Released on Feb 5th, 2021 for Steam users to much anticipation, Nioh 2 is the latest and greatest installment to the Nioh franchise developed by Team Ninja, in associating with publishers Koei Tecmo, and Sony Interactive Entertainment. The Nioh games being action oriented RPG titles branching from the Soulsborne genre.
To preface this review: Although I wanted desperately to complete every mission in Nioh 2 for a thoroughly encompassing understanding of its many aspects, at 50+ hours I’m yet to reach the end credits — and this delights me. Guilty as I may feel, plant my ass and here I write my accounts of Nioh 2 for your suffering or pleasure. (take your pick). Where as the original Nioh didn’t quite click with me, even without prerequisite knowledge/background Nioh 2 captivated me for hours, suffice it to say.
How one derives fun from a product tends to be highly subjective. As such, ALL forms of review are opinionated and should be taken with a grain of salt; this one included. So let’s review Nioh 2 – The Complete Edition through the lens of more objective metrics such as; graphical fidelity, characters & story, content & length, controls & gameplay, then finally, sound design & cinematics. We reviewed Nioh 2 on a 1050Ti 4Gb, 8GB Ram, with an i5-7300HQ. For full transparency, this review was performed using a provided copy of the game. Let’s get into it.
First off, Nioh 2 looks unabashedly outstanding – and that’s on a range. I was able to get Nioh 2 running smoothly on my 1050ti with 60 FPS at 1080p resolution, though most if not all settings were dialed back. That said, it still managed to impress me with its visual fidelity. While there certainly were jagged edges and some rough looking moments (anti-aliasing to the rescue), the fluidity of gameplay was there and absolutely playable. Since PC version 1.24 Ultrawide monitors have been supported for a more cinematic experience.
Generally speaking Nioh 2 looks good and performs well, even on semi-aging hardware. The light usage in this game really caught my attention with some tasteful applications to really make certain scenes pop. There were, however, moments where I noticed extreme saturation to the point of near blinding. Not even with brightness cranked up, or a high Nit monitor (not that a screenshot would reflect that). This could potentially be a graphical artifact, though the consistency was worrying. Graphical purists might be dissatisfied with that particular aspect, though I imagine they will have a wider array of options available to their hardware.
Shading alternatively looks good without appearing forced. Shades appear to come from appropriate light sources and don’t awkwardly conflict with models or textures. Not that it should ever really need to be stated, but I didn’t notice much if any clipping aside from specific armor pieces colliding. I did notice the occasional texture-pop but, I can chalk that up to weak hardware. It did not practically effect gameplay.
Wrapping up this section, I rarely if ever had any performance issues and don’t have a single crash to report. Updates and patches are frequent, and menus/UIs look good. They can take some adjusting to effectively navigate, though once the learning curve is past it’s both functional and aesthetically pleasing.
Characters & Story
This is an aspect where Nioh has greatly improved in my opinion. Not solely with regards to its characters, but also its general story and various elements.
I found Nioh 2′s cast a wonderful assortment of unique personalities, and I enjoyed many of my ingame interactions. Players will control their created version of “Hide” (our beloved silent protagonist) accompanied by the ever-silly Tokichiro and others such as the yokai-hunting Mumyo. While I can’t delve into too much detail lest-there-be spoilers, there are some truly fascinating characterizations available here with some tacked on plot-twists for good measure.
While I personally found the story too spread among the experience to properly appreciate the weight of its dramatic moments, it is effective in nature and certainly intriguing. I found this aspect to be a welcome improvement from the first, though what a player derives from a story is often subjective. If you’re a story-driven player, you will find some excitement here merely beware that you won’t be consuming this entire plot in 10 hours. Moving on.
Before moving on I want to focus a little bit on the character creator, I thought it was creative how the parents would comment as you moulded your “Hide” into your flawless specimen.
