Nioh spent nearly thirteen years in development, starting off as a role-playing game before shifting to a Dynasty Warriors style action game, and finally making the transformation to that rarest of all breeds–a game that gets compared to Soulsborne games and actually warrants the comparison. The developer, Team Ninja, admitted to being heavily inspired by Dark Souls and Bloodborne, together with games like Ninja Gaiden and Onimusha, and the inspiration shines throughout. While comparisons to the infamous From Software series are undeniable, Nioh is also very much its own game, and a damn good one at that. I’m giving the game four stars out of five, but I will say that this is damn close to a five for me. There’s a written review on my website which is linked to in the description. This video is long. Too long to be quite honest. It took a hell of a long time to write the script and by the time I finished I was left with a monstrosity.
I hope the end product is worth it because this was honestly the toughest video yet, and I’m including my first ever video in that. I initially had a longer introduction here, however I figured the least I could do was to trim that down a bit to avoid wasting any more of your time than is absolutely necessary. With that in mind, I’m going to move through my introductory remarks as quickly as possible.
You can skip the intro using the links in the description, just don’t go commenting on things I discuss in the intro because you’ll look like a bit of a tit. Here are the main points I hope to make in this video. The combat system is excellent with a bit of complexity to get your teeth into if you want or you can ignore it and stick to the basics. The level design is lacking, as is enemy variety. There is a lot of loot and it’s important, however Nioh is never a loot grind until you reach new game plus. The story is a McGuffin hunt that is dreadfully told, despite great voice acting.
And finally, the levelling system is broken. This video goes through the entirety of the game which means I’ll cover all of the story and–perhaps more importantly–all of the bosses. You probably already know whether that’s going to bother you or not, but consider yourself warned. From here on out, I reserve the right to spoil any of the game’s bosses. You’re probably wondering why I’m going through all the story and bosses when I’ve mentioned that the video is too long. It’s a fair point. My reasons are: one, many people (including myself) watch videos like this one without playing the game first and they want to know what’s going on. I imagine that’s even more likely for a PS4 exclusive.
Second, I personally find it really tough to critique something like a story or the overall level design of a game without spending the time to go through that first. It’s hard to find the balance between including information for context and just regurgitating the entire story. Finally, the story in Nioh is a bit of a mess and not particularly well told. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there were people who played the entire game and didn’t follow what was going on. I like Nioh a lot. It’s combat system might be better than the one in Bloodborne and that’s the gold standard in my opinion. At this point, I should mention that Bloodborne is the only Soulsborne game I’ve played to completion. I’ve got the platinum and completed all the DLC. I put a lot of time into Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls but never completed them due to really bad luck with game save files and being in law school. I should also mention that while I love Bloodborne and enjoyed what I played of the Souls games, I’m not particularly good at these games.
I can complete them, but I feel like I brute force my way through as opposed to being incredibly skilled. I rarely beat bosses on the first try and to be honest I’m happy if I beat a boss on the fifth attempt. You won’t see any co-op footage in this video because I prefer to play solo. I also avoided as much information about the game as possible beyond some initial reviews which convinced me to purchase it. That said, Nioh isn’t quite as cryptic with its systems as Bloodborne so online information or videos like this one aren’t as likely to spoil your experience. In one instance, not knowing what the online community thought of particular magic abilities in the game ended up drastically changing my experience. I’ll go through that in more detail later.
As with my other videos, this video is split into parts to make it easier to watch in chunks. I’m going to go through the story and all of the main missions while mixing in discussion of the game’s mechanics and optional content. At the end, I’ll do a bit of summing up and put forward some suggestions for what I’d like to see in a sequel. I’m not going to completely nitpick the story, but I am going to point out a few of the major problems I had with the way the story is presented. The story is so far down my list of priorities that if it didn’t exist at all, I would still have given Nioh a four. It’s simply not important to me in a game like this. And with that caveat about how little I care about the story, let’s get stuck into the… uh… story.
It’s 1598 and England has been at war with Spain for ten years. Queen Elizabeth is worried about a lack of resources to continue the war and in her desperation she turns to divination and alchemy and becomes obsessed with a substance known as amrita. She hires pirates to help her find this amrita and it works. She’s able to defeat the Spanish army although it’s not entirely clear how the amrita was used. The Queen doesn’t want anyone to find out exactly how she won the war, so she locks up the pirates she used to find Amrita, including William Adams, the Irish protagonist of the story. William is locked up in the Tower of London awaiting execution.
William’s Guardian Spirit, Saoirse, whispers in his ear that death is coming for him. Saoirse has been with him since he was a child. I’ll explain this a bit more later, but it’s worth noting that this spirit can sense amrita which is why William was so useful to Queen Elizabeth. The very first thing you do in the game is break through a wall using your fists.
Remember when I said I wasn’t going to nitpick everything that happened in this story? Yeah, this is why. William–like many of the other characters in the game–is based on a real historical figure, although William was English not Irish. The real William Adams was stranded in Japan and ended up becoming the first Western Samurai. Or so the story goes. I’m not going to pretend I’ve researched this beyond reading a few Wikipedia articles. The important thing to note is that there is no character creation here. That’s fine with me. I typically pick default characters anyway, but it’s worth noting if you like to customize your look. Later on in the game, you’ll be able to customize your hair and eventually you can change your appearance to play as other characters from the game. There’s a decent amount of variety if that’s important to you but not complete freedom to create a backstory for your character.
You start off unarmed however there’s a sword nearby. The first few minutes introduce you to fighting and picking up gear, which is what you’ll be doing for the majority of the game. The initial fights are simple. You have a light and heavy attack and you can block and dodge. That’s about it for now because William isn’t trained in combat. You have a stamina bar, but there’s none of that fancy ki recovery you might have heard about. Not yet, anyway. You move through the Tower taking out guards and collecting loot. It doesn’t take long before you have a full guard uniform although you can’t use it as a disguise. There are a few save points dotted around. Using these brings all the enemies back and doesn’t give you any other options at this point. You walk past a locked room and can overhear the only major piece of story development that happens while you’re in control of William and not via a cutscene or text. You can only see one guy and it’s a little hard to tell who is saying what.
The guy you can see on screen is Kelley. Someone offscreen tells him that there is no more amrita to extract from this country and Kelley agrees, saying that the pirates have served their purpose. This is a little confusing because I assumed the amrita was always overseas. Otherwise, why use pirates? Anyway, the offscreen guy tells Kelley that the Emperor of Japan is about to be killed which will start a war. Kelley is told to go to Japan to keep the war going while collecting the amrita. Kelley talks about an execution that’s due to take place tomorrow which will somehow give them a compass to get the amrita. The other guy is clearly working against Queen Elizabeth or at least keeping something from her, because he hasn’t told her the true power of amrita. Kelley will be the villain for the rest of the game. You make your way outside the Tower and pick up some new weapons. The game gives you plenty of opportunity to experiment and find out which ones you like the feel of the most.
The combat ramps up a touch in difficulty and there are a couple of enemies in heavy armor that you can take on if you want, although it’s an optional fight. This first mission will likely feel restrictive to anyone who has played Soulsborne games, however it does an excellent job of helping new players to nail the basics of mixing light and heavy attacks, blocking and dodging. You’re also given a chance to practice a drop attack, so long as you haven’t already killed the enemies below which is what I had done.
What this tutorial doesn’t do is teach you anything about boss fights because the one here is terrible. William’s Guardian Spirit, Saoirse, guides William out onto the top of a tower where he is ambushed by Derrick the Executioner. Derrick was sentenced to death himself until he agreed to take on the job of executioner and has since parted thousands of heads from their bodies. This fight was easy even for me. Derrick is by far the biggest enemy you’ve encountered so far, but he’s also slow with clearly telegraphed attacks. He’s not even tough. Five hits and he’s dead. However, the fight’s not over. Once Derrick is dead, Kelley pops up out of nowhere.
Get used to that. Kelley clearly knows who William is, referring to him as the man with the Guardian Spirit. William assumes he’s safe because he knows the secret of Amrita however Kelley clearly knows a thing or two himself judging by the way he resurrects Derrick. Derrick is now much more powerful and capable of putting up a fight. For a few minutes. It’s still not a particularly tough battle. I’m wearing relatively heavy armor here and using an axe which is not how I typically like to play action RPGs and I struggled as a result. It’s still embarrassing to watch the footage back mind you. Can we just pretend I’m practicing dodging? This would be a legitimate first boss fight if it weren’t for what happens when you get Derrick down to about two thirds health. A prompt pops up telling you to use your living weapon.
That’s not going to mean much to you at this point, but it doesn’t matter. You press two buttons and Derrick is defeated in a cutscene. I can’t think of a more unsatisfying way to defeat a boss than by initiating a cutscene. Worst of all, you don’t actually get to use the living weapon that you’ve activated so it’s not much of a tutorial for that either.
This is an easy fix. Just change it so that you have to get Derrick down to 25% before the prompt appears and then let players use the living weapon to finish him off. As it stands, players might think that a living weapon can take off two thirds of a boss’ health bar and that’s not typically the case. During this cutscene, Kelley pops up and captures your Guardian Spirit in an amrita stone. He’s going to use the stone to find more amrita in Japan.
This is the compass he was talking about. William keeps hold of a single feather but he’s then shot and falls into the water. The next time we see him, he’s tied the feather to a small amrita stone and is on a ship heading to Japan. While on the ship William learns how to fight like a samurai not by training but by reading a book. I didn’t realize you could learn physical skills like this, so if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to read a book about how to be the world’s greatest footballer to lead Southampton to Premier League glory . While William can learn all about combat from reading an instruction manual, players tend to expect a little more hands on education these days. . After getting feedback during the alpha build, Team Ninja added in an optional tutorial in a dojo for players to practice. It breaks the narrative somewhat which is presumably why William himself learns from a book, but I’d rather have a slightly broken narrative than no tutorial.
Maybe he should have had a tutor on the ship instead. It’s hardly beyond the realm of possibility that a ship heading to Japan might have a Japanese person on it who knows a thing or two about combat. It would have been a little clunky, but probably better than the current set up. Before leaving the ship, you choose your primary and secondary weapons from a choice of five: swords, dual swords, axes, spears, or a kusarigama which is a chain with an iron weight on the end. You’re not bound by the choices you make here; they just give you a tiny bonus to the stat which is most relevant to the weapons you pick. I went with sword and spear, but I’ve played around enough to believe you can genuinely go with any combination you like. The only pairing I’d be inclined to avoid is spear and axe because both of those weapons are a touch slow. You then choose your Guardian Spirit. I’m not entirely sure why William gets to pick a new spirit after losing Saoirse.
As you progress through the game, you gain more Guardian Spirits by defeating bosses but this one seemingly comes from nowhere. You aren’t stuck with the choice so just go with what seems most interesting. In the dojo, you’re introduced to the three different stances: high, medium, and low. High stance is slower but will do more damage, low stance is quick, like being tickled to death by an aggressive feather, and medium is somewhere in between. The dojo also teaches you about the ki pulse which is an absolutely crucial skill to master. Ki is your stamina. It drains as you attack enemies, block attacks, dodge, or sprint. Different attacks drain different amounts of ki. Heavy attacks from the high stance will drain a lot more than light attacks from the low stance.
Nothing particularly exciting there. The real game changer is the ki pulse. After finishing an attack or combo, your ki starts to recharge with a white bar moving from left to right. If you press R1, you’ll instantly regain your ki up to the point where the white line is when you press it. Regaining ki in this way is important enough in normal combat, however it’s crucial in fights against yokai. We haven’t seen them yet, however the short version is that these are demons from the yokai realm. They often bring with them yokai corruption–it’s that weird white and black effect you can see on the floor. William regains stamina at a much slower rate in these yokai corruption areas, however if you execute a perfect ki pulse by pressing R1 when the white line is at the end, you will clear away this corruption. You also get a quick introduction to bows and rifles which work exactly as you’d expect. And with that, we’ve pretty much learned everything we need to know for the first third of the game.
There’s also ninjutsu skills and Onmyo, a form of magic, however the game doesn’t develop that much until later, so neither will I. William comes ashore by himself at a fishing village on the small island of Kuroshima. In what seems like a bad sign for the rest of the game, the first thing you do is not fight an enemy, but pick up a piece of loot. When you pick up loot from a dead body, you often hear the final thoughts of the victim. It’s a nice touch although you’ll quickly stop paying attention.
There’s also a shrine here that you can use as a save point. We can now start moving through the level. Just to be clear, I don’t intend to move this slowly through the entire game, however the early levels are illustrative of what to expect for the entire experience so it’s worth spending a bit of time on a few. The pattern quickly becomes familiar. You move through thin pathways or corridors, occasionally choose between branching paths, and kill lots of things as you do it. If you wander off the beaten path, you will almost certainly be rewarded with extra loot, and if you hunt a little harder, you’ll find tiny green creatures called kodama that you can activate at the shrine for additional bonuses.
This level has ladders you can kick down and doors you can open for shortcuts, so congratulations, you’ve now seen how nearly all the shortcuts work in this game. If you think this feels a bit like a shrunken down version of a Bloodborne level then you’re probably right. I have to admit, this level left me feeling a little jaded which isn’t a great emotion to experience on the first major level of the game. Even as someone who hasn’t played that much of the Soulsborne series, this is a little over familiar and not as well executed. For example, look at the ladder you knock down near the first shrine. You’ll probably see the ladder when you first start the level, but you can’t reach it because it needs to be kicked down. Except, doesn’t it feel like William could easily reach this ladder? And look, I know it’s a video game and we’ve been dealing with stuff like this for years.
Low rocks that people can’t jump over or invisible walls in the form of police tape that characters just refuse to go through. But it’s frustrating in how easily it could be avoided. The door later on in the level isn’t much better. Is this really the type of door that would stop a samurai? There’s more like this. You move through the rest of the level by mainly sticking to rooftops thanks to various fires and things blocking your way. It’s quite a small space and only takes any time at all because of the way you are forced to take a particular route. Once you kick down a low hanging ladder, your route becomes a bit quicker and you can run back to the same place quite quickly after death. As you might have guessed, you lose your amrita on death and have to get back to the same spot to collect it. Not just that, you also lose your Guardian spirit and with it any passive bonuses provided by that guardian spirit.
I believe that in my entire playthrough, I only lost my amrita three times. Certainly no more than five. There are two reasons why it’s so easy to get back your amrita: one good, one bad. The bad reason is that the non-boss enemies are as dumb as the rocks you throw at them to get their attention. It’s easy to get them in one on one fights and they will often stand around watching as you slice up one of their friends. When it comes to reclaiming your amrita or doing a boss run, you can just run past all the enemies and they will stop chasing you as soon as you turn a corner. Now, to be fair, you can do that in Soulsborne games as well, but it feels so much easier here.
