2017's Souls-inspired hit Nioh finally has a sequel and it's one impressive experience so unsheathe your blade and let's hunt some Yokai.
Team Ninja's Nioh is an interesting franchise. Since its debut title that wowed many gamers, Souls series developers FromSoftware released Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice which, like Nioh, is set in Japan during the Sengoku period. Was that a way for Hidetaka Miyazaki and team to flex their superior ability to craft an action-intense samurai game? If it was then Nioh 2 is certainly Team Ninja's way to show their dominance within the genre. Personally, I thought Nioh was a good game; not great but definitely solid. Dare I say, I found Sekiro to be quite overrated although I did enjoy my time with it as well. So, where does Nioh 2 fit in? Well, I find it to be a fantastic game that easily trumps both of them. Sure, it's not as brutally challenging as Sekiro but honestly, I'm past trying to prove myself by attempting the same bosses over and over again. Plus, Nioh 2 is simply a wonderful balance of challenge, fun, and exploration that really hits the mark.
Playing Nioh 2 can be as taxing or as simple as you want it to be. Can you run through areas while just mashing the attack button and survive? Possibly; but do you have more of a chance if you actually learn advanced techniques such as countering Burst Attacks, timing Ki Pulses, and changing your stance to suit the current situation? Absolutely! The resulting gameplay allows you to learn at your own pace and if you ever get stuck, you can simply review the tutorials via Amrita Memories and start implementing a few new moves into your repertoire. You'll eventually need to do so if you want to take down some of the later bosses so thankfully, the combat is tight and visceral which makes dealing with the challenge all the more enjoyable. Additionally, you can always explore for helpful goodies.
Nioh 2's core gameplay isn't the only aspect that's flexible; it also features one of the most in-depth character creation tools that I've ever seen. After you make your character as handsome or as bosomy as you'd like, you'll be impressed by the level of control that you have over your character's progression. Yes, you earn Amrita and use it to level up but there's much more complexity than that.
For starters, the equipment system resembles something similar to the loot in Borderlands as it almost constantly encourages you to swap out and experiment with augmenting your gear. You can also equip Guardian Spirits which provide boosts and offer Yokai Abilities through attuned Soul Cores. On top of all this, there is a massive skill tree for each weapon type as well as a handful of more general trees where you can learn all sorts of nifty skills, ninja magic, and enhancements. Throw in boosts from obtaining Titles and Skill Customization lists where you can alter behaviour in certain situations and you're left with one overwhelmingly in-depth character progression dynamic.
Of course, Nioh 2 contains an online element and it's handled rather seamlessly. My favourite aspect which returns from the previous game is the ability to summon ghosts from their graves (who are actually deceased players) then fight them. From doing this, you acquire Ochoko Cups that you can place at a save spot to summon up to 2 players to join you in taking on the challenges ahead. I found that doing so was most helpful in finding the hidden Kodama that are scattered around each mission as many players are kind enough to show you where they are. Anyway, I had so much fun playing online that I would often lose focus on the mission at hand.
Finally, Nioh 2 may be a great game but it does have its issues. The most prominent one in my eyes is the lack of enemy variety. You'll fight anywhere from small zombie-like creatures to hulking monstrosities but I rarely found it necessary to change up my strategy depending on what kind of enemy I was fighting. In other words, I wish there were more enemies that tested your ability to master the various facets of Nioh 2's gameplay. Next, I occasionally got annoyed at some visual problems. Specifically, some areas are far too dark and I even fell off the stage a few times due to not being able to see what was ahead. Keep in mind; I configured the HDR settings as instructed. Also, the camera sometimes gets in the way of the action. Last but not least, online was smooth for the most part but sometimes, I would see players and enemies randomly and instantly warp around which was both disorienting and annoying.
Nioh 2 is one of the most improved sequels to a game that I've ever had the pleasure of playing. With top-notch gameplay and highly rewarding open-ended character progression systems, I simply can't wait to see how Nioh 3 is going to turn out.
- + Tight, challenging, and visceral gameplay
- + Incredible amount of depth when it comes to character customization and progression
- + Playing with others online is great fun
- - Enemies could use more variety
- - Occasional visual issues
- - Online can be temperamental and glitchy