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Nioh Alpha Impressions

Having spent a good amount of time this past week playing with Team Ninja and Koei Tecmo’s new project, Nioh, I thought I would do a quick rundown of the things we’ve learned about the game. If you did not get to check out the Alpha Demo of this intriguing new PS4 exclusive, stay tuned as there will hopefully be a beta in the not too distant future.

Story and Setting

Not too much is currently known about the story. The game takes place in feudal Japan in the 1600’s and you play as the pale, white-haired protagonist named William, who looks strikingly similar to Geralt of Rivia (The Witcher). There was no option for character customization, so that most likely will not be in the full version of the game as it seems we are fated to play out William’s story.

The land seems to be overrun with samurai, ninja and Yokai which are supernatural monsters, spirits and demons of Japanese lore. Why and how exactly they arrived is a mystery, but pieces of the puzzle are left behind on the corpses of fallen soldiers. If you have played Hunted: The Demon’s Forge (2011), it works similarly by telling a bit of the person’s story, via narration, when you loot their bodies. There are also very lore heavy item descriptions for nearly every weapon and armor piece, helping to further unravel the plot for those paying attention. I get the feeling the story and lore will be cryptic and left for the player to discover or ignore, similar to the way Dark Souls handles its storytelling.

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The game is subdivided into missions, some of which the player must complete to advance the game. These Missions have level recommendations, but meeting them is not required. The game itself is quite difficult however, so I highly suggest you follow this recommendation! Because of the limited amount of Missions available in the Alpha, it remains to be seen just how linear Nioh is. We won’t know how many paths there are to take until release, but I think it’s fair to expect a mostly linear experience with a few Side Missions tossed in to keep it interesting.

Nioh Alpha Demo_20160503162008

Level design in the Alpha was dark, gritty and downright brutal. Locations look completely destroyed by war, yokai, and god knows whatever else is out there. Buildings were aflame, corpses were strewn about and a general feeling of hopelessness saturated the environment, which made me feel like any success would be fleeting.

Each Mission has a Shrine or 2 that acts as a checkpoint where the player can sell items, change Guardian Spirits, purchase area bonuses and summon another player to help them. Just like Dark Souls, resting at these Shrines replenishes your health and healing items and also respawns enemies in the level. There are shortcuts that, once unlocked, allow the player to bypass a chunk of the Mission, especially when approaching the boss. Again, this is very similar to Dark Souls. The developers seem to acknowledge that with as difficult as the levels and bosses are, any little bit helps.

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Each Mission ended with a Boss and these bosses are very challenging and will definitely test the patience and skill of the player. They are easily on par with Dark Souls in terms of difficulty and they will take players many attempts to learn their patterns and defeat them. You do, however, get a strong sense of accomplishment for defeating them and that is one of the best feelings in gaming. They also drop random loot that can vary in quality, making farming them worth while, which you can do by helping other players in their worlds.

The loot system is mostly random and adds an interesting Diablo like element to the Bloodborne esque gameplay. There is fixed loot on certain corpses through out the game, but for the most part it’s completely random. Not only are the drops randomized, but the stat bonuses on weapons and armor are as well. Weapons and armor have qualities from common, uncommon, Rare and One of a Kind. The higher the quality of the item, the more bonuses it possess as well as typically higher damage or protection. Because weapons and armor have levels (like Destiny), this is not always the case, and often you will find a level 20 common Katana that does more damage than a level 12 One of a Kind. You may have to farm quite a bit to find the perfect weapon that possesses the bonuses you desire which will delight some people but bother others. Fortunately, in the demo at least, loot drops were plentiful and finding useful gear was not a chore at all.

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The gameplay in Nioh is somewhere between Bloodborne and Ninja Gaiden in terms of speed, and frankly you’re either going to love it or hate it. I was not a huge fan of it at first, but the more I played and the more I learned, the more it grew on me to the point where I was hopelessly addicted. The game has a leveling system that is almost identical to Dark Souls, where you kill enemies to acquire Amrita (experience) and then you use that at Shrines to invest in one of 8 Stats. Each Stat does something different and they all have their uses. If you die while on a Mission you leave your Amrita on the ground where you fell and it is guarded by your Guardian Spirit until you return to claim it.

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A unique aspect of the game, is the Guardian Spirits that the player can choose from that provide passive and active bonuses. Each has an element (fire, wind, water, lightning, earth, etc) associated with it, and each has very different benefits. Players can activate their Guardian Spirit when their gauge in the upper left hand corner is filled and flashing, and this will allow them to unleash devastating attacks for a short time. This gives players a tool to get past very difficult encounters or mini bosses, of which there were many in the Demo. When you die, this spirit protects your Amrita until you return but you lose the passive benefits and ability to call upon it in battle until you reclaim it. It is also possible to retrieve it at any Shrine for the cost of the Amrita laying where you last died, but if this is a large quantity it may not be worth it.

