Lexi’s review: Nioh 2
If you have read any of my past stuff you know I love this game and I’m going to tell you to buy it. If you didn’t know that, well, spoilers and now go buy it. 10/10, love the game and I want as many people as possible to buy it. Also I will go into the core mechanics in depth so if you are not interested in that than you can go check ABG’s reviews, those reviews will cover the basics. Also a quick shout out for this game having the absolute best character creator I have ever seen and a full transmog system allowing you to turn any piece of armor into the appearance of any other piece of armor, and any weapon into the appearance of any other weapon of the same type. The transmog is awesome and I absolutely love it. Buy. This. Game. With that out of the way let’s talk Nioh 2 and maybe some reasons for you not to buy it.
I played Nioh 2 on PC and for my eyes the game looks great. I love the graphics and the design of the world. That said, my eye for graphics is not as well honed as other PC players. I grew up on consoles, I enjoyed consoles a lot. For me maintaining 60 fps is more than enough and I’m happy. I know some PC players have reported issues with this game at 120 or 144 fps. If hitting either of those numbers is an absolute must for you than I caution you to do your research and find out if you feel comfortable making the purchase. The main issue I have seen reported is certain bosses attack at twice the volume of attacks on higher frame rates which leads to those bosses being far more difficult than intended. I have heard this issue was both fixed and not fixed, and without testing it on higher frame rates myself I cannot personally speak on whether it is or isn’t fixed. That said, I would say unless 120 or 144 fps are absolute musts for you than I would recommend giving this game a shot, even if you have to play on 60 fps.
The other issue some players have is not a bug, instead it is intended. This game can be crushingly difficult if you do not understand the mechanics, or if you cannot demonstrate the needed mastery of the mechanics. There are quite a few reports of players taking 6 hours or more to get through the first level, just to hit a brick wall at the second level they attempt. If difficulty is not your thing, or you do not handle loss and fail states well, than I would say buy this game with extreme caution. Nioh 2 is much more technically complex than any of the Dark Souls or Sekiro. I bring those two games up because they are often cited in people’s lists of difficult games they either have, or have not, beaten. These two games are also games Nioh 2 is compared to often as the Nioh franchise is a Souls-Like. And there are certain aspects in both Nioh that are very Souls. U have shrines instead of bonfires, you have stats you level with amrita instead of souls. You have items that you can break in order to get more of said experience and you must retrieve your body upon a death, as two deaths will cause you to lose all currently held experience. You have a multitude of weapon types and a stamina bar. There aredodges with i-frames, blocks and parries that all have their benefits and shortcomings. On paper it has souls flowing through it’s DNA so strongly that it’s undeniable. But that is where the similarities end. when you get to the actual combat, you will find Nioh is nothing like a souls game and is far more Ninja Gaiden than sekiro or souls, even if you don’t have the full freedom of movement from Ninja Gaiden. Those two things are the only warnings I have. It might not get along with high fps nicely and it is a hard game you have to understand. So now let’s talk the mechanics of Nioh 2.
In both Nioh I main odachi. If you are unaware, an odachi is basically a long katana. That’s oversimplified but it works. It’s your greatsword of the game. It’s got great reach, really nice damage, good Ki damage(I’ll cover ki shortly, just think stamina from souls and posture from sekiro), and a huge amount of versatility. My secondary weapon was fists. Fists are different from bare handed, which you can play. But fists are First weapons. Either gauntlets or claws. Claws to higher health damage, Gauntlets do higher ki damage. Many weapons in Nioh 2 have branched sub-types like this that all have their own pros and cons. For me though, it’s odachi and fists. My build also is a AA agility, A toughness build. AA agility means my dodges go farther, they cost less ki and attacks cost less ki. A toughness means you do not get staggered out of most attacks. these are both huge benefits, but they come at a cost of very low defence. My health goes very fast when a mistake is made and this is not a style for those new to the game. If you are new to the game, I’d recommend trying to always maintain A toughness, B agility. This will allow you to wear much heavier armor and soak up more hits. Not a lot of hits, just more than I do.
