When was the last time you were addicted to a game? It’s a rare treat when you pick up a title and are willing to lose considerable sleep just to see a bit more. Nioh is that kind of game. Every night we find ourselves forgoing work and sleep to spend just a few more hours discovering new levels or scavenging for more loot.
For those that don’t know, Nioh is the PS4 exclusive that launched back in February from Team Ninja (the folks behind the updated Ninja Gaiden franchise as well as the rather regrettable Dead or Alive Beach Volleyball games). It’s an original IP that plays much like a mashup between Ninja Gaiden and Dark Souls – lifting so much from the Souls franchise that FromSoftware should seek royalty checks.
Seriously, save points as shrines that respawn enemies, equipment weight, stamina management, and even an unconventional multiplayer component that pits you against enemy players (sort of). But despite the risk of seeming derivative, it’s actually sitting pretty at a Metacritic score of 88 and, after 20+ hours, we’d agree – this game is good. In fact, in a lot of ways it’s better than the Souls franchise.
Here are 5 ways it’s better than Dark Souls.
5. Active Reloads
Stamina management in this game is ki in this game (see what I did there?). Yes, it’s not stamina but your ki meter you have to watch out for. You never want to be caught off guard and out of breath against an enemy as that will likely result in a punishing critical attack and likely a quick death. But instead of simply taking a quick rest between swings to let the bar refill, Nioh introduces an active reload system straight out of Gears of War. Yes, you can hit the bumper at the right time and recharge some or all of your stamina. It’s actually pretty much required you learn this skill as lining up the timing purges the nearby area of enemy magic which can prove crippling if left unchecked during a fight. It’s a small tweak to the Souls franchise that should be in future iterations.
4. Optional encounters
One of Souls’ most infamous features is the unwelcome invasion of other players in your game. The game is hard on its own but having other players come grief you at random can be exceptionally frustrating. Many gamers avoid this option altogether by playing offline or remaining undead which means sacrificing overall health just to avoid this possibility.
Other players have a role in your experience in Nioh in the form of optional challenges. Littered across the landscape are random gravestones of other players that have recently died in that location. You have the option of summoning a version of that player to challenge in your game – it’s not the player, but the game playing with that player’s build. If you win, you get his/her gear.
These encounters are rewarding with loot and, most importantly, entirely optional. Dark Souls, take note.
3. Rampant level ups
Leveling up is a significant thing in the Souls games. It makes death and the potential lose of your hard earned wallet of souls incredibly traumatic. But the hockey stick curve of required souls to raise your level reduces the frequency of upgrades the more you play and, in especially challenging sequences like boss rushes, can make entire sequences seemingly worthless as you die over and over.
Nioh fixes this though through multiple disparate leveling up systems. In addition to the standard trade-in souls to level up mechanic, Nioh also includes the equivalent of Borderlands 2’s BadAss points as certain accomplishments net you additional rewards like permanently increasing your stamina or health or upgrading your defenses against elemental attacks. Also every weapon you pick up gets better the more you use it as you increase your “familiarity” with the weapon making it stronger and more valuable to sell. Finally there are skill points you’ll net as you play you use to unlock new attacks or spells that is completely distinct of the leveling up system.
It’s rare that you play when you don’t level up something, no matter how poorly you’re doing.
2. There’s a loot system!
While absolutely excellent games, the Dark Souls franchise is a very controlled experience. You know exactly when you can get the Drake Sword or Havel’s Ring because they’re always in the same place. Nioh forgoes this instead for a randomized loot system. Killing enemies or smashing chests will produce loot of varying quality. Typically you’re always moving up the ladder with slightly better items and I’m not quite sure when this plateaus — again, another reason you’re always leveling up something.
1. Reloading isn’t painful
Man, we really wanted to love Bloodborne. We had a chance to see it a Playstation Event prior to its launch, we loved that it changed up the scenery for a more modern Dickensian London, and even appreciated the inclusion of firearms. It had so much going for it. But it proved to be a bit too much as loading the game between deaths took up to a minute before a major patch which brought it down to a still intolerable 30 seconds. This broke Bloodborne for me, an otherwise impressive game brought to its knees while waiting for it to reload your last save.
Nioh takes 3 seconds.
Yes, death doesn’t have to suck as you’re back in the game before you can check your texts. Like Hotline Miami, games that include death as a major mechanic cannot let you wait to try again and Nioh knows this.
For the record we think Dark Souls is still a fantastic series with ingenious interconnect levels and is unrivaled in horrific creature design, but, you know, Nioh doesn’t seem to actively spit in our face and the music is fairly pleasant too so that appears to be an improvement.
Think we’re wrong? Let us know in the comments below!