I have recently completed the main campaign for Nioh (not including the DLC) and a few missions after the story. Please note that I have not done the abyss, many twilight missions, nor have I done any NG+ content. Just for reference, I played through pretty much the entire game with Warrior of the West armor and Taro Tachis (which is a big sword akin to like a Zweihander in Dark Souls), and I also completed all of the side missions and never used living weapon nor co-op. Without further ado, here are my thoughts on the game.
- I really liked the combat and how much variety there was with different stances and all the different martial arts you could perform. I just wish that the martial arts gave more of a combat advantage or something because there’s not really a reason to use them 95% of the time when basic slashing does the trick just fine. Playing with the odachi and being able to switch stances mid-combo was really cool though, and when I go back to the soulsborne games I’m going to miss it dearly.
- New combat flow needing to learn how to play a new souls game was pretty cool as I achieved mastery of the new systems. Ki pulsing is a really neat mechanic, and it was interesting to learn how to fight in this game. It felt like it revolved a lot more on spacing and blocking versus how I typically play a souls game of just rolling diagonally into an enemy. It was like when I first played Sekiro and needed to learn everything all over again.
- Enemy design for the most part enemies felt pretty fair, which if done incorrectly can really screw with your experience. I just don’t like some of the slow-down status effects some enemies can give to you, and if certain bosses give it to you it’s basically a death sentence. Something worth mentioning is that some big enemies have DS2 style “turn by sliding until I hit you,” which is kind of annoying but it works better in Nioh, and it’s more understandable because otherwise, you could just circle around them into oblivion without the big guys even having a chance.
- Level design. Nioh shines brightly above other souls like here. The shortcuts in the levels were very well implemented and hidden traps and enemies will keep you on your toes and force you to be observant, honestly matching or even surpassing DS1 in terms of level design in some cases. For the world design however it’s a different story, but more on that later.
- Revenant System. I absolutely love the revenant system in Nioh, it’s a super cool innovation and I honestly wish to see it in more games. For those who are unaware, there are also ‘bloodstains’ in Nioh to mark where other players have died. Nioh takes a spin on this though and lets you fight an AI-controlled copy of that player and their gear, and if you get to keep some of the other player’s gear. It’s a 10/10 system for me and I hope to see other games get inspired by it.
- Item stats are actually useful/important. Nioh takes some more RPG elements into its design, namely item stats. It’s a breath of fresh air to see my gear actually matter a bit compared to just going for looks.
- Weapon Familiarity This is a small system but it was nice to have. For the unaware, weapon familiarity in Nioh basically makes your weapon get stronger the more you use to (to a point) so you can keep using an old item for longer than you would normally be able to without the system.
- Changing the appearance of things Being able to change the appearance of my gear, weapons and even character was really cool, and I hope something like this shows up in future games like Elden ring.
- Yokai Weak Points. Giving each Yokai a special weak spot was just a good design choice in my opinion, but there’s nothing really to elaborate on.
- The final story mission. This was only one part of the game, but I freaking loved it to pieces (but I don’t want to spoil anything so I’ll leave it at that).
- World Design To people who have played Nioh this shouldn’t come as a surprise, but instead of a big open world you could freely traverse like DS1, or even having the levels connected to each other like DS3, Nioh has all of its levels separated and you choose which one you want to play through a map system. There’s nothing wrong with it or anything, but having an actual world is a lot more immersive.
- Occasionally questionable telegraphing. There are only two enemies that are guilty of this that I can think of, but it’s still worth pointing out for me. They both have an attack that doesn’t seem to have any telegraph, be it sound or visual, it just comes out
instantly and it’s annoying.
- Constant Reusing enemies. You know how in a souls game you’ll generally get a new set of enemies for every area or so? In Nioh that applies to the first three missions and then that’s it. The entire game feels like it had about twenty or so different enemies that were just reused throughout the whole game, and the worst part is 90% of the time they didn’t even get a fresh coat of paint or anything, it just felt lazy to me. On the bright side, however, this allows the developers to make the enemies a bit more intricate and as they start dealing more and more damage (basic enemies will deal like half your health in one hit late game) you have achieved mastery over fighting them and can take them down easily.
- Post-story content The absolute worst offender on the list, it legit made me be done with the game. Please note that when I say post-story content, I do not mean the DLC or the NG+ system, I mean the missions that appear in NG after you beat the final story mission. For those who don’t know what these missions are, it is quite possibly the laziest level design I have ever seen. The entirety of these new missions are just throwing you and two random old bosses (THAT WERE COMPLETELY NOT DESIGNED TO BE TOGETHER I MAY ADD) into an arena. I absolutely hated it, I did the missions “A Meeting on the Other Shore” and “Restless Spirits” and they were both terrible. To give the game the benefit of the doubt, I was level ~110-ish with level ~140-ish gear at the time of doing these missions while the recommended level is like 140 and 155 respectively, so I was under-leveled, and I would like to believe that these missions are just designed to come back later and probably shred them or something, but regardless I hate them. I started a third endgame mission, realized it was the same gank boss deal, and uninstalled the game.
In conclusion, I had a pretty good time (except for that endgame nonsense). I will probably pick it back up someday to do the actual endgame content like DLC and NG+, but for now, I’m giving it a break. I bought the game for like $15 on sale and got just over 50 hours from it which seems like a good deal. I think Nioh is a shining example of what a souls-like should be (besides the soulsborne games themselves of course). If you like the genre, then I think you should give Nioh a shot. It was a really good experience, and it’s surprising more people don’t play it.