Last updated on July 5th, 2016
Back in May 2016, we gave our initial impressions of the Alpha build of Team Ninja and Koei Tecmo’s exciting new project – Nioh. The game takes place in feudal Japan in the 1600’s and you play as the pale, white-haired protagonist named William who is fighting for his life ferociously in a land overrun by rogue attackers, ninja and Yokai (which are supernatural monsters, spirits and demons of Japanese lore).
We had the honor of securing an exclusive interview with Fumihiko Yasuda, the Director of Nioh who is well-known for his work on other Team Ninja titles such as level design for Ninja Gaiden II and directing Ninja Gaiden III.
In light of this, we asked you – the FL community – to pose your questions about this upcoming game and now we bring you the answers we’ve all been waiting for. Is there NG+? How long is the game? How about multiplayer? – Answers below!
Yasuda: We wanted to make a challenging game. Being known for our Ninja Gaiden series, making punishing action games is a hallmark of ours. So that is a strength we wanted to play to while making this game. As for Nioh, “Death” and the line between life and death is the main theme or concept behind it.
One way we have portrayed that is through Yokai which are part of the spiritualistic world and Shinto (the indigenous religion of Japan). Since these Yokai are from a spiritualistic world, they inhabit this grey area between life and death. Same goes for the Samurai, who are beings that don’t fear death, and in fact embrace it at every opportunity. So as a player playing as a Samurai character you die and die again and get well acquainted with death itself. So we try to play with this line throughout the game through elements like these.
Yasuda: The development team of Nioh is the same team that worked on Ninja Gaiden in the past, so we are very acquainted with making somewhat brutal or unforgiving gameplay. We are also experienced in making fast-paced action gameplay, especially with Katanas, so that has come into Nioh. Although this time we chose for a more realistic use of it instead of a more fantastical one from Ninja Gaiden series.
We are also accustomed with working on a feudal japan setting because of Ninja Gaiden, so we have made a Samurai now instead of a Ninja, but in a similar time setting that we are strong in making. Also Ninja Gaiden has taught us about making a difficult game not only for the sake of difficulty, but balancing it in a way that feels really rewarding, as opposed to frustrating. Those are the biggest takeaways from Ninja Gaiden that we were able to incorporate into the process of making Nioh.
However we also want to mention a big difference in Nioh’s gameplay in spite of the similarities with Ninja Gaiden’s combat system, that with Ninja Gaiden you were always in offensive mode, occasionally dodging attacks in between your attacks and it rewarded that kind of gameplay. Whereas for Nioh, Ki management plays a big part, so you have to constantly watch your opponent’s moves and anticipate what they will do next, giving rise to a more methodical or strategic type of gameplay.
Yasuda: The setting is feudal Japan in the 1600s and we have tried to portray it as accurately as possible, having put a lot of research into this. If you played the Alpha, you only saw more of the “darker” stages of the game, but we do also have more variety with castles, shrines or cherry blossoms etc. Every location that is shown in game is an actual geographical location in Japan.
As for the spiritual elements, mostly it lies in the way we portrayed Yokai. Yokai are very well known to Japanese people but we wanted to display that aspect of Japanese culture to the rest of the world for the first time. In order to make all its deep background knowledge more accessible to people outside Japan, we decided on a single “keyword” for each one. For example, one is “grotesque”, that one is “cute”, another one is “sexy” etc. So in that way even those who are not familiar with Japanese culture and Yokai can still appreciate the game without feeling totally alienated.
Yasuda: The protagonist is based on a real-life historical figure named William Adams who was basically a pirate from England who arrived in Japan in the early 1600s and eventually trained as a Samurai, which is a very very rare occurrence throughout history. So we were just really fascinated by his story and thought he was a real badass, and that is why we wanted to use his story as our main character’s. Since the game is so based around his story, we decided not to have any custom character creation.
Although, one thing we would really like to consider for the future is more facial customization for online play. We do already have armor customization so that should bring some diversity between players online for the time being.
Yasuda: There is a single map with different stages and there is a central hub where you can prepare for battle and choose the stage you want. There is a main campaign which you can choose to follow but there are also around 100 side missions where you can take on waves of enemies and get more loot.
Yasuda: As for the length of the game, it really depends on how often you die. During your first playthrough of the main campaign, on average you can expect around 40 hours. As for NG+, where you can replay the campaign with stronger enemies that drop better loot, we are still considering all possibilities. We really want to make it a game with replay-ability after the main campaign is finished so we are working on that along with developing online play.
Yasuda: For the moment there have been no conditions for matchmaking, but we do want to make it so that people on the same stage or with same level would be more likely to be matched together for Co-Op. However what exact form this matchmaking and co-op system takes is still in development as of now.
Yasuda: For the time being, our main focus will be on the singleplayer campaign and co-op. Although in the future we may want to incorporate some PvP on a smaller scale, like duels in a small arena or something of that nature. We will announce more on that as we have the details in the future.
Yasuda: It wouldn’t be as fun if we simply got rid of a feature and didn’t replace it with something else. So we have replaced it with a “familiarity” system, which is inspired by the traditional Japanese belief that every day objects have a spirit residing in them. So the longer you use a weapon, the stronger it gets, with that spirit making a deeper connection with the user. So it adds a kind of strategic element where you will ask yourself – do I use that really strong weapon I just picked up or should I continue using this weapon that I have had since the beginning?
Yasuda: A good example would the durability feature we were just discussing about. That’s a change that isn’t really incompatible with our vision so its an easy call. However if we just blindly follow what players want us to do, it will not necessarily become a good game so we do have to make that judgement call at some point.
Nonetheless, if we design something with a certain expected reaction in mind but it doesn’t translate well into the actual gameplay experience, it is something we do want to fix and that helps us get closer to our intended vision of a fun game. An example of that would be the camera controls, which we had a lot of feedback about during the Alpha, in that people thought the way it locked on to enemies during combat made it quite difficult in an unfair way as it was very unintuitive. So it is something that by changing we are not compromising our vision, but are in fact actually allowing it better to shine through to create gameplay that is more rewarding than frustrating. So there are a lot of instances like these where our goals align with the feedback of players and allow us to make a better game.
If you missed the Alpha Demo of this intriguing new PS4 exclusive, make sure to take a look at this video, check out the Nioh Wiki or simply stay tuned as there is a beta in the not too distant future. Enjoy the E3 trailer in the meantime!