Nioh will end you

nioh

Team Ninja, the Japanese studio behind the brutal Ninja Gaiden games, has taken inspiration from the action role-playing gameplay of the long-running Souls series developed by their fellow countrymen at FromSoftware to create Nioh, an intriguing new Playstation 4 exclusive.

Set in the 17th century, the game’s main protagonist is William, an unexpectedly blond and blue-eyed Samurai of European descent who has been trained for combat in Japan during a fictionalised version of the feudal conflict between clans in the Sengoku Period. One further deviation from historical fact is that in this game’s world, ninjas and samurai battle alongside giant, demonic monsters.

Graphically Nioh is beautiful. Dungeons are dark and foreboding while corn fields ebb and flow spectacularly in the breeze. Weapons glow with blazing trails when fighting and the whole environment shakes with each stomp of your demon enemies’ feet.

The combat in Nioh takes patience and practice to master. Going into a melee swinging wildly will result in little more than a quick death. Using your weapon reduces stamina, as does blocking and dodging attacks. While your stamina revives in a short time, if you run out in a frenzied mash of buttons, you will be left open to attack which opponents will be quick to exploit. Regular enemies require careful dodging and thrusting at the right time, while bosses generally require studious observation of their moves and careful attacks based on their patterns. They also generally involve numerous deaths and profuse swearing.

Favouring specific weapons is unwise. Some enemies are simply too fast to beat with more cumbersome, heavy hitting weapons, so it’s important to evaluate your gear before heading into a boss battle. Picking the right weapon for the job will still see you die a dozen times before you emerge victorious, but it will help you avoid going down a dispiriting, unwinnable route.

Unlike Souls, the gameplay is mission based where you can just follow the main storyline, or veer off to take on side-mission, which are often even harder than the main challenges. As you travel through each mission you can also see the fallen corpses of other players with information about their untimely demise. A good indicator of when a surprise attack is on its way. You can also revive these fallen players to take them on in battle and even gain loot from them.

Although Nioh is unmistakably heavily influenced by the Souls series, it is a different beast. The customisable elements of your character’s gear and weapons offer much more depth than Souls and the fighting is more nuanced with weapon choice playing a much more critical role.

Nioh has been almost universally praised by reviewers and hardcore gamers, but is unlikely to sit quite as well with more casual gamers. Ability, temperament and patience will dictate whether this is a game to love or one that will merely frustrate. You’ve been warned.

stars4
Team Ninja
PS4
£42 (18+)