I don’t mind that in principle. I hate long boss runs and while the risk of losing your hard earned XP can make the game more tense, you can still have a perfectly enjoyable and tough action RPG without this feature. And maybe that’s what Team Ninja should have done. Honestly, they could have completely done away with the whole reclaiming amrita thing for this game and I don’t think it would have made much difference. There’s also a good reason why reclaiming your XP is easier.
Many of the toughest non-boss enemies in a level only have to be killed once. They’re like mini-bosses. A couple of times per level, you’ll see the shadow realm. It’s a mist that looks like the yokai corruption that kills off your ki recovery. When you get close to this mist, a large yokai will appear and if you defeat it it will disappear forever. I love this idea. It gives you a small sense of reward just for progressing through the level. This makes it much easier to reclaim your amrita after death and adds to the overall feeling of that function being unnecessary, however it rarely affected me so I won’t harp on about it.
The other enemies don’t pose much of a threat so this is a good place to practice with the different stances and the two weapons you chose. I quickly realized that low stance was going to be my preference, largely because I have a habit of going into long combo strings even when I shouldn’t. The spear is a great weapon when you have multiple enemies to take care of thanks to its wide arc although I was just as likely to use it in one on one situations if up against an enemy that needed to get close. Conversely, if I was going up against a spear wielding enemy then I would typically use a sword and try to get in close myself, however none of this is necessary. Any weapon and any stance will work. I genuinely don’t believe there’s a right answer for combat and you’re better off settling into a rhythm with something you’re comfortable with than constantly changing it up.
While managing your own ki is crucial, it’s also important to keep an eye on the enemy’s stamina. Like you, they have stamina bars which will deplete if they attack or block too much. If they run out, you can take advantage of that fact and do a special attack. This one small feature adds a hell of a lot of depth to the combat because if you spot an enemy is low on stamina you know they might only be able to block once more before opening themselves up to an attack. Beware though, the enemies are equally aware of your own stamina bar and will do the same to you if you get low. At the end of the level, you head towards a ship and face the first real boss of the game. Onryoki. Did I mention that I’m going to make a complete hash of pronouncing many of these names? Because I’m almost certainly going to. I’ll do my best, but there are going to be mistakes. Plenty of them. Onryoki is a bigger and tougher version of the yokai you fought earlier.
He’s moves slowly and is weighed down by huge balls of steel. I know how he feels. Let’s ignore that fight with Dereck the Executioner, because the fight with Onryoki is so much better as an introduction to the game’s boss fights. The arena is cramped, making the boss feel even larger than it already is, however the camera does a good job of capturing the action and not getting stuck on the scenery. It’s a basic two phase fight with a boss that has well-telegraphed moves which are easy to avoid when you’ve learned them. It teaches you to attack enemies from behind and look out for counters. It’s exactly what a boss fight should be at this stage of the game. In the first phase, Onryoki will slam those balls to the ground either one at a time or both together. This is your chance to get behind him and claim some easy hits. He’ll spin them around to get you to back off. I initially tried dodging these attacks, but they can easily be blocked without too much of a hit to your ki.
Roughly half way through the fight, Onryoki breaks out of his chains and is now free to swing those humungous fists in your direction. He’ll also jump around although that’s easy to dodge. The only attack I had trouble with in this phase was him throwing the balls around. I wanted to practice dodge timing, but it was surprisingly difficult to avoid these things, especially when up close. I was overthinking it. The easy solution is to stand at the other end of the room and make sure you’re moving to the side when he throws. He also has a grab attack but I want to talk about that later in another section. This is why. These two images are a frame apart. You can see I’m not really caught by the grab and yet it teleports me into it anyway.
This isn’t the only time I had an issue with hit detection in the game and combined with a lack of invincibility frames it can be a real problem. There’s a section later in the video where I discuss iframes and hit detection issues, especially around grab attacks. Onryoki is a fun fight and it’s made all the more enjoyable by not having to slog your way back to it if you die. The boss run is really short and this is consistent throughout the entire game. To be honest, it’s so short I wonder whether you should just be given the opportunity to restart immediately at the boss, but now I just sound ungrateful. I finished Onryoki off with my living weapon. As you play the game, your Guardian Spirit gains power and when it’s full you can unleash this beast. I don’t use it much during normal play, but it’s quite cool for finishing off bosses. While the living weapon is active, William is invincible however any damage he takes reduces the time the living weapon is active. You can add power and time to your living weapon by leveling up your guardian spirit along with other stats.
Depending on your guardian spirit, you could have a living weapon that takes a long time to charge, or one that charges so quickly it can be used twice in one boss fight. Once Onryoki is defeated, William leaves the ship and bumps into a man named Hanzo Hattori who compliments William on his skill with the blade. William omits to mention that he learned it all from a really good book. Hanzo offers to help William in his quest to find Kelley, so long as William agrees to help kill Yokai. There’s probably some overlap there, so William agrees.
Hanzo then pulls a cat out of nowhere and checks the time in cat’s eyes. That’s actually a real thing. Hanzo is one of the many people you’ll meet who is based on a real historical figure. He’s pretty much the most famous ninja in history and is almost certainly the inspiration for Hanzo in Overwatch. Hanzo fills you in on what’s happening in Japan. The Overlord is dead and two samurai are competing to take over. Ishida Mitsunari is the Overlord’s chosen successor and Lord Ieyasu is the other. Ieyasu happens to be Hanzo’s master, so I guess that’s the side we’ll be taking. Ieyasu is also a real figure and a pretty significant one at that. Hanzo is credited with saving his life after the death of the previous overlord. After this cutscene, we’re thrown into a regional map and by now you’ve probably noticed that the levels are not interconnected like they are in Soulsborne games. I’m fine with that. Without going off on a huge tangent, I think an interconnected world is brilliant if done well but it’s damn difficult to pull off while still ensuring level variety.
I’d rather play a game with varied levels and no connected world, than an interconnected world which gets boring half way through. A lot of information is thrown at you here, but I’ll get back to a lot of that later because right now we can’t do much with these options. You have two choices for what to do next: you can go to the next main mission or do a sub mission. I did the sub mission because I was curious at the entire idea of doing a sub mission in a game like this. You’re told that demons are terrorizing a village and asked to go and kill them. What this boils down to is going back to the previous level and playing it in reverse until you’ve killed all the yokai. This is what nearly all the sub missions are if they are tied to previous levels. You play the level in reverse and either kill things or find things. Somehow open world fetch quests have made their way into a Soulsborne-style game. Okay, so they’re not that bad because the game is about the combat for me and not the story so it doesn’t matter much anyway.
However, these levels aren’t interesting enough to make me want to go through them twice, especially since it’s best to do the sub missions after you’ve just left that level otherwise it’ll be far too easy. In addition to doing the levels in reverse, sub missions also offer you the chance go up against bosses again, or defeat tough enemies that come at you in stages. Some of these fights are really challenging when done at the appropriate level with the game putting you up against multiple tough enemies that you’d typically fight one on one in the main campaign. The sub missions are a good way to keep throwing combat challenges at you, but the rewards were typically disappointing, with not enough amrita or materials rewarded to make some tough fights feel worthwhile. I’ve got an idea for these sub missions that I’ll talk about at the end, because I do think they’re a cool and relatively low-effort way to add some variety to the game.
I just don’t think the implementation is good. For the second main mission, you’re asked to go and save someone’s son. There’s a cut scene at the start where William meets a cat who initially seems to talk, however it’s actually a spirit who pops out and possesses William. The cat explains that Guardian Spirits are created from prayer and belief, whereas Aratama are created from human grudge and anger and there’s now plenty of them thanks to years of war in Japan. I think Aratama are the beings that create yokai. Anyway, Guardian Spirits and Aratama represent the whole light vs dark theme for the game. Oh and the cat possessing William means that he can now speak Japanese. This level mainly takes place in a set of caverns inside a mountain, although you do occasionally get to walk outside and see daylight.
There’s even a spring up here for you to bathe in if you need a break. The springs give you a health boost for a short period of time and are often placed near areas where that would prove useful, although rarely near bosses. There’s quite a cool moment on this cliff if you’re paying attention to the red graves on the floor. These red graves are revenants, which are supposedly the graves of real world players. Some of these must have been put here by the developers because they can be far too convenient and I hadn’t actually gone online with the game at this point.
Anyway, one grave said that the player died from falling which I thought was a bit silly. How did someone fall off this cliff? Not even I’m that stupid. I kept walking and, yeah, bats. The placement of this grave is a little too convenient for me to believe it’s real, but it works nonetheless. You can fight these revenants to get some loot. You’re told what rarity of loot the revenant is wearing so it helps you gage whether you want to take the risk. There’s no PVP in the game at this point, and this doesn’t do a great job of simulating a real fight. They’re just more aggressive versions of normal enemies that happen to use elixirs occasionally. There’s a few tough fights in a cave and you find something I thought was called the “Boss Room Key.” Sounds ominous right. It’s actually the Boss’ Room Key which refers to the boss of the bandits. I’m not sure if that’s a deliberate trick, but if it was then fair play because I walked in there expecting a boss battle.
There is a cool new enemy on this level. The walls have eyes. If you stand close to them and perform a gesture, the wall might move out of the way. You get two tries to perform the correct gesture. If you get it wrong, he attacks you. It wasn’t until late in the game that I noticed you’re supposed to perform a gesture that is associated with the same color as the wall’s eyes. This would have saved me a few fights and at least two deaths because the walls aren’t a pushover. After moving further into the cavern, you come to a big open area that is filled with large yokai.
You only have to defeat one of the enemies in this area, however it’s a good idea to clear them all out before fighting the big guy. This is probably the first time you’ve faced this many of the powerful yokai at one time, however you can deal with all of them one on one if you have a few rocks and some patience. Before heading to the boss, it’s a good idea to activate the nearby shrine. That brings back all the enemies except the one from the shadow realm that stays dead, leaving the pathway to the boss open.
Speaking of which. We walk in on Hino Enma feasting on one of the many bodies hanging from the ceiling. This is another really fun fight. Whereas Onryoki was large and slow, Hino Enma is small and quick, with the added benefit of a paralysis attack that can leave you unable to move for a few seconds. If you have any armor or charms that protect against paralysis then you are strongly advised to wear them. I also recommend light armor, because mobility is well-rewarded here. When she goes into the air she will either throw darts or use a paralysis blast. The darts are easily avoided or blocked, however the paralysis blast requires decent dodge timing. There’s a clear sound cue to listen out for or you can just run under her. She also has a couple of flying charge attacks that aren’t too tricky to dodge. You can block them, however if you dodge then you’re more likely to get a few hits in while she recovers.
Her melee attacks are graceful but slow so you don’t need to worry about them too much. I’m probably underselling the challenge of this boss. I eventually got the timing down for most of her attacks, however she’s quick and if you linger too close you risk getting caught in a grab attack that will eat up a significant chunk of your health. While the paralysis blast is easily dodged once you get the timing down, you only need to get caught by one paralysis blast to die either to the blast or her follow up. I continued my streak of finishing off bosses with a living weapon and was more than a touch relieved. It’s a tense fight. You move into a cutscene where you find the son that you were supposed to hunt down.
He seems to have appeared from nowhere because I have no idea where he was before this. William takes the man’s hand and gains another Guardian Spirit. From this point on, you can choose which spirit you want to protect you and use as a living weapon. We get a short animation which doesn’t tell us anything new but is still worth appreciating. These animations often accompany the end of missions and they’re stylish as all hell. William ends up at a feast with the rescued son who swears allegiance to Lord Ieyasu. There’s a Guardian Spirit here and another one outside with a young woman. These things aren’t as rare as I first thought. It reminds me of when I got a tamagotchi and then went into school and found out everyone else had them as well. The woman doesn’t want to talk to a drunk samurai but she does give you a name of another place that needs help with yokai.
The next level is also a “save the family” member quest. This time, the head of the Tachibana family has gone missing and William is sent out to find him because it will help the war effort. Before starting the next mission, I want to highlight that my character is currently at level 32 while the recommended mission level is 19. Just worth noting for now. This level looks more open than the previous ones and yet it ends up being just as restrictive. I’m not going to harp on about the shortcuts in every level, but I’m going to mention them again here for two reasons. One, there’s a locked door right next to the shrine you start at.
Because of how open this level is, you can quickly see the exact path you’ll need to take to make it to the other side of the door so there is zero sense of mystery here. My second issue is that other shortcuts consist of knocking down trees to create a path. I don’t mind that this has been done before in the Soulsborne games. My issue here is that the paths feel so unnecessary. You only need them because William is frustratingly incapable of climbing out of the water. When a tree falls across a large chasm it feels cool to carefully walk across. When you’re chopping down a tree to save yourself getting your hands dirty and exerting a tiny bit of energy it starts to feel a touch wasteful.
Without these invisible walls and basic shortcuts, you’d be able to run right to the boss, however there’s not much to stop you doing that anyway. It’s starting to feel like Team Ninja is going to a lot of effort to replicate the features of Soulsborne levels without understanding the scale of those levels and why they needed shortcuts in the first place. There’s not much new to discuss in this level, so we can make yet another short run to the boss. Nue is part monkey, part tiger, part snake and it can summon lightning to deal a lot of damage to players who aren’t stocked up on gear that offers protection against it. You might as well make an effort to learn his attacks because you’ll likely fight him four times during the course of the game. He’s weak to water so if you have an appropriate talisman to apply water damage to your weapon then that should help. His main attack is to summon four blasts of lightning after he raises his body into the air.
Each blast homes in on William, but if you keep moving they won’t hit you. He emits a blast from his mouth which always moves from right to left. If you stay to his left you won’t get hit, so this attack gives you an opening to get in a few hits of you own. His belly is his weak spot and if you slash enough you should be able to stun him.
In fact, most opportunities to attack consist of taking advantage of his own mistakes, like when he locks himself into long combo strings that he insists on completing, or when he spin attacks towards the position you were in about thirty seconds ago. I actually don’t think this attack is intended to hit you. It’s a trick. He leaves a trail of lightning behind him and it’s easy to get carried away and run straight into it as you try to follow up for some cheap hits. Nue can also do poison and melee damage for good measure, however once you learn to look out for the lightning strikes you can play it fairly safe.
Nue has a tendency to spin on a point straight through the middle of his body like a car in a nineties arcade racer and he’ll also track you with some of his leaps. It’s a little unnerving to watch, but some slight tracking is to be expected with large leaps because otherwise they’d be too easy to avoid. I don’t think the order of the first three bosses is an accident. First, you have a slow, lumbering beast who hits hard. Then there’s a quick humanoid boss who can deal paralysis damage and is tricky to hit, followed by a beast enemy who can deal elemental damage as well as having a particular elemental weakness.
