Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
After releasing last year for the Sony PlayStation 4 and seeing three subsequent DLCs titled: The Tengu’s Disciple, Darkness in the Capital, and The First Samurai, Team Ninja and Koei Tecmo’s Nioh 2: Complete Edition is here for the PC. Being a big fan of the original, a fan of the PSN demos leading up to it and having gotten myself the PS4 Steelbook Edition of Nioh 2 with the Season Pass, there was something about playing this on a PC with high end graphics cards that just made everything better.
Note: This review is based off of two separate systems, a much older gaming laptop running a GTX 1060M and a new computer running a GTX 3080.
Unlike the Dark Souls series that Nioh is conceptually based off of, Nioh went for a more historical approach instead of a one-hundred percent fictional one. By all means, Nioh, and now Nioh 2, is quite fictional but it was still based on surrounding historical events making it fairly easy to set the stage especially for fans of Japan’s history. Sure there are liberties with spirits, oni and yokai, but the overall events that happened still happened making the twists more fun for those that have an overall idea of the battles that take place.
Taking place not all that long before the original and William’s travels from England to Japan, Nioh 2 begins during Oda Nobunaga’s campaign during the Sengoku Era. Taking a departure from the first, Nioh 2 instead of putting you into the role of a specific person instead starts you off as an unknown person to the eyes of history. Designing your character to look however you want, you’ll also have a bit of say in how your demon form looks as the other change from the original is that you aren’t entirely human and honestly? It suits both the narrative and the new gameplay elements well.
From a structural perspective, Nioh 2 follows Nioh to a “T”. The main story is told through a series of missions that start off slow with a bit of narrative to set the tone and end on a high note with some rather epic boss fights. Side to the main missions are several much shorter ones that either need you to fulfill a specific object like getting an item, surviving several encounters or beating an opponent one on one. Combined, for the main story alone without replaying too many stages, you’ll easily accumulate thirty plus hours depending on how fast you can make it through.
Unlike the original, Nioh 2 while following the structure to a “T” told the story in a different manner which I found myself preferring over the first. Falling a bit more into the what if category, instead of traveling from one area to another of Japan, you’ll basically be staying in the same overall region but seeing it through a different lens of time as the chapters move forward. Said like that, one could think of this being a more “lazy” approach, but it was clear that each area had a makeover from one visit to the next based on the overall events especially if war came through and caused a fair amount of damage. This not only allowed for different challenges, but it also let you know from the beginning that you were in for new surprises and there were no shortages of those.
For the biggest change, not being human and instead half human / half Yokai made for some interesting gameplay choices. Now, instead of having your guardian spirit animals at your side to help you out in combat, they’ll instead enable you to perform a Yokai Shift into one of three separate modes. Brute, Feral and Phantom Yokai Shifting will each offer a different play style once shifted and what may work for one, may not work for another. Personal preference for me is that of the Brute that allows you to really lay down a smackdown without having to worry about dodging too much if a heavy blow is incoming.
More than your Yokai Shift though, each mode has a variation of what is known as a Burst Counter that is quite literally life saving. Not even at times, it’s just life saving. With the introduction of the Yokai Shift and the burst counters, enemies now have two variations of power attacks. The first, is as interruptible as ever and if you get caught you had better damned well hope you survive it because they hurt. The others are shrouded in a red glow and these attacks can be countered for a decent counter attack from enemies big and small including all of the major bosses. In a better late than never comment, the Last Chance Demo for Nioh 2 had these in place and even with the launch of Nioh 2 v1.X on the PSN, the amount of time you had was almost non-existent so I’m very happy that at this point they are much more feasible to pull off.
Touching back on the story and your trek through this era of a war torn Japan, there was one more element that makes the journey a bit more fun. No longer having to fully go at it alone, you can now summon the marks of other adventurers that are willing to lend you their aid. Like the first, you can still summon the graves of other players who have died for a challenge and better gear, but now, you can also summon others for an extra hand. More than this, you can also play in multiplayer with another actual player as well as summon in an extra hand. Combining these two aspects with the ability to meet other warriors of the time period for limited duration, you could have quite the retinue at times but don’t get used to it as you’ll often immediately drop back to one or two extra meat shields, I err mean cohorts.
Now with how much work went into Nioh, its DLC, and Nioh 2 with its own DLC, there are still some issues that come across that are both issues for the style and issues on “balancing”. Nioh 2 is brutal if you’re not careful. Enemies hit very hard and if you’re not willing to both spend a few points in upgrading your health, carrying around heavier armor, or getting REALLY good at dodging or using magic spells to lessen the brunt of the damage. You’re going to die. Over, and over and over again. Having already played through the demos leading to launch (and them getting easier) as well as the first three chapters, I already knew what I was in for which lessened that aspect, but getting into the fourth, fifth and final chapters, I was wholeheartedly reminded how hard it can be especially with certain mobs either not dying, or just being “broken” like the Tengu.
This actually leads me into an issue that I felt like I had over the course of the chapters. In Nioh 2, some enemies I felt just wouldn’t die when they were supposed to. This isn’t a “did you ‘git gud’ moment” but more of a you’re knocking the royal hell out of them with magics and Yokai Shifts and yet, they are still standing even if all of your combined hits should have taken them out five to ten hits ago. This isn’t just for bosses but also some of the tougher mobs that in certain cases act as mid-bosses or just giant obstacles like the cyclops. It’s just annoying and it’s one thing that I would like to be fixed in time as I’m far from done with Nioh 2.
One thing that I want to note before wrapping everything up, is how well things worked on the PC version once you’ve gotten your settings right. This is generally not an issue when playing on consoles especially when Nioh 2, like Nioh, was a console only, and in particular, a PlayStation 4 title first. Loading Nioh 2 on my brand new PC running a GTX 3080, I set everything to high and was wowed on my 34” Ultra Wide Monitor. The only things that didn’t quite jive so well when in ultra-wide were cutscenes that would black line on the left and the right. When moving back to my much older GTX 1060m based RoG laptop, it took a fair amount of back and forths before getting things running smooth and then another few hours before getting it to look almost as good while playing off of a 55” QLED Television instead of a monitor.