And that’s not all. You also have ninja ('jutsu') abilities, magic ('onmyo') abilities, bow and rifle abilities, although I haven’t gone far into those, and from the trickle of crafting material into my inventory it's clear there’s crafting ahead as well. Armour options are also extensive, likewise amulets for stat boosts. Loot drops are frequent although it's less of a deluge than Nioh 1, and it can be converted into 'amrita' by offering it to the forest spirits ('kodama') at shrines. You use this to level up your main experience stats.

    And if that sounds quite complicated and systems heavy, it’s because it is. It’s much closer in this regard to Monster Hunter World than Dark Souls. But despite the overall complexity the menus are simple and quick to negotiate and attractively designed. The whole UI is excellent and makes it easy to sort stuff and compare stats, although it could have done with an option to automatically mark loot as junk for quick turnover, as they have in Diablo 3.

    Most importantly, the combat is extremely satisfying when you get into a good Ki rhythm. Although I loved the setting of Sekiro I was simply pathetic in terms of the parry-focused playstyle it forced upon the player, so I really appreciate the wealth of alternative options Nioh 2 offers when inevitably you fail. Moreover, respawn shrines are sensitively and generously positioned, so when you have to do the Soulsborne thing and scamper in your weakened state to collect your amrita from the grave that your Guardian Spirit is now tending, you have a decent chance to get there.

    Visually it’s good, with ruined castles and villages under moonlight and all those cliches, but especially impressive are the gruesomely distinctive yokai designs and the combat animation generally. It’s not ‘best in class’, though. There are two performance options, 60 fps/lower res (‘action’) and 30 fps/higher res (‘movie’), which can be switched at any time, and the differences (on normal PS4) are stark indeed. The action mode is smooth but the resolution drop is jarring. I can’t decide which I prefer.

    Levels are, rather refreshingly, levels. They are quite intricate with lots of pathways to get round tougher enemies and return to them later, but there's no open world or quasi open world nonsense here. You just get old-fashioned levels that you select off a map that tells you what rewards you’ll find there and what level of ability you should have before piling in. You can go back any time and try them again. Feels nice and straightforward and arcadey, I like it.

    The Sengoku/yokai theme really sells this to me and got me through the initial difficulty. So if, like me, you’ve been hanging out for a new Onimusha and found Sekiro too hard, you might get a kick from Nioh 2 and the greater variety of options and approaches it offers.

    That’s pretty much it for now: there are lots of MP options, from coop to combat with live or ghost (‘revenant’) characters. The revenant fights are tough and yield 'glory' points. No idea what that's for as yet.

    First Boss: Mezuki.

    Died 20+ times to this horse demon guy.
    Last edited by Golgo; 21-07-2020 at 12:18 PM.

  2. #2
    Slowly deeper into the world of Nioh 2 I go, and its getting grindy. Second boss beat after about 30 attempts, and onto the third via some side-quests. The crafting has opened up and the game has thrown so many systems in my face I'm feeling more shell-shocked by that than by the toughness of the combat. Despite the multiple attempts at bosses, I find the sorting inventories and managing unlocks to be by far the most challenging aspect of the game so far. I've discovered that the unlock tree is itself a multi-layered affair, where a new weapon ability often occupies the same button press/combo as another, forcing you to adjust the controller setting to keep the ability you want. This is always pointless as the difference between the two attacks is never more than negligible. Crafting comes in various flavours ('forging', 'reforging', 'refashioning', 'inheriting' and 'transferring' and 'soul transfer' [three ways of doing basically the same thing], to name a few). It's quite baffling and becomes especially frustrating as the time and effort required to manage this against the super-abundant loot drops rarely ends up granting you more than negligible stat boosts (the game trades in fractions wherein a 0.17% or 0.2% increases or decreases looks like quite a significant change). Also, crafting for specific stat boosts from scratch works on probabilities: you try to increase the probability of crafting what you want through adjusting ratios of material, but you might end up with a dud. This wealth of systems feels like undisciplined game design where the devs simply refused to throw anything away, and it took up yesterday evening's play just to get my head around it all. Not much yokai slaying was had.
    Last edited by Golgo; 29-07-2020 at 07:03 PM.


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