After these bosses, you should have a good idea of whether you want to play with heavy armor or light, and you’ve been conditioned to think about both giving and receiving elemental damage. You’ve got enough information to know what you want to do with your build going forward. You don’t go into a cutscene after this fight. You step inside a building and meet a woman called Fuku. Nue was supposedly her “familiar” and you repelled him. At least, I think she’s referring to Nue. It’s not entirely clear. It could also be this strange creature blocking the door. It moves out of the way after you perform a gesture. If Nue belonged to her, she doesn’t bother apologizing for its attempt to kill me. She wants to help find Tachibana–the man you’re looking for–however you move into the next area by yourself. The next level is the one that reminded me of Bloodborne’s chalice dungeons and I don’t mean that as a compliment. The chalice dungeons were randomly generated content that were easily the least inspired levels in the game. A few statues attempt to ambush you here, but you’ll only be fooled by these guys once.
They hit hard with those large swords, but they’re also incredibly slow and can be easily destroyed once you get behind them. There are also smaller statues that breathe poison and fire, but they’re more of a nuisance than anything. This level is far too long and a touch too easy to get lost in for my liking. This might have been more bearable if it hadn’t come right after the previous level with no break in between. If you’ve just struggled through a tough fight with Nue, the last thing you want is a long maze like level with no opportunity to go back to the map. If you’re going to throw two levels together like this then they should both be short. The first part up to the Nue fight certainly fits that criteria, however this section is far too long and means you can easily be looking at over two hours from start to finish depending on your success with the bosses.
I’d make it a rule that you can always go back to the map after a boss fight because this is excessive. Once you make it to the door, you meet up with Fuku again and now she insists on accompanying you. You can blow through enemies in the next part because the game isn’t balanced for two people fighting together. I’m completely fine with that and I’m sure it’s deliberate. It’s good to feel like a badass occasionally. When you enter the boss room, you find Tachibana on the ground looking like he’s near death. This entire cutscene looks kind of ridiculous because of the mask I made William wear. Fuku suddenly attacks Tachibana after realizing it’s Kelley in disguise. William demands his spirit back but Kelley refuses and turns back into Tachibana Muneshige for the boss fight. I have no idea why he transforms back into this guy for the fight or why he was just hanging around here waiting for them to show up.
He’s been collecting the amrita but he could easily have disappeared. How long was he waiting for William to show up? I assumed this was going to be a tough fight and tried to learn his moves the first time around. As I mentioned, I don’t typically beat bosses on the first attempt, but I do like to try and learn something. I barely had to try to beat this boss. I did a bad job of dodging his attacks but he easily runs out of stamina which allows you to go in for some big hits. He did some charge attacks in his second phase but they are easily dodged. Watching the footage back is cringe inducing for how bad I was and yet I still won. I’m tempted to assume that this is also deliberate. After at least two hours of play without a chance to return to the map, it would be a little cruel to put a tough boss in front of players that they might not be able to defeat.
When the boss is defeated, Kelley turns back into himself and uses the stone to claim all the amrita in the room. He then disappears, but leaves behind another red feather. Fuku pops back up and gives you her sword before telling you the story of how she joined Lord Tachibana Muneshige after losing her child. Lord Muneshige won’t join the war, but he does introduce you to his master which opens up more training options in the dojo. You get to fight the real Tachibana Muneshige in a sub mission and he’s a lot tougher the second time around. This is what the boss should have been the first time and makes it all the stranger that they made the story mode fight so easy.
Again, I suspect it might be because that level had already dragged on for a long time, but who knows. These optional second fights against bosses are quite common and they’re always tougher. Sometimes it feels fair, and sometimes a little cheap. We’ll see more of that later. Apart from sub missions, we’ve now completed the first section of map and will be moving on to another area soon. This is a good time to talk about my problems with the story. As I mentioned, I want to stay away from nitpicking every little thing that happens which doesn’t make sense because it’s hard to know where to draw the line when you’re talking about this kind of high fantasy story.
I don’t care too much if magical powers look a little inconsistent. I can also look past the constant coincidences like Kelley always being at the places you are when he should be way ahead of you thanks to the apparent ability to teleport. I know it might sound a little patronizing or even offensive, but I don’t think you need to take stories like this too seriously. They’re there to add flavor to events and when executed well, that flavor is one that adds to the experience. My main issue with the story isn’t with the nitty gritty, it’s with the structure of the storytelling. Nioh tells most of its story through a combination of written text before you start a mission and then cutscenes at the end. Occasionally there are also cutscenes at the start of missions as well, or one when you move to a different part of the map. There is nearly no storytelling while you’re actually playing the game. That’s fine, it lets you focus on the gameplay. What isn’t fine, is the bad job these cutscenes do with communicating what the hell is going on.
We’ve already seen a couple of cryptic scenes where it’s hard to work out who people are or why William is talking to them. There’s plenty more like that to come. Some of this could be easily remedied just by having characters use each other’s name once in awhile. William is a stranger in this land. From a story perspective, this is an easy way to dump exposition at the player in a way that could feel relatively natural because William won’t know the information either. Use William’s ignorance as a substitute for the player’s to help us understand what’s going on. Now, I know what the obvious response to all this is. The missing information is all included in the game. If you want to know who a character is, you can just look in their entry in the Amrita Memories tab on the map screen. In other words, to take the typical Soulsborne fanboy response, it’s all in the lore.
Only in video games is it considered acceptable to tell a bad story and then expect players to go and read additional information to figure out what is going on. If you’re one of those people who defend bad storytelling on the basis that general information or the answer to a particular plot hole is provided elsewhere, then gather round your phone, tablet, computer, or whatever the hell you’re watching this on.
It’s time for a little lesson in storytelling. Whether you’re telling a story via a book, movie, or game, if the consumer has to go digging around in appendices or looking things up online to understand what the hell is going on then you have failed. That’s not to say that there’s no place for supplemental materials that flesh out out a world and its characters. This stuff is completely valid if used appropriately. Let’s take a look at some good examples. I’m a huge fan of George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. I know, not exactly original these days. In addition to the main books, you can also buy a book called the World of Ice and Fire that serves almost as a history book for the world of Westeros. It’s also got some beautiful illustrations and I highly recommended it. There are also novellas and graphic novels telling the prequel story of Dunk and Egg. For fans of the main books, these are fun ways to spend more time in a world they enjoy.
They’re a great example of how you can build on a world outside of the main series of books. However, imagine, for example, Daenerys started off with no dragons and then suddenly had three of them without the reader being told where the hell she got the dragons from. That would be bad storytelling. You shouldn’t have to go to side materials to get that information because it would detract from the experience. Let’s look at movies. Before Man of Steel debuted in cinemas, a comic was released that showed Supergirl on a Kryptonian ship that ended up crash landing on Earth. This ship became the Fortress of Solitude that you see in the movie. In the movie, you’re told that the Fortress is a crashed Kryptonian ship, however only readers of the comic will know that Supergirl is in there somewhere.
People watching the movie without this knowledge are none the worse off. If she’d popped up out of nowhere without any explanation, then that would have been bad, but as it is, the existence of the Fortress makes sense. Jonathan Kent’s death on the other hand… well, best not get me started on that. Finally, I suppose I should give an example of a game that does it right. Let’s go with Horizon Zero Dawn. Horizon has audio and data logs that give you little snippets of life before the end of the world, however they aren’t required to understand the story. If you don’t want to read or listen to them, then you don’t have to. To be honest, this little rant is probably more appropriate for a Soulsborne game than Nioh, but I won’t be doing a video on them any time soon and I need to get this out of my system.
My eyes bleed everytime I see the phrase “but it’s in the lore” to excuse bad storytelling. Nioh at least tries to tell a story and I appreciate that. The reason I’m talking so much about my problems with the story is because Nioh’s not far off doing something interesting. A lot of effort went into the art for both the cut scenes and animations, and the voice acting is excellent. Unfortunately, it feels like the levels were designed entirely separately from the story. You could swap all the levels around and it would make very little difference except perhaps changing a few words related to the location. This is definitely something that can be improved upon for a sequel and that’s why I want to talk about it. Nioh includes far too much important information in the Amrita memories section and doesn’t give the player access to that information until the character or revelation has already been shown in a cut scene.
In other words, even if you do decide to read all the information provided, you’ll only be doing it to understand what has already happened, not to help you understand what is going to happen. The story may be one of the casualties of the game’s protracted development however as I understand it, most of the story was created by Team Ninja. Still, fingers crossed that a sequel will improve on this part of the game. In this video, I’ve attempted to focus on the important parts of the story and have provided names where required, however it’s worth noting that I had to look up most of this after the fact. It’s not all information you’ll pick up just from playing and watching the cut scenes. Okay, back to the actual story. William and Hanzo set sail to inform Lord Ieyasu of Ishida Mitsunari’s latest actions in the war. On the way, Purple Tentacle rises out of the sea and almost destroys the boat. You know you’re going to be fighting this thing later because you’re specifically told you’ll never be able to beat him.
I kept an eye out for a ray gun, but never found one. Your ship has to dock and needs to be repaired. While waiting for the repairs, you are told to help out the Mohri with the goal of getting them to join the war effort. You briefly cross paths with Shima Sakon, one of Mitsunari’s top generals. And yeah, you’re going to be fighting him later too. You can tell because he looks at you funny. For the first mission, a Mohri representative agrees to meet with you, and for some reason that involves you going deep into a silver mine. The Mohri have dug deep but it has been taken over by Yokai. I don’t believe any particular reason is given for this. Just to go back to my previous point, it really feels like the story was created as a set of excuses to go to levels rather than the levels themselves serving any purpose.
This is another level with lots of shortcuts that typically consist of ladders that you can reach with an aggressive yoga pose. The main gimmick for this level is a green spongy substance that emits poison which fills the room. You can remove the poison with machines that temporarily suck it all out for thirty seconds or so, giving you time to permanently destroy the poison blobs. And it is permanent because they don’t come back if you die. I’ve already talked about this a bit, but I do want to emphasize that I enjoy these little touches. It would be tedious to go through the process of clearing away the poison and destroying the blobs again after death and wouldn’t serve any purpose beyond consuming more of the player’s time. This is a good moment to introduce you to one of my two least favorite Yokai in this game.
These guys are a form of Yokai known in Nioh’s lore as a Fucking Fire Wheel Pieces of Shit. Seriously, that’s what they’re called. I checked the encyclopedia and the wiki and everything. These fuckers are easy to kill in theory and yet they were the bane of my existence. One side has an exposed amrita stone and one hit to that side will temporarily stun it allowing you to get in a couple of hits. Sounds easy, right? There’s a few issues. First, blocking its charges is ineffective because of the fire damage. Dodging is much harder than it should be as I often encountered these Fucking Fire Wheel Pieces of Shit in narrow spaces with little room to move. The most sensible strategy is to hit it with an arrow and then charge in however that leads to the second problem. It doesn’t stay down for long and shoots out fire after a few seconds.
You just need to be patient and time your attacks, but there’s something about this guy that always makes me lose my temper. I try to get too many hits in and then get caught in the blast. Maybe it’s all the fire around that makes me panic. It’s my own fault, but these things are a menace. The boss for this level is Great Centipede. This is one of my least favorite bosses in the game.
It’s not difficult, it’s just no fun to fight. You start by attacking the sections at the back. They don’t survive long. After a few hits, they scurry away although one typically stays behind as a poison blob that you’ll want to destroy. The Great Centipede can now move quite quickly and is constantly nipping at your heels. In addition to a poison attack, it can also do paralysis damage, so you’ll want to wear appropriate gear if you have it, or bring along antidotes for the poison and needles for the paralysis. I never got into a rhythm with this fight. You can get a few hits on the segments at the back, but the head just does a 180 and then clips through its own body to get you. It doesn’t do much damage, so the temptation is to keep trading attacks. I did try climbing some of the paths and then doing a fall attack on it, but that felt like cheesing the fight somewhat. Plus, it often follows you up the path anyway. In the end, I beat this boss with only a sliver of health remaining, although this was only my second attempt.
I can’t imagine this boss giving players much trouble, however I also can’t imagine many people particularly enjoying the fight. After the fight, the Mohri clan thank you for your help and ask you not to tell anyone what you saw in the mine. You’re told to ask Kobayakawa Hideaki for the clan’s help. The next level takes you to a rundown port and is one of the most frustrating levels in the game, while also having an interesting boss mechanic. First of all, it’s another level where you can see where you need to go right from the beginning of the level. If William could swim, this level would be pretty damn short. Speaking of not being able to swim, it’s really easy to fall off the edges and if you do that you drown.
I can’t help but think that some invisible walls would have been helpful here. It’s not satisfying to watch your kick ass samurai sink like a stone even when he’s not wearing that much armor. It just looks a bit ridiculous. An animation that shows William losing balance and giving you a chance to save yourself would reduce the frustration. Mini versions of the big Purple Tentacle guy you saw earlier attempt to ambush you from the water. They shoot weapons at you which they have presumably retained from their previous victims. That’s easy enough to dodge, but they do have a nasty habit of falling on you when you try to attack. You can avoiding these by sticking to the tops of buildings, although there are yokai up here as well, so you need to be able to fight on a narrow edge.
The boss for this level is Umi Bozu, the Purple Tentacle looking guy you knew you were going to fight sooner or later. He’s weak to fire, but you might not have any fire talismans. Fortunately, exploration is well-rewarded in this level. Dotted around the level are three small fires that you can light. For each fire you light, a fire will be lit in the boss arena. You can then use these to coat your weapon in fire for the fight. Without fire, you’re going to have a really tough time.
Don’t be in a rush to do light your weapon though, because Umi Bozu has a blast that is always a one hit kill and he’s not afraid to use it while you’re coating your weapon. Wait until he’s jumped to the side and then go for it. He’s pretty easy. He slams down one arm or both but it’s almost more challenging to be hit by these than to avoid them. Oh, and you can also fall into the water here as well, so be careful.
His second phase is more challenging. He jumps up onto the pier and brings a friend along with him. I thought I’d be clever and finish him off with my living weapon but I forgot that my living weapon was a water element which doesn’t do a lot of good against a yokai made from water. I still scraped through somehow, and when I say scraped through, I’m not exaggerating. I had 10 HP left. Remember how I said I often had to brute force my way through bosses? Yeah, I wasn’t kidding. A cut scene gives you a glimpse at the other side of the war. Mitsunari is annoyed at all the warlords who are agreeing to work with Lord Ieyasu. Kelley offers his help and they accept it. Kelley just wants to drag the war on because he’s using the commotion to collect amrita. Now that you’ve helped the Mohri, they agree to fix your ship and you can move on to the next area. As far as I can tell, William never meets the Mohri clan in any cut scenes. It’s another example of how detached the story can be from the levels themselves.
