Dying Normalized: A Nioh Review

Dying (sometimes repeatedly) is nothing new to the video gaming world. Since the beginning, we gamers have been subjected to the whims of the gaming gods. We play, die, lose all our lives, come back again and beat the level… only to die again on the next. In modern gaming, however, developers have made dying completely unimportant. Sure, we die now; but it doesn’t mean anything as we simply come back to life at our last save point and start over again with all our progress saved in a little bubble. A style of games, the roguish, dungeon crawler, has made dying extremely frustrating, if still of little importance. Here, we dive into Koei-Tecmo’s most recent release, Nioh.


Nioh has taken the game play of Dark Souls and morphed it into something worthy of storytelling. You play as William, an English prisoner turned samurai on a quest to recover his spirit guardian Saoirse, whom has been stolen by a tattooed, bald baddie and spirited away to Japan. This baddie, Edward Kelley, is in search of a stone called Amrita to obtain for his own nefarious purposes. Although we haven’t gotten too far into the story, Nioh stands aside from Dark Souls for its rich story-telling ability and incredibly rich background. All of these events are set during the ascension of the Shogunate in 16th century Japan. For players of games like Shogun 2: Total War, Samurai Warriors, or just people savvy in knowledge of Japanese history, the name drops are incredibly significant. It will be interesting to see how the story plays out, and what revisions and additions are made to this work of historical fiction over the course of the game play.

Game play:

Nioh offers little additions to the already familiar game play given from the Dark Souls and Bloodborne franchises. The same patient heavy, dodge heavy, and incredibly repetitive deaths are all part of what have become loved from these games. What’s new is the Guardian Spirit, one of three entities the player can choose over the course of the game to call upon once the spirit meter is filled. The Guardian offers boosted attacks and can give a significant edge to a difficult fight. Another point of note is the speed in the game. Dark Souls has slower attacks and even slower enemies. Nioh requires all the mechanical know-how from these games, except the enemies are much faster and far more capable than those of other games. The first boss proved incredibly challenging, requiring precision dodges and exact calculations to the number of attacks to avoid being hit. One hit from this boss, and it is instant curtains (unless you can squeeze an elixir in). Although dying the fortieth time is devastating, the sweet savory victory over the enemy keeps you wanting to come back for more.


Although we have just scratched the surface with Nioh, the game has incredible promise. We have yet to encounter any technical, graphical, or game-breaking bugs that so often come with games at release. The story is one of incredible familiarity and an amazing choice for this type of game. The enemies are ruthless and the combat is brutal; all ingredients that make a samurai game worth playing. If you have the patience, don’t mind dying repeatedly, and just love samurai and medieval Japanese culture, Nioh is definitely for you. You’ll embark on a world of vast culture, breath-taking graphics, and fluid animations.  Go try it out and let us know what you think!


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