What makes a title action, an perfect Souls-like? To make that is perhaps its structure in the checkpoint, the system of character progression, or even its combat system exquisitely technical?
Probably the answer to this question is a combination of multiple factors, the fact is that in the past few years someone has tried to solve the puzzle, trying to match the achievements from the famous video game series of FromSoftware, who straddles two generations of console has been able to impose on the market, by itself, a new kind of reference capable of moving the interest of the masses.
Of course, Hidetaka Miyazaki and his continue to lay down the law on the subject as shown by the success achieved by Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and yet almost exactly one year away, we find ourselves struggling with a title that seems to be the son of that same talent, an action RPG that has really nothing to envy to the most noble colleagues in the trilogy, Dark Souls.
We are of course talking about Nioh 2, a direct sequel (or a prequel) to the events of the first, appreciated the chapter that collects all that Team Ninja had already made good in 2017 with the ambition to rise once and for all in the olympus of the best souls-like in movement. Of the rest, with Nioh, the software house had been shown to know how to do this by proposing a formula capable of innovating the canons of the genre, so it was only right to expect something still more important from the Japanese studio.
As was the case in the chapter the original, in Nioh 2 live a fantasy tale set in a setting which is very faithful to historical reality, not through the eyes of a character really existed as Williams, but rather in the shoes of a protagonist of the original, which can be customized in every detail in an editor that is particularly rich in options.
- Developer: Team Ninja
- Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment, Tecmo Koei
- Availability: from march 13, 2020 for the PS4
- Version tested: PS4
- Score – 8/10
The background is that of the late Sengoku era, characterized by the conquest of Oda Nobunaga which is very close to realizing his dream of unifying under a single daimyo of the five islands of Japan. At least initially, though, the story of our character will have nothing to do with the military campaigns of the Oda clan, especially because of his birth rather peculiar: the alter ego, which does not have a proper name and that is called throughout the course of the adventure with the nickname of “Hide”, has in its veins the blood Yokai, and it is precisely to this aspect are related to double-wire the many of the new gameplay that this result introduces.
The game begins with a flashback that tells how the mother of the protagonist, a woman Yokai, has been brutally murdered by a mysterious man by the appearance of a monk that haunts the nightmares of our character. Years later, in carrying out the noble art of the demon hunter, the Hide will come across a greedy trader of stones with the spirit of the name Tokichiro, and this meeting will give the kick-off to a storyline that maintains a good level of writing throughout his life, an indisputable step forward made by Team Ninja, if we remember that many had considered the story painted by the first Nioh as a simple side dish to the gameplay that was the real highlight of the production.
Full of twists and distortions of the face, the narrative continues through a series of main and side missions, as it was in Nioh, following a structure such acts which will bring the player to relive some of the battles and the most important moments in the history of Japan. Each of these is set in a part of the country that is represented by the top of the map of the world, the true hub of the game from which you can embark on quests, visit the blacksmith, the dojo or tea house, enjoy games online co-op but also to browse logs related to the characters, the story and the Yokai of Nioh 2.
In the course of the story, it will be very easy to become attached to different main characters.
Once you start the mission, Hide is to explore those that are the classic locations of a souls-like, marked by the presence of sanctuaries that allow you to save your progress on the map, as well as to spend all the souls that have been accumulated (in the Nioh, the Amrita) to level up. It is easy to understand if you are familiar with the typical system to checkpoint in any of the Souls, the Amrita that you obtained by defeating enemies are lost in the event of the death, and must be retaken reaching the place where it happened the game over, being very careful not to run out for a second time all of its HP.
Of course, very often all this will be easier said than done, since Nioh 2 presents a degree of challenge is very high, a bit like all the games belonging to its category. Unlike others, however, the new effort from Team Ninja can count on the same brilliant gameplay that had made the fortune of the first chapter, and that puts in the hands of the player a variety of useful tools to defeat the demons.
The combat system and technical precision, has remained virtually unchanged, based once again on attacks, light, heavy, parries, and dodges, but also on the trinomial of the handles, each best suited to situations and to different needs. The grip is high, for example, maximize the damage inflicted and it is perfect for enemies more imposing, and yet his move set is very slow and will likely hit something in the case of a Yokai fast enough. The intermediate one is a good middle ground and allows you to perform fast sword with a good output of damage, while the grip low is ideal for dodge, in addition to the fact that his attacks weaker, uses less Ki than all the others.