Before carrying on with the story, I want to talk a bit about the skills you can acquire that have a significant effect on the in-game combat. You acquire samurai skill points by leveling up weapon related attributes in your character build. You also gain separate skill points for ninjutsu and magic. I’m going to talk much more about overall builds and magic later, so for now let’s just focus on the samurai skill points. This screen is a bit of a mess, but it’s worth wading through. A lot of the moves help with ki. For example, you can regain extra ki if you execute a ki pulse by changing stance or regain ki while dodging. You can also unlock sneak attacks and parries, or just an extra move on the end of your combo. This is where the better players will shine and where I did not. I ended up focusing on the ki regeneration skills, because many of the combat skills would mess up my flow. For example, there’s an ability where you can leap over the enemy.
It can be useful. Or you can accidentally do this. One ability I tried gives you an extra sneaky hit on a perfect ki pulse, however if you’re stopping your combos with the idea of getting out of the enemy’s way, then staying in for another attack can do more harm than good. In the end, I settled on a basic prod attack with my spear that proved incredibly useful for reducing enemy stamina and breaking through guards and a move that hooks the enemy behind you for a few free hits. The other issue I had was simply keeping track of all the skills I’d assigned to William. Many of the moves can only be performed when in a certain stance or with a particular weapon, so you end up in middle stance with a sword trying to do a move that is only assigned to the spear, or you have the correct weapon but you’re in the wrong stance.
Another odd aspect is the way some skills you unlock can be assigned to all weapons or some weapons, whereas others apply to just the one in the skill tree you purchase it from. So yeah, this screen needs a bit of cleaning up, but there’s plenty in here to help you customize your fight style a bit. Just because I didn’t use all the skills, I’m still happy they’re here for those who will properly use them. And with that, we can move onto the next region. William finally gets to meet Lord Ieyasu. Kind of. He senses that the man has no real power and makes his feelings known to Hanzo. That’s actually Lord Ieyasu’s double. A man called Naomasa proposes a test of William’s loyalty before he can meet the real deal.
There are rumors of strange creatures attacking travellers. The mission is called “Spider Nest Castle” so no prizes for guessing what those strange creatures might be. You don’t have to wait long for your introduction. The small and medium sized spiders aren’t all that dangerous unless you manage to get caught by their paralysis spit. Otherwise they just have a basic slash move which is easily blocked. The large spiders do pose a threat. They can jump on you and are generally much more aggressive. You’ll have to beat one before progressing to the next part of the level. The next spider attempts to lure you into the way of another ball trap however you can see this coming from a long way off. I haven’t discussed these guys with the long tongues yet. You can treat them much like the other large yokai, but they take longer to kill because they’ll use that tongue to interrupt your attacks and keep you on your toes.
One on one, they aren’t too much of a problem, but two at a time is a tough fight. I know I said I wasn’t going to harp on about the shortcuts, but I can’t help but mention the ones here. You move through a series of houses and can eventually open a small door for a shortcut. But come on, really? My nan had a gate like this at the bottom of her garden and it didn’t stop me getting out when I was six years old and giving her a nervous thirty minutes. Is this really something that should stop a samurai? You have to collect four hiragumo fragments to reach the boss, however there are six in total. You get a trophy if you collect all of them. You then head inside a building but won’t able to access the shrine until you go up a level and drop back down.
You can then open a shortcut, but it’s a shortcut that serves no purpose. The boss fight is up the top of the stairs. Guess what type of boss it is? Joro Gumo is a large spider woman hybrid who just so happens to be a great illustration of why you should be careful before describing particular bosses as easy or hard. When I first strolled into the boss room, I had no elixirs on hand and presumably no hope in hell of winning the fight. Joro Gumo ended up being almost embarrassingly easy. Like the other spiders, she has a paralysis attack and a melee attack, but that was about it. I ended up dying what felt like a silly death, but I didn’t care. After all, with a full stash of elixirs, I knew I would beat her easily the next time. Except, I didn’t beat her the next time or the time after that. Watching the footage back, I’m still on the side of this being one of the easier fights, but I’m not going to pretend she didn’t give me any problems.
My big mistake was sticking to a low stance when I would have been much better off in high stance. Doing so well the first time, made me assume that I already had the correct strategy but I got lucky. Her big red arse is an obvious weak point, but she covers it up after a few hits. Eventually she uncovers it and you can go back for a few more.
She jumps around a lot in her second phase and covers the floor in spider webs to slow you down. This is another boss you’ll have to fight again later, so make sure you’re comfortable with her move set to make life easier on yourself. The next cut scene is entirely disconnected to what just happened. A man called Danjo gives you some tea and a bell which is the game’s way of introducing you to the Hidden Teahouse. This is a good time to talk about what you see on the map screen in a little more detail. The Hidden Teahouse is a shop of sorts, where you can exchange glory for items, gestures, or even the ability to play as new characters. Glory is a currency you earn from defeating revenants or playing co-op online. You can increase the amount of glory you earn by joining a clan.
You get a bonus like additional elixirs and the winning clan gets a glory bonus. I didn’t do any online play until post game, so I didn’t earn enough glory to go spending it on consumables. Playing as new characters is quite expensive, so if you want to do that, make sure you fight a lot of revenants and do some online stuff. The dojo is exactly what you’d expect it is. Initially you learn a few basic moves and then get some tough fights against your dojo master. This is also where you’ll learn ninjitsu and onmyo magic skills which I’ll be talking about soon. The blacksmith is obviously the place where you buy and sell gear, but you can also forge your own with materials you collect. I wouldn’t recommend spending a lot of time here.
The stuff you can buy is nearly always inferior to what you pick up during missions, and even what you forge only tends to be a minor improvement. The rarer the materials you use to forge a weapon or armor, the higher the chance you have of getting a legendary piece at the end of it. As these systems go, it’s fine, but I didn’t get much value from it. The blacksmith does have one very useful feature and that’s soul matching. Soul matching lets you upgrade a piece of gear to a higher level–and therefore higher base stats–by sacrificing a higher level piece of gear. This is useful if you have a set of gear that you want to keep using even when you’ve outleveled. Sets give you bonuses depending on how many pieces you’re wearing, so if you can wear six pieces of a set then it’s typically worth doing. Or you might want to sacrifice heavy armor to improve your light armor level. Soul matching also resets your weapon familiarity.
The more you use a weapon the better it becomes through the familiarity system, so resetting familiarity can be advantageous in the long run. The rarer gear also has unique stat bonuses so you might want to keep wearing a lower level piece of gear for as long as possible. Or perhaps you just like the look of certain gear and want to keep wearing it even though it’s underleveled. This soul matching gets pretty expensive later on, but it helped me keep a few set bonuses going longer than I would have otherwise. The final thing I’ll mention is the Twilight missions. These are the same missions you’ve already played, but they’re tougher.
Not just in a new game plus kind of way where all the enemies have bigger health bars and do more damage. It’s more about there being tougher enemies overall and different enemy placement. It’s still not enough of a difference for me to want to do an entire mission again, including the boss fight. The missions are tough and the rewards just aren’t worth it.
The Twilight missions have had some effort put into them so it’s not fair to say they should be ignored. I’ll discuss these again briefly near the end of the video. I’ve covered most of the important stuff now with the exception of my build which I’ll get to very soon. Back to the main campaign now though. For the next mission we set out to the Honnoji Temple, where it is snowing in the middle of June and a woman’s cries are echoing out all around.
There are large ice crystals blocking your path which can only be destroyed by killing some butterflies. The crystals disappear permanently, even if you die. Crystals like this pop up in a few other areas, but for now there’s not much else to see on this level. The source of the crying reveals herself at the end of the mission. Yuki Onna says she hasn’t had a visitor in quite some time and it’s not hard to work out why given the way she welcomes William. I beat this boss on my first try, but I’m not sure how.
The rifle ammunition on the floor was a not so subtle clue that she might be weak to gunfire and she is. Getting those shots in is another issue altogether. In addition to her ranged attacks, Yuki Onna can close the gap with a deadly charge attack that only has a blue flash to indicate when she’s going to launch herself at you. It’s easy enough to spot when you’re looking for it, but if you’re firing at the same time it’s easy to miss. I did what I could with a rifle, but I still needed a lot of extra help to finish her off. I used a fire talisman to do additional damage with my sword and then a fire-based living weapon. On top of all that, I used a new magic ability called sloth that I had just acquired. I have a lot to say about sloth, but for now I’ll just mention that it allows you to slow down enemies for a short amount of time.
I checked out some footage of this fight after finishing the game and it looks like quite a fun one if you try and stick to melee and don’t use fire. I slightly regret the way I powered through this boss to be honest. After the fight, Yuki Onno is free to be reunited with her dead lord. She believed in Lord Nobunaga’s dream of unifying the country but they were betrayed. Kelley brought her back to life with his magic and William has now set her free again.
William meets a man called Tenkai who telepathically tells him that he has secrets to share. The next destination is Mount Hiei, but before that I want to discuss my build and general attitude towards playing games like this. I stuck with the early choice I made to focus on sword and spear as my two weapons. About a quarter of the way through the game, you’re introduced to ninjutsu and onmyo magic, which I’m just going to refer to as magic to avoid constantly butchering that word.
I’m not going to attempt to describe every build you can create but I will describe the process I went through. Early on, I increased my body and heart attributes which directly correlate to spear and sword skills respectively. They also provide other benefits such as enhanced resistance to poison and paralysis. I put a few points into stamina and strength because early on I wanted the option to wear heavy armor. I soon changed my mind and decided to focus on light armor, however these points weren’t wasted because they still improve your agility. Strength also enhances your ability with axes. Skill gives you extra health and ability with rifles so I dumped a few points there, but I never intended for this to be a major stat to invest in.
Skipping to the end, we have Guardian Spirit which enhances the connection to your guardian, improving passive abilities and the living weapon. That just leaves dexterity and magic. Dexterity is for your ninjutsu skill and magic is obviously magic. You don’t have to use either ninjutsu or magic, but by sticking to light armor and largely ignoring strength and stamina, I had some skill points I could throw around so I opted for magic. The main thing that swung me towards magic was the ability to use elemental talismans without it being a consumable item. The magic abilities work in a similar way to the elixirs. After activating a shrine, you can use your selected magical skills a set number of times, initially two or three. They refresh the next time you use a shrine. This is perfect for the way I tend to play games like this, or really any game with a large amount of consumables.
I appreciate that this might be something peculiar to me, but I’m always a bit reluctant to use something like a fire talisman unless I know it’s going to be the difference between victory and defeat. I hate wasting a load of consumables only for a boss to get me with a one hit kill and it all to be for nothing. The magic skills get around some of that, so I was all in. You don’t get access to all the magic abilities right away. You have to up your magic to a certain level and then complete challenges using magic in the dojo. These tests aren’t all that easy either. I initially unlocked a few elemental abilities, both attack and defense, plus enemy attack and defense debuffs. These last two are incredibly useful, especially against bosses. Later on, I unlocked another ability. Sloth. The one I used in the last boss fight. This power does as you’d expect.
It slows down enemies and their attacks, except for projectiles. It even slows enemies down when they’re moving through the air, which looks a little odd. Anyway, if you combine sloth with defense and attack debuffs you can do some serious damage to bosses while being relatively free from risk for a few seconds. I used sloth quite a lot in my playthrough. You’ll definitely see me use it against bosses and occasionally against large yokai that I can’t be bothered to take the time to defeat normally.
This seemed like a logical thing to do. I’d chosen to invest skill points in magic so it would be silly not to use some of the more powerful magic skills. When I finally finished Nioh and went back to look at other people’s opinions on the game, I discovered that actually I hadn’t completed Nioh at all. I’d cheated. By using the sloth spell, I’d broken the game and personally offended a number of people and their extended families by playing the game in a way that they don’t think is appropriate.
I couldn’t possibly do a video on Nioh having used sloth because I didn’t play Nioh in the way it was meant to be played. I’d wasted 60 hours. Of course, that’s all nonsense, but I have to admit that those thoughts did flash through my mind. It’s amazing how upset people get if you don’t play a single-player game in the way they want you to play it. I should address sloth though because if I don’t I’m going to get even more snarky comments than usual, and it’s an interesting discussion because I’m a bit of a hypocrite.
First, when people say that sloth makes every boss easy, they’re being a bit silly. In addition to only having two uses per life, it doesn’t last very long and since you can’t stagger many bosses, they’re still going to attack you and you’ll have to back away. It helps, definitely, but it’s not a game breaker. Not to mention you leave yourself vulnerable when you execute the spell. If you invest heavily in magic, then you can make sloth last longer but you’re also doing less damage as you haven’t invested skill points in your weapons. I’ve seen videos of people who use sloth to make boss fights look incredibly easy, but I’ve also seen videos of people playing the game without getting hit or even dodging. It’s all easy if you know what you’re doing. Second, if it was a game breaker, there’s a good chance it would have been nerfed by now. Team Ninja has nerfed things that were being abused in unintended ways, such as living weapon which it used to be possible to keep going through the use of amrita stones.
If Team Ninja can nerf living weapon, it can nerf sloth. Do you think the developer is unaware that players might use sloth–a power that slows down enemy movements–to, well, slow down enemy movements? Third, I sacrificed other skills to invest in magic. In addition to not leveling up my weapons and health as much, I avoided Ninjutsu skills which allow you to carry more health items, throw shuriken, and wield large bombs. You can also inflict poison which does far more damage than other elements like fire. Those skills would be useful as well, but I sacrificed the ability to get those skills by going the magic route.
Fourth, where do you draw the line here? This is the tricky bit. Lots of things give you advantages in battle. I haven’t done any videos on the Soulsborne franchise, but I’ve watched a fair few. You know what I always see in comments? Well, yeah, but other than that. People telling the player what they should have done to beat a boss that they dared complain about being too difficult. For example, if someone complains about the Father Gascoigne fight they will be aggressively told that they should have used the music box to weaken him.
Or you should use fire paper against the Bloodstarved Beast. Or you should use numbing mist to stop Vicar Amelia from healing. And so on. Imagine that I went off on a huge rant against the Vicar Amelia boss and complained that I dealt less damage than she was able to regain and then could never beat it. Well, for a start, I might want to upgrade my weapons a bit because you should be able to beat Vicar Amelia without numbing mist. However, people would also call me an idiot for not using the item that is provided to you in the level for the express purpose of using against the boss.
