William Adams, the man who became a legend for all who played the first Nioh and now disappears in his prequel. Team Ninja wants to show its approach to the Souls genre again with Nioh 2, a second installment that is placed chronologically before the first game and that arrives this March 13 to PlayStation 4.
Delivery that smells like blood, sweat, and tears of the player. We have lost count of the hours we have invested in it, and we also wanted to avoid writing down the shameful number of deaths we have suffered in this new proposal that comes under the seal of Koei Tecmo and Sony Interactive Entertainment. Because Nioh 2 is a difficult game, and also accessible. A title designed to test patience, reflexes, and ability in equal parts.
We are not going to get ahead of anything, because we want to stop talking point by point about everything good and bad in this analysis of Nioh 2, but we are going to advance something: if you enjoyed the first one, this one will make you fall in love. Although it is very likely that you discover your worst side when you play it.
1Suffering is the way of the samurai
It is the year 1555 in Japan and war prevails in the Land of the Rising Sun. We are in the final stretch of the Sengoku period, and the continuous war conflicts in the nation have made everything infested with Yokai demons and all kinds of spirits with very bad intentions.
In this very dangerous context, a resource, the spiritual stones, has begun to acquire incalculable value. And their relevance, like the dark intentions of a man who wants to take them, and your role as half human half Yokai, are intertwined in a story that keeps more than one surprise along the way, although with a protagonist who loses a lot of strength as the main figure
William is not the protagonist of Nioh 2. This time, who carries the weight of the game is a customizable avatar that we made to measure at the beginning of the game, being able to choose between one or a samurai and modify it to taste with a fairly complete editor. To the point of being able to change to his demonic appearance. And, yes, this time our character has demon blood in his veins, something that will have much to say in the story shown on the screen, and that also moves to the game mechanics.
2Accessibility and difficulty, is it possible?
It may seem impossible, but with its mechanics and its design, Nioh 2 poses a challenge that can make you suffer at the controls, but it also puts on the table certain elements that make it more accessible than others that move in its terrain. This sequel comes with the firm intention of requiring the player to bring out his best skills and, above all, to know how to adapt to his challenges.
But it also launches small lifeboats with its new mechanics and concepts. No, not for that reason it is easier, but it is more bearable.
3The role of the Yokai
Any game that can be branded as part of the genre “Souls” bases its main mechanics on the use of meters. The one who knows the least and that the life meter is something almost as old as the videogame itself, but part of what makes this formula so challenging is the management of the stamina or resistance of the character, that second bar that Here is called Ki.
Nioh 2 does his homework by introducing both bars but adds a third one that gives that twist so refreshing with respect to the previous game: the Yokai power bar. This, purple, is used to carry out attacks with demonic possessions that can save from more than one squeeze. In fact, its inclusion is what gives a light touch more accessible to this delivery.
In the purest Mega Man style, when you beat the Yokai you can get their cores and equip them to have two different and additional attacks. Managing and even merging them adds to a plot of mechanics that was already wide and varied in itself, adding another extra layer of depth to the game and, yes, overwhelming a bit when you start playing.
But it is very grateful that Team Ninja has opted for this concept. Because it makes sense, because it gives more variety and because it manages to give more personality to Nioh 2 through its gameplay. In fact, it should also be mentioned that the protagonist can transform into one of these demons based on his accompanying spirit, gaining in lethality when fighting and giving extra time of immunity against attacks. Its use is limited to the recharge of another meter and is especially essential when it comes to fighting more seriously in the Dark Kingdom.
The role of the Yokai not only gains weight in Nioh 2 through the argument but also the mechanics. Especially since our protagonist is almost one, and that moves to his way of fighting. Moreover, one of the most important new mechanics is its special parry. A Combination of R2 and circle is used to counterattack some special movements of the enemies, which are often differentiated by emitting a red aura, and is the key to tame the difficulty of this game. Although, of course, mastering it is not easy.
4Progression and infinite “Looting”
Nioh 2 baby action games and RPG, although that does not surprise anyone who played the original. That is why, in this installment, he brings out his “looteric” side with tons of pieces of equipment and objects to find both annihilating enemies and exploring every corner of a world that, by the way, has gained a lot in level design. It is noted that Team Ninja took good note of the first game to shape this.
Perhaps the biggest problem of the loot in this installment is that the vast majority of objects to get are practically useless as you go. In the end, they become more currency of exchange or possible resources to make offerings to the Kodamas in the sanctuaries that make checkpoints, where to obtain objects, bonuses, manage your resources or even invoke friends. They are the fires of this game, for those who are more habitual in this subgenre.