Ki. Ki is your stamina. You use it do do pretty much all actions. Attack, defend, dodge, it all will cost ki. Enemies also have ki. humans have human ki, and yokai(demons, again an oversimplification) have yokai ki. When you deplete a human’s ki, you can press heavy attack to get an execution, that’s why it’s also like posture in sekiro. These executions however are not guaranteed kills. also when a human is out of ki, you can bully them as they will now be knocked over when struck. Learn to do it right and once a human is out of ki, you can pretty much keep them out of ki for the remainder of the fight and make your life way easier. Yokai are a little different. When you deplete their ki, they cannot b executed. Instead they will be faltered by all attacks for a short period of time allowing a sort of DPS phase. At the end of the phase, they will either summon a yokai realm puddle(normal yokai), or they will enter the dark realm(bosses). Yokai realm puddles and the Dark realm both cause your ki recovery to slow while the yokai gain their ki back. Yokai in the Dark realm also have more dangerous movesets. You will also find patches of Dark realm throughout the different levels, they are cleared by killing the regular yokai who is the realm holder. But back to the during combat created yokai realms and dark realms. Yokai realm puddles can be cleared with a ki pulse, I’ll cover that in a moment. The dark realm on the other hand is cleared by fully depleting the boss’s ki or surving long enough for it to clear naturally, I’ll cover that now. When hitting any yokai, you will notice their ki goes down with each hit, same with humans. But there is also a second bar that slowly overlaps the yokai’s ki bar. You can think of this as ki damage build up and a portion of every attack causes this secondary build up. Get that build up to cover the entire ki bar and the yokai will be fully depleted, clearing the dark realm if you are in one and and allowing you to get off an execution. The dark realm is also a boss yokai’s DPS phase of sorts, where they are more dangerous and attack more. If you cannot clear this by staggering them then you can at least survive long enough for that phase to end naturally in a boss fight. Non boss related dark realms will never clear naturally. Yokai also have horns, you break the horn with a well aimed strike, you do massive ki damage instantly to the yokai. This helps get those yokai executions, though I rarely executed yokai, I much more commonly used the free moment as an extended DPS phase. The only time I would take an execution on a yokai is if i was in yokai form where you have a more powerful execution, more on yokai form later. So ki damage is very important. Thus my secondary, fists. But ki damage isn’t the full picture for ki. You are a shiftling, half yokai, half human. You have both a yokai ki bar and a human ki bar. The human ki bar functions like a stamina bar, you use it, it drains, you wait, it returns. But you also have something called a ki pulse. A ki pulse is a timed button press that returns to you a portion of your used ki for free, extending your total ki usage out much further than your bar should allow. Ki pulses also will clear all yokai realm puddles you are standing in or near. This is a vital skill to both understand and master as it allows you to both avoid going out of ki, which is devastating in the wrong moment, and allows you to upkeep during DPS phases for their full duration. That equals more damage which equals a happier you. Your yokai ki is a little different. You use it to use different yokai abilities. There are lots of abilities that you mainly get from yokai soul cores. These soul cores are a chance drop from a fallen yokai and they give you some ability related to said yokai. You can have 2 equipped initially, three by the end. Get the right soul cores for your style and they can massively increase your general capabilities. Soul cores are not the only yokai abilities you have though. You also have a yokai form and a yokai burst, determined by your guardian spirit. There are three types of guardian spirits: Brute, Feral, and Phantom. These three types all have their own yokai form and burst. A burst is a special counter you have. This burst is incredibly important as it allows you to counter many of the games most dangerous attacks. It costs a small amount of yokai ki to use and if it lands, it causes ki damage to whatever you countered. The burst of a brute is an attack that will falter an incoming attack, tho you may find yourself trading do to it’s slow nature. It’s the easiest to get off and it causes the most ki damage, but it can be costly to your health to use. The feral is a dodge with a ton of i-frames, and the phantom is an instant block. These are both far safer than brutes but they don’t do nearly the ki damage. all three also have a side benefit of being able to be used at any time. This means they can be used to circumvent attack recoveries or to get yourself out of an animation you do not what to be in. Yokai ki however does not recover naturally, it recovers when you do damage. This means you can run out of yokai ki and struggle to get it back if you are in a hole. If you are in a hole you do have some options. I’m not going to cover items, ninjutsu, or onmyo, because I tend to play with a light hand for those. It’s a person choice I enjoy. But you will have yokai form. Given enough amrita absorbed, you will be able to enter yokai form. This is a momentary “super” form where you take the form of your type of yokai and can deal out damage without fear of death. The duration of the form is dictated by what you do in it. Any action ticks down your remaining time, and getting hit also reduces your remaining time in the form. This means you could enter the form, take a huge spike of damage, and get knocked out of it without swinging. So this form is a tool, not an “I win button”. you still have to be very careful with when and how you use the form. But used correctly and its a very useful tool. That is the all of the core mechanics of ki out of the way.