Best of all, I remember watching one playthrough of Bloodborne where viewers and commenters were screaming at the player for complaining that the game was too hard when they hadn’t leveled up their weapon enough. A few hours later, they were complaining that he’d picked the most powerful weapon in the game and had now made it too easy. The effort you’re expected to go to to manage the difficulty level in games like this to please every person on the internet always baffles me. The beauty of the internet is that you’re damned by morons if you do and damned by idiots if you don’t. So after all that, why did I say I’m being a hypocrite? Well, I mentioned earlier that I don’t summon help in my playthrough. That’s because I believe it would make the game too easy. So, yeah, I’m basically creating rules for my playthrough even though I’ve just said that shouldn’t be necessary.
Fortunately, I enjoyed using sloth enough that I don’t regret the decision, although I’ve been playing around with a ninjutsu build in new game plus and it’s also a lot of fun. In other words, choose whatever the hell you think looks most interesting. End of rant and on to Mount Hiei. I want to note here that I’m about the right level for this mission. More on that later. Mount Hiei acts as a barrier to keep fiends out of the capital, however the barrier is at risk because Kelley has been planting spikes in the ground as part of his search for amrita. These spikes are much like the ice barriers we saw in the last level, except these ones can be destroyed by attacking them directly.
The spikes are connected to nearby yokai, so the best tactic is just to run in and destroy them before you take too many hits. The spikes cover holes in the ground which lead into underground caverns which have a new enemy–mages. I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting to see mages. They’re so easy to kill that I’m not entirely sure what their attack patterns are. They fall over dead when they’re on the receiving end of so much as an evil glare. This is another level where I found lots of loot in the name of exploration when all I was trying to do was find the main path. When you make it to the top of the mountain, you find Kelley drawing power from an amrita stone. Tenkai shows up out of nowhere and pleads with Kelley to stop before he releases the fiends.
Kelley is unmoved by the protest. He wants to destroy Kyoto and annihilate Lord Ieyasu to throw Japan into chaos. After Kelley disappears, the fiends break free, but Nekomata–your cat buddy–sacrifices himself and takes the hit. He turns into a large beast and tells you to kill him to destroy all the fiends. And so begins a boss that is about as imaginative as its name, White Tiger. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the boss, it’s just an inferior version of one we’ve already met. Nue also had a laser blast from its mouth. It also used its paws from some melee attacks and spins around to hit you with its tail. It also does the weird thing where it spins on a pin. Instead of a lightning attack White Tiger has a projectile attack, but yeah, it’s much the same. I don’t have a lot to say about this boss. Once it’s over, Fuku uses the spirit stone to repair the barrier and your cat buddy Nekomata says goodbye, leaving behind another feather.
We’ve got enough for a comfy pillow at this point. I suppose I’m supposed to feel bad about the cat sacrifice, but it’s difficult since we’ve exchanged all of about four words together. With that done, we’re off to another section of the map. William is tasked with protecting Lord Ieyasu which requires heading to Suruga. Hanzo knows of a secret ninja route to get there however on the way he suspects an ambush and recommends an alternate route through a mansion. This ninja mansion has secret doors which you can identify by spotting the scratch marks on the floor. The scratch marks mean the doors aren’t all that secret, but whatever.
It’s interesting enough the first time but you end up having to open loads of these damn things and it slows you down. Call me crazy, but secret doors should be used to hide secrets, not the main route you have to take to the end of the level. Worst of all, there are more doors like this on the boss run and I died on this boss a lot, so perhaps that’s why I’m a little salty about these doors.
There’s also a spike trap on this level, however the cool bit is when you destroy a dressing screen and part of the level turns upside down to reveal new areas and loot you couldn’t previously reach. Otherwise, the level is a largely forgettable maze of corridors. There’s a lot of ninjas, but those fights are incredibly disappointing. The ninjas are fast, as you might expect, but they’re incredibly weak. Even when they ambush you from the bushes, all you need to do is turn around and slash at them until they crumble in front of you like a weak argument from a Star Wars prequel apologist.
The level is redeemed through its boss, Giant Toad. That’s actually it’s name, not a description. Team Ninja really needs some help with boss names. We’ve had Great Centipede, White Tiger and now Giant Toad. While those other two bosses were a bit shit, the fight with Giant Toad is awesome. Just look at this guy. He’s smoking a pipe which blows out yokai corruption although the arena is big enough that you won’t have to worry about it too much.
This is another boss I died on a lot, but that’s because I took the wrong approach. If you try to stay at distance, you’re going to have a tough time. His charges hit hard, although they are quite easy to dodge once you have the timing down. They’re also well telegraphed. However, when you’re at range, he’ll throw out a lot of bombs which can be tricky to avoid and also deal fire damage. Oh, and he can flick out his tongue for a grab attack. All of this is easily avoided if you remember the same lessons you learned on the first boss, Onryoki. Get in close and try to stay behind him. Obvious, right? Giant Toad will jump occasionally and swing both his sword and pipe, but his large size means these attacks are easily spotted and avoided. Giant Toad gives a surprisingly touching speech on his death and Hanzo references his ‘master.’ It turns out Giant Toad used to be Hanzo’s father before becoming a yokai.
This is a great example of the leaps the story takes between cut scenes. It would have been a lot more interesting to know about this conflict before the fight instead of just being told afterwards. Hanzo blames Shima Sakon for being the one who did this, which is presumably a reference to his father becoming a frog. The next level is Memories of Death Lilies and you’re going there because lilies are blooming out of season which is weird I guess.
This level illustrates why the game’s idea of exploration and level design doesn’t work for me. My preference–and I accept that this is a personal preference–is for the main path to be fairly clear so that the player can mainline their way through the level if they want. Should they step off the beaten path they can then expect to be rewarded for taking the additional time to explore and kill optional enemies. When the main route isn’t clear, you end up making fifty fifty choices and often having to backtrack to make sure you’ve explored all the options.
This is a good example. On my first time playing this level, I stumbled upon a trap with an enemy standing next to a large boulder just waiting to push it down the hill and presumably squash me. This should have been satisfying. A reward for my exploration. Except I got lucky. I could just as easily have gone the other way and been squashed by the rock. Otherwise, the level is varied enough to maintain interest. Oh, except for the fucking water. There’s a couple of enemies we haven’t discussed yet. These adorable little guys are One Eyed Imps and they’re a lot more deadly than they look. If they hit you with their tongue, they absorb amrita from you and if they absorb enough they will turn into a One Eyed Oni.
You also get attacked by umbrellas here. That’s actually what they are, I’m not just being facetious. They can shoot paralytic needles but you can easily charge them down and finish them off with one combo. Remember when I mentioned the Fucking Fire Wheel Pieces of Shit and I said they were one of my two most hated enemies. Meet the other. Fucking Flying Pieces of Shit. Seriously, that’s actually what they’re called, I looked it up on the… okay, fine, they’re Raven Tengu. They’re weak against lightning if you happen to have that buff on you, and they have a wind attack that you might want to protect against. Other than that, they’re just like the Wheel Monks in that they always tempt me in for too many hits and then deal a crap tonne of damage. I started using sloth on these things just because the fights ended up dragging on far too long otherwise.
I had a lightning ability, however I rarely had it available whenever I happened to stumble upon these things. Sod’s law, I guess. Eventually you find a key and make it to the boss arena for your showdown with the appropriately named Ogress. There isn’t much room for error in this fight. She has one hit kill attacks and can lock you into combos that are basically the same thing.
Those claws are absolutely deadly and she has a grab attack that will take nearly all your health. The good news is that it’s not all that difficult to avoid these hits. You can duck under her swipes and hack away at her side and her grab attack is telegraphed with yokai pollution appearing on her hands just before she hits you. It wasn’t until I finished the game and saw some footage of this fight online that I noticed the Ogress has a second phase where she grows flowers on the ground which form small pools of yokai corruption. I fought this boss a few times but she never did this against me. I’ve no idea why. I just got lucky I guess. I finished her off with a living weapon, but once you get the attacks down you shouldn’t have too many problems. After the fight, Okatsu shows up again and decides that you’re different from other samurai because you’re in search of someone you love.
That someone just happens to be a fairy, but William keeps quiet about that bit. Okatsu now gives you her story. She’s Lord Ieyasu’s daughter, although they don’t have a great father-daughter relationship and you’re about to maybe reconsider being on his side. Ieyasu is ruthless. He killed his wife to protect the family name and killed his son to protect his own life. You’re never expressly told this, but the Ogress is actually Lord Ieyasu’s dead wife and she was weeping at the burial chamber of her son. It’s another moment that might have had a lot more resonance if I hadn’t had to look that up in the memories section afterwards. Okatsu ran away when Ieyasu arranged a marriage for her and she trained to become a ninja. The lilies and yokai around here are supposedly the result of a deep grudge against Ieyasu. Okatsu refuses to go with you because she doesn’t want to meet her father.
Understandable enough. We finally get to meet Lord Ieyasu although by now you should know not to expect any proper introduction. William tells Ieyasu his story and in return he tells William he is determined to create a world without war. It’s hard to sympathize with him now you know what he did to his wife and son mind you. The revelation about his backstory might have been better served after we meet him. We could get to know Ieyasu and believe in his cause before getting the big reveal.
As it is, we already know the truth about him at our first meeting. Kelley is at Edo castle which is our next destination. The samurai are under Kelley’s control thanks to some purple crystals dotted around the level. Kelley commands the samurai to kill each other and they do. He takes Ieyasu’s family hostage and notices Okatsu’s guardian spirit.
Presumably this is enough for him to realize that she’s important. The next level is an attempt to break in to Edo Castle and it’s the closest the game comes to telling you a story through the level itself because we do actually break into the castle by moving through a set of flooded dungeons and cellars. The water here isn’t poisonous, but it does fill up a meter under your life bar. When the meter is full, William will get sick if he tries to consume elixirs or other items which leaves you open to an attack. It’s an interesting mechanic that I didn’t see get repeated anywhere else in the game. The purple crystals work in a similar way to the yellow ones.
If you destroy the crystals, the enemies who are possessed by those crystals will collapse and disappear. After making it through the sewers, you open the doors to the inside of the castle walls. There are a few enemies here, but it’s much easier to destroy the crystals so that’s likely what you’ll do. When you enter the boss arena, you’re greeted by Honda Tadakatsu who has purple eyes and is standing close to purple crystals. No prizes for guessing what you have to do here. I quickly destroyed two out of the three crystals before he got a quick hit in and killed me.
He’s incredibly powerful, but it seemed safe to assume that he would weaken once I destroyed the crystals. As an aside, I think you can destroy one of the crystals from outside the boss room, although I’m not 100% sure because they don’t come back after you die. Honda is so quick that I didn’t even make it to the third crystal the next time.
I recommend you actually go to the effort of dodging his attacks and waiting for an opening before running to the crystal. Genius advice, right? After destroying the third crystal, Honda collapses and that’s it. The boss fight is over. You can fight Honda separately in a sub mission, although it’s still not a tough fight. A better approach might have been to make one of the crystals unreachable so that Honda’s possession gets weaker after you destroy two of the crystals but he can still put up a fight. There’s another reason why this fight might have been made deliberately easy. It’s another one of those levels that doesn’t end with the boss fight. Honda is ashamed he let himself be controlled so easily and asks William to kill him. William refuses of course, and we continue on into the castle. This is one of the longer stretches of time without reaching a shrine and I managed to lose some amrita here after trying to take on a few too many samurai in narrow corridors.
After reaching a shrine, you climb up through the castle and meet the next boss–Okatsu. She’s also possessed, but this time there are no crystals to destroy. You’re going to have to fight her. If you ever want an example of how impatience is not a virtue in games like this then me fighting Okatsu is it. She’s not that difficult to fight. She charges at you and then follows up with a second attack just when you’re about to go in for the kill. When she’s not flying through the air, she’s flipping around doing a lot of weak and easily avoided melee attacks. The problem comes when you try and do some damage. She’s quick, and has a habit of bouncing away from all your attacks until you run out of ki. She even seems to teleport short distances if you’re about to hit her. If you resist the urge to go into long combo chains and wait patiently then you should be able to get a few hits in. While low stance might seem like the obvious option here, high stance can also work fairly well because she avoids most hits anyway.
If you do make contact, you do a decent amount of damage. Or you can just flail around like me. Okatsu has a guardian spirit but instead of summoning a living weapon, she summons a pair of comfy slippers that make her a bit faster on her feet. I suspect if you do this fight properly, it ends up looking like a glorious dance, as William and Okatsu move gracefully around the arena like a couple who love and hate each other in equal measure. The way I fought Okatsu was… well, it’s more like the sort of dancing I see in the mirror as I remember why I don’t go to nightclubs anymore. Once you defeat Okatsu, the possession somehow breaks and Kelley shows up and taunts William with his guardian spirit. William goes for him, but it’s just an illusion. The real Kelley appears and grabs Okatsu, holding her hostage in front of him. Ieyasu shows up and Kelley offers to let Okatsu go if Ieyasu takes her place.
We all know how Ieyasu feels about family loyalty, so it’s no surprise that he refuses. Okatsu slips a knife out of somewhere and uses it to attack Kelley. Hanzo shows up and Okatsu ends up going off the side of the roof. William jumps after her because apparently he can actually fucking swim now. It looks a bit silly for William to jump after her like this, but Okatsu does have her hands tied, so it makes sense that she might need some help. What doesn’t make a lot of sense is that she has fallen from the top floor and somehow cleared all the tiers of the castle that protrude out below her. Honda shows up and Kelley disappears once again. We’re now ready to move onto the penultimate section of the map. Before starting the next mission, let’s do a quick level check. Despite having done nearly every sub mission, I’m currently twenty levels below the recommended mission level of 96. You head to Fushimi Castle, which is where the previous Overlord died. Ieyasu used to have it under his control, but after he left an army of 40,000 made a move to claim it.
A new yokai is introduced in the cut scene. It looks appropriately intimidating, but you face one immediately upon starting the level and it’s not all that much harder than other yokai. It’s also a bit dumb. One of them set himself on fire in an attempt to reach me. Some effort has been made to make this feel like a real battlefield with blockades set up and archers standing on the appropriate vantage points. Obviously, there aren’t 40,000 enemies to tear through, but I try to maintain a degree of realism in my expectation for video game battles.
You make it inside the castle which is also on fire and keep moving up until you reach the boss. Saika Magoichi greets you by saying that you need to die. The “Saika” part of his name is actually a title of sorts because he’s head of the Saika clan. Oh, and he has wings. This boss is another example of why I’m so reluctant to describe bosses as easy or hard.