The Ki, for those who have never even touched the first Nioh, is no more than the stamina of the character, and its management has a crucial role in any combat. The goal of one match with the boss, which with the enemies normal, is not so much to cause the most amount of damage but to reset the Ki of the opponent, in such a way as to make him totally defenseless and vulnerable to a violent attack is critical.
The Form Yokai is the ideal place to deal with the demons larger.
If the antagonists humans are almost never a lethal threat as you just need to wait for the right moment to sbilanciarli and finish them off, the Yokai have from them the ability to summon the Kingdom Yokai, which materializes on the ground in the form of a large puddle in which the demons can easily recover all the Ki lost up to that time.
The Kingdom Yokai is a threat to the same Hide because, when you find within it, the protagonist has a limited regeneration of stamina, and might not be able to neither dodge nor parry incoming attacks, a contingency not pleasant facing demons from the size of a building. For these reasons, it is useful to learn very quickly to use the Rhythm of the Ki, i.e. the ability to quickly recover a portion of the Ki consumed by an attack by pressing the R1 button at the end of a combo, when Hide glows a familiar blue glow.
This mechanic was already present in the first chapter and it is fundamental because it guarantees to never be short of Ki, and because it allows to purify in an instant the Kingdom Yokai if you are on the inside. In the course of the adventure, but especially during the boss fight, we will face a particular type of Kingdom Yokai, the Dark Realm, that extends perpetually adverse effects to the recovery of the stamina without which the Rhythm of the Ki can delete it. In the levels, the Dark Realm can be cleansed only by eliminating a specific Yokai, while during the boss fight is still the Ki the key, as the drain on the stamina of the boss will cause its disappearance.
The combat system, already enhanced by the peculiarities of the three handles and punctuated by the timing of the Rhythm of the Ki, then enjoys a further component technique due to the many combos and active skills that you can use during a battle. These are specific to the nine categories of weapons in Nioh 2, and can be unlocked through the branches of the many trees of the skill, the points you earn simply by using regularly a specific type of blade.
Learn to master the timing with which to perform a Counter-attack Explosive is very important, since the beginning of the game.
The amount of active abilities is nothing short of overwhelming, to the point that the menu window of the game is devoted to their management, and allows you to choose which one to use for a given combination of keys. It was difficult to still improve the gameplay of a title such as Nioh, but Team Ninja has succeeded in the business by crafting a combat system, fast, accurate, varied, but above all entertaining, able to keep us glued to the controller despite the moments of frustration typical of a Souls-like.
Unexpectedly, however, the interesting things not to mention end up here. The most significant news on the front of the gameplay relate to the nature of the protagonist, that can turn itself into a Yokai once the indicator is full. Activated Form of Yokai, Hide takes no damage and deals much more than normal, a golden opportunity to exploit to the maximum, and that can turn the tide of a boss fight. The appearance and the special attack of the Form Yokai (which inflicts serious damage Ki at the enemy) diverge on the basis of which the attendant Spirit leads us in that moment, and from this it follows that it will always be helpful to choose the right attitude before a fight particularly hard.
The Spirits are more than twenty, and is divided into three macro-categories that go to indicate which Form Yokai will be evoked between Fierce, Brute, and Spectrum, the first, specialized on the speed, the second on the damage, and the third on the radius of action. To the guardian Spirits is linked to another important innovation, that of the Nuclei of a Soul, objects that you receive as a drop from the Yokai, and that can be linked to its own Spirit.
By equipping up to three Nuclei are obtained as many Skills Yokai, of the special attacks that reduce the Ki maximum of enemies, but that requires points Soul to be used. The points in the Soul you will get resulting in any type of cleave, and are indicated through a bar just below that of the stamina, going to be a further element of unpublished gameplay that really assumes the contours impressive for its depth and variety.
Almost every character of Nioh 2 has its own Spirit Guardian, which will be given to you by completing certain missions in the main and secondary.
Finally, one of the new features related to the Shape Yokai is the Counter-Explosive, a move that allows the cost of a Soul to respond to any attack the explosive enemy, or those types of offensive, and incredibly lethal early a recognizable glow red. In our experience, to master adequately the Counter-attack Explosive was the real key to get to the end of the boss fight more complicated, because the boss abuse often of the explosive attack, but because the Reversal, if played with the timing right, deprive them of any defense, and dramatically reduces their Ki.
