It’s a long, sprawling, epic and tough as nails, but in a way that can be learned from and ultimately feels deeply satisfying.
How do you create a great video game sequel? That’s the question that must have haunted the psyche of developer Team Ninja as they prepped a follow-up to 2017’s Dark Souls-esque smash hit Nioh. Do you expand the formula of the first game to such a degree that you risk alienating fans of the original? Or do you remain faithful to the prequel and brave the accusations of stagnation? It’s a tough balance to strike, but happily Nioh 2 can stand tall as an example of ‘doing it right’.
Nioh 2 is technically a prequel to Nioh, set mostly in the late 1500s (with some later chapters set further along the timeline). However, as with the first game, the story is a rather generic affair, existing only to give the player a setting and vague premise. You play the self-created character of Hide, a half-yokai Shiftling who is on an initially vague quest to fight enemy soldiers, evil yokai (demons) and grind for that perfect sword or pair of strides. Basically, it’s business as usual, with Hide doing main missions and side missions, getting stronger weapons, better armour, upgrading the frankly dizzying range of magical powers and swearing a lot when none of it makes a bloody difference against a big bastard boss who will definitely go down if you have “just one more go!”
So, yes, Nioh’s steep difficulty curve has absolutely returned for the sequel, but Nioh 2 offers so many combat options and such diverse build variety – not to mention the ability to summon help in on and offline modes – that there’s a good chance you’ll be able to bugger on through with a bit of patience. Performance-wise, Nioh 2 is a slick machine, offering the same fast-paced, often devastating combat where a single wrong move or mistimed attack can result in a messy end. The graphics are gorgeous, the animation crisp, with more enemy variety than the prequel, although the environments can start to feel a little samey as the game wears on.
Nioh 2 doesn’t reinvent the wheel. Which is a good thing, because people are pretty bloody fond of that wheel! It does, however, offer more combat and enemy variety, a large pool of weapons, a solid loot game and the ability to co-op more easily. It’s a long, sprawling, epic and tough as nails, but in a way that can be learned from and ultimately feels deeply satisfying.