Nioh 2 Review (PS4) – Not as sharp as it could be, still cuts deep
Hello, my name is Adam and I’m a Soulsaholic. I’ve chugged through the full FromSoftware six-pack – Demon’s Souls, three Dark Souls, a Bloodborne and I most recently skolled a Sekiro. They weren’t enough to quench my addiction so I started guzzling all the me-too titles of this sub-genre. I’ve smashed two Surges and now chased them with a Nioh 2. I can honestly say I found this sequel to be pretty intoxicating.
Weirdly, Nioh 2 feels like coming home to classic Souls again. And before you get too excited (or angry) about that statement, know that this franchise still retains what made it unique. Namely, a spelled out narrative, standalone missions, one big interconnected world, randomised Diablo-esque loot and some ki-enhanced combat that actually leans closer to the zippier Bloodborne.
I guess I’m talking purely from the perspective of somebody who just came fresh from Sekiro, a From title that took a very different take on Action-RPGs. It basically grapple-hooked off on a hyper-aggressive, jumpy-jumpy tangent, which makes Nioh 2 feel, well, grounded again by comparison.
Nioh 2 Review
So what’s changed from 2017’s Nioh? For starters, developer Team Ninja has corrected one of the most bemoaned decisions of the original. In this prequel tale, you’re not lumped with a one-size-fits-all hero called William; who was like Tom Cruise’s Nathan Algren meets a blonde-haired blue-eyed Nazi poster boy. You’ve got a character creator now, and what an insanely powerful one it is too.
You could spend hours tweaking the manscape or the Max Factor of your avatar here. This being a Team Ninja game, don’t even ask if there’s a chest slider.
On the topic of bountiful
bosom choices, the already large pool of weapons has expanded some more since last time. Before you jump into feudal Japan proper, you’re asked to scoop up two attitude-adjusters that you prefer. Once again you’re looking at swords, dual swords, spears, axes and kusarigama plus a small array of projectile weapons that get bugger all ammo. Nioh’s DLC run also bolted on odachi and tonfa which show up for free here as well.
Bonafide new additions include some hatchets that are great little nip in ‘n’ grapple solutions, and switchglaives; transformable scythes that align with magic and can reap your health back. I’d honestly hoped for more new toys to play with here, but to be fair I just stuck with my go-to anyway; a sword that’s the size of God’s own letter opener.
Obviously, all weapon use is bound to a stamina meter once again, but newbies will need to wrap their heads around a ki pulse technique that can make you less puffed out. Basically, you need to tap R1 when you stop swinging, in time with a blue animation swirl.
The choice after a button mash is still;
- Should I try for a ki pulse to go full KFC and feed this guy an 8-piece combo?
- Might I be better served if I parry or turtle up?
- Or is it best to go evasive by getting dodgier than Saul Goodman?
Whatever course you take, Nioh 2’s enemies do a great job of making the answer to that ambiguous. Even after double-digit hours of play, you can still get wrong-footed. Particularly from grunts with a bee’s dick of health who go into berserker grapple mode.
You simply must respect everything in this game, or you die.
Not Very Much Honour
It’s also worth noting that the weapon familiarity system returns, too. Think, the higher the quality of your pigsticker, the more damage and bonuses you get if you…pig…stick…with it.
You’re also encouraged to stay loyal to your weapons via a system of dedicated and quite expansive skill trees tied to each armament. Props to Team Ninja for improving the UI in this area. The choices for personal expansion feel broader and the nodule farm approach makes it much more understandable.
Another big change to Nioh 2 is that you’re not limited to swinging pointy things. Being of human and yokai heritage means you’re horny 50 percent of the time. A better explanation is that you’re a shape-shifter with an Amrita gauge that fuels flashy supernatural attacks which can be augmented by a variety of unlockable animal spirits. Better yet, an engorged Amrita gauge also allows you to increase the stats of various weapons and add extra buffs, such as staggering foes and grappling downed enemies.
Horny For Combat
Essentially, you can harvest and combine the souls of mid-boss yokai you defeat, then co-opt their signature move to a special attack on R2 + square or R2 + triangle. While we’re on shoulder button toggles, you can also parry any obviously telegraphed “burst” attacks by tapping R2 + circle.
When you kill enough beasties to make your yokai meter ding full, you can trigger a fleeting beast, feral or phantom form. These essentially translate to “can’t be staggered and has an offensive parry” form, “dodges and combos hyper-actively” form, and “lobs painful things from a postcode away” form.
They’re all fun, and I think there’s something for every tactical taste here. More importantly, they’re not cheap and earning the right to use them, preferably on a boss, takes skill and consistency.
And of course, we can’t talk Yokai without mentioning the new yokai areas in the map. In Nioh we had to contend with pools of residual “bad vibe energy” that served as area-of-denial hazards, at least until you used a ki pulse to do a ‘clean up aisle 3’ on them. Those return, but now there are large colour-desaturated neighbourhoods that limit your abilities until you eliminate the freak or fancy statue that’s projecting all that f-d up feng shui.
Do a (Feng) Shoey
Environments, in general, are packed with more foes and sneakier ambushes than Nioh. At one point, the goddamn walls started trying to kill me. The level designs are more creative and vertical as well.
That said, I felt that Team Ninja’s shortcut game still isn’t on FromSoftware level yet. There’s no lovely eureka moment when you discover a sneaky loop back to the safety of an old shrine, it’s simply “oh yeah, I expected a gate to be there and it totally was.” It also has to be said that while Nioh certainly wasn’t an ugly game, the visual evolution from that title to this won’t blow your hair back.
Be all those minor disappointments as they may, I find it hard to put Nioh 2 down much. Literally, too — now that the campaign is dusted — I’m thoroughly addicted to the online co-op where you and four randos gear up and go ham on a mission.
Bottom line; this isn’t a huge reinvention, but it sure is a damn solid sequel.
I can see myself happily re-grinding through before DLC season hits, mastering yet more weapons and hoping the loot gods favour me with sick ninja armour. That or my aforementioned masochistic tendencies will kick in, and I’ll foolishly try to beat this with nothing but a wooden sword and a “kendo attitude”.
Either way, Nioh 2 has carved out space on my hard drive for months to come.
Nioh 2 was reviewed on PS4 Pro using a digital copy provided by PlayStation Australia.
Game title: Nioh 2
- Yokai-centric combat is tactial / satisfying - 9/109/10
- Finally, a character creator for hot or horrific avatars - 8.6/108.6/10
- Graphics engine shows its age in spots - 7.3/107.3/10
- Tons of content and excellent online co-op - 9/109/10