Combat time. I’m sure putting this earlier would be the normal thing to do as combat is sexy, but understanding ki is essential to understanding combat, even if combat is the reason one plays the game. The basics of combat are there are three stances, combos, and skills. The stances are high, mid, and low. High is your main damage stance. This stance has the highest damage per hit, lowest number of hits in a combo, and the highest ki cost per attack. In high stance you also have a dodge roll. This dodge roll has a large number of i-frames and is most like the fast roll in dark souls. Timed right and you can weave through attacks and keep up your tempo, assuming good ki pulses. High stance also does not bounce of enemies when they guard. Mid is your moderate everything. Moderate damage, ki use, moderate combo length, and dodge. In fact your dodge in mid is a dash that chains to a dodge roll. the dash is fast, low ki cost, but low i-frames. The roll is the roll from high, but you have to dash first to access it. In mid you can also recover ki while blocking and moving. This is not possible in high or low stance. Mid normally bounces off guards, but some heavier weapons do not bounce off in mid. Low stance is bad on damage but it’s fast and agile. It’s attacks take very little ki, you can combo for days, and you can recover most of your used ki with ki pulses when done right. You also can chain dashes now, allowing fast movements across the battlefield. The damage is still very low though, so low stance is best used to learn new fights, understand new opponent movesets, and staying agile when fighting the unknown. Low will bounce off guards for all weapons, I believe. The intention of the system is you will weave through stances in live time while you fight to min max everything about your style, allowing you to try to get the most damage, for the least risk. Once you have a specific skill you can also get more ki back when you stance change during a ki pulse. This naturally leads to skill trees, there are a lot of trees. A forest of skill trees. There is a skill tree for your generic skills, there are trees for onmyo and ninjutsu, and there are skill trees for every single type of weapon. You gain individual points for each tree. You gain generic points for your overall character by levelling stats. You get points for everything else by using the thing for said tree. Want odachi skill points? Use an odachi. Your level with odachi will increase and you will get skill points. These skill points are spent on skills and skills can massively increase your combat abilities. Some skills can be used in multiple stances, some cannot. To use these skills you need to unlock them, and then assign them. There are many skills in this game, so you can’t have all equipped at once. You set up your assigned skills with the ones you want and you’re good to go. Most skills are interrupted when you are hit, regardless of toughness, but skills also tend to not bounce of guards, and some will do high ki or health damage. Get these skills in mid or low stance and it will increase their offensive capabilities. But skills being inturrupted when hit also means you cannot spam skills. Mid stance also has parry skills in may weapon trees that allow for a more defensive play if you are into that. I play odachi, as stated before, and odachi has a number of skills that allow the weapon to weave between high, mid, and low stance in combos. This means you can very easily reap the benefits of the different stances. The odachi also has Moonlit Snow. technically it has it twice. Moonlit snow is a skill from the first Nioh and Nioh 2 has both the original skill and Moonlit snow redux. The orginal is a slow series of three slashes, with the third slash happening twice. It’s High damage, and is not interrupted when hit, but it’s very slow. Redux is fast, but does not double slash at the end and is interrupted when hit. I love the original, But as said before I do not trade with my defense so I make prolific use of Moonlit snow redux. Mixed with all the stance switches inside my combos and the odachi becomes a jack of all trades weapon that is a true pleasure to play with. I’m not going to go deeper into my build as it’s much more information to understand. Instead I’ll give you the bare bones. It’s a purity build with 7 piece Izanagi, 6 piece Susanoo. Those two names are the names of Japanese gods and they are sets in Nioh 2.
This leads to Items, this will be short…er, than the last topic. Weapons and armor have rarities, stats, and the other standard RPG things. Armor also has light, medium, and heavy armor. Clearly the biggest difference is weight vs. defense. There are also accessories which function like rings in Diablo and sets with bonuses you get if you equip enough pieces from said set, like Diablo. If you get far enough in the game then you can get grace sets. These are set bonuses that can roll on any piece of gear that isn’t in a traditional set. Grace sets are named after gods because the items carry the grace of said god. Different sets amplify different stats or augment you in certain ways. They can buff your elemental damage, like my purity build, or your Onmyo/ninjutsu. They allow you to make a build you really enjoy. I will welcome you to explore the graces online with a quick google search if you are interested. As for getting items, you can find them or craft them. You can basically craft everything in the game assuming you find the specific smithing text for said Item. If you want a particular item to have a grace, you wear that item and an accessory with ‘same item find’ on it. This will cause versions of the Item you are wearing to drop more frequently in the loot pool. There is also a re-roll stats system and a way to boost your item’s over all level. The Way equipment items are handled in Nioh is my favorite system in a game. When you mix this gear system with the earlier mentioned transmog, you can make any build in the game without sacrificing your fashion needs. It’s a real dream.
By this point, if you are still reading, I’m pretty sure you have made up your mind on whether this is for you or not. I hope it is but understand if it isn’t. No matter your feelings I wish you a great day and hope you buy and love Nioh 2, Because seriously, buy it.
Extra readings. The character creator is really really good. There are many haircuts to choose from and you can choose different bangs and lengths for all of those hair cuts. You can change your two eyes freely from each other with a variety of colors, size, and pupils. There is height, build, muscle definition, tattoos, scars, and makeup, seriously, if you are interested go check out the sub-reddit glamurai. There is a sub-reddit entirely dedicated to the character creator of Nioh 2. It’s awesome and go enjoy people’s creations. As for me, I’m going to start planning my next review. At the moment I’m thinking star wars fallen order. Spoiler alert, it’s a mixed bag and I’d rather you buy Nioh 2, but that’s for the next piece.