Nioh: Masterpiece In Disguise?

I won’t chew my words, Nioh is an odd one, and I mean that in the good sense. Team Ninja can be proud of that one, they really outdid themselves. As a diehard Dark Souls fan, I found everything I love in Nioh and more. For this game, “prepare to die” is an understatement.

First off, the game is technically flawless. Without being astounding, the graphics are good quality, with no frame drops or graphical artifacts whatsoever, and after about 20 hours, I haven’t encountered a single bug. The gameplay mechanics are tight, fluid and very responsive, making for nerve-wrecking encounters with brutal enemies, that a solid soundtrack supports really well. Even the AI seems polished and carefully thought out.

Secondly, Nioh is at the very least original and interesting in its artistic design. As a foreigner to Japan, I find it fascinating to learn more about their folklore through just about every aspect of the game. The monsters, the armors and weapons, and even the environments all evoke a typically traditional japanese history. The world of the game and its lore are fun to discover, even though the story itself is pretty predictable – this is probably Nioh’s greatest flaw. The main character, William, gets something stolen from him and chases the bad all the way around the world to get it back. This leads him to meet all manners of strange characters who’ll help him in his quest, people who get few screen time and who we don’t get to know half as much as we should. Unfortunately, this already weak scenario is rendered even worse by the awkward cutscenes and poor storytelling.

Fortunately, Nioh is not a game that should be played for its gripping story and shocking plot twists. No, where it really shines is in the way it handles its difficulty beautifully. Even though its level design isn’t its greatest strength, it is still very efficient, and the developers have succeeded in exploiting it to its full extent. Enemy placement is flawless and traps are subtle, yet easily avoidable. The NPCs and creatures I faced always offered me a good challenge while also remaining fair. The game’s mechanics are deep and complex, giving the player a plethora of options and tactics to choose from in every situation, while at the same time being intuitive enough that more than a few tries are rarely necessary to find the right strategy before a tough opponent – though finding the right strategy and applying it correctly are two different matters. Even the game’s crafting system offers near-limitless possibilities to those patient enough to customize every single aspect of their equipment.

In conclusion, Nioh is a masterpiece held back only by poor storytelling and average level design. With tight gameplay mechanics and a difficulty that is both fair and unforgiving, it stands as the proud successor to the Dark Souls series, yet manages to remain its own, completely separate entity. I am really looking forward to seeing how the multiplayer aspect evolves over time. Fans of difficult games rejoice! Nioh will go down in history as one of those great games that really respects and masters its own mechanics. Now, prepare ro try – hard.

Final Rating: 90%

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