As an avid fan of the original Nioh, I had high hopes for its sequel which acts as a prequel to the story. Nioh 2’s foundations remain much in line with the original 2017 release as its hardcore combat is tough to master, its world feels alive, and the story is a captivating journey set in the 1500s and throws in elements of building an empire, betrayal and of course, fantasy. Nioh 2, for the most part, feels like a giant expansion to the original game and at times, it is hard to tell the two apart. A few subtle differences in gameplay helps bring it into a new light but overall, it looks the same, plays the same and most of the mechanics from the original game are present. Why fix it if it ain’t broke?
Give our Nioh 2 video review a watch down below;
With that being said, Nioh 2 brings some new and exciting gameplay elements to the table especially in the form of Yokai abilities as the new soul system adds a new layer of mechanics to the combat, stats and in turn character building. Pretty much everything has also seen a tweak. Be it a subtle stat change or a whole new skill tree system. The game fixes issues players had in the original and reworked a lot of the balance.
Right off the bat, Nioh 2 welcomes you to a brand new character creator which saw me sit for a good thirty minutes crafting the perfect companion. Unlike the original that saw you take on the role of William, Nioh 2 allows for freedom when it comes to who you will see throughout the whole game. Hair, skin, eyes, height and even bust size. The character creator is quite detailed in what it offers for players and be prepared to sit and craft the ideal hero.
During the character creator, you can also modify your Yokai form which plays a crucial role in not only the game’s story but combat too. You can choose your horn type and size and what hair you would like to see when you transform. Nioh 2 then drops you into a short tutorial mode where you can test out the weapon archetype and choose two that you want to go with. This also determined what stats had a +1 added to them. Nioh 2 has added to new weapons to the mix. A Switchglaive which is a scythe that can be folded and unfolded in combat depending on your stance and a pair of hatches.
For the most part, Nioh 2 plays out the same way as the original. The hardcore action RPG sees you explore 1500 Japan before the events of the first game and ties in well with the story we know and love. New lovable characters come and go and the superb cinematics and voice acting helps bring the story and world to life as you are immersed in the Japanese lore of Yokai and the war between the various dynasties and lords.
The game takes place across a handful of regions as you complete main and side missions throughout Japan. Main missions take you to gorgeous locations brought to life in a spectacular way. From fiery battlefields to spawling Japanese temples. You can see Team Ninja put a great amount of effort into creating a living and breathing world throughout Nioh 2. Side mission, while they lack the scale of the main mission, often saw me returning to already-completed main mission locations to hunt someone down, find an item or clear out a wave of Yokai. There are even a few reused areas from the first game which you visit throughout Nioh 2.
Nioh 2 starts out quite tough. Combat is a challenge to master especially with the new added Yokai abilities. The game relies on a new parry system where you need to achieve a perfectly-tied parry against a red-glowing attack in order to stun an enemy. This is tough to learn at first and is even harder to time depending on the Yokai form you have equipped.
In general, there has been a greater emphasis put on these Yokai abilities which you need to use in order to succeed. Luckily, the whole system works quite well. Yokai enemies drop soul cores which can be equipped into your Yokai form. These souls have a limit depending on your level and each of them acts as a stat boost or ability buff while at the same time grants you a powerful attack similar to the Yokai that you killed to drop it. Earlier in the game, Enki enemies drop souls that let you jump into the air and throw a spear at your opponent. Later on, bosses even drop souls like Shuten Doji that lets you spit fire out at enemies in front of you.
The Yokai abilities need “Anima” in order to be used which is a new bar that charges as you take damage and deal it. Some armour and items even grants you faster recharge of this bar too. This, adding another layer of stats to the game’s system. Souls can then be merged together to level them up and buff them. Later in the game, you can equip up to three Yokai souls allowing you to choose a handful of them that go hand-in-hand with your character build.
I decided to stick to the switchglaive and it proved to be a great choice. Its high stance swing had a crazy range and a powerful hit. It also levelled into the magic stat which meant I could go into a sloth build that let me slow enemies down and spam them with magic balls. Some may call it the typical Nioh build but it worked for me. I was then able to wear armour medium armour sets and buff my high-stance attacks with a Yokai soul and improve my defence with another.
The skill tree in Nioh 2 is brand new too. Each weapon and ability types like Omnyo and Nijistu also have their own skill tree to master. The more you use a weapon and ability type, the more proficient you get and you earn skill points which you can use to unlock new attacks and more importantly, buffs for specific archetypes. It allows you to truly master a weapon type and apart from the usual levelling up using Amrita, it enhances your combat abilities by letting you equip specific skills to a button combination. One skill had me flip over the enemy in the air after driving my scythe into them while another let me hold down the heavy attack to deal a high-damage blow.
The Yokai abilities may be an enhancement for your combat but the enemies also have their own new enhancements called the Yokai Realm. In the original game, this was limited to a small puddle of dark energy on the floor that prevents stamina build-up. In Nioh 2, these Yokai puddles are still a thing but the “realms” have been added to the mix too that sees this dark energy now present in giant portions of each mission. When you enter these areas, the game’s screen changes, it becomes harder to see things around you and your character stats take a massive drop. Stamina refills at a much slower rate and you take more damage.
These Yokai Realms are head up by a leader which is a tougher enemy to slay. Often, these battles are harder to win as the odds are against you. However, once slain the are then transforms back to normal and you stats are returned back to their normal values. Boxes can then be opened again and all Yokai enemies in the realm instantly die. These areas pop up quite often so building stats to help boost Ki recovery in them is a must. Or you can just leave it but you will have a rough time trying to get through these areas.
Nioh 2 also makes some subtle changes to the game’s overall stat system to encourage more stat investment. For example, the weight reduction stat roll that the original game had can no longer be forged or reforged onto the armour. This will drastically change the approach to end game characters as players will no longer be able to wear gear without investing in correct stat lines. Anyone that played the original game will notice few balance changes throughout the build
When it comes to co-op, Nioh 2 unfortunately still suffers from the content being locked behind a player completing the mission before they can play with you. This goes for both in-mission summons and the great Expedition mode. It was a major drawback from the first game and it is disappointing to see if still being implemented in the sequel. It just means you cannot play with a friend unless they or you have completed the mission. It would just be nice to play the full game or new game plus with a friend from start to finish without one of you needing to have completed the mission beforehand.
One new feature in the game is the Revenant System. Apart from summoning dead players to fight them for gear, you can now put down your Revenant or summon another player’s spirit in missions too by going to blue swords. These spirits are not active players but rather AI built on their character and skills. They fight alongside you until either you or they die. It is a great approach to the co-op even if the AI sometimes lack the skill of an actual player.
Nioh 2 does a lot to improve on the original game’s mechanics and not only does the game offer a deep RPG system to master but the hardcore combat is as relentlessly fun as ever. Boss fights are epic beyond proportion as you need to focus on Yokai burst parrying and mastering your moves while learning your opponent’s move sets and abilities. It is everything you loved about the original game with some added fun in the form of Yokai abilities and a reworked skill tree. The game is still limited in multiplayer which makes no sense. However, once you have completed the game, you can help a friend out by doing an array of Expedition missions which are a load of fun.
Nioh 2 Verdict
Nioh 2 is not your average hardcore RPG. Its combat has become a fast-paced flurry of attacks, parries and abilities which sets it apart from other games in the genre. It successfully improves on the original game’s mechanics and merges some new fun ways to build your character that will see you venturing into new game plus with a beastly build. There is a lot of content to enjoy here too with the first playthrough lasting well over 50 hours.
Available On: PS4 | Reviewed On: PS4 Pro | Release Date: 13 March 2020 | Price: R1069
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