About boss, it is valuable to take a paragraph of this review being aware of the fact that are, undoubtedly, a very important part of the experience offered by a Souls-like. The boss fight are the beauty of 23, and include the Yokai and human opponents, which, however, are not many, and all quite easy to beat. With regard to the Yokai, however, we were pleasantly impressed by their design and the care with which they were made, not to mention the combat mechanics are always different and that are not recycled in the course of the adventure. The discourse is different in regard to their difficulties, that in some cases we found it a bit excessive compared to the recommended level of the mission to which they belong.
If the fact that some bosses are too punitive could be considered a merit by some lovers of the genre, it is somewhat unfortunate that at least three of them do not have required any real commitment to be defeated, coming stored in a couple of attempts. This aspect is compounded when we add in the count is also the boss of human, which usually are very readable and do not offer virtually never a real sense of challenge to the player.
All in all, we feel ourselves to promote the boss of Nioh 2 that we have been able to give intense emotions and a variety of expletives, but with a reserve that is quite significant: in the boss fight dealt with in co-op with human players, the feeling has always been that a drastic decrease of the difficulty even in the case of the boss the most difficult, an apparent lack of balance, not to be underestimated, and that could spoil the experience to those who plan to play in the company of the entire campaign.
The bosses are all drawn from japanese folklore, and each have some unique mechanical, just like this charming Tatarimokke.
An aspect which is highlighted during the fights with the bosses is the importance of the magic of Onmyo and Ninjutsu, the operation of which is not twisted in step by Nioh to this below. Both schools are governed by the specific characteristics of the character and allow you to build the sanctuary of some of the objects that are really effective in the most disparate situations, such as talismans that grant you a buff elemental to your weapon, shuriken, kunai, and every kind of bomb. The Magic of Onmyo, and the Ninjutsu they have to turn their skill trees in which all objects must first be unlocked and then manufactured, a process a bit cumbersome at least at the beginning since this is not always automatically resort to this type of gimmicks.
What is certain is that proceeding in the adventure that will soon become clear the importance of these tools, which are really a lot and meet specific needs in the course of the fighting, risking even to save your life on more than one occasion. The Magic of Onmyo, especially, turned out to be absolutely crucial to resolve some of the issues with the boss, because it allows you to create talismans really of every kind: from those that hinder and slow down the opponent, those that buffano resistance to damage of the Hide, up to real balls of fire. The Magic (and to a lesser extent the Ninjutsu) in Nioh 2 is not only one of the paths that the character can undertake, but almost a forced choice in which to invest a handful of points during the level up.
With regard to the statistics of the character, they do not differ much from those of a classic souls-like except for the fact that each of them not only has an effect on the specific characteristics of the Hide, but also acts directly on the scaling of the weapons. Assign points to the Constitution will ensure not only a greater number of HP, but will increase the effectiveness of the Lance. The Heart affects the Ki and the Katane, instead, the Courage on the recovery of the stamina, and the damage of the Tonfa. The Energy increases the maximum weight transportable and improves the effects of the Axes, the Strength and the Ability to regulate the characteristics of the light armour and heavy in addition to scalar Odachi, Twin Katanas and Hatchets, Dexterity improves the ability of Ninjutsu and the Kusarigama, finally, while Magic involves the Magic of Onmyo, and Glaives.
As it often happens in a Souls-like, and then, the player will be interested to spend experience points in those statistics that improve the damage of a category of weapons that is more interested in, although there exists the possibility of realizing interesting build cross-leveraging the fact that all the features should be to intensify the efficiency of a weapon.
As you can see from the screen of the equipment, special Effects, weapons and armour can have a major impact on the effectiveness of Hide in combat.
Manage equipment during the course of the campaign will be also very important, because it is precisely this that provides those additional benefits with which to customize even more our style of game. Every object of the Nioh 2 is laid out on one of the five levels of rarity expected from Team Ninja, that affect the amount and the extent of the special Effects (real perk) of each equipment.
Hide can equip two main weapons, two ranged weapons, a suit of armor, divided into five slots and two extra accessories, with some of these items that can be part of unique sets that when worn together give additional buffs to the protagonist. From this point of view, assumes an importance not indifferent to the blacksmith, which unlocks after a few missions, and that it is the ideal place to buy, sell, improve and forge the dozens of pieces of equipment included in the game.
