Nioh took a very long time to get to the shelves, so Team Ninja had a lot of time to take into account many details, implement their own ideas and borrow other people’s work. Well, like her version of William Adams – a real-life subject of the British Empire, who, by the will of the plot, became a suspiciously gray-haired professional demon hunter.
Game Adams arrives in Japan with a simple and familiar goal for gamers – to catch up with the villain and take away the kidnapped girl (unless the girl in this particular case is not a person, but a guardian spirit, whose gift allows her to find deposits of miraculous amrita, but not the essence). Only here the personal problems of the hero Nioh are of little concern – the game is much more interesting to show how Japan is torn apart by a civil war. Dozens of clans divide the territory, which was almost united by the treacherously murdered Oda Nobunaga. Adams, in his pursuit, unwittingly becomes an important figure on the military board and an ally of such legendary figures as Hattori Hanzo and Tokugawa Ieyasu. However, since Nioh is simply permeated with the Shinto philosophy with its millions of gods, not only reasonable people, but also no less reasonable kami spirits become Adams’ assistants. Fantastic beasts accompany every second strong personality here, but the main character has a particularly witcher charisma, so every second such Pokemon will happily stick to him. Astral animals not only reveal the plot of the game in stylish short videos, but also provide the owner with different abilities and super moves that are unique for each individual.
Meanwhile, Japan itself is teeming with monsters. Possessed peasants and samurai scurry here and there, some demons pretend to be walls, demonic lutes control zombified monks, and copycat tanuki pretending to be chests guard treasures. Well, bosses become the main gift for those who are fond of Japanese mythology. For example, the sea monster Umibozu, absorbing the souls of the drowned, or the frosty maiden Yuki-Onna, consumed by anger and longing for her murdered spouse. For all those who are interested, they even brought in an interactive encyclopedia-bestiary, which is replenished with facts as the same enemies are repeatedly killed.
…What, didn’t expect that Nioh might be interested in someone with a well-detailed setting, and the bosses deserve praise not only for their ingenuity and complexity? Well, there is enough worthy attention in the narrative of the game. By the middle of the passage, the plot turns on the heat and begins to let the primary characters go to waste, and at first a simple scenario acquires interesting details and presents amusing surprises. Only now, not everyone will appreciate this – only people who are at least a little interested in the history of Japan will be able to really feel the lore of Nioh.
However, even if you can’t rejoice at the elaboration of the same bosses from the point of view of folklore, they will still deliver a lot of pleasant minutes – especially if you have to spend a dozen or two attempts studying their habits and honing reflexes. After all, bosses, as befits opponents in Souls games, are very, very difficult. But the sole reprisal against reptiles brings a rare pleasure.
And yes, Nioh shamelessly emulates the concept of Dark Souls or Bloodborne. However, she does it much better than some Lords of the Fallen. Difficulty is the cornerstone of the game. Adams does not greatly outperform ordinary opponents in terms of survivability, and after each death he is transferred to the local “bonfire” – the kodama altar, where you can receive blessings, raise the level by spending the accumulated “souls”, call for help or change the patron spirit. In between fights, the hero whips a Japanese Estus, places amplifying spells on weapons, and roams wildly twisting and intertwining locations full of secrets and shortcuts. And, of course, it was from there that the combat mechanics sharpened for the scale of endurance came. The authors, however, have shifted the weak and strong blow from R1 and R2 to the more traditional square and triangle,
However, there are also enough differences. Thus, spent stamina can be quickly replenished by pressing the right button – a technique that is very effective in capable hands, but quite risky, threatening to break the balance. The protagonist’s stat points are distributed in the manner of the chosen dead in From Software games, but the role system does not stop there: there are also three types of skill points – ninja, samurai and magic. Samurai skills increase stamina and add new techniques, ninjas allow you to create poisons and auxiliary weapons like shurikens, and magic traditionally gives you new strengthening and attacking spells. The number of types of weapons is not amazing – only five types of melee and three firearms, but each of them is unique in action. Spears allow you to keep a distance between yourself and the enemy, axes inflict gigantic one-time damage at the cost of slowness, double katanas, on the contrary, cut quickly, but do not break through the balance of adversaries at all. Plus, with each weapon, Adams can get into one of three combat stances that change sets of moves and are designed for different opponents and battle scenarios.
