Team Ninja's Nioh was a delightful and challenging surprise early this year, and now the final piece of DLC for the game has dropped. The penultimate DLC was called Defiant Honour and focused on the siege of Osaka Castle, set against the backdrop of winter, and this third and final DLC Bloodshed's End continues the turmoil in the summer of 1615, concluding this epic time in Japan's history. The story itself isn't very significant and is certainly not needed in order to have a satisfying experience with Team Ninja's Nioh, however.
In Bloodshed's End, a western amrita witch, Maria, gathers forces against Tokugawa Ieyasu, who was the winner of Sekigahara in the main campaign. Over the course of three new main missions, you get to fight in and around a burning castle, however, this means that the environments aren't particularly interesting to look at.
Three new main missions may not sound like much, but that's not the case here. These missions are long, and they get longer as you slowly progress through them. Our own samurai was smeared across the wall, even after we had already played for 120 hours, and we'd made a conscious effort to optimise our character to serve our personal playstyle. This sadistic difficulty level forced us to stop, and then spend a considerable amount of time just grinding for better weapons and gear. In the end, we had to ask for help from a high-level friend, and we still needed more than one night of active playing to finish the game. The final conclusion of the DLC isn't actually that satisfying, and getting through it didn't feel like it was worth the trouble. At the end of the day you'll just feel relieved and glad that it's finally over.
Despite the scenery being rather boring, the level design itself is still as good as ever. There are 25 new kodama collectables to find, and some of them require the use of level-specific items. In practice, there are cannons at strategic points in the level, and by using them you shatter otherwise indestructible obstacles, usually revealing a kodama behind them. There are also occasional shortcuts and shrines to make your journey a bit more tolerable.
The enemies you face, and how aggressive they are, will be the main factors that lower your willingness to continue. They usually kill you with just two or three hits, but you need to smack them dozens of times in return. These dudes don't usually work alone, mind you, which means that in order to make progress you need to be extremely patient and careful. You'll most likely use all of the various tricks and exploits that people have invented over the years in Souls-like games, but we wouldn't say this a good thing. It makes playing Nioh hard work, and we think it has been taken a bit too far here and, ultimately, it can end up feeling like a chore.
As expected, these high-level enemies drop a lot of loot. There isn't a new weapon class like in previous DLCs, but the most valuable green loot is dropped very frequently. Gathering and tuning loot to your liking is still one of the main attractions in Nioh, and considering how difficult Bloodshed's End is, it's also mandatory.
The Abyss is a new game mode for those who just can't get enough of Nioh. It's a series of challenges divided into floors, where each floor is divided into six different parts. From the starting section, you will choose any of the four different challenges, and each of these four will give that floor's boss some sort of enhancement. You may challenge the boss head on, but it's not a wise decision to do so.
It should be said that it requires way too much work to even begin playing The Abyss. You need a certain number of special cracked ochoko cups in order to get started (you get three at the start of the third DLC), and the energy meter is not replenished with regular elixir items, but with special spectral salves. You can have two friends helping you, but in order to do that, you need to get some white ochoko cups. You can't use regular ochoko cups, which are plentiful in the main game, but these are used to raise the probability of getting better loot during The Abyss. To add insult to injury, you need this final DLC in order to play The Abyss, which will make it very difficult to find friends to play with. It's a shame because this mode had the potential to be the best co-op experience in the whole game, but should have been a free download right from the beginning for everyone to enjoy.
From a technical standpoint, we assume Nioh has now also reached its end. We would have taken a smoother frame-rate over everything else, as there are still a handful of serious frame-rate drops. Other than that, everything looks and works as well as you would expect. Cutscenes are impressive, the voice acting is good, and the animations are awesome.
We didn't finish all of the side missions in Nioh, but we still spent around 130 hours in order to reach the end. If you enjoyed the base game and have been looking to elongate the experience, there's certainly enough content here to make it a worthy purchase. The DLC increases the game's lifespan by up to 15 hours, depending on how cruel the start of the final DLC is for you, and in some ways, these three expansions are completely optional, because you don't need to play them in order to have a satisfying end for the story of Nioh.
Despite having its fair share of flaws, Team Ninja's Nioh is one of the highlights of the Souls-like subgenre. In fact, it may very well be the best of the bunch, if you don't include From Software's titles in the equation.