Comparing difficult games to the Dark Souls-series has started to seem like an already heavily referenced subject. The shadow cast by FromSoftware's stroke of genius on the PlayStation 3 has completely transformed how we view challenging gameplay. The first Nioh game was no exception to this comparison. Despite starting its development way before the original Demon's Souls, Nioh had a similar vibe to it with a brutal difficulty setting, similar movement and loot mechanics. What the games did not have in common, however, was their presentation. The souls-series was rooted in dark European medieval fantasy while Nioh's domain was the Sengoku period of Japan. Until FromSoftware created Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice that is, which was announced at E3 2019 with a release shortly thereafter. The game was set in a similar setting with innovative gameplay for the genre. Nioh 2 suddenly had a lot more riding on its shoulders.
Luckily, from what we saw at Tokyo Game Show 2019, both during our hands-on and the behind-closed-doors presentation, Nioh 2 looks to add enough new ingredients to set itself apart from the juggernaut franchise by FromSoftware.
When making a sequel to a successful game, a very common trope is to make the next chapter a prequel. It invites new players who never got around to try it the first time and entices old ones by letting them explore the events before their first adventure. As you might have guessed, Nioh 2 takes the same detour. Without revealing too much, the story centres itself around two historical figures around the Sengoku period in Japan who paved the way for how society ended up in the first Nioh. This time around Team Ninja once again lets you create the protagonist with a plethora of options, from adjusting your jaw to individual age. For those who hated playing as a Western figure posing as a Japanese samurai in the first game, Team Ninja gives you plenty of chance to remedy this aspect.
Nioh 2 likewise ups the ante with the inclusion of three-player co-op instead of the original two. Let's just say it is needed since the sequel spares no expense in making the game among the hardest experiences you have ever tried. After putting down the controller, we couldn't help but look at games like Devil May Cry 3, Bloodborne or even the original Nioh like they were "easy" in comparison. Even the employee from Team Ninja had difficulties making it through the demo during the subsequent behind-closed-doors section. In other words, Nioh 2 is the definition of a 'no mercy' experience.
To survive in this harsh and difficult Sengoku set Japan, Team Ninja adds Yokai powers. Every time the player defeats the Yokai enemies, a soul core will be obtained, with their power crystalized inside. These soul cores will let your hero use the fallen enemy's power in battle. In our playthrough, we experienced the Yokai powers as being a factor which more than often was the element between victory and defeat. Moreover, in this regard, an abundance of new weapons is available. We especially fell in love with the new dual-wielding hatchets, dealing large chunks of damage against every foe we encountered. Fans of samurais will of course similarly find a lot to love with the many different swords and the four different stances make their grand return as well. When it comes to surviving in the harsh demon-filled environment, Team Ninja doesn't let you down by equipping you with plenty of tools to become a real force to be reckoned with, until you do one wrong sidestep and get brutally murdered of course.
On the visual side of things, Nioh 2 lands in an area between the acceptable and alright. The lighting is decent, animations passable and environments are detailed. Nioh 2 instead shines in the art style and design of the enemies. From the small "easy" ones to the big terrifying giants, Nioh 2 knows how to make the grotesque beautiful. The same can be said about the setting of the game, which really captures the feeling of being in a demon-filled Sengoku Japan. We loved wandering around and exploring, despite the representation leaving room for improvements.
Which seems like a fitting word to end this preview on. Nioh 2 improves every aspect of the original while keeping faithful to what made it great. It is difficult, engaging and just damn entertaining.
Loading next content