Nioh Post-Release Thoughts & Review

So how’s Nioh treatin’ you my boy. Is it everything you’ve ever wanted or not? Are there any problems with it?

No issue. I thought it was getting a bit too easy, or maybe I was getting too good, or overleveled, so I decided to skip all the sub-missions for an area and only do the main missions, and that made it a lot harder.

Many of the early game areas had enemies removed to make them more easy, which is disappointing, but the difficulty is curving back up in the later game, we’ll see if it gets back to the demo levels.

I’ve heard from some that Nioh is a tad easy and that even DSP has already passed the 2nd level, and that’s getting me a bit worried. Is that true?

Shrug. It’s easier than the demos. They removed enemies from many places in the levels where they were present in the demos, especially in multi-enemy encounters. I’ve had limited playtime, so it may get harder later on. I’m still dying a fair amount, mostly to bosses.

They also changed the way ki pulse works, so that stamina regenerates as ki pulse is refilling, making missing the ki pulse less punishing.

Also I’m overleveled, possibly because I’m doing all the sub-missions too, possibly because I’m not losing amrita by dying that often, possibly because the amrita drop rate is too high.

We’ll see if it pans out into the twilight levels and later levels.

With NIOH out now, is there any point in going back to play the other Souls/Borne games again when NIOH expands so greatly on them? Is there anything that the OG Souls/Borne games have that NIOH doesn’t?

Different content? Different weapons? Different enemies and locations? I mean, Nioh existing doesn’t make the soulsborne games obsolete, it’s not the same exact game but better.

Are there multiple enemy encounters or are they mostly all single enemy encounters so far? Also, how far are you?

There’s multi-enemy encounters. There’s a few where you can lure some enemies out and not have to fight all of them, but also the levels that were altered are early levels in the game, so it doesn’t make so much sense to have tons of enemies for players still new to the game. I remarked on this way back when the Alpha happened. I loved the alpha version of the first level, but it was way too hard to be the second stage in the game.

The game is split into regions, and I’m on the third one now. Just beat an ice princess lady with frost butterflies. She was hard as hell. This game does not want you cheesing bosses, except with the ranged weapons, and even then your ammo is limited. The spider boss before her was super easy though, beat that one without a death.

Also they reset the kodama you have collected at the shrine each region, so you keep going back to only 3 elixirs until you collect more kodama for that region, which can be tricky.

Still haven’t gotten up to encounters with 4 enemies at once, but I’m probably not that far into the game yet.

What do you think?

So, first he complains about leveling. I had kind of the opposite experience of him. I did all the sub-missions in the first two areas. I almost never died and lost amrita, so I was able to level up consistently, and I stopped doing this after the spider boss, before the ice level, which is the same level he complained about being underleveled for. I didn’t find the ice level hard except for the boss, who didn’t have significantly higher damage output than the other bosses, just had way more tricky attack patterns. Since then I’ve mostly stopped doing side missions, because I want to keep the main missions difficult.

I will agree with him that levels have a significantly greater impact on the difficulty than they do in the souls games. There’s very big gains in damage if you’re at the appropriate level versus if you’re not.

Counterpoint: You don’t need to grind to get to the appropriate level. The sub-missions provide you more than enough extra amrita from simply clearing them, and there’s a lot of sub-missions. You don’t need to repeat killing the same few enemies over and over again in order to get to the appropriate level.

Next up, yeah, the stat gains are kind of random at times. You seem to have consistent rates of stat gain, then on certain levels you just gain a lot more for specific stats. It’s hard to tell exactly why this happens, but it seems to have something to do with stat synergy and magic numbers. My strategy for leveling is check what stat gains you get in every stat before leveling up, invest in the stat where the gains are highest, assuming they’re relevant to your build.

(Also, kusarigama, the weapon he uses in most of this video, it doesn’t scale very strongly with body like he claims)

And I don’t think the multitude of stat systems are really that complicated overall. You don’t need to pay attention to the crazy loot system, you can do more than well enough just by looking at the big damage or protection number. I figured it out with a lot less explanation than the demon’s souls system. During the Alpha.

