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Screenshot of Nioh Game Cover

What is Nioh?

Nioh is an action role-playing videogame published by Sony Interactive Entertainment and Koei Tecmo. The latter were in charge with the publishing in Japan, while Sony distributed the game internationally. It was produced by Team Ninja and can be played exclusively on the PlayStation 4 consoles. It is centered on the adventures of a sailor called William who lands in Japan during the Sengoku period. As he joins the fray, he is tasked with the defeating of monsters thriving in the chaos of a newly ignited world.

Key facts about Nioh

  • Nioh is set in a fictionalized Sengoku era but offers an interesting depiction of the warring states.
  • Players and critics received the game with enthusiasm and compared it to the Dark Souls series.
  • Nioh was available in alpha and beta demos in 2016 before it was released in early 2017.
  • The videogame encourages exploration and has huge maps littered with quests and secrets.
  • Nioh can be played in multiplayer using the co-op mode, but the difficulty level drops.

Gameplay of Nioh

Nioh is loosely based on the story of a European samurai called William. Although action takes place around the year 1600 in Japan, the enemies are monsters and supernatural beings. Players enjoy a great deal of freedom when navigating the maps and have the perks of exploring an open world. The collectibles you find can be used to solve puzzles and players also accumulate experience points. They collect gold which can be spent on consumables, armor and more powerful weapons.

The elements of role-playing influence the Nioh gameplay and the videogame has an interesting progression system. Players can improve their gear or take the weapons they find to the blacksmith to be reduced to base material. The more powerful the weapons, the deadlier they get but combat is centered on the hack and slash mechanics. Characters can run, jump, attack and block attacks, but all these actions will drain the stamina bar. This is when William is most vulnerable to attacks.

His stamina bar can be replenished using this Ki pulse, but timing is everything. Players have the option of changing the gear in real-time, as they discover new weapons and armor. The weight of the equipment will determine his speed on the field of battle. In the unfortunate event of an untimely demise, players will use all the experience acquired drops on the ground. It’s possible to retrieve it by traveling back to that specific place, but another death will make it irretrievable.

An Impressive Arsenal of Weapons and Abilities

The Nioh gameplay allows players to wield an impressive arsenal of melee and ranged weapons. William can equip everything from single handed swords, pole arms and access to hand cannons, rifles and bows. Just like the character, the weapons also level up, so using them often will increase their potency.

In battle, players can shift between three available stances called High Stance, Middle Stance and Low Stance. The highest version allows players to inflict more damage at the expense of lower defense, while the low version does the exact opposite.

Screenshot of Nioh Fall of Onyudu

William has the ability of summoning guardian spirits, which are basically animals whose hit points add to his health. This empowers him to inflict more damage but if he dies, the Guardian Spirits are lost as well. To collect additional EXP points, players can summon Revenants. These are ghosts of fallen players, tougher than regular monsters and rewarding more experience points. Early in the game, players can assign statistical points to William and gradually add more buffs as he levels up.

Plot of Nioh

The game begins with William’s arrival in Japan trying to evade the wrath of Queen Elizabeth I. After his escape from the tower of London with the help of Spirit Guardian Saoirse he is chased by Edward Kelley. Plot of Nioh continues with William offering his services to Hanzo Hattori, who in return promises to help him find Kelley. As he keeps fighting the evil Oni he rescues Kuroda Nagamasa from a yokai, but in the process he alienates some powerful warlords.

Kelley continues to dog William every step and performs powerful spells to stop him in his tracks. His knowledge in alchemy is also used by Mitsunari who is enraged by his actions. Despite all these obstacles, the European samurai manages to stop the evil spirits and saves Okatsu from Kelley's control. As players continue with the main campaign, they get involved in the Battle of Sekigahara and face powerful foes. With the help of Tenkai and Hattori, he manages to defeat the powerful beast.

Kelley has to find sheltered in the Nobunaga's reconstructed castle, but William follows him there and defeats him. With his dying breath, he manages to summon the Yamata no Orochi, but the monster finally falls to William as well. He chooses to disappear, while Ieyasu establishes his power, which starts the Edo period. Back in England, he confronts John Dee, the mastermind behind Kelley’s plot and defeats him by blinding him. The story of Nioh concludes with William returning to Japan after Hattori's death.

Screenshot of Nioh Slaying of Hitotsume Oni

Development of Nioh

Fumihiko Yasuda and Yosuke Hayashi co-directed the game, while Makoto Kamiya was the cinematic director. Development of Nioh started in 2004 and the team enlisted the talent of people working on popular titles such as Dead or Alive and ninja Gaiden. The team also drew inspiration from the unfinished script called Oni, but the original version failed. They decided to keep only the core elements and focus on William Adams as the key protagonist.

The game underwent many changes and the direction shifted almost completely after 2008. The merger between Tecmo and Koei allowed the newly formed company to use additional resources. Omega Force took over and this new division accelerated progress, but the game was scrapped by Shibusawa. He found the team capable of producing a game according to his vision when he signed an agreement with Team Ninja. These guys have been working on the game since 2010 and became the sole developers from 2012 onward. The game engine was built from scratch which explains why development took 13 years.

Where can I download Nioh?

Team Ninja is the developer who has the merit of creating Nioh and the game can be downloaded from their website. Sony Interactive is the main publisher and the one responsible for distributing the role-playing game worldwide. Given their prominent role and visibility globally, their website represents the best starting point for those who want to download the game.

There are plenty of other role-playing video games to download from Sony Interactive. The publisher was particularly busy in 2016 and released plenty of highly anticipated titles. Some great games are scheduled for 2017 and a handful already hit the stores in the first couple of months. Horizon Zero Dawn, The Last Guardian, Uncharted 4 A Thief’s End and MLB The Show 16 are all fun to play.

Screenshot of Nioh Breaker of Chains

What are others saying about Nioh?

It took so much time since the game was first announced in 2004 until its release date that people almost forgot about it. Sony Interactive did a fine job at reigniting interest and the hype grew again in 2016. The game was published in early February and hit the stores worldwide almost simultaneously. It generated the most enthusiasm in the UK and the United States, but naturally has plenty of fans in Japan as well.

In terms of sales, the game opened at number two in United Kingdom and both Walmart and Amazon sold all their copies within a week. Players who got the chance to complete the game and also write Nioh reviews were mostly satisfied. They forgot about the numerous delays and apparently were happy with the final product. Both the standard and Digital Deluxe Edition sold like hot cookies and players were very happy with the additional weapon packs. Those who took a leap of faith with the developers and preordered the game got bonus costumes and tiny toys.

My rating of Nioh

I vaguely remember that I’ve heard about this game first almost a decade ago. The news wasn’t promising back then as the plot of Nioh had just been scrapped again and the future didn’t look bright. I completely forgot about it but as soon as the name came up, I couldn’t resist the temptation of looking it up. It’s probably not worth 13 years for this game, but then again which videogame is actually worth this time?

At the same time, you have to respect the fact that the developers chose to postpone its release as much as needed. They were more concerned with coming up with a top-notch quality games and in many regards they succeeded. The story is nice, but some of the larger-than-life characters don’t seem to fit in too well. The game mechanics are exciting and I really like the combat system and the way it makes you feel when fighting monsters. For their commitment and perseverance as well as the sheer qualities of this game, I will rate Nioh 9 out of 10.

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