Content & Length
Alas we have arrived at what I would proclaim is Nioh 2′s finest asset: raw playability. Shit loads of gameplay, coupled with what feels like near-endless re-playability shape this up into outstandingly valuable piece of software well worth its asking price. This edition is jam-packed with everything 2 has to offer. This includes all free console updates, as well as all 3 DLC expansions, new weapons and, well. Their words, not mine:
Over 25 Main Missions, over 100 Sub Mission & Twilight Missions, over 100 types of Demon Parade Picture Scrolls, 108 Underworld floors, and more are included for over 50 hours of content
As previously stated, I can personally attest that this game has more than 50 hours of content. So if you’re like me and adore a good timesink, (or maybe you’re just a completionist) Nioh 2 might certainly be for you. This version also included new difficulties, and new endgame content.
When players begin their adventure, they are opted to pick 2 of the wide array of weaponry to start the game with. They may experiment with different types, stances & combos prior to choosing, though fear not as you can always switch it up with alternatives later. These include: swords, dual swords, odachis, spears, axes & hammers, splitstaves, kusarigamas, tonfas, hatchets, switchglaves, bows, guns, knuckle weapons, & good ol’ barehanded – if they really need a paddlin’.
Lastly with regards to Nioh 2’s content: Its multiplayer. These range from familiar “graves” summoning A.I. controlled friendlies, to full blown buddyup jolly co-operation. There are also included exciting “expeditions”, random encounters, or straight up PvP if that’s your jam.
Long story short there’s a tonne of high quality, highly replayable content here to keep you entertained for hours on end. Oh, and there’s a shit-load of lore if you’re into that too.
Controls & Gameplay
Controls are definitely an area where Nioh 2 (and frankly many souls-likes) falters. While the PC version does allow controller input, it’s pretty damn necessary when your mouse and keyboard layout is so janky. This has been addressed by the development team, but maybe M&K just isn’t destined for SoulsBorne gameplay. Again, even the OG Dark Souls is guilty of this, however, excuse this – that does not. While on the topic of controllers, I’d noticed that Nioh 2 doesn’t like to detect gamepads once the game has been started. This issue may potentially be on the user end, and if so please excuse my tardiness.
All of that being said there is extremely wide keybinding support to personalize the experience if players are unsatisfied with the current layout. However, with gamepad in hand (and working) I found myself meshing quite well with the default controls once surmounting the initial learning curve. Soulsborne players will take some getting used to not laying out smackdowns with neither trigger nor bumper – but you can rebind if you want.
Now as per usual, we reach the meat and potatoes of this 5-course meal: the gameplay itself.
That’s all fine and dandy, but how does it play?
Absolutely incredibly. Like a well oiled machine Nioh 2 knows what it’s here to do, and it does it damn well with intense focus. So, instead of the usual SoulsBorne formula with sprawlingly intertwined environments and clever map design, Nioh 2 opts for a level/mission based system set in… sprawlingly intertwined environments with clever map design. Hang on a second.. then what’s different? These large regions are broken up into smaller segments where missions take place, (sometimes flipped or reversed) they feel familiar as you progress until all the pieces fall into place as one massive locale. Some players will adore this system, others may see it as an unnecessary departure from one of the aspects that makes SouldBornes unique. While away with seamless maps, this does not mean that Nioh 2 does not contain some enormous levels large enough to get lost in. Thank Pappi-Tecmo for the compass. I personally enjoy the mission based system and think it fits the genre quite well, offering bite sized doses of masochism instead of overwhelming the player – though some of us are just here to overcome those odds.
That’s not to say the odds aren’t already against you here. Nioh 2 is savage, and will chew up and spit out unprepared like sunflower seeds. Some enemies have brutal patterns, such as the particularly dreaded Karasu–Tengu – they can go play in highway traffic. Though with practice players will learn new tactics to overcome old obstacles, and that is all part of the fun. I’m all for that, though Nioh 2 places players often in positions where the only plausible thing to do is to utilize an ability called “Burst Counter”. This is a title that will force you to learn it’s ways, or be damned and cry a lot. While you can play this game avoiding things such as parry/Burst Counter timings, players will likely struggle. It integrates a story dynamic into a gameplay function through the use of ‘Yokai’ (demon) form & abilities.