Nioh also has a completely different attitude towards equipment. Almost every evil reptile after death, along with skates, discards weapons, armor and auxiliary materials. Items are ranked by rarity. “White” junk drops every fifteen seconds, but rare “purple” or legendary “green” items, among which sets with unique bonuses are especially valuable, will have to run. The longer you use any found sword, the better it feels in your hand and the more damage it does, but the main part of the players will still change equipment with marvelous regularity as more and more high-level specimens are found.
Another difference worth mentioning is the blacksmithing system, which is rich in possibilities. Not only do they allow you to forge weapons and armor according to the manuals found in the game or buy regularly changing display cases. For those who still do not want to constantly throw away their favorite gloves and katanas, it is possible to redraw their characteristics for themselves and cross outdated uniforms with new high-level items, thereby raising the level of the first. There is no special need for this – all weapons, as already mentioned, are divided into only a few types; but if you come across an instance with a particularly good combination of bonuses (electronic shock, additional experience for killing, less stamina waste, and so on) – why not hold on to it for a while? Or here’s the armor, again: suddenly you want to play the whole game in British clothes or a helmet issued for participating in a beta test? Well, beauty requires sacrifice – in this case financial.
It differs from the Souls-series and the geography of the game. If From Software is used to creating complete worlds with many cuts and short paths to starting locations, then Team Ninja broke the game into missions – main and additional. Don’t think badly: each large location still has a complex structure and secret passages, but at the same time it is closed in itself, which can upset fans of seamless levels, unaccustomed to the linear progression of the Demon’s Souls times.
Multiplayer is woven into the fabric of the single player campaign. At the end of the first quarter of the passage, Adams is invited to join one of the “covenants” – the clans that participated in the redistribution of Japan during the civil war. Recognition of the faction is earned in battles with the “ghosts” of other gamers – losers who died in the same location as you. Approaching the grave of the “ghost”, you can get information about the cause of death (which can be a good clue when passing) and challenge the enemy to battle. These spirits famously change stances, heal, shoot bows and throw bombs – in general, they sincerely imitate real players. At first, such “bots” seem to be an invincible force, but in the end they become a familiar and not too dangerous obstacle on the way to glory – after all, AI is not able to replace living people (battles with real opponents will be added to the game only at the end of April).
Undoubtedly, Nioh has its drawbacks – outdated graphics and some monotony of locations and enemies, for example. And yet she is brilliant in her desire to simultaneously bring new ideas and keep the old traditions of the genre. The overall impression of the game, perhaps, does not reach the genius of the best creations From Software, but in some elements it even surpasses them. This is both a cruel and beautiful fairy tale, as well as a kind of informative and fascinating excursion into Japanese mythology, which should not be missed even in this spring season rich in lengthy blockbusters.
Minimalistic addition about the PC release
Now that the game is finally out on Steam, we felt it was our duty to see if the game was properly ported from PS4 to PC. And, having checked, we want to say: yes, worthy. Nothing more: this is not one of those advanced ports that make the game much more attractive, rework the controls for the needs of the platform, change the balance, or do anything else beyond the basic “Transfer what was, and make it work just as well.” But the Nioh port does a great job with this: the game notices the PS4 gamepad without unnecessary dancing with a tambourine (trying to play without a gamepad is strictly not recommended), allows you to choose a resolution and switch between the upper threshold at 30 or 60 fps, and even contains a couple of other smaller settings, which was not in the console release.
But otherwise, it’s still the same game, only it has already received all the balance changes, patches and additions. And at the same time, it costs not several thousand, but 930 rubles (and this is before the inevitable Steam sales). A truly great offer for all fans of Souls-like games.