I don’t think Nioh is weighted more towards character building than Dark Souls, Nioh doubles down on the action half of the game.

Wish he mentioned that the stances also have a small wrinkle in that mid stance is best at blocking, and low is worst.

Also, he doesn’t seem to know about grapples, which are a basic universal skill, for dealing damage when enemies are out of health, he just knows about the knockdowns from fucking up a grapple.

And he skips over how most weapons have an actual parry skill, it just doesn’t deal massive damage automatically.

And he doesn’t recognize how Yokai and Humans have differently functioning Ki. They don’t play by the same rules. Big Yokai, when their Ki is expended, they can become knocked down for bonus damage depending on their enemy type, but the more important trait is that when the ki runs out, they suffer hitstun same as weaker enemies, so you can combo them. After a timer runs out, they play an uninterruptible animation where they regain a portion of Ki and create a portal to the Yokai Realm beneath their feet. Yeah, Yokai don’t play by the same rules. They also don’t regen Ki unless they’re in a portal. The rules they play by however are very consistent.

Sure, you get staggered pretty bad, but you can cancel hitstun at any time with blocking, so it’s a matter of reaction time to block after being hit.

I think I have to agree that overall, Nioh has the best single player combat system of all time. It has a tremendously solid core dynamic, then tons of smaller dynamics like Ki, Ki Pulses, and enemy Ki that create tons of situational factors to capitalize on. It’s weaker in some areas than other games (not as many moves or as many advanced techniques as stylish action games), but it has the advantage in building a really really great neutral game, which I think counts for more in terms of functional complexity.

I can agree that the enemy repetition is pretty bad. Probably the biggest weak point for the game. There’s only 29~36 enemy types (depending on how you count enemies of the same type with different weapons). Demon’s Souls had 39, Dark Souls had 89. BB had 66.

He’s totally wrong that the healing system is like Bloodborne. It’s like a mix of mainline Souls and Bloodborne. You get 3 for free every time you visit the shrine or die, like estus from souls. You cannot drop below 3. If you send more kodama (little green guys) back to the shrine, you get more free elixir every time you visit the shrine. It’s also possible for enemies to drop elixir, or to gain it by offering weapons/armor. These get stored as a stock above the ones you get for free, up to a maximum of 8 (you can spend skill points to expand this limit) and are replenished from the stock in your item box every time you visit the shrine, until either you run out or hit maximum. Kodama sent back to the shrine reset at the start of each region.

I think the actual level design is really good, and by self containing each level, they might not have been able to deliver an interconnected world overall, but they were able to focus on delivering good level design for each individual level. That and Souls games themselves aren’t interconnected usually, so disconnecting it more to gain a raise in level design quality is a reasonable compromise.

Demon Centipede is half-baked, can’t say much else.

So Nioh’s combat system is even better than God Hand’s?

I thought about this when I wrote that, and my gut says yes.

It just needs more enemy variety, which apparently is coming with future DLC, along with harder levels and PVP.

And what are your thoughts now that you’re done?

It was a superb game. It continued to have interesting variations in level design right up to the end. Playing each side mission once was indeed the correct decision. I ended up underleveled in the end, facing off with the final level while 30 levels down. As the game goes on it gets much less shy about multiple enemy encounters, especially in the sub-missions. Unfortunately the enemy variety isn’t the best. It still has a fair amount though, and the enemies themselves are generally rather distinct mechanically.

At the end of the game, there’s a post-game mission where you fight the two hardest bosses in the game at the same time. That mission was cool as fuck. Plus they have different stamina systems and attacks that synergize in different ways. It’s like Ornstein and Smough on steroids, and you have no pillars to hide behind either. The final final level has you fight 3 really tough unique enemies at once (the room is rigged so they all spawn at once no matter what) before the true final boss, who is kind of a pushover.