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Combat is fluid like Bloodborne, but faster. Players can chain combos, learn new combos and change to High, Mid or Low stances with each weapon type, providing a good amount of variety to each weapon. This is a good things too, because there are only a few types of weapons in the game: Katanas, Spears, Axes, Hammers and Bows (Bows do not have stances). Players will have to learn to manage their Ki (stamina) diligently, perhaps even more so than in Souls games, because mistakes are punished harshly. Enemies deal massive damage from even the simplest attacks, healing items are scarce, and being outnumbered more often than not means certain death.

There are skill trees in the game for each weapon type that allow for new combos and moves, as well as Onmyo Magic and Ninjustu skill lines. Magic allows for a small selection of spells (mostly weapon buffs) and Ninjutsu allows for the use of some projectiles that deal significant damage. Putting points into these stats allows for stronger Magic and Ninjutsu abilities. You can also Block, Parry and Riposte during combat. You will learn when and where to use these the more you learn how they all apply situationally. In all, players are presented with an ample amount of solutions to these challenging missions.

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Nioh, thankfully, does feature co-operative multiplayer online. You can summon a player into your world at any Shrine by using an Ochoko. It is a consumable item similar to an Ember or Humanity from Dark Souls, however, it is only consumed if a player arrives in another player’s world. Players can also summon you to help them if you use the matchmaking option on any Mission in the overview screen. We do not yet know if you can PvP other players, but we do know that if you touch the bloody mounds of dead players in your game world, you can duel their avatars, called Revenants, for experience, loot and a chance to acquire an Ochoko.

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Unfortunately the multiplayer system did not work very well in the demo. I tried to summon players repeatedly with almost no luck. I did manage to get one player to come help me near the end of the first Mission, but the lag was so bad with him in my game that I could hardly move (that’s not an exaggeration). The few times I was summoned, the lag, although better, was still bad enough that things were skipping across the screen causing me to die twice to phantom hits. They have a long way to go in this area if the multiplayer is going to be even remotely functional on release.

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Nioh takes many things from Dark Souls and Bloodborne and mixes them in with the Ninja Gaiden, delivering a game that has serious potential and may expand past the niche market it was originally intended for. If Team Ninja can polish up the game a bit, deliver more of what we saw in the Alpha and get the multiplayer to function even just a majority of the time, I can see this game make strides into a market that Dark Souls has held uncontested dominance over. This game gives me hope that developers other than From Software can deliver the type of high quality, addictive RPG that only Souls could bring us before. I can’t wait to see more when it releases later this year!

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13 responses to “Nioh Alpha Impressions”

  1. Holy Luigi noticed this to. Idk what was different in the other cideos I watched but in the current ones the player eps hitting and then literally turning running in a circle and then facing ht enemy again opefully A.I.is on priotities list.

    If majority of games had A.I. normally found in stealth games (which can be dumb in some ways usually eiter detecting your or in killing you. But sometimes it gets right and the A.!. is versatile and functional.

  2. Looks badass, The Different stances are my fav. Dark Souls 3 has the weapon skill STance for straight weapons mostly but this should of been a core mechanic, having all melee based weapon arts have a stance that let you change up your attacks from standard and strong to guard break and charged. Idk if this is a part of NIOH or SOuls 3 but an agility or speed stat that determines how fast you switch to stances and out of stances, two handed, and one handed.

    NIOH looks like it has a robust melee system and hopefully FOR HONOR can earn a thing or two about stances and how they don’t need some new control system where you just move from three different guard stances while in DUEL MODE. In NIOH it seems everything can be done just from the game mode instead of contextuals switching up just cuz you’re facing a PVP or whatever.

    In the WItcher you can only use swords and a cool crossbow… effectively while any other weapon just gives you the same moveset nothing special although some axes re more powerful then early steel swords. Witcher could of used stances and it almost looked like that may of been in the game as the way Geralt fights, attacking and holding his follow thru position or attacking again if you attack but always taking a couple seconds before switching back to the regular stance and it doesn’t seem as tactical. Hopefully NIOH can take all these things and make them fun but challenge you to learn each kind of weapon or weapon itself like learning movesets in bloodborn (In Darks Souls a lot are repeated and the dash attack is the same as the backdodge then dash and attack.

    The first DMC was gonna be like resdent evil than for whatever reason It switched to a ridiculous mission based system. Seriously, mission based games are for the shooter Genre and RTS/turn based strategy. In fact id say the mission based system would only go with certain games with certain themes that are in the shooter Genre. I have over 25 games the only LINEAR MISSION BASED games I own are Elite sniper 3, Halo 5, ad despite the fact these ext games have open mission areas for stealth or blazin action, they are still based on a Mission to Mission spine. The most linear game I own ecept Sniper 3 is Wolfenstein. It has acts ad episodes or whatever but still close to mission based.

