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Rising fairly quickly on the hype radar is, as fans would describe it, a Dark Souls like samurai game called Nioh. The 2nd demo for the game is available this weekend through January 23rd. I had a chance to play around with it Friday night and got a sense of what the game is about. Let’s get on with it.

Nioh takes place in feudal Japan where much of the story still seems unclear. Humans are not your only enemy however. Demons are also tearing through the veil and provide a change of pace to the combat. The time period and environment are very reminiscent of Genji: Dawn of the Samurai (which I loved).

So here’s the good, the bad and the ugly

Combat

The combat in Nioh is interesting. You have 3 stances you can change between offering different advantages in battle. High stance grants more damage, middle stance is balanced between offense and defense and low stance is for dodging/parrying and conserving ki (your stamina). I didn’t find much use out of the high or low stances, I seemed to stay in middle most of the time. It’s likely too early for me to say, so I think there will be greater uses for these stances later on or as you become more skilled in the game.

Although the combat/combo system provides a large variety of techniques, every time I find myself in a fight I can’t help but think of the word “static”. Yes, you can do combos and chain attacks together but each swing lacks that “importance”. I was  really trying to avoid bringing up Dark Souls here but it’s the only way to get the point across. Nioh lacks the feeling of every swing matters, even if it’s just one hit and escape. And the kills, although the dismemberment is very enjoyable, are missing the fulfillment. It may be just me, but i think you’ll see where I’m coming from after a couple of encounters.

Loot/Crafting

There is so much loot in this game, you’ll think you’re playing Diablo III. I was a bit turned off by this at first but the more I understood the blacksmithing system the more I realized you’re going to need to breakdown a lot of materials if you want to make anything. This isn’t something I’m very interested interested in either, I’m much more into grinding out fights seeking out that ultra rare boss weapon then spending a lot of time killing minions for materials. But I know there is a huge number of gamers who love just this. The level of customization is deep and requires a firm understanding of what you want to accomplish. The elite who choose to go down this road are going to have a great time in this game creating their ultimate samurai. But if you’re not into crafting, I found that I regularly found perfectly good weapons and armor dropped from enemies.

Graphics

This I think is the games’ greatest weakness. And this is a 2 sided issue. The graphics are not great, I would give them 4-5 out of 10. I would also factor in game movement and mechanics into this category as well. I would unfortunately have to compare it to a PS2 game that got an HD remake on the PS3. Graphics are not a huge deal in that the true quality of game lies in it’s story/mechanics but being the environment Nioh has chosen to be in and the age of the Samurai; I feel like this has made for a missed opportunity. I even noticed that enemies around 100 yards away become choppy and their movement jumpy.

Difficulty

I am back and forth on the difficulty. In some cases it seems you can mash quick attack on an enemy and they won’t stand a chance. But if you end up in a 2v1 fight, you’re in trouble. It’s almost impossible to hit 2 enemies at once with your katana. You’ll need to have a wide sweeping weapon if you’re going to take on multiple foes or pick one off with your bow or gun (There’s a hand-cannon and it’s amazing. Go find it.) The larger demons are less unforgiving than almost any mob I’ve faced in a souls game. If you’re caught without ki, a demon or higher ranking samurai can kill you in one to two hits. I would venture to say the combat is more calculated than comparable games given the factors above.

There is more to the demo. There’s a story that I haven’t been able to totally grasp yet but have high hopes for. I will continue to play and hopefully find the true charm Nioh has underneath it’s surface flaws. At this time, I give Nioh Last Chance Trial 7/10. Good luck to the developers and all the best in the launch of their game.

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