Oh, Nioh. How I love you…and hate you. I don’t know that anything can really prepare you for this game. I’ve been through all the Dark Souls games, as well as Bloodborne, and a few other clones, but even all that wasn’t enough to make me ready for this game.
Oh, it starts out seeming simple enough, or at least similar enough to Dark Souls that it didn’t seem like it would be THAT bad, relatively speaking. Nioh is actually a bit more complicated than your typical Souls game though. The dual-weapon system isn’t anything new, but the fact that each weapon can be used in 3 different stances, each with their own customizable selection of moves, can be a bit daunting.
There’s also the Ki Pulse ability, which wants you to hit R1 at just the right moment after an attack in order to regain a bit of your Ki (stamina basically), as well as potentially activating a buff or something for you (and it’s also needed for dispelling those annoying Yokai Realm things, but that’s a whole other story). In theory you’re supposed to do a combo with a weapon in one stance, then successfully hit that Ki Pulse, THEN switch to a different stance and start a secondary combo, resulting in some kind of enormous super combo.
Maybe it’s the kind of build I chose, but there didn’t seem to be many opportunities to use combos that ran on that long. Enemies would either be dead or incapacitated after the first combo, or if they were tough enough to survive that much damage, they’re usually the type that’ll slaughter you if you get stuck in that long of an animation.
I ended up going for a Ninja build, using a Kusarigama (sickle and chain), so I wasn’t really a frontal assault type anyway. I was more about sneaking, tripping, backstabbing, and having a ton of ninja throwing items. I deal massive damage, but I might as well be wearing toilet paper for armor so I have to do a lot of dodging and running away.
I liked that aspect of it though. You can’t really complain about having such a huge variety of classes, weapons, items, and playstyles. Playing a class like this, with an usual weapon like this, had a bit of a learning curve and made things extra tough on me in the beginning, but once I got the hang of it and finally got enough experience, I became pretty powerful (though I could still be killed ridiculously easily if they got their hands on me).
All the power and experience in the world still can’t always help you against some of the mechanics in this game though. Getting hit in Nioh works a bit differently than in Dark Souls. In Dark Souls dodging seems to give you a brief fraction of a second of “invincibility”, as when an enemy strikes at you their attack usually follows through in the direction it was initiated in, so your dodge usually carries you out of the path of the attack, if only for a very brief moment.
Nioh isn’t that generous though. Enemies in Nioh will literally spin on an invisible axis mid-attack to magically land their strikes on the location you’ve dodged to. It is still possible to dodge attacks, but you have to time it MUCH more precisely for it to work. Doing it a fraction of a second too soon can easily lead to you getting hit anyway, and this can often result in death. It’s pretty intensely frustrating when an enemy suddenly does a 45 degree spin without moving their legs, or even have their bodies or projectiles change direction mid-air in physics-defying displays. It looks pretty silly too.
It’s also very easy to get stuck for just a fraction of a second too long in various animations for all your attacks, items, and abilities too. With how hard some enemies hit, sometimes throwing surprise chain combos at you, if you swing and miss, or try to heal or use some other item at the wrong moment, or initiate any move with a slightly longer than normal animation, the chances of you dying immediately after are pretty damn high.
It doesn’t make things impossible, but it starts to make it feel like you had it easy back in Dark Souls sometimes. On the other hand, once you get enough ninja abilities you can ninja spam tougher enemies to death, and even an occasional boss. That doesn’t help at all against environmental hazards though! Levels full of insta-kill water, poison gas, fire, and more, will make sure to beat your ass thoroughly even if you manage to GIT GUD at killing enemies.
It’s absolutely the most infuriating game I’ve played in several years. I even threw a controller for the first time in a long time (good news: turns out PS4 controllers are extremely durable). Much like Dark Souls though, I still can’t seem to stop playing it anyway. I’ve been playing this for a month now and still haven’t given up, so I guess it’s still more good than bad.
It still isn’t over yet though. A bunch of super hard post-game missions have suddenly appeared and there are three expansions, each supposedly adding another 10 hours or so. I think I need to take a short break before I get into all that though, so to be continued…