Over the past few years, a new sub-genre of Dark Souls inspired Action-RPG and games in general seems to have emerged, unofficially named “Souls-like”, “Souls-style” or aggressively “Souls-clone”.
We have seen this label bring hatred towards excellent games such as Lords of the Fallen and Salt and Sanctuary, and promotion to others that aimed to captivate the “Souls audience”. And while there is no question in my mind that inspiration and love of games makes for certain characteristics of some games to bleed over the creations of developers worldwide, I am currently taking exception to the characterization of Nioh as a “Souls Clone”.
Recently, I had a friendly discussion where someone mentioned that Nioh tried so hard to be Dark Souls, it was terrible for trying to “pass off” as a Souls game.
How Nioh is Different to Souls
One could spend hours detailing things that make the Souls series what they are, and how other games are similar, which of them are heavily influenced, and which are simply using clever marketing to obtain fame by association. But I believe it is the differences, not the similarities, that should determine if a game is trying to emulate another or not. A shortage of differences would surely demonstrate no creativity.
Some people assume that the game being “difficult” means it’s copying souls – when the difficulty has been a trademark of the Ninja Gaiden series long before Souls existed. Others think the recovering your XP from your dead body is souls, when that has been around the mainstream since Diablo, again long before Souls existed. Weapon stat scaling is also not a Souls trademark, and Nioh’s stat scaling can be partially re-forged into other things, with weapon classes having an overall scaling that is not the same as Dark Souls has gotten us used to.
Here’s a List of Very Crucial Ways in Which Nioh is Very Much Not Souls:
- Set character, set story, set outcomes. There is only one ending, only one story and it’s all based on real events and features real characters of history around the Battle of Sekigahara.
- The story is clearly spelled out in a log, rather than hidden behind item descriptions.
- No interconnected world, no main hub with merchant havens, instead you get repeatable Main Missions, submissions, boss challenge rooms and training missions to unlock skills.
- No NG+ reset: Everything stays open, you can continue to play NG as you play NG+
- No “meta”, no coop level limits: Stats, skills and builds have no needed caps or “optimization”, there’s no meta.
- Gear/Loot is like Diablo, color coded, random and tons of it. You have to farm and grind to obtain weapons and materials to then forge more. Souls has pre-determined drops and very limited crafting, with no rarity or special bonuses to secondary stats.
- Set bonuses: There are Armor Sets that give special bonuses to create builds that resonate with guardian spirits, etc. There is no such thing like that in Souls; wearing a full set of armor is often just done for fashion.
- Enemies are actual folklore creatures: Like the Witcher, not like the Souls series where they are just made up. This makes them more interesting to me in general, as the imagination and folklore of real cultures makes for more interesting stories than what a dev team can come up with.
- Skills & skillpoints for character development and Combos: The fact skills even exist for your weapons and that you have to use skillpoints makes this a completely different experience. You must perform combos and select skills for your weapons, including adding a special Guardian Spirit that grants protection and special attacks.
- Combat is very fast paced: Like Bloodborne, but with blocking in mind. Ki can be recovered by smart execution of ki pulses, making combat much more fluid and fast than dark souls, and making stamina management considerably different. Enemies are also faster, and can perform similar skills to the ones you use.
- Ranged combat: Taking out enemies from distance is actually viable. You can one shot enemies with an arrow to the head, and you can use your cannon to make boss fights quicker. Some armor sets have bonuses to ranged attacks and ammo preservation. Souls games have repeatedly failed magic and ranged users in the past installments.
- Boss design: Bosses are made for fast dashes and reflexes, and they feature ranged and close-range attacks to counter your different approaches.
- Collectibles: The game features collectibles through Kodamas and Hot Springs that the Souls serious don’t have. Finding both of these also give you in-game bonuses beyond the trophies you get for collecting them.
This list could go on but the short version is: there’s so much that makes the game so different, that it deserves to stand on its own and not be labelled a “clone”. I have played the Ninja Gaiden titles a lot, and I’m familiar with Team Ninja’s work product. I think that MMOs had more influence on this title than Souls did, although I do find certain lovable similarities such as the traps within the levels including large boulders. But the core of the game, the combat and gameplay and setting feels so entirely different that I don’t think they are directly comparable.
Rather than a brother or son, Nioh is Dark’s Souls fourth cousin removed.
What do you think? More differences to highlight? Share your thoughts with us!
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