It wasn’t too long ago that players might turn their nose up at the idea of a Soulslike from anyone other than FromSoftware, but the first Nioh helped to break down that perception of inferiority. It was a great spin of the Soulslike formula, taking the core ideas that FromSoftware had established so brilliantly, adding in some funky combat stances and then setting the whole thing in the era of the samurai. While I appreciate that we’re all different people, it’s very hard to deny the raw (sex) appeal of ninjas and swords and stuff.
Nioh 2 brings us back to that setting, albeit in a slightly different part of Japanese history, this sequel has everything that made Nioh so good and more.
A big part of the appeal of the original came from its fast-paced combat, the deep well of systems and the rather enticing loot grind that is lacking from most games in this genre. All the best ideas from Nioh are still present, but Team Ninja have built on them in a number of meaningful ways.
Now set in 1555 feudal Japan, almost half a century before the first game, the country is still very much in turmoil. Monsters and evil spirits infest the lands, and you’re on hand to do battle with them as the hired mercenary Hideyoshi. Your character is where the first major change comes in, as instead of playing as a white dude samurai, you can create your own character. The customisation options are exhaustive, sure to feature everything that you could possibly want or need to create your very own samurai. Better still, your created character happens to be half-Yokai (no kink-shaming), and learns to draw power from them through the course of the game.
Your character’s unique genetic make-up not only makes for an awesome party trick, but it also grants you access to the Yokai counter; a powerful and necessary ability that lets you take the strongest attacks head-on, and then turn them to your advantage. It also means you have access to the Castlevania-esque ability to absorb the cores of enemy Yokai and gain their abilities. Sometimes this means temporarily transforming your arm into that of a horse demon and swinging a serrated sword at enemies, sometimes that means summoning demonic skeleton archers to fire at your prey. No matter what though, it’s incredibly cool, and I’m here for it.
The last thing it grants you, and which might be the coolest of them all, is the ability to transform into a demon via the Yokai Shift. This gives you one of a few forms depending on which Guardian Spirit you have equipped, enabling you to deal massive amounts of damage while being effectively invulnerable. You can even summon your spirit to help you battle while you shift!
Alongside the plethora of weapons returning from the first game, there are two new weapon classes to choose from. The Dual Hatchets allow for incredibly fast berserker-style attacks, while the Switchglaive feels like the ultimate form of a transforming Bloodborne weapon. It’s so because the low stance has you using it in a guillotine form, which is absurdly quick, the mid stance turns it into a glaive, which has excellent range, and the high stance turns it into a scythe. I’ve honestly not been drawn to use the hatchets much, but have been maining the Switchglaive.
Perhaps my favourite new addition is the game now having full co-op in the game. We’re talking setting up a room with friends and playing through the entire game, doing both main missions, side mission and watching cutscenes together. It’s honestly wonderful to play a Soulslike in co-op again, or at least have the option.
After the stellar Sekiro from FromSoftware last year, I was a little apprehensive about how Nioh 2 would fare, but all of the new additions have helped make this a completely different beast. This is now a game that I hope other developers can learn from – lord knows a proper co-op system in Dark Souls would have me going back into that world in a heartbeat.
The story has its lulls, but the world is still filled with exciting battles and absurd monsters – If you like the idea of getting beaten around by a giant snake god or a dude with strange eyebrows, then Nioh 2 is here for you – with a deep lore, Yokai cats that follow you around, and more loot than a thousand Diablo players could carry. It’s all then topped off with all of the new ideas that add onto the excellent combat and world design that made the original such a good game.