One of the levels of rarity, the category of the objects of the divine, you will unlock only at the end of the campaign and has an obvious link with the endgame of Nioh 2, which invites players to tackle the missions of the Dusk (the most difficult of their normal counterpart) and collect rare materials. The goal is clearly to build the build the perfect to deal with the mode “Dream strong”, the NG+ of the game which is quite similar to the one already present in the first chapter. The other elements which go to feed the longevity and the replayability of Nioh 2 are the clan system, presented in the same way by Nioh, but especially the coop, which follows special rules and must necessarily be treated in detail below.
During story missions you would often encounter in the Tombs of other players, that can be blue for those devoted to cooperation or red for those that summon a character hostile. In any case, all these icons allow you to interact only with NPCS that are managed by the computer, while if you’d like to receive assistance from a human user, the speech is complicated.
Summon your Spirit Guardian is always a certain effect.
Through the sanctuary is in fact possible to offer the Cups Ochoko for recall up to two human allies, who must on the contrary be available at the coop from a specific screen from the game world. An asymmetric system, and concretely different from the one already seen in the Souls, which, moreover, forces which have already completed a certain mission to access it from your visitor.
If, instead, you find yourself in the event you want to address in parallel the entire countryside in the company of a friend, you will have to necessarily rely on the Shipments, which are very different from the other type of coop. In the Expeditions, in fact, the success or failure of a mission group depend on the bar Service, an indicator that is progressively reduced at each death of the player. When the bar runs out completely, the duo is not reported to the last sanctuary, as they would to the mechanics of the campaign missions but back to the main menu having to start over the entire company.
We struggle to really understand the reasons that have led to this complicated and often frustrating mechanism for multiplayer from the Nioh 2, that penalizes significantly who would like to do his first run with a friend. The hope is that after Team Ninja may make changes to the Shipments, making it less punitive mode.
What, instead, cannot be in any way disputed at the japanese study is the work done on the levels of the game, which are all little masterpieces of level design. The maps are never completely linear, but marked by the repeated use of intelligent shortcuts and there are many branching paths in all directions, witness our frequent difficulties to orient ourselves in those that are, ultimately, of the real mazes. The levels are full of secrets and hidden areas, some of which are concealed behind an invisible wall, which itself is a Yokai.
In this regard, one of the main dynamics of Nioh 2 is the search of Kodama, those funny beings green that are scattered throughout the open world, and that once found, increase the maximum number of care restored to a sanctuary, a valuable incentive to persuade the player to find them all.
On the front of the technical implementation, we are entertained with Nioh 2 on a PS4-based and the results achieved by Team Ninja in this sense are simply stunning, if we consider the complexity of a souls-like, and the age of this console. From the point of view merely aesthetic, the game gives the best of itself in the models of the faces of the characters and the appearance of the Yokai, as are the environments to give his side a some weakness too. It must be said that this defect is substantially minimized due to the settings of the game modes, which allow you to choose between that Film that focuses on the resolution setting at 30 FPS and the Action, which gives precedence to the frame rate.
Even with regard to collisions, the developers have made things right by offering us a product that does not have any kind of smear. The weapons of the Yokai are often huge and end up with the intersection with the objects in the game world, but we have never been victims of strokes phantom or hit-suspicious, even behind walls and columns.
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There is no doubt, the work of Team Ninja is the one that can not be in any way ignored by the lovers of action RPG, let alone by the fans of the Souls-like. The study of the japanese has been successful in the first place, to overcome some of the criticisms of their first job, going to compose a story that manages to immerse the player and make him become attached to the fate of the characters, through a campaign of titanic that we were able to bring in the closing credits only after about eighty hours.
This implies that with the NG+ and the multiplayer, Nioh 2 in the end will give its customers an experience, over 100 hours, enhanced not only by the writing of a good standard that reserves a large number of surprises, but also from a gameplay further refined in all aspects.
Unfortunately, what penalizes a lot the new creature of Fumihiko Yasuda is the constant and continuous recycling of the assets of the Nioh, which concerns not only the main menu and interfaces, but also items of equipment and, above all, the Yokai , given that only a third of them has not been taken from the previous chapter.
If it were not for this, we’d be probably talking about a title that can challenge each other face to face the same founders of the genre souls-like, on which Nioh 2 takes in any case a lot of rematches from a combat system to be extremely deep. The competition is open and to enjoy them we are not us players.