If you’re looking for a new Souls-like to dive into, Nioh 2 – The Complete Edition may be the getting-your-ass-kicked simulator that you’re looking for.
Type: Single-player, Online Co-op
Genre: RPG, Action
Developer: KOEI TECMO
Publisher: KOEI TECMO
Release date: 05 Feb, 2021
Some of us are highly skilled warriors capable of overcoming any challenge thrown at us by the legendarily vicious souls-like subgenre. The toughest bosses, the nastiest traps, and the most difficult obstacles are overcome and it’s all in a day’s work for these devoted Soulsers. On the other hand, some of us are me.
Prior to this excursion into Nioh 2, I’d probably put a total of about three hours into Souls-likes. I smashed my face into skeletons for far too long in Dark Souls before a friend informed me that my assumptions had been off and that the skeleton path wasn’t the first one that you should go down. I still have nightmares about what those bony bastards did to me. By then, my patience had already been worn thin enough that I vowed to return another time but never actually made it back. I still intend to at some point, maybe, if there’s a lull in other games that need my attention.
Some time later I would try my hand at Bloodborne, this time, I assume, I was at least playing it the right way but over half a dozen death later without a single checkpoint to my name, I decided to let it rest on the digital shelf for a few. At this point, I’m sure it’s digitally dusty.
Dying Simulator 2021
Enter Nioh 2. I know that I was probably getting in over my head again, but I decided that this time I was at least going to give it the old college try. I did too, even though getting utterly demolished was only occasionally interrupted by some kind of successful progress.
As a Souls-like, quick reflexes, pattern memorization, and min-maxing your build are integral to your success. Missions consist of making your way through dangerous areas, often with two or three paths that you can take along the way and even an optional tough enemy or two if you’re feeling brave. It’s a fairly linear, but not too linear experience.
Katanas and Spears
Nioh 2 offers a wide variety of options for customizing your character. First and foremost, it offers an impressively in-depth character creator if that your jam. Follow that up with over a dozen weapon types and three yokai transformations, both having entire skill trees devoted to them, and there’s a vast number of opportunities for playing very different characters.
I decided to go with an odachi as my primary weapon. It allowed me to deal a good amount of damage with each hit and offered a healthy range that let me keep a little extra space between the enemy and I. Both of these traits seemed promising for a Souls-noob to work with. It did have a vulnerability in the parrying department though, making defense a struggle at times as each blocked blow noticeably reduced my stamina. Stamina loss, as with others in the genre, has to be skillfully managed as it’s used for everything from attacking to parrying to dodging and without it you’re a sitting duck. Sitting ducks don’t last long when only a couple of hits can faceplant even the toughest of characters.
The three fighting stances play a huge role in your preferred style as well. I gravitated toward the high style that delivered impressive damage, though it wasn’t particularly suited to defensive maneuvers. This certainly led to me getting knocked around fairly often, but it also reduced the overall time it took me to eliminate foes. Quickly eliminated foes is key for us amateurs since the faster an enemy is dead, the less time it has to get that lucky shot that ends you. Alternatively, the low style doesn’t have the same offensive potential, but it drastically reduces the stamina costs of dodging, letting you dance around your enemies as they try to strike you. The mid-style offers a balance between the two, both having decent defensive capabilities and a decent enough bite. Each of these styles has a portion of the weapon trees devoted to them; a real expert is likely to make use of all of them during the course of a single fight.
Bandits, Yokai, and Temples
The world of Nioh 2 is exciting to explore. The overall art style of the game is excellent and although the sound design never particularly stood out to me, that also means that it never got in the way. Each mission was clearly designed with a passion for the title and even as I write this I can picture the different paths that I’d traveled in my head down to the minor details. Thanks to this meticulous craftsmanship, even the constant deaths that I experienced didn’t deter me from enjoying myself as I fought through a given location for the umpteenth time.
There’s a wide variety of enemy types and I didn’t encounter any that felt like cookie-cutter fillers.. With completely different abilities, models, and capabilities overall, you end up developing your own techniques for dealing with them. The priority, as always, is to not get hit.
As a genre noob, Nioh 2 carries on with the tradition of particularly difficult gameplay. However, I enjoyed myself in shorter sessions as I struggled against all odds to actually make some serious progress. The action is intense and your survival depends on pattern memorization and quick reflexes, but if you have them and a boatload of patience, Nioh 2 is an entertaining title that will likely provide you with hours of fun. At the very least, it’s close enough that it will succeed in scratching your Souls-itch.