Carnage, Weakness Talisman, and Sloth are the ultimate cheese, but apart from them it’s very difficult to cheese enemies. Most enemies are designed with harder to react to attacks that specifically target when you’re behind them, so being behind them will get you out of the way of their regular more reactable attacks, as well as let you deal more damage to them, but then you need to contend with these turnaround attacks that are in a way harder to avoid. It’s a very solid design decision.

The way the stamina system works with enemies gives you longer term opportunities for damage that you can work towards if you’re opportunistic. This is especially true of Yokai, many of which have specific points in their attack animations that allow them to be interrupted, draining all their stamina. On top of that, the animation where they fall down on some enemies after running out of stamina is somewhat interruptible, so if you notice they’re close to being stunned, you can stock up stamina, then do a longer combo on them in the process of depleting their stamina, getting more damage out of this state. With human enemies, they regenerate stamina more readily, but also expend it with their attacks, so you need to pay attention to when they spend it and sometimes take a risk going all-in aggressive when you notice they’re about to be drained. There’s limited juggling in the game, which is especially useful against Saika. You can hit him with any projectile, or when he’s coming down from the air to juggle him, which knocks him down, setting him up for a free punish if you can grab those opportunities. Many bosses have asynchronous attacks, so even if they’re vulnerable and you’re hitting them, you still need to watch out for whether their projectiles will catch you. All of these factors in sychronicity make it so unique situations are emerging all the time and you need to judge carefully based on your knowledge of the situation versus the options at hand. This is a big part of why I think Nioh has the best single player combat system ever.

The arrow makes a comeback from Ninja Gaiden in almost exactly the same fashion, it seemingly exists to get free damage if you can line up a headshot. Some enemies patrol, making this more difficult. I’m okay with it. It’s still much less cheesy than spells in dark souls. Your supply of arrows and bullets is limited and you can’t readily replenish them. Since you need to aim it manually, it’s very tricky to use in combat, and there’s a startup and recoil time to balance it with the rest of the system. It doesn’t get amazing damage if you miss the headshot, but it can be enough to help out. If you can line up headshots mid-combat, then you deserve them.

Nioh is a game of mindfulness. It reminds me a lot of Furi in that way, what with punishes being proportional to the opening and your ability to react to it. And both of these remind me a lot of Fighting Games of course, which are the king of that sort of interaction.

And it’s filled with improvements on the souls games, like the equip burden system, which makes it so neither low equip burden or high equip burden are explicitly better than one another, because when low, you have less poise and more evasiveness, but when high you have more poise and more evasiveness, regardless of the armor you’re actually wearing. It bakes the tradeoff directly into the percentage of your equip burden rather than the dark souls way which makes it so equip burden is the greatest stat in the world to improve, and hopefully the better armor/heavier weight tradeoff numbers work right versus how much equip burden you can get total.

There’s also the altered backstab and critical hit systems. You can only backstab enemies that are unaware of you, so no abusing backstabs repeatedly for invincibility and frame advantage like dark souls. Also backstabs and critical hits of all types only have a short window of invincibility, with a startup, and a cooldown. So if you try to use them to iframe through other attacks, you’ll usually be sorry.

And there’s Nioh’s improved Dodge and Block systems. Nioh differentiated dodging and blocking a bit more so there’s reasons to do both, unlike the souls series where the two are both fairly similar as a defensive option, just blocking is easy, and dodging is technically better.

In Nioh, they made blocking omnidirectional (it didn’t serve a lot of purpose being directional in souls) and slowed down the rate of movement, so if you block, you can’t also walk out of the way of attacks. Also Block is the only thing that cancels hitstun, so if you are taking damage, especially quickly repeating damage, block is the thing to go for. It’s a bit of a reaction thing, saving yourself from a more serious punish, because hitstun inflicted to William is a lot longer in Nioh than Souls. Blocking does however forfeit your Ki Pulse.

Dodging meanwhile has two versions, a fast evade and a slow roll. The slow roll has a ton of iframes, but also a ton of recovery, making it similar to a dark souls fat roll, but slightly faster and more invincible, so it’s more versatile. The evade by contrast has very few iframes, but is good at getting out of the way of things. These are controlled by what stance you’re in.

