by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
Ready for a Hot Take? Nioh … is like Dark Souls. Now, don’t go blowing up my mentions on Twitter or something dumb like that. In a few ways, it’s very much like Dark Souls, but in a complementary fashion, not “Oh no, it’s ripping off my sacred game”! Nioh: Complete Edition is a port of the PS4 title by Tecmo Koei to PC, with 4k Resolution and 60fps. And I have to say, this game is absolutely gorgeous on PC. I had very few hiccups when I was running it on 60fps, but that’s to do with my graphics card being inferior, less the actual game having issues. But let’s take a stab, no pun intended, at that “Dark Souls” comment. So here’s the rub. It has a similar UI, from the weapons/items and swapping them out. It’s similar in that the dodge mechanic is incredibly valuable, and you’re going to die. A lot, actually. I’m not really that great at these games and I died a fair amount. But it was never to something unfair, broken, or some glitch. It was always because I had something to learn yet.
You have two attack buttons, a weak/strong, and you combo them together, and it burns a Ki-related Stamina meter. There’s an item, of course, to refill that, or you can hang back and let it recharge on its own. There’s where the similarities tend to end though. When you finish the tutorial and head to Japan to “stop the ancient evil” or some nonsense, you pick a pair of weapons, a spirit companion, the important stuff. Each weapon has its own merits and downfalls, so pick what works for you. Personally, I went with the dual katana and the odachi as my backup weapon. You can also use arquebus (gun) and a bow to shoot stuff/people from a distance, and this is also a godsend. There are definitely times when you want to make someone’s face sprout an arrow from a distance instead of running in and doing battle with three or four enemies at once. But that’s not even the best part about this combat system. While attacking burns your meter, if you hit R1 at the right time, you can recharge it (at the end of an attack chain) and this is also used to banish evil Oni while doing battle with them.
The most intricate, hard-to-master part is stance system. This is set in Japan after all, despite the tutorial being set in the Tower of London. You wield Japanese weapons, and I feel like this belongs in the 1500s, thereabouts. You have a high-stance, medium-stance, and low-stance, each having their own uses. For example, the low-stance is more for fast, quick-hitting moves, and the high-stance is more for slow, power hits. You need to be able to dance between these styles in the harder battles. If you want to get anywhere, you must, must master this system. It has fewer long, winding dungeons to explore, and more gorgeous, scenic open areas to wander. And once you complete a stage and ready to move on, I’ve found it’s worth it to stick around for a while. It’s less to gain better stats and skills, but to get new equipment. Each dead soldier or peasant has a host of useful items on them, though you can always use more Souls to increase your strength. The skill system is pretty wide open, one set of skills per weapon. They all kind of feel the same, so one weapon isn’t more powerful (more useful, rather) than another. It really lets me play whatever the Hell I want and still feel like I can explore and kill things. Don’t forget that all the DLC comes with this, so even if the base game isn’t enough, there’s plenty of extra content for you to go against.
Wait … I can fight Musashi Miyamoto? 4/5
Yes, you can do battle against Musashi, the Sword Saint. Man, there’s so much going on in this game I wasn’t really sure where to start or end. I don’t really feel like this is a Souls/Bloodborne clone at all. There are definite similarities for players who love that style of gameplay to get their hands on, but there’s more than enough intricate challenging content to teach even those players something new. One of the things that bothers me about “difficulty” in games these days is when players act like only Dark Souls deserves to be that challenging, and if some other game uses that style of action-RPG that they deserve to be just … just dumped on. That’s unfair though. And without a doubt, Nioh is insanely challenging. Dueling with several supernatural Samurai at once, swapping between targets, changing stances on the fly, swapping from one weapon to the other just to keep up, it’s definitely worth investing time in. The only serious flaw for some PC users, is it doesn’t appear to have keyboard/mouse support. That’s not a big deal for me but I can see it being an issue.
You can bring the dead back to life in certain points (You’ll see a red, glowing sword) and it says how they died, what level they were, et cetera. These are far more challenging to me than regular encounters, but they are a fantastic way to test your skills and grow stronger. Even if I wasn’t gaining stats, I felt like simply by surviving encounters I was getting better, stronger. And sure, there are fights I tried five, six, seven times. But they taught me to not spam my attack, to know when to dodge, when new techniques were coming my way. Nioh: Complete Edition is one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever played. The story is new and engaging, and every single battle is a fight for survival. I don’t play these games very often, but it’s good for me to challenge myself and explore for a bit. I have to take it in doses, but each dose is one worth taking in. Nioh is challenging offers difficulty but not without reward. Whether your reward is new stats, skills, or simply the notion that you are learning and getting better? Nioh’s got what you need.