I beat this boss on the first go, but I can easily see how it could go wrong if you can’t get into a rhythm. The bombs he throws down are easy enough to dodge but he follows them up with a shot from his rifle. Fortunately, if you stay underneath him you should be able to avoid the worst of this. In addition, this is the only enemy I’m aware of who can throw off the lock on camera whenever he flies up into the air. I assume this is to stop the camera getting awkwardly stuck on walls in a relatively cramped space, however this doesn’t happen with Hino Enma even when you fight her in close quarters later on. If you see a flash of his knife then it means he’s about to launch into a melee attack. I beat him on the first attempt after staggering him with some combos, however I know for a fact that this boss isn’t easy because I fought him a second time in a sub mission later, and holy crap, that fight was hard.
He didn’t have any new attacks that I noticed, but he was a lot more aggressive with the ones he did have. I haven’t counted, but the second fight against this guy might be the one that took me more attempts than any other in the game. Saika doesn’t die. Instead William gets surrounded, but a man called Mototada shows up and insists on fighting them all to the death while William gets to safety so that he can kill Kelley. Mototada is another real life figure who did actually die at the defense of this castle which is quite cool. Again, I didn’t actually know this at the time so it’s another scene that fell rather flat. I appreciate that part of this is just my lack of knowledge of Japanese history, but it would have been nice to get a little more help following parts like this.
On the next mission, we finally get to experience a battlefield and see the war taking place. It’s not a particularly active battlefield but it is a battlefield nonetheless. This is another level that has two bosses, and it’s not long before you meet the first one. Otani Yoshitsugu is a good example of a boss for whom sloth and debuffs work really well. The debuffs are even more useful than sloth because his energy blast is tricky to avoid. It hits you about one third of a second after the flash that telegraphs it, but it has a wide arc, so you need to do more than just dodge once to avoid it.
He often charges at you and misses which gives you a few seconds to rain hits down on him from behind. This is another boss I beat first time, but to do so I used all my magic and a living weapon, so read into that what you will. We then get a cutscene showing Mitsunari refusing to concede the fight despite the loss of his generals. Shima Sakon gives a nice little speech and challenges you to bring the fight.
The map opens up a lot here, or it least it pretends to. There’s still a lot of invisible walls, but it does at least feel like you’re on a real battlefield. A lot of the enemy soldiers ignore you which is either because they’re too busy shooting at the enemy or they have terrible AI. I’m just going to use my imagination and pretend that they’re oblivious to William because he’s snuck behind enemy lines. You can spend time taking out every single soldier or just run to the next boss which isn’t far away.
Now we fight Shima Sakon, Mitsunari’s main general. You watch him tear other people down and then it’s your turn. When I talked about the sloth skill earlier, I mentioned that people normally expect you to use items to your advantage and criticize you if you don’t. If you don’t use any items, Sakon is a damn tough boss. He fights with a spear in high stance and yet can attack at the speed of low stance. He also has his own guardian spirit which is much more powerful than a pair of fluffy rabbit slippers. His lightning attack can be a one hit kill however like other living weapons, it doesn’t last forever. So yeah, if you try to take this guy on without any special items you’re going to struggle. Fortunately, if you have a healthy supply of water pots you won’t have too many problems. Water pots create pools of yokai corruption to slow ki regain and if you hit the enemy with one they’ll take a huge hit to their stamina.
With a few good throws, you’ll be able to do special attack after special attack on Sakon and take him down without too many problems. Is this cheating along the lines of sloth? Honestly, I’ve no idea at this point. I feel like using the resources at your disposal is legitimate, but I can’t keep up with the internet hive mind. Sloth is bad, water pots are good. Poison is cheesing but fire is okay. Honestly, I’ve no idea any more. Sakon asks William to kill him after explaining that Mitsunari used most of his fortune to keep Sakon by his side. William refuses to kill him, but does take his spear. Kelley pops up again and offers to save Sakon if Mitsunari is prepared to sacrifice 300 of his men to a spell. Mitsunari agrees. Kelley’s spell creates a giant beast call Gasha Dokuro. At no point do we see Sakon again, so I don’t understand why Kelley said he could save him.
Maybe he was lying, but I’m not sure why. Let’s skip straight to the next mission and get up close and personal with Gasha Dokuro. The stakes are raised pretty drastically here. It’s no longer a battle for Japan, but for the fate of humanity. Most of this level consists of a huge open crater where the beast stands around wailing his arms and generally drawing attention to himself.
You can run straight to the boss if you want. It won’t take long, but you’ll have a tough fight. This level has another crystal based gimmick which will help you with the boss. Early on, Tenkai gives you a spike to destroy the crystals. Destroying the crystals creates spots which charge your living weapon and once you’ve destroyed all three there will be plenty of them in the boss arena. Gasha Dokuro is pretty easy once you know what you’re doing. First, you want to pick an ankle to hack away at until it’s destroyed.
Gasha Dokuro then screams in pain and rests his head on a ledge at a convenient height for you to attack with your living weapon. You then do the same for the next ankle and thanks to the pools that recharge your living weapon, it should be ready to go again by the time he rests his head on the ledge. Next you’ll need to drop down a level and bait out his hands to do the same again. And that’s it. It’s not particularly difficult, but I like it when bosses have a certain mechanic or trick to beating them. It makes a nice break from pure skill fights once in a while. Once you’ve done your part, Tenkai shows up and does some Gandalf-level shit to finish him off. Before moving on to the final section of the game, I want to very briefly talk about the game’s presentation and graphic’s options. I’m playing Nioh at 720p and 60fps on the PS4, however you can choose to play at 1080p and 30 fps if you prefer.
The footage in the background now is the game running at 1080p 30fps. I much prefer playing at 60fps even if the graphics have to take a bit of a hit. If you have a PS4 Pro, you can play at 1080p 60fps or upwards of 1440p at 30fps. Both the PS4 and the PS4 Pro have a variable mode which tries to find a balance between high resolution and frame rate but ends up with a rough mixture that I couldn’t ever imagine playing for any length of time. Team Ninja should be commended for including these options instead of forcing players to accept one of the other.
With the introduction of the PS4 Pro, I hope these kinds of graphical options become more common. And now let’s move on to the final act. It’s time for the final attack on Kelley and Lord Mitsunari. Two men show up randomly in this cutscene: Lord Naomasa and Lord Kobayakawa who are both generals for Ieyasu. You can fight Naomasa later in a sub mission, but for now we don’t know much about him. In real life, he made his units dress in red and as such they became known as the red devils. William heads to Mount Ibuki because there are reports of large spirit stones and therefore Kelley might be there.
You move through a mountain and then along the cliff until you come to a bridge which leads to a small wooded area crawling with yokai. There’s a save point near the base of a large set of steps which probably tells you all you need to know about what’s at the top. We now come face to face with Lord Mitsunari. Mitsunari wants Kelley to resurrect Hideyoshi, the former overlord, but Kelley has other plans. He transforms Mitsunari into a beast so that Mitsunari can buy him some time and then heads off to resurrect Oda Nobunaga instead. Nobunaga is the overlord who died about twenty years previously and was known as a skilled but absolutely ruthless ruler. This is a tough fight. Mitsunari starts off with a wind attack but if you’re quick you can charge him down and lock him in for a few hits.
He has a grab attack that’s tough to avoid unless you notice the flash that happens about a second before he hits you. That’s enough time to get out of the way so long as you know what you’re looking for, but I find signals like that quite hard to spot in the heat of the moment. He shoots wind projectiles out in all directions that I had a hell of a time avoiding. There’s even a flying snake which I assume is a gift from Kelley. This is a good example of how the sloth skill doesn’t make bosses a pushover because it doesn’t affect projectiles like this. In fact, it can make things quite tough because the boss is moving slower but the projectile comes out at the usual speed.
It throws you off if you aren’t careful. There’s plenty of challenge here regardless of what skills you use. Mitsunari’s major weakness is a tendency to lock himself into long combo chains, so if you avoid the first hit you can attack him while he finishes off his own set of flashy moves. This boss is tough and I don’t have any great advice for defeating him. I used talismans for resistance to wind and lightning buffs for my weapon, but it still took me about ten tries. Tenkai shows up after the fight and seriously, how many times have post-boss cutscenes started with someone showing up like this? Anyway, Tenkai shows up and resurrects Mitsunari. Tenkai then reveals himself to be none other than… wait for it… Akechi Mitsuhide.
I know right. Mind blown. Just in case you somehow missed the nonexistent references to Akechi Mitsuhide, well, he’s the man who killed Oda Nobunaga many years ago. At this point, I honestly don’t think I’d be following this story even if it were based on English history. Frankly, it’s so badly told that it could be my own fucking family and I’d still have to look up who’s who.
William continues the quest to stop Kelley who now plans to resurrect the previous overlord as part of his whole taking over the world plot. But first William needs to kill some more yokai. Remnants of Lord Mitsunari’s army are holed up in Sawayama Castle and aren’t ready to give up the fight. In addition, Mitsunari’s grudge has fueled the yokai who are terrorizing Ieyasu’s men and destroying morale. This is another level where I uncovered all the secrets in the process of trying to find my way to the end.
It’s a bit of a maze, however it does at least feel like a real place where people might have lived. A bit more effort has been put into this one. There’s a set of jail cells at the bottom and a spiral staircase leading up to a set of rooms that actually have books and tables in them. Not many, but enough that I can believe this room might have been used by people. On the other hand, there’s also a boulder trap on this staircase and I have no idea how they got that bloody rock up there. You catch up to Kelley who is doing some mystical stuff with the body of the deceased Overlord, but they both disappear leaving your to face off against another boss. A boss who happens to be one of the easiest in the game.
Obsidian Samurai is, like you, a foreigner in Japan. Unlike you, he came here on a slave ship. The name Obsidian Samurai is a little on the nose however he is a real life historical figure so it is what it is. For most of the fight, this boss is incredibly slow. He swings his axe around menacingly but you have to deliberately walk into it to get hit. I did. I was, uh, just testing how much damage he did. I’m not using sloth in this fight, but I wish I had. It would be interesting to see just how slow he can get. He does bring out a sword at one point and becomes vaguely threatening, but just as you’re getting a decent fight, he puts it away again. Many of the fights against revenants were tougher than this, as were the dojo fights, and I’m not exaggerating. The Obsidian Samurai worked for Nobunaga and is full of guilt for not being able to save his master. He was seduced by Kelley’s power, but doesn’t think his master should be resurrected.
In case you forgot that your side of the war isn’t all that innocent, you get a short scene where Lord Ieyasu talks about destruction in the name of peace. We’re near the end now. There’s only one major level left, but it’s a big one with three new bosses and a few old ones. It’s also the best level in the game both in terms of the visuals and the enjoyment I got from playing it. Lord Oda Nobunaga has been resurrected, so William goes into battle with Hanzo and Okatsu at his side. He literally goes into battle with them this time. They don’t disappear as soon as the cutscene finishes. The level design is absurd, but frankly, I prefer absurd to having to push down tiny ass ladders and open gates that don’t even look childproof. With Hanzo and Okatsu at your side, you won’t struggle with any of the fights and I’m fine with that. It feels like a reward and let’s face it, the real challenge is soon to come.
You have to move through the level in a strict order, but eventually you get to a large door and walk through to stand at the bottom of a huge path that leads to a castle. Can you guess what’s going to happen here? Yeah, William heads up the path but it breaks behind him so he has to go it alone. You make it into a large room with four ominous looking doors. Behind each one is a boss you fought earlier in the game. This probably isn’t the second time you’re fighting them either. It was at least the fourth time I’d fought Onryoki, the fourth time I’d fought Nue, and the third time I’d fought Hino Enma. However, it’s not a boss rush mode so you can beat them one at a time and then go back to a shrine to stock up. Jora Gumo, Onryoki, and Nue were all quite easy fights at this point and I defeated them first time.
They do have bigger health bars and do more damage than they did previously, but by this point in the game you should have learned a thing or two and be equipped with a decent stash of ninjutsu or magic skills to prepare for the fight. Hino Enma was tougher and took me a few goes. Her charge attack felt so much harder to dodge this time around. I never got the timing down like I did in previous fights with her which is odd because I had a fair bit of confidence coming into this fight from our previous encounters. Once all four bosses are dead, you face off against Overlord Oda Nobunaga. He’s more style than substance. He can use every type of elemental damage but if you avoid the lightning strikes you probably won’t struggle too much. I recommended a long range weapon like a spear to make sure you get a few hits in after his combos. He’s fairly relentless in his attacks at times, but as a result he’ll run out of stamina occasionally. You don’t need to get him down to zero health because the fight stops at about the 25% point.
This time there’s actually a good reason for the fight to be interrupted by a cutscene. Nobunaga gets the upper hand in the fight and is about to kill William. Kelley turns up to watch and gives the kill order. Nobunaga refuses and walks off, giving a speech about how bad an idea it was to bring him back. We don’t see him again, so don’t get your hopes up thinking he’s going to help you out at some point. We go straight from this to another boss fight and this time it’s with Kelley.
For once he doesn’t just disappear. It seems the general consensus on this fight is that it’s quite an easy one but it took me about five goes to get the timing down. He can use that snake as a projectile and sometimes it will circle in on you instead of just flying straight past. If he slams his fist into the ground that means you can expect a snake up your ass sometime soon.his most deadly attack is a stab that he does after vanishing and appearing next to you.
As with most of the bosses, you can’t really criticize these attacks for not being well-telegraphed so it’s just a case of learning the timings. As with many human bosses, Kelley is susceptible to running out of stamina so if you let him do his thing for long enough then he’ll give you an opening to do some pretty flashy moves of your own. Given Kelley’s magical capabilities, you should know that this won’t be the end of Kelley. Once you’ve defeated him, he pulls out the amrita again and says he now has enough anyway. He uses the amrita to summon the world’s most feared yokai, Yamata no Orochi. I initially thought this was a dragon, but apparently it’s a snake or serpent. I’ve tried hard throughout this video not to describe any of the bosses as cheap or badly designed, even though there were a few that had me into the double figures for attempts. I’m going to break that streak now because I don’t think Yamata no Orochi is a good boss. He’s an impressive boss to look at and there’s nothing wrong with the phases but the execution ends up being far too frustrating.
It’s great spectacle of a fight, but I didn’t particularly enjoy it. Of course, there are plenty of people out there who can beat it without even dodging and without taking a single hit. Not me. You start off facing a single serpent head and don’t have to do much more than avoid a laser attack from it’s mouth. Once you’ve defeated the first head, two more pop up and you have to do the same thing again, making sure that you avoid attacks from the other one while you’re attacking.
This is easier said than done because it’s hard to tell exactly when your attacks are going to make contact with the neck of the serpent. It’s also hard to keep both in view, even if you unlock the camera, so you’re nearly always going to take a bit of damage. It’s when one of these two heads is defeated that I felt the boss became a little cheap.