Because both dodges have significant vulnerable times, they’re both poor against attacks with a lot of tracking or wide arcs, and of course because you need to time them a lot better than in dark souls due to their increased vulnerability, making blocking more viable in these situations. Blocking being omnidirectional also makes it more useful against offscreen attacks.

Having the ninjutsu and omnyo magic systems be like regenerating items is a clever touch. Items as a whole got a ton of use, though I think the limited supply pickup items should have been more powerful than your regenerating supply of jutsus to balance the two out. By the end I wasn’t using any of the pickup items.

The level versus power curve is very direct at the start, but it gets eased up a lot as the game progresses. I personally think the best way to play the game is to skip 50% of sub-missions until like level 30-50, then play all sub-missions once for the rest of the game as they’re unlocked. You’ll avoid getting overleveled too easily in the early areas, and end up underleveled for the finale where being underleveled matters less.

I’m really looking forward to the DLC which plans to add additional enemy types and a new weapon. I’m not really looking forward to the PVP DLC in comparison, because there’s no real guardbreak option like in say For Honor, so I don’t expect it to totally work. It’ll probably be better than Souls PVP because of the increased range of attacks though and because the guard break options that are there are better.

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3 thoughts on “Nioh Post-Release Thoughts & Review

  1. Augus SA (@Augus_SA) March 20, 2017 / 8:44 pm

    This might be personal preference and just the game not having the same priorities as Dark Souls, or it might be because I haven’t played past the first continent, but one thing that Nioh is letting me down on so far is level design. The areas feel rather forgettable, lacking the creative environmental challenges of the best Souls levels. Dark Souls earned a lot of depth in its combat from having to manage your environment, fighting enemies in the dark or in narrow environments. Not to mention the satisfying exploration and atmosphere that Dark Souls levels have. Perhaps Nioh’s combat is too fast-paced and complex that adding such obstacles would be too much for the player to manage. I’m not sure if this can be considered a real flaw, but it’s definitely something that makes me prefer Dark Souls by quite a bit.

    Also I don’t like the inventory management at all. It feels like completely unnecessary busywork where I need to stop on a regular basis to clean through a hundred useless weapons in my fast-paced action game. Just let me pick a weapon I like and upgrade it with ores or whatever, there’s so much needless bloat to this system.

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    • Chris Wagar March 20, 2017 / 9:28 pm

      They have a few more environmental gimmicks later on, but in general Nioh’s level design is just generally solid. It has unlockable shortcuts. It has good enemy positioning relative to the level geometry. It has good enemy combinations. Later levels feature more environmental hazards which you may find more interesting, such as bottomless pits and the like.

      The inventory management can be handled fairly simply if you don’t care about it. Just offer everything you get at the shrine, equipping the strongest weapon or armor. A friend of mine experimented more with the forging system and more or less, it’s impossible to increase weapon level for any reasonable expense, but if you mess with it enough, you can get any weapon effect you want onto the weapon of your choice. If you don’t want to be bothered with it though, you can menu really fast to get rid of all the unnecessary crap. Just lock the weapon(s) you want to keep, hit R2 to select all, then offer them.

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  2. Augus SA (@Augus_SA) May 9, 2017 / 6:23 pm

    Alright, playing more I found out my problem with the level design. It’s not that it’s too linear, or the enemy placement is bad, or there aren’t enough environmental hazards. The real problem I’m having is the visual presentation, a lot of the environments are way too repetitive-looking and lacking in solid landmarks to keep yourself oriented. A lot of the levels quickly devolve into mazes of samey rock walls and caves. At times the level geometry is downright copy-pasted throughout the level, as is the case with Mount Hiei where you pass the same arrangement of temples but slightly different multiple times. Even after beating that level I still have no clue how that area is supposed to be arranged. There are exceptions to this, I thought the Iga Escape was a really cool level that had a good sense of physical space.

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