If the title of this review doesn’t scare you off completely, NiOh might just be the game for you.
NiOh Review: A Different Take On A Genre
NiOh is an incredibly hard but rewarding game. The difficulty is evident right out of the gate as the first enemy you encounter is capable of killing you within seconds. This is likely to put off less hardened folk, but for those players who yearn for a challenge, NiOh fits the bill and then some.
Players take on the role of William Adams, a pirate caught up in a fictitious war between Britain and Spain that involves Demon summoning using precious stones known as ‘Amrita’ (yes, really).
After escaping from the Tower of London, William faces off against Edward Kelley, the story’s main antagonist, and ends up losing his Guardian Spirit in the process. Fast forward a few ticks and William is chasing Kelley across the world to Japan, which happens to be filled with Amrita.
While NiOh may fall within the same genre as the Souls games and Bloodborne, its story is far more in your face than those titles with quite a few cutscenes dotted throughout the game. In short, it has more in common aesthetically and visually with the Ninja Gaiden games, which fits since its developer, Team Ninja, presided over that franchise.
Much like the Souls games and Bloodborne, NiOh features RPG elements mixed with action adventuring. What it also adds however is a level of complexity that surpasses anything in the Souls games and creates a unique blend of strategy and action-packed gameplay.
NiOh review: Patience is a Virtue
Due to Team Ninja’s involvement, it’s no surprise that the combat in NiOh feels very Ninja Gaiden-esque. Players will have 3 stances available which are easily selected by pressing R1 and either Triangle, Square or X. Each stance corresponds to High, Middle or Low and each stance has its own set of attack combos. This combined with NiOh’s multiple different weapon types opens up a vast selection of combat options for players to make use of.
Initially, players will choose one melee weapon type to use as their main damage dealer but this changes as soon as you start picking up new weaponry. A selection of long range secondary weapons such as longbows or rifles are also available.
To make things even more accessible, Team Ninja have granted players the ability to swap between two different primary melee weapons and two different secondary ranged weapons on the fly. This is done with a few simple button presses. In a game as challenging as NiOh, good controls are essential to enjoying the game and Team Ninja have absolutely nailed it in this regard.
Combat in NiOh is fluid and incredibly fast, although players need to exercise patience. The stamina bar or “Ki” as it’s called in-game depletes rather rapidly with each attack. Pressing R1 at the right moment after an attack recovers some spent Ki but it does take some getting used to.
If you plan on button bashing your way through this game, you probably won’t get very far. NiOh is very similar to the Souls games and Bloodborne in that players will have to carefully plan their attacks and not just rush in and hope for the best.
Players can make use Shuriken, Kunai and smoke/poison bombs. Onmyo (magic) is also at your disposal and weapons can be imbued with elemental power to supplement your damage output.
The most notable combat feature though is the ability to call forth your Guardian Spirit. William will gain access to a range of Guardian Spirits and when his Amrita Spirit meter is full, pressing Triangle and Circle engulfs you in your selected spirit’s power. Using the Guardian Spirit makes you invincible for a short time and lets you dish out huge amounts of damage. It’s a nice touch above and beyond the normal gameplay and is incredibly satisfying to make use of in the heat of battle.
NiOh’s level of customization means that players can switch between weapons, stances and play-styles with such ease that it will become second nature to them in no time. Like Diablo III, NiOh has a loot system in place where enemies drop different quality items when defeated. These can be sold, refashioned, broken down or infused into stronger items via the game’s blacksmith. This also sets it apart from the Souls games since item drops are very common. Hours will easily fly by as you spend time trying out new character builds or obtaining loot from enemies to use as materials for better weaponry.
NiOh review: Team Ninja’s Finest Game Yet
Much of the title’s enjoyability lies in the fact that while it may borrow a lot from other titles in the third person action RPG genre, NiOh has enough of its own charm to keep it fresh.
The Souls checkpoint system is in effect, although it involves praying at Shrines rather than lighting bonfires. These checkpoints are spaced well enough throughout levels to keep frustration to a minimum – although once players use one, all the enemies in the level are resurrected.
Co-op or multiplayer in NiOh is extremely simple to make use of, but at the time of writing this review, players would have to have finished a level first before being able to help another player out in that particular level. Co-op is also highly encouraged since taking on some enemies or bosses becomes harder as the game goes on.
Being a Team Ninja game, the camera in NiOh is reminiscent of Ninja Gaiden II in that it could definitely use some work, especially in tight spaces. The game also asks players if they’d like to run it in Action Mode, which prioritises frames per second (60fps) over visual fidelity, or Movie mode which maintains the visual quality but locks the framerate at 30fps. Having played the game in Movie mode, it looked and felt absolutely gorgeous at all times.
NiOh’s soundtrack matches the visual quality of the title and the voice acting, which features both English and Japanese talents, is splendid. The enemy designs are also worth an entirely separate mention since they are incredibly detailed and fit the Feudal Japan theme perfectly.
NiOh Review: Verdict
NiOh is a game that’s survived development hell from its initial announcement as “Oni” back in 2004 and has turned into a great title that won’t easily be forgotten. It’s a game that’s worth a purchase and most certainly worthy of your time, especially if you’ve enjoyed the Souls games or Bloodborne. NiOh may not be perfect but it’s damn near close to it.
- NiOh was reviewed on a PS4. A retail copy was provided by the publisher.