When Koei Tecmo released Nioh in 2017, many thought that the game was too similar to Dark Souls. We were quite strongly of the opinion that the game stood on its own two feet, and the reception of FromSoftware’s take on the action genre via Sekiro emphazised the differences between FromSoftware and Team Ninja.
Now that Nioh 2 is confirmed to release in March 2020, we take an in-depth look at the impressions from the closed beta and the open beta demo to tell you what’s new with Nioh 2, what isn’t, and answer the community question: Is it just Nioh with a new layer of paint?
What’s New with Nioh 2: Is it just Nioh 1.5?
- Title: Nioh 2
- Genre: Action RPG
- Developer: Koei Tecmo (Team Ninja)
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- Platforms: Playstation 4
- Release Date: March 13th 2020
Core Changes in Nioh 2
Team Ninja is best know for its perfectionist action title, Ninja Gaiden. Being an avid fan of the genre and having played more hours than can be healthy of their titles, Nioh felt like a new and compelling RPG take on the ninja and samurai concepts. Heavily action-focused, the original title followed William’s story, and had interesting but linear levels with some unimportant shortcuts and an emphasis on Boss fights.
The first and most welcome change coming with Nioh 2 is therefore the Character Creation feature. The events in Nioh 2 happen before William Adams ever arrived in Japan, and you are free to make your own avatar, with a myriad of options covering gender, race, height, weight and everything in between. While I did not mind playing as William, I do certainly enjoy making my own hero and fully immersing in the adventure as myself. Taking this a step further, the game lets you customize your appearance from the hut at any point, so you are not stuck with your choices and can always keep things fresh.
New Weapon Types
While Nioh’s DLC added weapon types to the base game, those who didn’t get the entire package will be thrilled to learn all DLC weapon types are making it to the base game for the prequel, in addition to new categories.
Meet the Hatchets, fast dual-handed weapons scaling with skill, courage and stamina. Hatchets are fun weapons designed around a quick barrage of attacks, giving you bonuses to grapple damage and allowing you to enhance your key recovery and reduce incoming damage when you’re low on health.
There’s also the new Switchglaives, Nioh’s interpretation of a Bloodborne Trick Weapon. This Scythe-like polearm scales with magic, constitution and skill, making them an excellent option for those wanting to focus on Onmyo. With decent reach and a very interesting moveset, Switchglaives have some passives similar to hatchets, and allow you to recover 20% of your health with an active skill.
Living Weapon is now Yokai Shift
Nioh had its version of an “ultimate” state where you would use your Guardian Spirit as an enhancement to your weapon. Nioh 2 is taking this a step further, by actually merging you and your spirit. With similar benefits to those of Living Weapon, each spirit now has a special attack and each type of spirit provides a special bonus:
Yokai Shift: Brute
In Brute form, you cannot be staggered by enemy attacks.
Fang Break allows you to repel enemy attacks. Repelling an attack will inflict a heavy staggering effect on a human enemy. Yokai enemies will both be staggered and forced to release some of their Amrita.
Yokai Shift: Feral
In Feral form, you can dodge while performing Quick Attacks.
Executing a Quick Attack again during a dodge allows you to proceed to the next step of this attack combo. Additionally, dodging an enemy’s attack immediately before it makes contact will sometimes produce Amrita.
Yokai Shift: Phantom
In Phantom Form, you cannot be staggered by enemy attacks
Blood Moon – Yin allows you to launch your weapon at an enemy. If your weapon finds its mark, you will instantly be teleported to your enemy’s side. Blood Moon – Yang also allows you to throw your weapon by tapping the command for the opposing attack while performing a Quick or Strong attack.
Yokai Realm, Yokai Skills, Burst Counter
The Yokai Realm mechanic has been expanded so that now it’s not just a pool on the floor that you might disperse with a Ki Pulse, but it is instead a whole section of the map that will not dispel until you kill a specific Yokai, or reduce the Boss‘ health threshold. This is a very interesting and refreshing mechanic, that works in unison with the revamped and expanded Yokai.
Team Ninja has introduced more Enemies to face, and made Yokai more challenging by increasing their placements and giving them a special burst move. They flash red as they prepare to do a unique and often devastating attack. If you act quickly, you can counter their move with one of your own, which will result in a convenient opening to deal lots of damage to the Yokai.
Yokai now also drop Soul Cores, which are special items that must be purified at a Shrine and can then be attuned to your Guardian Spirit so that you may gain some stat benefits, and most importantly, some amazing Yokai Skills. The Soul Cores are not unique and drop based on your level, so you will obtain many of them that you can then merge to rank up their effects, making them more and more powerful.
Besides the core changes, there are other and more subtle additions and tweaking to the game. Easy ones like the addition of the Scampuss, Sudama and Mimic Yokai bring some exploration fun to the levels, but there’s another layer of changes that is not so easily seen.
Level design seems superior to that of the first game, not just in verticality but also considering revamped enemy placements and finding a lot more enemies per map. This is further expanded by the “Expeditions” system that allows you to find multiplayer partners and adjusts the amount of enemies in the level to keep the fights challenging for you and your group. There’s also the new option to talk to some NPCs that you find during your travels, and one of them even joins you during your missions.
The tweaking of skill trees and experience per weapon seems to encourage using many of the different weapon types and having a go at becoming proficient with all of them, something that Nioh 1 failed to do for me. This is an exciting change, as even if you’d underperform due to the scaling it would be interesting to see us changing weapons based on the missions we take on.
So is it Nioh 1.5?
This question leaves out a very important aspect of a sequel: What “should” be different? Why is it that we didn’t hear anyone say Dark Souls 2 was Dark Souls 1.5? After all, the core combat mechanics, summoning, asynchronous and theme were the same. I think that a large part of this question comes from the graphics, and from a desire to see Koei Tecmo change a lot of core aspects of combat that didn’t sit well with some players. For my part, I do not have that need, but I do think that the graphics could use a retouch, given by the time Nioh 2 comes out Nioh 1 will be 3 years old.
Nioh 2 is not showing all of its cards yet, so we are going strictly off the demo, and many people think that the game is just too similar to Nioh 1. While I see where they are coming from, and would like to see some more obvious aspects like the graphics improved, I think there is a substantial difference to the “feel” of gameplay that is very hard to convey as the total is more than the sum of its parts.
I had a lot of fun with Nioh. I found the loot addicting in a diablo-esque way, the yokai interesting in a Witcher fashion, and the combat up to snuff vs both Souls and other action titles. Nioh 2 is not reinventing the wheel, but it is adding subtle changes that do more than polish a good experience: they make me excited to discover and learn things I had not known before.
Dark Souls 2 and Dark Souls 3 added little in terms of mechanics to differentiate themselves from the original, and in the end you can always beat the game without leveling up once. Nioh is following a similar path, but this upcoming installment has already shown me that I will indeed get addicted to its very entertaining coop, and promises to give me a more fleshed out and distinctive world that I will not be able to resist exploring.
We’ll have to wait for the full release to know the extent of changes, improvements and new things to do, but I’m already convinced that the fun factor is on a whole new scale, and that is, in the end, all that matters.
For more Nioh 2 be sure to read next Nioh 2 Open Beta Character Creation Contest Announced. You can also check out some of the latest screenshots in Nioh 2 New Screenshots Reveal Nohime And Yoshimoto Imagawa. For for all your Yokai adventure needs be sure to drop by our Nioh 2 wiki.
If you’re playing the original game, visit the Nioh Wiki