Review: Nioh (PlayStation 4)

Reviewed by Thomas Hugh, posted Feb 15, 2017, last updated Feb 15, 2017
Feb 15, 2017
  • Release Date (NA): February 7, 2017
  • Release Date (EU): February 8, 2017
  • Release Date (JP): February 9, 2017
  • Publisher: Sony
  • Developer: Team Ninja
  • Genres: Action RPG
  • ESRB Rating: Mature
  • PEGI Rating: Eighteen years and older
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
So it's Samurai Souls? Yes, but so much more too!
Thomas Hugh


He isn't Geralt

First revealed at E3 2005, Nioh is the latest title to come from studio Team Ninja. Set during the Sengoku period of Japanese history, you take on the role of a real-life 16th century sailor named William Adams.

Adams is known as the first Englishman to ever reach Japan, where he ended up stranded in 1598. With no way to return to England, William settled down in Japan where he trained and became known as the first ever Western Samurai. Nioh bases its protagonist loosely around the story of Adams, and in the opening of the game, he escapes from the Tower of London after learning that an occultist and alchemist called Edward Kelley is planning to harness power from precious spirit stones, known as Amrita, to make weapons for the Queen of England to aide her in the war against Spain.


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It isn't Soulsborne

A lot has been said about Nioh's similarities to the Souls series of games, and a perfect descriptor for the title would be Ninja Gaiden x Onimusha x Dark Souls, however the combat in Nioh is what sets it apart from the From Software series. Nioh's combat is extremely deep and complex, which isn't surprsing coming from the creators of the equally as challenging Ninja Gaiden series. Players can choose between Katanas, Dual Katanas, Spears, Axes, Hammers and my personal favourite, the good ol' ball and chain; Kusarigama. Each weapon has an absurd amount of combos to learn and master, mapped across 3 different stances, low, mid and high. Low stance consumes the least amount of Ki, which is Nioh's version of a stamina bar. Low risk, low damage, whereas a High stance uses a lot of Ki and does the most damage. Switching between stances and weapons on the fly, whilst also incorporating the game's version of an Active Reload to instantly replenish Ki, is the secret to playing Nioh properly and dominating the enemy. Luckily Team Ninja have built these systems well, so although at first they may feel daunting, spending time with the numerous tutorials throughout the game will ensure you are soon lopping off enemy limbs, left right and centre.

Enemies range from pirate bandits, to skeletal warriors, and then the toughest of the bunch, Yokai demons, powerful supernatural spirits from Japanese folklore and mythology, that can quickly cut William down, sometimes with a single hit. Perhaps the only gripe I have with Nioh, is that with it being such large game, you quickly feel like you are fighting the same guys over and over again. There is a large variety of enemies, but because there are so many levels within each of the 6 regions, enemies are reused often.


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Levels are mission based, and not one huge connected map such as in the Soulsborne worlds. Some other similarities do exist, however, such as full map resets upon death, the ability to retrieve your Amrita - the currency used for levelling up your character, and shrines, the bonfires in the world of Nioh. Shrines have a number of uses as well as increasing stats; changing your guardian spirit - an elemental special move, summoning for co-op, or offering up unused loot in exchange for more amrita.

Gear comes in an abundance whenever you strike down an enemy or open a chest. It feels great when you slice off a foe's head and the bright loot starts spewing into the air and onto the ground. The amount of different sets of armour that have been modelled for the game is truly outstanding, all loaded with tons of stats and set bonuses, You can mix and match pieces too, head, shoulders, chest, legs, boots and 2 accessories, for customization options that gives fasion-souls a real run for it's money.


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Fight like a boss..

Boss fights were my highlight for Nioh. There's nothing quite like methodically clearing your way through a level, then finding the ever imposing boss door. Some will have you pulling your hair out and others can feel like a real breeze. The huge room-filling Onryoki initially felt a bit unfair, way to hard to be a first boss, made tougher by the enclosed area you must face him in. But once you learn his tells and react accordingly, using a bit of patience, you will bring him down and get that rush of satisfaction. That YES! moment that is so prevalently missing from a lot of games these days. I've battled vampire woman, electric dogs, pipe smoking toads and ultra badass samurai. The variety is great and the aforementioned satisfaction is what makes me a massive fan of this genre of games.


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Yes or Nioh?

Make no mistake about it, Nioh is a hard game. I personally feel that it is harder than any of the Soulsborne games, but in a different way. It takes more skill to play, and as such is more accomplished when it comes down to movement and combat. It has systems upon systems, menus on top of menus, and for as much as there is explained in detail, there is just as much that isn't. If you like Dark Souls and Bloodborne, I am 99% sure you will like this game. As with those titles, grinding will overcome every challenge the game has to offer, and unless it's a solo mission, so will summoning a co-op partner. Nioh is both different and familiar enough to appeal to both the Souls crowd and fans of character action games such as Ninja Gaiden.


Nioh Launch Trailer

+ Deep combat
+ Beautiful locales
+ Loads of loot
+ Easy co-op setup
- Enemy variety
9 Presentation
Nioh's presentation is a beautiful walk through Japan's Sengoku period, folklore and mythology.
9 Gameplay
Nioh uses the Souls formula of levelling up and map resets upon death, but that is pretty much where the similarities end. Fast, fluid combat is the name of the game here, making even Bloodborne's encounters look sluggish as a result.
9 Lasting Appeal
The main campaign will take anything between 50 and 70 hours to complete all of the story and sub-missions. Remixed end-game content takes that number up to 150 hours for the platinum trophy.
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
Team Ninja now have a huge success on their hands with Nioh, and I can't wait to see what comes next. Small refinements made here and there could see this as the new king of Amrita.

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