Back when Nioh first released for the PlayStation 4, I initially wrote it off as just another Souls-like experience. I predicted the game would be indifferent from other titles that sought fame via cloning the popular Dark Souls experience, but after I playing it, I was happy to be proven wrong. From the start, Nioh anticipated the reception waiting for it, and changed the narrative instead. Rather than be compared to Dark Souls for its similarities, Nioh chose to have those similarities be an example of how the game is different. Much like the first title, Nioh 2 seeks to accomplish the same goal.
Like many others, I was fortunate enough to be accepted into the closed alpha for Nioh 2, where I could accumulate a first-hand understanding of the direction Koei Tecmo took for the sequel. My first impressions for the game started off with genuine excitement for what was to come but tapered off quicker than anticipated. The content present in the alpha is by no means bad—rather, just adequate.
Nioh 2 introduces a few new features that are sure to make many fans happy. For starters, Nioh’s main character, William, is gone in favor of a character creator that allows players to personalize their avatar for the adventure ahead. Upon diving further into the menu and player skills, the developer has evidently restructured the character skill tree in a favorable way. The list structure of the first game’s skill tree is abandoned in favor of a sphere-like grid for better visual representation. The improved skill tree highlights active and passive skills, as well as showing a clear path toward desired upgrades.
Perhaps one of Nioh 2’s greatest addition is the Yokai Shift—a new demonic form that is the embodiment of the player’s Living Weapon. The Living Weapon feature returns in Nioh 2 with the additive bonus of transforming into said weapon and unleashing its key bonuses. By activating the Yokai Shift, players will gain a temporary advantage in battle as their selected Living Weapon provides enhancements to their style of play. For myself, however, the addition of the Yokai Shift made the game easier, as I would reserve this ability until I needed to panic my way out of a situation or boss fight.
Additionally, Nioh 2 introduces augmentations that can be applied to the player’s Living Weapon via Yokai skills that are dropped from defeating random Yokai. These Yokai skills can be applied up to two at a time and can allow the player to execute an attack in the form of the inspired Yokai. On top of an additive attack, these Yokai skills can provide stat bonuses for both the player and the Living Weapon of choice.
While maintaining parity with the previous entry, Nioh 2 contains an abundance of loot. I have a feeling that the loot generosity was cranked up for the purpose of this demo and will certainly be dialed down for release. On average, opening a chest would grant me four or more items, which feels plentiful for a game designed around difficulty. During my time with the demo, I was constantly picking up new weapons and armor to enhance my avatar. Whether they were all useful, however, is a different story as the majority of loot gathered was substantially lower in quality to what I was already wearing.
Cooperative gameplay is back in Nioh 2, with a twist similar to that of a Dark Souls NPC summon. Along with the usual summoning of player combatants or allies, Nioh 2 will allow players to summon offline versions of other player’s characters in the form of Revenants. These Revenants will have a currency attached to them for a summoning requirement but will allow those who do not have an online subscription to gather support for the trials ahead.
When considering the enemy variety Nioh had offered, Nioh 2 brings back some familiar Yokai while justifiably introducing new types as well. The developer has also added a new mechanic to areas known as the Dark Realm, where certain Yokai will create a dark mist-like energy that reduces the player’s Ki recovery in an entire area. The only way to remove the Dark Realm is to find that enemy and kill him. The bosses featured in the alpha also have some version of this mechanic, adding an extra layer of difficulty onto the already daunting challenge.
The final changes that were noticed in the alpha are minor ones, but nevertheless effect certain playstyles from the first game. In Nioh 2, the developer excluded weapons such as the Kusarigama and Duel Swords from the game in favor of a Duel Axe. Although this change will only affect users who favored those weapons (me), the Dual Axe is a great addition to the game as it brings a newer fighting style and mechanic where the weapon can be thrown to close the distance in encounters.
Overall, Nioh 2’s closed alpha contains great gameplay that provides enough challenge vs. skill ratio. My only concern is that my time with this demo was not as challenging as the first Nioh. Back when the first Nioh released, players were not used to its style of combat, so it was naturally more difficulty than players had expected. With Nioh 2, though, not much has changed with the combat, allowing for some familiarity to be drawn and thus creating a sense of ease this time around.
Ultimately, the closed alpha established that the final product will likely be more of the same game. One could make the assumption that Nioh 2 is in fact Nioh 1.5, and they would not be wrong in doing so. Despite the excellent alpha demo, everything seen from Nioh 2 so far can be broken down as just added features to an already great game. Sadly, much of the footage shown and played so far is similar to its predecessor, feeling more like a giant expansion rather than a new game. As a fan of the first Nioh, I hope I am proved wrong before the game is finally released, but in the end, if you liked Nioh, you will naturally like Nioh 2.