I thoroughly enjoy the massive arsenal available to players here. And when I say massive, I mean, so much that you literally cannot effectively specialize it all in one playthrough. Think of Sekiro’s skill trees but much larger, and multiple of them. One for each weapon, certain arts & magics. There are a tonne of abilities and skills to discover & combine here for a truly personalized gameplay experience. What all this means is that nearly every player can and likely will approach different situations uniquely to how they built their “Hide”. Are you heavy on magic, bows, or guns? Do you use switch-bladed scythe or do you just punch stuff in the mouth? Do you wait for openings and hit them sweet-sweet timings? Or do you go on the offensive to stagger your opponent and create your own opening? Nioh 2 offers extensive tactical/combat variety and it’s both thrilling and gripping. I could play this game forever.
On a final note for this section, Nioh 2 retains its Borderlands/Diablo style loot system, and while i do thoroughly enjoy looty games, I feel that this needs some further tuning. Oftentimes players will be overwhelmed with dozens if not hundreds of collected items over only a few missions. Item management is alright, though not perfect for dealing with these higher volumes. Although I must admit that it is still thrilling to slowly watch your character grow more powerful as the endgoal pivots into MAKE. NUMBER. BIGGER. While I enjoy this aspect, it also has the capability to lull players into a feeling of over/under powered-ness. Instead trying to rely on their raw skill and gitting-gud, players may fixate on bumping numbers up by 1% for the big win. To each their own, I just feel it creates opportunity for someone to think “I’m not bad, I just have bad equipment” and waste time grinding instead of practicing the skills required to succeed. Not that leveling up and getting better weapons won’t help, rather, just their impact feels overemphasized. Armor on the otherhand will keep you from getting 1-shot.
Sound Design & Cinematics
From the first moment the game loads and the opening cinematic plays, you know that you’re in for a treat. The music feel appropriate to the staging, fast and intense as the action unfolds giving players a morsel of what’s to come. Fast paced and chaotic action in droves, it sure gets the blood pumping.
In my viewings I found the included cinematics greatly enhanced the overall experience. The light-hearted and expressive characterizations added windows into individual depth and complexity for its characters where it’d otherwise be a bit scarce. They’re well animated and quite fun to watch in all honesty. Anytime a cinematic came on everything around me stopped and it earned my complete and undivided attention.
Yugo Kanno: the composer responsible for making Nioh 2’s soundtrack slap hard. Not in the usual/recent heavy-wub kind of way, rather, a fast paced oriental styling with heavy vocals reminding me of some compositions in the Witcher games. Overall the soundtrack was consistently of high standards and quality, I’m not disappointed in the slightest.
That aside with regards to other aspects of sound design, menus/key chimes all sound sharp and reactive, combat sounds great and abilities have punch. It’s really satisfying to hear the impact of each strike, accompanied by rolls and grunts from “Hide” and his opponents. Speaking of enemies their screeches and growls are shrill and terrifying, fitting to the setting and their demonic presence. With regards to other voice acting, I played the game entirely in Japanese with English subtitles for the authentic experience and found the acting to be exciting and energetic.
Point blank; if you’re a souls-like fan itching for more, then this is a must play. I would highly recommend Nioh 2, and would go so far as to say this is the best non-FromSoft souls-like to date standing shoulder to shoulder with giants (note: I have not played The Surge 2, but still have an otherwise decent sample size). Nearly everything about Nioh 2 feels refined and consistent. It runs and looks great, is packed to the brim with content, and most importantly: is a purely fun dose for fans of the genre. I’d give Nioh 2 a 9.2/10. While the pacing (in my opinion) may not be perfect, the immense amount of gameplay and it’s accompanied variety makes this game well worth your time and money. If you don’t like challenge or don’t know anything about SoulsBorne’s, I’d research the genre first before giving this a shot. Otherwise, get hunting.
What do you think of Nioh 2 – The Complete Edition? Let us know your thoughts in the comments, and if you enjoyed this content why not check out our Elite Dangerous: Odyssey PC Review.
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An Excellent Souls-Like That Stands On Its Own Merit
- Score - 9.2/109.2/10
+ Beautiful Visual Imagery & Thematics
+ Smooth and Reactive Gameplay
+ Wide Array of Weapons & Skills for Engagement Variety
– Loot System Needs Tuning
– Story Pacing