    I hope there is no MISSION COMPLETE “RedonKulus” pkayer rating. Repeat Mission or Continue? In NIOH or set objectives spelled out from the get go like droping into a forest level and then it says “Find Tree Rapist and destroy his soul with c4 or “Find the BOSS and then DEFEAT TE BOSS, and clear the royal courtyards of Undead” or seomthing. Adventure games. If its more like Onimusha or RE2 that will be alright but still Ill hate it.

    Please be stealth builds and REAL stealth and REAL reason to use it, not just magic INvisibility to wak past a horde of enemies you rathe rnot fight again. Some level design verticality that’s traversable by more than lifts, ladders, or stairs. COnsiderin youre a NINJA but ina highly combat based game I still hope there are shortcuts and stealth cuts and stealthkills for stealth guts. EIther way this will probably be a great game or a good 20 dollar used game to blow thru.

    I think Misions and Quest lines should disappear and go for the more FALLOUT like way where everything seems to happen when you either get close enough to trigger it or its happening nearby while finding things to do and then ROLEPLAYING by reaining indifferent, deciding to observe, getting involved to an extent or going all in and not in that order. I culd rant all day about how a truly non linear ROLEPLAYING game could work and tell a great story each time you start a new game (towards halfway thru the final act youll come to a point where all things unsettled will settle themselves or remain unsettled until to late (quest expiration) and even the most petty of playthrus you try, by always being idifferent, hdinf in the shadows and stuff the whole time. Random events happen everywhere based on time of day, location, weather even, opportunity (if you stop to camp in a heavy wooded forest known as bandit land then youll probaboly be captured and now your indifferent gameplay involves survival and escape. Or maybe you want to kill yourelf as your character. Go ahead but certain deaths like versus Specific bosses AND enemies beyond standard or hateful enemies like arch nemesis and such can kill you permadeath while giving you the option to skip chunks of the game in order to make an entire play session, Life, Death and then returning to where you left off or starting a new story as that last story is told and you can read it in the menu or hear it narrated.

  3. On the loot being random, once I realised what it did I took the pheasant/rooster guardian spirit, because it increases the amount of loot you get DRAMATICALLY. I went from scraping by to having far too much to even be able to use. I’ll be sticking with this spirit in the full game. The cock has serious rewards.

  4. I couldn’t get into it. Not understanding how stances work doesn’t help either. The game seemed to hectic to me, hence it boiled down to mostly hit&run baiting which is a chore and not fun. Also, second enemy in the game can 1 shot you, yeah right. Looked at some streams, dude just kept train-pulling them and abusing the Al all the time. Didn’t look like fun – but I’m looking into having my 1st impression ruined if there’s a youtube video explaining it ”ENB style” feel free to direct me to it, thanks ;)

  5. Here are my thoughts, because I am too lazy to write them all again. :P

    I found weapon balance lacking, with the extreme damage of enemies and the slowness of the heavy axes and hammers I found them excruciatingly bad to use, I mained a spear (totally not because I got a godly one on a loot drop ). And found it VERY good, as in, I can hit for good damage in both mid stance and high stance without too much stamina loss, without being too slow, and having better range than the swords and hammers/axes.

    But swords are very good DPS weapons for one on one foes, with spears being the all rounders for me with good crowd control potential.

    Swords can attack quickly and their animations quickly interrupted for a emergency dodge. Very balanced.

    This gets me to Stances.

    Mid stance – good damage, VERY good blocking potential, good speed, the happy medium between damage and dps.

    High stance – Rather slow attacks, poor blocking potential, but good attacks that deal a lot of stamina damage on hit. good for big enemies.

    Low stance – in the alpha I found this stance far too weak in terms of both overrall damage, speed and range, most of the times you’l push an enemy away from your attack range with the flurry of hits in the low stance, and then not be able to do much about it other than begin another combo. They also deal low stamina damage and have no guard break options (mid stance gets a kick option for both sword and spear, which deals MASSIVE stamina damage).

    I found myself using mid stance most of the time as I found it the most reliable one.

    The stamina is weird if you don’t know about pulsing. Basically every time you attack you’l see a red bar in your stamina meter, and the bar will fill with a glowing blue one, pressing R1 when its filled or partially filled WILL recover your stamina to the ammount the blue bar had filled, giving you a good way to keep on the fight after a combo.

