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Game Review

by Jean-Karlo Lemus,

Nioh 2 The Complete Edition


Nioh 2 The Complete Edition
It is Japan's feudal era. Hideyoshi, a half-yokai, has a fateful encounter with a peddler of Sacred Stones. What starts as a pursuit of riches becomes a journey into the Sengoku Era's brutal conflicts as the pair encounter the warlord Oda Nobunaga and find themselves wading through armies of foot soldiers and yokai alike. Will Hideyoshi survive to see an era of peace? Or will they be freed from this mortal coil by the fury of the Sengoku Era?

Nioh 2 is Koei-Tecmo and Team Ninja's answer to the Dark Souls series. While it would be easy to write it off as a Feudal Japan-flavored Souls game, Team Ninja has injected the series with their own brand of intense, demanding gameplay that made the Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive games fan favorites. We were fortunate enough to preview the upcoming PC port of Nioh 2 Complete Edition, which offers the base game along with all three of its DLC packages.

Taking place in Japan during the 1500s, Nioh 2 allows you to design your own half-yokai character who embarks on a journey to defeat a great evil at the center of a broiling feudal war. The character creation mode is fairly in-depth, with plenty of Team Ninja's cheeky proportion options. You can also begin the game with a wide array of weapons, each with varying gameplay styles; among them are the double-katanas, the massive Odachi, the tonfa, or the chain hook. You can also choose a Guardian Spirit that determines the form and stats of your super-powered Feral form.

Featuring a more rigid mission-based structure, as opposed to Dark Souls' more open-world design, players can select a level to explore, where they'll encounter yokai and humans to fight. Like any other Souls-like game, combat involves strict rules and weight: your attacks and sidesteps consume your Ki (stamina), while enemies will assault you relentlessly. Defeating enemies grants Amrita, which is used to level up your stats. If you die, your Guardian Spirit guards your body, and your Amrita is left there. Should you reach your grave, you regain your Guardian Spirit and your accumulated Amrita; should you die before that point, your Guardian Spirit returns to you once you respawn—minus your Amrita.

Unlike the Souls games, Nioh 2 gives you different stances for each weapon, as well as a Ki Pulse that, when properly timed, can restore spent Ki. At first, these options combined with Nioh's steep difficulty can seem overwhelming. As you familiarize yourself with the mechanics and level up your character's stats and skills, however, you will learn new maneuvers and attacks that can give you an edge against your enemy. The result is a Souls-like with elements of a character action game: your fingers will dance across the joypad as your Ki Pulses out of one combo into another stance, only to continue with a grapple and a new chain of attacks.

Your Feral form is also a key part of your offensive repertoire. Well-timed use of your Feral form's burst counters and transformations can turn bosses into cakewalks, whittling down their stamina and opening them up to punishing grapples. There is, however, a degree of play that is demanded by the game: bosses will hit hard, fast, and unfairly. Refusing to use your Burst Counters in a timely manner will force you to see the text “Freed From This Mortal Coil” over and over again. It takes a degree of understanding and in-game grinding to reach a point where the mechanics finally click and become instinctual, but the satisfaction is immense once you attain it—provided you can survive the steep learning curve. The number of weapons available to you in the beginning can feel a little overwhelming, as does the need to remember your Ki pulses. There's only one way to get better at Nioh 2, and the process might prove to be entirely too frustrating for some.

Nioh 2 Complete Edition also offers three DLC packs that were previously offered via a season pass. The Tengu's Disciple allows players to visit the seaside Yashima region, where a great battle is taking place. Darkness in the Capital allows players to visit Kyoto during the Heian period, where the capital is overrun by monstrous yokai. The First Samurai takes players to Japan in the 700s, where players learn the history of the sword Sohayamaru. All three DLC packs add new levels, dungeons, weapons, guardian spirits, and enemies, as well as extra difficulty modes and even new weapon types complete with skill trees of their own. While The Tengu's Disciple and Darkness in the Capital seem to be the more-complete additions to the game, The First Samurai does add to the story's lore and post-game content.

As far as technical support goes, Nioh 2 Complete Edition is optimized for PC play. Players will be able to customize their control scheme to incorporate keyboard and mouse commands, as well as enjoy HDR monitor support and consistent 60 fps framerates—or even 120 fps, if your system can handle it. Beyond the technical jargon, Team Ninja has crafted an impressive take on Feudal Japan. Grotesque yokai lurk around every corner, moving with inhuman gaits and striking with brutal attacks and mesmerizing spellcraft. Human foot soldiers patrol ransacked villages, covered in grime from their latest battles. Wooded thickets are blanketed with a low fog, where yokai and soldiers alike hide to spring their traps. Meanwhile, your transformations are explosive and furious; it is undeniably cool to transform into a scaled-up, flame-horned oni and clobber the living daylights out of a mutated horse-man.

Nioh 2 Complete Edition's steep difficulty curve and demanding mechanics might make it inaccessible for some. However, those up for the challenge will find this release to be is by far the definitive Nioh 2 experience, and the added power of a PC port definitely makes Team Ninja's grimy feudal fantasy shine.

Overall : B+
Graphics : A
Sound/Music : B
Gameplay : B
Presentation : A

+ Lovely atmosphere and monster design, character creation/customization feels deep and satisfying, combat feels amazing once the mechanics click
Technical gameplay makes for an even-steeper difficulty curve than your usual Soulslike, weapon choices might feel a little overwhelming, Scampuss can't follow you around for the whole game

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