Nioh was one of my favorite games of 2017, and the sequel announcement during last year’s E3 was a very pleasant surprise. With From Software taking a well-deserved break from new Souls games, and Code Vein seemingly AWOL, it looks like the next game to scratch that particular masochistic gaming itch.
Having Sony drop an alpha code for Nioh 2 in my inbox was another very pleasant surprise, and I feel I should return the favor by saying nice things about it here.
So I’ll be up-front here, I’m not going to be particularly critical. I loved the first game, and this looks like more of the same. This is pretty much just going to be a post of observations based on how much I’ve seen so far – which is to say, I’ve gotten to the first boss and am currently banging my head against him until one of us gives up.
Wait, one criticism. The alpha disables the PS4 share button, so I can’t get any screenshots. I get it, I really do, but I still wish they hadn’t done that.
This is the best you get. Sorry.
Anyway. The demo doesn’t really give a sense for WHEN Nioh 2 is set. William isn’t in it, but it’s plainly set in roughly the same time period. The first level takes place in what I suspect is meant to be Shimane prefecture, since it revolves around an iron production facility. Shimane would have been in a state of considerable flux after Sekigahara, which is prominently featured in Nioh, so it seems a likely place for Yokai to pop up and start making trouble.
That’s all speculation, of course. On to observations!
First: There’s a character creator, and quite a robust one. I’m not one to dive into sliders and color pickers, so I just went with one of the default female characters.
As I mentioned, I’m currently banging my head against the boss at the end of the opening level, so I can’t comment on the level design past that point, but I love what they did with the first level. It has all kinds of shortcuts to open and carefully-placed items in concealed nooks and really rewards carefully poking around and seeing where every little dead-end path leads to.
The respawn system seems to have gotten a bit of a change-up. About halfway through the level, I found a huge corrupted area full of assorted nasties, including a Yokai that served as a miniboss. Killing him cleared the entire area and stuff stopped respawning in it, even after I died or visited shrines. Other enemies seem to respawn every time you do, like you’d expect from a game built around the Souls formula.
In addition to being able to team up with live players for active co-op, you can leave a “beneficial grave” which shows up in other words as a blue grave marker. They can spend ochoko cups to pull you in to their game and help out with fights.
Summoned blue phantoms do have limitations, of course. They die just as easily as a player would, and they have a limit on how long they’ll stick around. It seems to be based on how much stuff they fight with you rather than a time limit, though.
The Guardian Spirit system has gotten a bit of a revamp. Using a guardian spirit changes you into your yokai form, for the usual massive damage output and damage absorption traits. You can also customize Guardian Spirits using monster-dropped “Spirit Cores”. I didn’t dig into this too much, other than to equip a couple of Spirit Cores that looked promising, but I suspect there will be a lot of depth here.
Speaking of monsters, there are quite a few familiar faces in Nioh 2. I suppose some reuse of assets was inevitable, and it’s not like EVERY enemy is a repaint of something you probably murdered a thousand times over in the first game, but expect to kill a whole lot of those annoying crawling zombies with the pickaxes again.
Hunting for kodama spirits makes a return, and it brings a smile to my face to see the shrine population slowly grow as I track them down. There are also some differently-colored Kodama who you can drop items for, and they will evaluate the items and give you some presents in return if they like what you offer.
They do NOT say “so soft, so smooth” or anything of the sort.
On the lighter side of things, I occasionally stumbled across a strange fat calico cat who I could pet, and who would then follow me around and rub against my legs. This seemed to give me some sort of buff, though I couldn’t figure out exactly what it was buffing.
Here is where I went low-tech and just pointed a camera at the screen, in lieu of an actual screenshot:
If Koei Tecmo does not produce and sell plush versions of this little guy, I will be quite surprised.
Anyway, I may have more to say after I finally get past the guy who has been giving me so much trouble. He’s killed me eight times so far, and I’m starting to get a feel for his move set. I just need to work on getting out of his way and learning when I can safely punish his attacks. Should only take another twenty or thirty deaths. The alpha is active until June 4th. I can do this!