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At first glance, Nioh, released in February from Team Ninja for the PS4 (PC version forthcoming), seems like a game that was supposed to simply mirror the popular Dark Souls franchise. However, a complex itemization system and several skill customization options ensures that Nioh’s challenge goes beyond the Dark Souls formula to forge a different path.
Fans of the Souls series may notice that boss fights are hardly as epic in scale, though the enemy encounters remain challenging throughout the adventure, offering hardcore grinders several objectives and achievements to conquer. With multiple weapon techniques and powers, players are able to experience several hours of content. Optional missions that reward players who have levelled up their characters are treated to some rather flavorful confrontations, including samurai showdowns and demonic encounters on bridges, offering a sense of history and place that make Nioh feel more like a re-visitation of themes from Japanese mythology and history — hardly a bad thing.
While PVP was added three months after the game’s release in February, the initial method of fighting the ghosts of fallen players seemed a fun idea; however, true PVP is laggy and feels cheap. Fans of the Borderlands and Diablo loot systems will be pleased to see color-coded treasure dropped in piles, offering greater opportunities to grind and acquire better gear to take on the more challenging, optional missions.
The amount of depth in customization may overwhelm newer players, as more and more options make themselves available the further you progress in the game; becoming familiar with all these options takes time, though it feels rewarding when a new katana is constructed out of materials picked up from enemies. Despite all these challenges, the gameplay itself is balanced, with a variety of quests that are both attractive to complete and helpful in the development of your character.
A journey that offers a glimpse of Japanese history and spirituality, Nioh refuses to be a Dark Souls re-skin, presenting itself as an action-RPG that stands on its own merits.
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