A new life for Souls fans? [Nioh]

Nioh, the much-anticipated hack-and-slasher from Team Ninja is set for release next week on February 7, 2017. And while it has shown to take heavily from the acclaimed Soul series, we wonder exactly how good an experience it will deliver to fans of FromSoftware’s genre-defining brand of dark fantasy action RPGs.

A Souls Fan’s Thoughts on Nioh (Before Release)

Being a convert to the Souls games since Demon’s Souls, there is a lot to commend on the level of challenge the series had introduced to players. Difficulty arguably taking center-stage when looking back at some of the most memorable aspects of the games, it demanded a certain level of skill, learning and patience. Throughout the subsequent installments released, FromSoftware has refined the experience of combat and has put attention to the nuances of using the variety of weapons and equipment in the game, whether it be PvE or PvP.

The characters, enemies and bosses range from the hilariously weird to the disturbingly grotesque, and some just downright cool or majestic altogether. The game worlds are beautifully imagined, though some games in the series have more than disappointed us in this aspect. There is a constant sense of dread and death all around, with only your resolve to see through the end of the suffering and despair guiding you. Nevertheless, each Souls game was a unique package that thrusted you into an unforgiving but exhilarating experience.

Nioh looks to offer most of these, though in a world inspired by Japanese mythology. Most of what has been revealed in promotional material and playable demos present it as a worthy contender to FromSoftware’s juggernaut titles, though with some very telling differences. But is it enough to write it off as merely a Souls game draped in oriental folklore? Not quite. Nioh looks to offer even more.

If you thought combat in the Souls games provided that much needed depth, Nioh takes it up a notch by introducing the Combat Stances system. This isn’t ground-breaking by any means, though it adds another layer of strategy and adaptability in the midst of intense combat. There are three Stances for each weapon equipped that depending on the situation, allow you to switch between offensive, defensive or evasive combat. I personally am quite excited to know how much this might affect PvP (which has been confirmed), and how much farther it will take duels to more intense levels.

In terms of the enemies, even the most common encounters will prove challenging, even for veterans of the Souls games. In a very serious way, groups of enemies are NOT to be taken lightly. Forget about the weak hordes of near-naked enemies gone hollow in Dark Souls. In Nioh, you will constantly be up against the most ruthless and opportunistic samurai who know their stuff with their weapon of choice.

And let’s not forget the bosses that the game will have in-store for us. Hopefully, they will be as memorable as having fought Artorias, Ludwig or the Nameless King.

There is much to look forward to for fans of the samurai and ninja game library when it comes down to weapons and equipment in Nioh. Personally, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the katana weapons in the Souls games (I mostly rocked the ultra greatsword two-handed ala Berserk). But if stylish swordplay is your thing, Nioh is happy to oblige. Tons of feudal Japan armor and equipment are also obtained throughout the game, so you can deck it out Sengoku-era style against any and all enemy yokai you face on your journey. I just wished they would confirm an actual zanbato you can swing around while scattering limbs in the game!

Story-wise, the game is pretty straightforward. If you weren’t really buying the piece-together-yourself plot found in the majority of the Souls games, Nioh will guarantee your fix of a clear and concise narrative. Though the story being quite unblanketed as it is, it doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to liken it to Onimusha in one way or another. Heck the game even weaves historical figures from the warring periods of ancient Japan into the plot which the Onimusha games also did. But who’s to say that Dark Souls didn’t poke at even the slightest memories of playing Dragon’s Dogma or some other action RPG set a medieval Europe-inspired fantasy realm?

These are just some of my thoughts on what is known so far before Nioh’s release next week. The game is definitely worth its hype and even more, especially for a Souls fan. But it will only be familiar until you get the actual feel of the game, which I hope will catch even the most tested of hack-and-slash veterans off guard and into a refreshing and memorable experience.

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