You still need to finish off the second head, however you’re now open to attacks from heads on either side. These attacks are tricky to keep an eye on because you’re limited in how much you can move the camera on this roof. Occasionally, the head on the left will drop down and allow you to get some hits in, however you still have two heads firing crap at you so it becomes a bit of a shit show. I’m also pretty convinced that these attacks–especially the poison breath–clip through walls because sometimes I got hit when it shouldn’t have been possible. I never got this section of the fight down, so I would just go for it and hope I didn’t get hit. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. Once both of these serpent heads are down, you’ll face off against 6 separate heads, one for each elemental power.
The good news is that there are convenient crystals to hide behind. If you stand in a precise spot behind the crystals, you can usually avoid all of the attacks. It’s tough, but doable, unless the attack just clips through the crystal which did happen on occasion. You can wait it out behind a crystal until there’s a gap in the attacks and then run up and attack the nearest head.
Once again, you’re largely at the mercy of other attacks while you slash away just hoping that you don’t get hit. Occasionally, a dragon head will lunge for you and end up shattering the crystal before falling over and leaving itself open for a few attacks. You should use high stance here to eliminate it as quickly as possible. I have no idea what triggers the dragon heads to shatter the crystals. Sometimes I was able to kill them before they did it, while other times they did it before I even attacked.
To avoid getting surrounded, you’re best off starting with either the one on the far left or the far right and then working your way around. At least that way you won’t get attacked from both sides. I went to the far left then the far right for some reason, but that also works. When there’s only one head left, Yamata No Orochi’s health bar fills up again and this final head can do every type of elemental damage. As you might have noticed, this boss fight is quite long by comparison to the others. This part of the fight felt like an absolute nightmare, but I also didn’t make all that many attempts. It just takes a long time to get to this stage so any deaths here are all the more painful. Once at this phase, I kept wasting my living weapon, because it’s so bloody difficult to judge when you can make contact with the boss.
In addition, just to add to my frustration, I got this boss down to a sliver of health twice and then died in my desperation to get a few hits in. This was doubly stupid because I could have just shot him with my fairly powerful rifle. After these two deaths I had to go for a walk and when I came back I finally defeated him. I almost–almost–forgot to turn on my capture card, however fortunately I caught the last minute of the fight. I can’t even imagine the frustration of not being able to beat this boss and then having to work through the entire level again. Make sure you have a few hours free for this level, or leave your system on and hope there isn’t a power cut. I felt a wave of relief as he disappeared from view, but he wasn’t actually dead. You have to run up to the head and get a final stab in for a cinematic conclusion. And then you’re done. The yokai dies and the building collapses.
William jumps into the sea, which presumably kills him instantly because he can’t swim. When you regain control, you can pick up some divine gear which is lying around and then confront Kelley. There’s a brief animated scene which shows us that Kelley was working under the command of a man known as Sir Dee, who is using the amrita for experiments. I imagine most players will already know that Kelley was not the ultimate bad guy due to the scene right back at the beginning in the Tower of London. However, listening in to that conversation was totally optional, so there’s a good chance that people missed it or just forgot about it. William kills Kelley in a cutscene. I’d liked to have had control for this bit because this guy pissed me off throughout the entire game. William finally gets his original Guardian Spirit back. Saorise explains who she is and how she came into being. This information would have been more interesting at the beginning of the game, not the end.
William walks off, leaving Hanzo and Okatsu behind him. She looks a little disappointed to see him leave. Lord Ieyasu gave Hanzo an order to kill William once Kelley was defeated. He wants to keep the secret of amrita safe and isn’t too keen on people knowing that they received help from a foreigner. Hanzo refuses to kill William and tells Ieyasu that he did it anyway. Ieyasu sees through the lie, but I’m not entirely sure he cares.
Lord Mitsunari is executed with William watching on and we’re told that Ieyasu formed the Edo Shogunate which reigned peacefully for 250 years. That would appear to rule out a sequel set in Japan but there’s a clue later that conflicts with this. Because, believe it or not, we still aren’t done. A lengthy epilogue that takes William back to the Tower of London in 1603 to deal with a bit of unfinished business, namely Lord Dee.
William uses the shapeshifting ability from Kelley’s guardian spirit Uroboros. The Tower is pretty easy right up until you reach Lord Dee’s experimentation chamber. You won’t be surprised to find out that these large yokai burst out of their tubes when you get too close. So long as you don’t go charging in, you should be able to fight one at a time.
The tricky bit comes afterwards. The next room has a load of tubes filled with guys who look a little familiar. This is how Kelley was born. He’s the result of an experiment. Three of these experiments burst out of their tubes, although once again you can probably make it so that you only get one or two of them attacking you at once. They aren’t anywhere near as tough as Kelley, but dealing with two or three of them at the same time isn’t easy. The clones leave behind a key which is odd. I’m not sure why clones are grown with keys on them. You can also fight Derrick the Executioner again in this level by the way. I didn’t enjoy most of the boss re-fights, but I never got to defeat Derrick properly the first time, so it was good to get another stab at him. A cutscene begins when we approach the boss at the top of the stairs. Sir Dee used to be eye for the Queen. He now has enough amrita to take over the world and asks William to join him. William draws his sword in reply and the floor raises to take us up to a large boss arena.
Sir Dee and Kelley are both real people by the way. Sir Dee did actually work for Queen Elizabeth and Kelley claimed to be able to turn basic metal into gold through magical means. Sir Dee draws in power from the amrita to become Hundred Eyes. This is a boss that is so nearly awesome and yet ended up pissing me off quite a lot. It’s relatively easy at first. You get behind him and hack away, taking care to avoid the tentacles that can pretty much one hit kill you if you’re not careful. Hundred Eyes has the usual assortment of slashes and jump projectile attacks that can be avoided without too many problems, but it’s when he summons the eyes that things get interesting. These red eyes can replenish his health and also kill you which is a nice double whammy. You don’t get much of a chance to dodge their laser attacks and if you get hit by one there’s a good chance you’ll get hit by another two or three until you’re dead.
Worst of all, these things can shoot through Hundred Eyes to get at you, so even if you’re carefully keeping an eye on all of them–excuse the pun–you still can’t see the attacks coming. You can destroy these eyes with one hit, but getting that hit in can be tricky as they bob up and down, often going right over your attacks. The first batch is manageable, but he calls in another lot in his final phase and holy hell this gets hectic.
The only consolation is that these killing these red eyes help charge your living weapon which you can then use to take him out. Which I did. The final cutscene shows you cutting Sir Dee’s eyes. William then gets a vision of Hanzo in battle and heads back to Japan. Presumably this is a nice bit of sequel bait although it seemingly conflicts with what we were told about Japan having 250 years of peace. But anyway, now we are actually done. And I’m exhausted. Before getting into sequel ideas, I’m going to talk for a bit about some of the problems with the game’s combat, because while I think it’s a lot of fun, I did notice some issues that are worth discussing.
Coming from Bloodborne, one of the first things I noticed in Nioh is the lack of invincibility frames. In Bloodborne, you’re encouraged to spam the dodge button a lot because your roll contains a large amount of iframes. There’s no blocking in Bloodborne although you can do a form of parry with your gun if you get the timing right. From my limited experience with the other Souls games, even though you can block, you’re usually better off dodging due again to the generous invincibility frames and the stamina hit you get from blocking. It’s also hard or even impossible to raise your shield when the enemy has already started a combo. Nioh has far fewer invincibility frames and in fact, you’re often better off blocking attacks because you get a few frames after each attack to respond before the next one.
You can actually interrupt a combo with your block. I spent a long time looking at the game’s invincibility frames and to be perfectly honest, I still don’t entirely understand it. Take the following with a grain of salt. I believe you get more iframes when you perform a dodge in low stance compared to high stance. You still have to time it well, but there appears to be more flexibility with these dodges. You still get some iframes in high stance, but it’s much harder to get the timing right. Rolling does not appear to have any iframes attached to it. I’m perfectly happy to be corrected on this if anyone has any additional insight.
This fight shows me getting hit with one swing but not hit with a follow up that appears to go right through me. It’s possible that the handle of the weapon isn’t active, but I think it’s more likely that I’ve triggered some iframes here by dodging. I don’t have any particular problem with the lack of iframes. The game’s appropriately balanced for it and it means that spamming dodge or roll isn’t a guaranteed way to avoid attacks. The lack of iframes does make tracking attacks more of an issue. Tracking attacks tend to be a bit controversial. They’re used to stop you constantly running around enemies to avoid their attacks and force you to use more precise dodge timing. It doesn’t always look entirely natural though, with enemies swivelling in mid air in unusual ways which can detract from the experience a bit.
The large bosses are particularly guilty of this, with White Tiger and Juro Gomo turning in mid air to stop you just running to the side of their jump attacks. Bloodborne does this a hell of a lot as well, but it disguises them by using bosses that you can’t see entirely on screen. They jump into the air and then land on you. You can’t see the dodgy animation, but it’s still happening.
Precisely timing dodges in Nioh isn’t easy due to the aforementioned lack of iframes, however it was only when dealing with projectiles that the tracking really bothered me. Let’s go back to Hundred Eyes. I’ve already shown how the eyes he summons will shoot projectiles through his body, but he can also do that with the projectiles he fires at you himself. There was one death where I genuinely thought I’d been killed by an overly aggressive fart. I’m not trying to be crude. That’s really what it looked like. On closer inspection, he’s actually summoned a few projectiles and then fired them back directly through his own body because that’s where I happened to be. I get that projectiles have to track the player to a certain extent otherwise you would just step to the side when you see the enemy telegraph the projectile. If there’s no telegraph at all then it becomes cheap and no one wants that.
Requiring the player to dodge a projectile is fair enough, but there have to be limits and I’d suggest this kind of clipping is a line that shouldn’t be crossed. Perhaps an even more egregious example popped up the second time I fought Saika Magoichi. I had a tough time with this boss the second time around so I examined the footage to figure out why this was when I beat him so easily the first time.
Part of the reason is simple enough. The boss is simply quicker with his attacks. Everything is the same, it’s just faster and he’s better at chaining attacks together. However, these attacks can be cheap and this is a good example. His rifle can fire sideways. I don’t think I’m being unreasonable in thinking this is a touch unfair. I’d have prefered it if his body had tracked me to at least make the hit look a little less silly. Tracking issues pale into insignificance compared to some of the hit detection issues, especially around grab attacks.
Grab attacks are always a bit tricky to pull off because even if you get the hit detection right, you still have to deal with the problem of making the animation look smooth. Let’s look at the Onryoki fight. In an ideal world, his grab attack would respond depending on exactly where he makes contact with you. For example, if his right hand touches you he would wrap his fingers around you and bring you in with that hand. That’s pretty tough to achieve. What happens instead is that on contact, your character gets warped into the set animation. Depending on where exactly you were hit it can look a little odd. If you weren’t hit at all it looks even worse. So long as you actually are hit, I can forgive a sloppy animation, but if you aren’t, it’s annoying. Many of the bosses have these hit detection issues. I try not to be too strict on this kind of stuff. It doesn’t have to be pixel perfect, especially in a game where you can customize your gear. If I can’t detect the problem when I’m playing then I won’t complain about it.
This hit probably misses me but it’s close. It’s also possible that your own weapons form part of your hitboxes. There were a few instances where the only part of William that might have been hit was a trailing sword. Take these two clips from my fight with Obsidian Samurai as an example. These attacks look pretty much identical to me. The only difference is that my sword is trailing behind in one image. I rarely encountered these problems outside of boss fights. That could be attributable to the faster pace and lower stakes of normal enemy fights, but I wonder if it’s more about the big bosses having generous active weapon boxes. In other words, it’s not William’s hit box that’s the problem, but the enemies’. I never examined Bloodborne frame by frame in the way I have done with Nioh, but I feel confident in saying that Bloodborne had far more issues with its hit detection, however I don’t want to let Nioh off just because it’s an improvement on that.
This sort of stuff shouldn’t happen, particularly with grab attacks. They look clunky enough as it is. Don’t make them look even worse with shoddy hit detection. It’s about time I talked about leveling because I made a grand claim at the beginning of this video by saying that it’s broken. And it is. I finished the game more than thirty levels below the recommended level and bear in mind that I am not particularly skilled at this game.
I’m the type of guy who would rather go in a bit over-levelled and take the edge off. I rarely play games under-levelled for very long and yet I played the entire second half of the game under-levelled despite hardly losing any amrita to dying and doing nearly all of the side content. I didn’t do many of the Twilight missions however they don’t grant a lot of amrita and tend to also be of a high level so you still have the problem of being underleveled for that content. I didn’t grind levels for amrita, but I shouldn’t have to do that to stay at roughly the appropriate level for the main missions. The lack of connection between the player level and the recommended level isn’t a huge problem because your player level simply isn’t all that important and that’s why I’d argue that the leveling system is broken. The recommended level tells you what level your gear needs to be, not what level your player needs to be.
Your level is important, but it’s secondary. You need to level up magic to unlock certain abilities just like you need to level up your guardian spirit connection to unlock its full benefits. Obviously the more you can increase your other stats the better, but they aren’t the be all and end all. One proposal to fix the system is simply to increase the amount of amrita awarded or reduce the recommended level for missions. That would work, however the more I thought about it, the more I decided that Nioh’s leveling system could do with a complete overhaul. Maybe you could get rid of the leveling system entirely? Kind of.
Maybe it’s more accurate to say it should be merged with the skill system that I discussed earlier. When you level up attributes you get skill points to use on weapons, ninjutsu or magic. How about just skipping the character levelling entirely and skip straight to the skills? When you’re ready to level up, you spend a skill point. If you unlock a sword ability then in addition to getting that skill, you also get a boost to your sword stat. Likewise for other weapons, ninjutsu and magic. Each level should come with additional health and ki as well. If you add in some defense skills for ‘armor’ then you can improve your ability to handle heavy or light armor as well. This wouldn’t really change all that much; it would just flip the system and remove a step that I’d argue is largely unnecessary, despite it being a standard feature in games like this. There’s a significant problem with my suggestion though: what do you do when you run out of skills to buy? Well, in that case, I’d argue that you’ve reached a level cap of sorts.
That’s fine for the main game, but it could make a mess of new game plus. My suggestion for that issue is ripped straight from Diablo 3. After you hit the max level in Diablo 3, you earn paragon points. You can allocate these to stats to earn tiny benefits to damage, health, mana, et cetera. The paragon points don’t make a huge difference but it adds up over time.
