Monday, 13 March 2017

Nioh


Nioh needed to be released. Now I don't say that as a hyperbolic proclamation of what we've been missing. No, Nioh needed to be released because From Software, the developers of Dark Souls and Bloodborne, were the only development studio currently making this style of game.


Okay, there was Lords of the Fallen, however, I feel that the failings of that game are due to the fact that it was an attempt at making Dark Souls again. Sadly, in addition to being derivative it was also a lesser version, bringing nothing new to the table, and failing at the established elements.

This is where Nioh comes in. It takes the now well-established 'Souls' formula, places it in a new setting, and adjusts the gameplay accordingly. Dark Souls was firmly Western fantasy through Eastern eyes. As such, you're stomping around in heavy armour fighting dragons (though this is a dismissive generalisation), so the combat is slower and heavier. Nioh, by contrast, is set in ancient Japan. Now you're quick on your feet with lighter weapons fighting samurai and demons (or Oni).

The setting and gameplay inform each other; one does not change without the other, which is why Nioh needed to be released. It has created competition. Not by duplication, but by adaptation and evolution. This alone speaks volumes about Nioh's strengths. Its similarities to the 'Souls' series are intriguing, but its differences allow it to stand on its own.

The most engaging mechanic is the stamina management. Despite stamina being a crucial aspect of combat is nothing new, Nioh manages to base the entire game around it. When your stamina depletes... you can't move. This is about as devastating as it sounds. However, this isn't the only problem you need to keep an eye on. As your stamina depletes, a meter will appear. Hit R1 at the correct time and this meter will refill with stamina, giving you the opportunity to continue fighting in that moment. The enemies follow the same rules, though. Their stamina will deplete just the same as yours, thereby providing select opportunities to strike.

Honestly, these stamina mechanics combined with the fast, visceral combat are reason enough to recommend Nioh. Even then, you also have the wonderfully contained level design (with plenty of shortcuts and bypasses to discover), ancient Japanese architecture and folkloric creatures, all realised within a striking, colourful art-style.


Nioh needed to be released. There needed to be competition to push this style of game forward; to allow it to evolve. But maybe - to go back on my words - it really did need to be released because of what we've been missing.

★★★★★


Lewis Hill


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