The battles overcome and the objects achieved in the main story, as well as in the secondary ones that are plaguing the map from which the missions are chosen, serve to make our demon samurai improve its characteristics to our liking. Here, in addition, the progression adapts both to the character’s attributes (life, resistance, the load of ki, etc.), as well as to the skills he learns by mastering the weapons.
Something doubly interesting, because the available weaponry is very broad, with katanas, axes, spears, bows and so on. Each has its own skill tree that adds even more possibilities to combat and, to top it all, it has three different positions that sometimes make them practically behave like different weapons. Use a high posture with a katana and then a low one, you will see how you have to change your approach to combat completely. And the best thing is that the change is made on the fly.
Nioh 2 is huge in character progression and looting and adds even more and more layers by introducing the entire Yokai factor and Kodama collectibles. Its content load is exaggeratedly large, and it doses it gradually, without moving the focus of what really matters: its difficulty.
Because it’s hard, really hard. Surprising that it succeeds because this delivery has endeavored to add one more tad of accessibility precisely with the use of demonic abilities. They can completely change the turns of a fight, but believe us, only if you know when to take out your inner demons to dance and manage your resources well.
Both the level design and the behavior of the enemies give rise to unique situations in each game. We have visited many different scenarios, from underground dungeons to burning temples or forests with cherry blossoms, and everything on each level is masterfully interconnected to shape authentic mazes that are gradually being simplified in the eyes of the player.
A point in which the previous Nioh faltered, but in which he responds with wisdom and good judgment. The path chosen for this delivery is really good in the design of both mechanics and scenarios and levels, but its inclemency is still the main handicap that it can have in the eyes of less habitual players.
It is a game to suffer or to enjoy with a touch of masochism. A continuous uphill of fighting that rewards skill and attention with that final satisfaction that gives victory. And yes, we insist that it is something more accessible thanks to these mechanics that it releases, even Ki pulses are really helpful if they know how to use (they consist of pressing R1 at the right time after fighting to recharge energy faster).
But you are always facing more difficulties on the path of the samurai. The jumps to the Dark Kingdom in which your ki recharges much slower, and also in which the most difficult fights are found; the enemies who wait hidden to ambush you; the new Yokai that appears with devastating combat routines … There is no forgiveness for the samurai
The only one who can survive here is the one who can keep up with this macabre dance. Because, deep down, the combat of Nioh 2 is almost like a dance. You need to know the footsteps of your enemy and the rhythm at which he performs them to take out yours and show off on the track reducing his life and his ki to break his defense, something that is greatly accentuated with the ki recharge mechanics. The difference is that the stage is full of traps and that, if you are wrong, you will not step on your feet, you will simply mow your life.
6Reality and mysticism in Feudal Japan
Although the difficulty is what is most recorded when you play Nioh 2, and the feeling of overcoming that you have after hours of frustration, what we liked most has been the great atmosphere of this game. Both in the scenarios where you fight, or survive, as in the cutting sequences that develop the plot, Team Ninja has left its mark with a really successful Japanese style.
Not surprisingly, the dubbing of the characters is in Japanese by default, despite the fact that the texts are available in English. Everything has been built to get into a dark and bloody Feudal Japan at times but also loaded with an inevitable fantastic component by the spirits and enemies that appear in it.
Demons, soldiers, human snakes, giant worms … The bestiary fits perfectly with all the locations we travel in the skin of our samurai demon, with a more than remarkable design. Of the technical section, by the way, to say that the 60 frames per second are a constant during the game, except in the cinematographic sequences. The team knows that for a game like Nioh 2 fluency is necessary, and has made sure to get it, but without giving up a sensational artistic section in each and every one of the senses.
7Nioh 2, or how to perfect a good formula
Although we are left wanting to try the online multiplayer side for the impossibility of savoring it well until its launch, we can say without fear that Nioh 2 surpasses the first game in each and every way. The last demo already made clear the path that Team Ninja had chosen for this installment, one that is governed by Bushido and demonic possessions.
Difficult to rage, but also very fun and satisfying. Nioh 2 is a test for the skill and patience of the player, but it is also delivery with irresistible charm for the great combination of both old and new mechanics. You could say that it is continuous, but it would not be fair. Actually, it is the evolution of a formula that ends up gaining its own personality. Undoubtedly, a must if you like challenges and enjoy the Japanese atmosphere.