Something similar could work in Nioh to reward players for continuing in new game plus, while keeping the focus on getting better gear. Diablo 3’s end game is about loot not levels and I’d argue that Nioh’s is the same. It becomes all about loot, which means it’s about time to address the other claim I made at the beginning about Nioh not being a loot grind in the campaign. Closely related to the game’s leveling system is its treatment of loot. First of all, there’s a lot of it. Each time you finish a mission, you’ll find a whole host of new gear cluttering up your inventory that you’ll want to either sell or disassemble.
You have a large inventory, so it doesn’t fill up easily, however most people will want to keep it vaguely manageable. As discussed, the level of the gear you’re wearing and the weapons you’re carrying is absolutely the most important factor when going into a mission. Other than your skill, that is. It’s totally fair to describe Nioh as a loot based game, however it’s important to caveat that by making it clear that Nioh is not a loot grind. Between missions, you’ll sell or disassemble the useless gear and equip your best stuff. This doesn’t take too long unless you want to mess around with sets or go into the stats in a much deeper way than I did. You’re then ready to play the next mission. During that mission, you’ll collect a crap load of loot, with the best gear typically coming from the boss. Once you’ve finished the mission, you’ll go into your inventory and do the same thing all over again. Equip the best stuff and sell the crap.
I’d argue this doesn’t take much more time than upgrading your weapons in Bloodborne although you do it more often. If all the talk of Nioh’s loot was what put you off, then I’d urge you to reconsider because I don’t believe it’s a huge problem, at least, not until you reach the end game. Once you hit New Game Plus, or Way of the Strong as the game calls it, your main objective is collecting better and better loot, typically in the form of sets of armor and weapons that you can combine for some significant bonuses.
I’ve put about ten hours into the end game so far. Not a great deal in grand scheme of things, but enough that I have a feel for the how it works. I stopped after ten hours because I plan on doing a follow up video to this one that covers all the DLC and perhaps a little more about new game plus. I don’t want to end up overleveled for the DLC so I’m going to wait until it’s all out to devote many more hours to the game. Even with just ten hours in Way of the Strong at the time of writing this script, it’s clear that collecting sets is the main objective.
Fighting revenants becomes much more rewarding here as well. You always stood a chance of getting good loot from those fights, but even if you hit the jackpot, the gear would be outdated within a mission or two. When you’re in new game plus, you can get set items that will last you a long time, especially if you keep doing the soul matching to upgrade the gear. I appreciate that not everyone will enjoy a loot grind of any kind, but I do think it’s important to clarify that the main game is not a loot grind during the main campaign. Most reviews highlight the loot and I wouldn’t want that to put people off unnecessarily. So yeah, in Nioh, loot is important, but you can complete the game without ever grinding for loot.
I’m going to risk pissing people off now, if I haven’t already, but I’m going to compare Bloodborne and Nioh. I’ve already said this, but just to reiterate, Bloodborne and Nioh feel very different and despite my overall preference for Bloodborne, I do not want Nioh to just become another version of that game. I’m not suggesting that either of these game’s change their combat system to be like the other. However, that doesn’t mean that Nioh can’t learn from Bloodborne and vice versa.
If I’m allowed to dream for a few minutes, it would be great if Bloodborne 2 were to run at 60 fps on consoles, even if we have to take a graphical hit to make it work. That’s almost certainly not going to happen. From Software has not shown any real desire to get its games running at 60 fps on console and I can’t imagine a potential Bloodborne sequel will be any different. My next request for Bloodborne is a little more controversial. I’d like to see Bloodborne get rid of boss runs or drastically shorten them. Nioh’s are generally shorter and it’s a huge improvement for idiots like me who have to replay bosses again and again. It’s not like the boss run in Bloodborne is ever particularly challenging. It’s often not. The boss I fought the most–by a long way–was Orphan of Kos and that boss run didn’t require me to take any risks.
It did, however, require me to take an elevator to get to the boss when the lamp could just as easily have been next to the boss room. A minor change I’d make to Bloodborne isn’t really copying from Nioh at all, but since we’re comparing the games I’m going to mention it anyway. I much prefer the health system in Nioh where you get a set amount of health items for each life. The Soulsborne games have been messing around with the health systems for a while now, but this is my preference. I despise grinding for health items for a start; there’s nothing worse than losing a long fight with a boss only to get the added punishment of also needing to replenish your stock of blood vials.
In Nioh, I felt like I always had the right amount of elixirs for each boss and never once did any grinding to get more. This is basically the system from the first Dark Souls and it’s still my favorite. Finally, I think Nioh does a better job with its additional content. Outside of the main game, all Bloodborne has is the chalice dungeons and those environments get real boring real fast.
I’d like to see Bloodborne adopt the arena style combat that takes place in restricted parts of the main levels for players to mess around in. It won’t be as easy to implement in Bloodborne because Bloodborne has one connected world, but I’d like to see them try. It could even be exclusively end game content if necessary. And what could Nioh learn from Bloodborne? The main one is without a doubt the level design. I don’t mind if Nioh retains the separate mission structure, but it needs to cut down the number of levels and focus on making bigger ones that are more memorable. Nioh never manages to capture the sense of scale Bloodborne has largely due to a lack of verticality and an over-reliance on narrow pathways.
The verticality is partly understandable due to the difference in settings, but only partly. There are tall buildings in Nioh, but you never climb them from the outside to get true impression of the size. Instead, you occasionally go inside buildings and walk through more narrow paths and climb staircases. Many of the sub missions take place in large open areas, but the main campaign is devoid of space in which to fight or options for how to approach combat. Consider for example the levels where you have a small village and have to move from point A to point B. It would be nice to have some degree of freedom here, except we have to move through a particular route due to fire and blockades.
When you move from the interior of a mountain to the outside there’s an initial sense of grandeur until once again you realize you’re confined to a narrow path. This distinct lack of width at height pervades throughout the entire experience and results in the levels feeling smaller and less memorable. The first level ended up being one of the larger and more interesting ones with a cliffside and a town to walk through.
Most of the subsequent ones fail to live up to that. The dock level is perhaps the biggest culprit. This level is tiny but it’s made to feel bigger by restricting the paths you can take and allowing you to walk on the roofs of a few buildings. There’s no sense of achievement when you reach then end, just a sense of frustration. This space in Mount Hiei after the bridge could easily be more open and at first glance it looks like it is, however even this area is carved into paths instead of being open. After sixty or seventy hours, moving through narrow paths becomes increasingly suffocating and I yearn for some more open levels and flexibility in how I get from A to B beyond choosing between two narrow paths.
Many of the levels have a gimmick or new feature, but even these end up getting recycled. The crystals are the best example. They first pop up on the snowy level and are indestructible obstacles to your progress until you destroy some butterflies. In the next few levels, the idea of crystals as a gimmick gets repeated three more times. There are yellow crystals that kill nearby yokai and purple crystals that possess samurai and turn them against you. They are technically different, although the effect is identical. Destroy the crystal to take out things that would otherwise want to kill you. A few levels later you come across the red crystals that provide recharge points for your living weapon after being destroyed.
It’s an attempt to add variety to levels but by recycling the mechanic it ends up feeling repetitive. Team Ninja should get creative with shortcuts and change how it uses shrines. Just copy the Soulsborne games if necessary. Shrines should let you warp back to the main map without losing your progress, especially if you’re going to have levels with two bosses. As it stands, there’s this odd system where the levels are already quite small and yet have lots of shortcuts. There’s also a lot of shrines, but those shrines can’t be used to return to the map. They’re just temporary save points. It ends up feeling too much like Team Ninja has included shrines and shortcuts because they were on a checklist of things that are in Soulsborne games, without really understanding why those things are in Soulsborne games. Dark Souls and Bloodborne have long levels with a lot of enemies between bonfires or lamps.
The shortcuts are often used instead of save points to make it easier for players to get back to bosses or later parts of the map. Nioh uses shortcuts in addition to shrines, so you rarely play for five minutes without opening up a shortcut or finding a new shrine. As I mentioned earlier, this leads to a situation where you will very rarely lose your amrita because it’s only ever one minute from the nearest shrine. I am one hundred percent in favor of the boss runs being shorter so a shrine near a boss or a big shortcut that leads directly to the boss is much appreciated. However, Team Ninja went way overboard with small shortcuts and multiple shrines while also making them temporary so if you come back to the level you have to unlock the shrines and shortcuts all over again.
I’m torn on which game has the better bosses. Both games have filler bosses, but I’d argue Nioh has more. Bloodborne had Witch of Hemwick and Celestial Emissary, but Nioh has Muneshige, Great Centipede, White Tiger, Honda Tadakatsu, and Obsidian Samurai. Nioh has more bosses overall, so there’s still plenty of good content. Fortunately, cutting down the number of bosses could go hand in hand with reducing the overall number of levels. Fewer levels should mean fewer boss fights and hopefully the ones that are left will be higher quality. Bloodborne’s bosses are more memorable, but I often preferred fighting Nioh’s bosses because it was easier to pick out the tells. Many of Bloodborne’s bosses are huge and don’t fit on the screen. With the exception of Gasha Dokuro, Nioh’s bosses are much easier to keep an eye on and therefore it’s easier to spot when an attack is coming.
I remember fighting Bloodstarved Beast for the first time and I found it almost impossible to identify the attacks. Bloodstarved Beast definitely does telegraph its attacks, but on my first playthrough all I saw was a beast throwing himself all over the screen. I wouldn’t pick either game over the other when it comes to bosses. They both have their strengths and weaknesses. I don’t want to get too deep into discussion about Bloodborne’s story. I’m in the camp that thinks it doesn’t really have one.
There are themes and background to the people and enemies you meet, but not much of a narrative within the game. Nioh certainly has a story, but the execution is a mess. Once again, the story can be improved in conjunction with cutting down the number of levels. There wouldn’t be any need to move William from place to place every five minutes and there could be a bit more storytelling during the levels themselves. In many ways, I’m more excited about Nioh 2 than I am Bloodborne 2. I pity From Software in trying to make a follow up to its masterpiece. I’ve mentioned a few potential areas for improvement but it’s not an easy task to improve on Bloodborne. Team Ninja’s main focus should be working on the level design, but I’d also like to see it improve the end game. First of all, Team Ninja should streamline the main campaign by moving all the sub missions and side content to the end game. Make the campaign somewhere around 30 hours max, and then give players loads of new content to experience once they’ve finished.
By the time players complete Nioh’s current campaign, they’re likely exhausted and slightly fed up of all the repetitive levels. Even if they haven’t done the Twilight missions, they’ve likely done each level at least twice, even if one time was in reverse. Speaking of Twilight missions, let’s scrap them as a separate set of missions and have them be the new game plus missions. That way, when players do carry on into new game plus, things will feel a little different.
Twilight missions are good additional content, but they feel largely wasted in their current position. I can’t imagine many people will want to do each level twice over during their first playthrough and once they’ve completed the game they’ll likely move into Way of the Strong instead of going back to Twilight missions which might now be too easy. Since that content is already there, it makes sense to use it to spice up New Game Plus a bit instead. The other change I’d make to the end game is more subtle, but important nevertheless. I haven’t talked much about co-op in Nioh because I didn’t use it.
You can summon help during the game and you’ll pull in a player who has already completed the level you’re on. That player is likely going to be a higher level than you, which can obviously mess with the balance. To be fair, that’s been a problem in Soulsborne games as well. What you can’t do is play co-op with a friend unless you’ve both completed the level. Team Ninja has stated that playing the game with a friend would make the game too easy, so it won’t implement it. That’s fair enough. Ideally, Team Ninja would be able to make a co-op version retain the same balance as the single-player, however balancing games like this is tough enough already so I’m not going to push for it. What I will push for is being able to play co-op in new game plus. Once you’ve completed the game, you shouldn’t have to worry about being told you’re breaking the balance of the game.
Just let players get one with it. There would be far fewer complaints about grinding for loot if you could do it while playing with friends. Sure, you’d churn through enemies, but that’s kind of the point once you get to this stage. There’s a reason people don’t mind grinding in MMOs and it’s because they aren’t doing it alone. I’d quite like to blow through groups of enemies and pick up tonnes of loot once I’ve completed the game the first time and I don’t think many people would complain about the addition.
Nioh is an excellent game. Despite having some fairly significant criticisms, I came fairly close to awarding it five stars because I just had so much fun in my 70 hours or so. If you haven’t seen the review score guide on my website, I should make it clear that I don’t require games to be perfect or even close to it to get five stars. I believe in using the whole of the scale and that goes for the top as well as the bottom. That said, it is hard to award a top score to a game when there are problems in such significant areas. I can overlook having to collect loads of plants in Horizon for example because the combat and story are so strong, but I can’t completely overlook the level design in Nioh because that did make me feel a little underwhelmed at times.
I have to admit, scoring games does make me feel uncomfortable at times like this. I’ve now awarded the same score to Nier: Automata and Nioh and yet I consider Nioh to be a much more entertaining experience. As I explained in my Nier review, Nier managed to get 4 stars because I got sucked in by the story and themes at the end, but the actual combat is dire. Nioh’s combat is infinitely more enjoyable so at times it feels perverse to have the same score attached to both games. Some people are going to play both games and be amazed that I managed to give the same score to both. That said, I still don’t think Nier is a three out of five, nor do I think Nioh is a five out of five. It just goes to show the inherent problems with scoring games I guess.
For the record. Nioh is a high 4 and Nier is a low one. There we go, that makes me feel a bit better. If you’re a fan of Soulsborne games, Bloodborne in particular, then of course I recommend giving Nioh a go. It’s such a no brainer that you’ve likely already done it. If you don’t like the Soulsborne games, then it’s a little more difficult. It depends why you don’t like them. Is it because of the sheer difficulty of the boss fights? If so, I don’t think the fights in Nioh are noticeably any easier, although I accept that’s incredibly subjective. If you didn’t like the overly cryptic nature of Soulsborne games then thankfully Nioh doesn’t have any of that. You go into a level and kill everything you meet. You don’t have to worry about whether or not you kill an NPC who may or may not turn out to be a valuable vendor later on. And with that, I’ll finally wrap the video up. This has been an exhausting project from beginning to end.
It might not end up being my longest video (although it’ll be close) but it has taken the most time to make due to the work involved in finding appropriate footage to support my points. As I mentioned at the beginning, I do believe this video ended up being far too long, but if you’ve made it this far then you have my thanks. I’ve got an idea for a shorter video that I’ll probably do in about a week. I’ve got a feeling some people are going to hate it, but I need to do something different to clear my brain after a project of this size. For the next big project, I’m probably going to do The Evil Within because the sequel is coming out later this year. That’s not confirmed though. I’m also about to start playing Persona 5.
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And now I’m done. Thanks for watching. .
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