    It also disables the enemiies “dark” pools or something that slows down stamina regen while stepping on them (the demon, yokai enemies lay these pools on the ground on some attacks a Ki/stamina pulse done right can disable them)

    The difficulty is HARD AS **** early on because you have nothing on you and enemies do extreme ammount of damage by pretty much anything. And getting better armor doesn’t help much either, the bosses can still two-three shot you, as well as most of the mobs.

    But once you start getting good loot and weapons, and get used to the blocking system (just don’t try parrying or deflecting attacks with sword or spear, i’l get to that in a minute) as well as the stamina regain mechanic.

    Seems to me that this Alpha was purposedly made hard for players, which is not a good sign, enemies should do that much damage early. there is no reason why a dude with a wimpy spear hits me with a weak attack and takes 40% of my health away when IM WEARING ARMOR.

    The online.

    You can see the location in which players died (they’re everywhere, look for a pool of blood with a sword sticking out). In them you see the cause of their death but NO death replay. you can summon a “revenant” from their dead spots.

    Which will summon a demon wearing ALL the gear the player had on him when killed, if you beat this demon, you can get one of the PLAYER’S GEAR ITEMS as a reward. Risk/Reward all the way since these specters are TOUGH.

    You can also summon and be sumoned by other players, you need to the small pots you have (forgot the name) at the shrine to allow “visitors” to come. Which are online players who have beaten the boss and went to the world map, mission selection screen.

    With all their gear, cooping is a nice way for BOTH parties to get stuff since the visitor also gets the loot drops.

    The parrying.

    My god, it is **** in the alpha.

    The parry itself you need to press block before an attack hits you, but the window is so small you best not even bother with the ammount of damage enemies do.

    The “deflecting” from the swords is also bugged too, after acquiring the skill to use them, you need to press either Square or triangle while blocking, each of them will make WIllian to a different guarding stance for half a second. however. this whole “guarding stance” is a LIE, you can be in said “deflecting” stance and the enemy will still hit you, what you need to do is press the buttons BEFORE the enemy hits you just like a normal parry.

    its annoying and frustrating to use, much better to just block and attack after the enemy tires himself from attacking (very good against the armored human enemies, they seem to tire themselves out pretty quickly, leaving them open).

    Overrall, I had a nice experience, they just need to fine tune the difficulty a little bit since it seems a bit unfairly hard at times with both damage and enemy attack patterns (specially demon enemies who have unlimited stamina while you don’t).

  6. >

    I knew you’d try it :D the shark’s pretty good indeed, also makes enemies show up on your minimap.

    I already made an entire wall of text explaining what I liked an ddin’t like…time to copy again lol.

  7. >

    Yeah, magic was just “here’s an elemental buff, that does….uh…something…”, and ninjitsu was primarily useless. I haven’t got the exploding shurikens, but i have the normal ones and the caltrop things, and they’re both pretty much pointless, as are the mist cloud items.
    I agree about the Spirits, they’re all pretty much interchangeable as far as functionality, although I’d say Isonade is the most useful, as it gives you 5% health recovery when you kill something in close combat.

    Why is Heart the most broken stat?
    Spirit can be useful to chuck some levels into (at least get it to 12) to use all the Spirits fully, and give a nice bonus to the Raikiri’s damage output.
    I do think that Dexterity and Magic are pretty much useless, and you should get more Ninjutsu and Onmyo Magic capacity as you level up, regardless of what you chuck levels into.

  8. My main criticism was how limited the magic, ninjutsu and divine spirit options were. Magic was basically just weapon buffs, ninjutsu only really had the exploding shuriken for useful upgrades and the divine spirits can only do one thing.

    I feel as though more options in those areas are required because I was at a loss trying to find any reason to invest in those paths without any serious additions provided to my arsenal but them. Often it was just pumping heart (the most broken stat to upgrade might I add) that happened because it just did everything I needed

  9. I tried to play the alpha but was still learning DS3. I couldn’t handle learning and adjusting to the two mechanics at the same time. Although I went with DS3, I definitely see the potential in Nioh. The combat was exceptionally fast.

  10. >

    Yes i have no clue as to what it does… i saw a third buff appear on their bar so i know it’s something extra,

  11. >

    Is the third elemental buff that weird purple one that surrounds them in a purple-y aura with what looks like a yin-yang symbol denoting the effect?

  12. I spent way too much time on the alpha. really looking forward to this coming out.

    few things which i found out the last night playing

    if you stack 2 different elemental debuffs it appears to do add a third to the target was unsure what it was or did to the target.

    after a 4 hit combo if you dash toward the target you do a jump off your target and come down with a 5th slash.

    Low stance while it seemed useless actually allows you to dodge after a combo and it performs a ki burst restoring stamina.

    i’m sure there were more unique things i missed but those were 3 which I found out.

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