Nioh was first released in early 2017 as a dark samurai fantasy RPG full of action, bandits, and Yokai (monsters, spirits, and demons from Japanese folklore). The game, which takes place in the wastelands of the Sengoku period, was a hit and sold over 2.5 million copies worldwide.
I got to try the first ever hands-on trial of the highly anticipated sequel,at TGS 2019 and it did not disappoint. Though we only had 15 minutes to play the Cherry Blossom Cursed Village mission, it was enough to get a glimpse of the sequel’s exciting features, upgraded battle system and customized character game play.
Here’s a glimpse of what you can expect in Nioh 2:
Customize Your Own Character
The first thing to know about Nioh 2 is that you get to create and customize your own character. In the first Nioh, players took the role of William, an Irish Samurai pursuing the alchemist Edward Kelley. Though the trial version we played only had a limited number of options, the full game will allow you to pick or randomize your samurai’s gender, head, hair, make-up, body type, and voice. You can also set which type of Yokai power you want at this stage… but more on that later.
Creating your own character really adds to the immersive feeling of the story. I’m sure people will spend a lot of time here and it’ll be interesting to see other players come up with.
Experience New Abilities
In Nioh 2, your samurai not only uses a variety of deadly weapons but is also able to unleash Yokai powers and rain supernatural fury on your enemies. We can see this brand-new playstyle in the trailer released for the closed Alpha version testing held in May and June (below).
You can see in the trailer how your character uses these new Yokai powers in fierce battles with various Yokai. I will get to this more in a bit, keep reading!
Test Your Skill With Familiar, But Challenging Gameplay
As I began exploring the Cherry Blossom Cursed Village, I tested out the combination of a quick attack with the □ button, and a strong attack with △. I moved along checking the difference of movements and their effects among the three different Stances, Offensive High-Stance, Defensive Low-Stance, and Balanced Middle-Stance.
The Ki system seems to be unchanged from the first Nioh. Ki is the stamina you need to execute every move, and without it, your character will not be able to perform any actions. Enemies also have a visible Ki Gauge as well, requiring you to strategize when to strike and when to defend. I found this element to be one of the most enthralling — and challenging — aspects of this samurai hack and slash game.
Also, by pressing R1 at just the right time after attacking, the “Ki Pulse” is activated and you can replenish lost Ki (this should already be muscle memory for experienced players). Additionally, this move can be used to dispel patches of “Yokai Realm,” the area surrounding Yokai that gives them buffs and can lower your Ki regeneration rate. Ki Pulse comes in handy in Nioh 2, so don’t forget about it!
The first foe that I encountered in the Cherry Blossom Cursed Village was some type of flying Yokai with homing attacks. Because it was difficult to get close to it with my sword, I used my bow and with one headshot, its Ki was gone. After that, it only took another strong attack to finish it off. Piece of cake!
But never let your guard down in this Yokai-filled game: The moment I felt like I had a handle on things and that all my experience from playing the original Nioh had paid off, I was killed by a Gaki! For those who aren’t familiar, a Gaki is a small, creepy, and ghoul-esque Yokai. My first mistake was assuming it was harmless and I could just walk up to it and hack and slash away. When I tried to do this, it jumped on me, transformed into a giant creature, and I was, as the game puts it, “freed from this mortal coil.”
When you die, your Amrita (or the experience you gain) and your Guardian Spirit will be left on the spot. If you get killed again upon restarting, your Amrita is lost for good. I found this aspect of the game incredibly challenging and made the stakes much higher.
As I said before, never let your guard down if you want to survive in Nioh 2. After learning my lesson from my previous encounter with the Gaki, I ran straight back to the Shrine after I had recovered my Amrita. When you’re at the Shrine, you can use your Amrita to level up your character’s stats.
Even with the short amount of game play time that I had, there’s no doubt that the fights in Nioh 2 are extremely challenging and that you can easily die at any moment. But as you level up, gain new abilities, and collect special weapons and items with unique properties, the game makes players feel like fighting the impossibly difficult Yokai is possible. On that topic, I was also able to confirm that there is a “Summon Visitor” option in the Shrine menu. Though not available in the trial version I played, the final version of the game will allow collaborative multiplayer functionality so you can battle Yokai with friends online.
Fight Yokai with Yokai powers!
As I continued playing, I faced a spear-wielding Yokai called an Enki. An Enki is a gigantic monkey-like ogre that flies around chaotically while swinging its spear at you. I had no chance fighting it head on, so I thought I could use a combination of side dodges with my quick and strong attacks. This didn’t work, and I ended up spending the majority of my time defending.
That’s when I finally got to try out a “Super Attack.” These vary based on which Guardian Spirit type you choose when you first create your character (I chose Brute). Right before the Enki was about to perform a big attack (signaled by a light particle that appears right next to it) you press the R2 and ○ buttons at the right moment, and it transforms your character into a Yokai! Because I chose Brute, I was transformed into a Red Ogre-like Yokai and it blocked the enemy’s big attack then knocked it down.
This allowed me to land a number of consecutive hits on the Enki which also filled my Spirit Gauge. Once your gauge is full, you can then press △ and ○ to use a “Yokai Shift” move which involves wielding a huge hammer. The feel of this new move is close to entering the Living Weapon of the original Nioh that unleashes the power of Guardian Spirits. Similar to that ability, there is a time limit.
After finally defeating the Enki, a new path opened, and I acquired an item called a Soul Shard. When a Soul Shard is set to the Guardian Spirit, you get even more powerful Yokai skills. However, before you can use the Soul Shard, you have to purify it at a Shrine since it’s covered in Yokai Realm. As with Amrita, if you die while holding a Soul Shard that hasn’t been used, you will drop it. Because death lurks behind every corner in Nioh 2, I recommend that you head straight to a Shrine after obtaining a Soul Shard.
I then followed the newly opened path which triggered a video and introduced me to a boss of the Cherry Blossom Cursed Village. It was a giant horse-like Yokai with a long-stretching saw and it required my full attention just to dodge its attacks. Before I knew it, I was killed without a chance to understand its attack patterns. I felt despair and hopelessness not knowing how to fight back. It reminded me that Nioh’s sequel was back with a vengeance and that it was going to be just as difficult as the original one… if not more so.
I couldn’t let things end there. The second time around, I got to understand its attack patterns a little bit better and did manage to hit back… until I got caught and was ripped apart by its huge saw again. After my second death, my time was up. 15 minutes was way too short to find out about this boss’s weakness and how to take it down.
The feeling of achievement you get when discovering a way to defeat a strong enemy in Nioh 2 (like the Enki) is incredibly satisfying. After leveling up and upgrading equipment, you should start to see the path to victory against strong bosses that seemed undefeatable at first.
Every aspect of Nioh 2 makes the most of Yokai powers and how you combine these with different combinations of Guardian Spirit types, weapons, and attacks. The result is incredibly exciting and builds on the tactical essence of the original game.
From the despair of fighting an impossibly difficult Yokai to the satisfaction of finally beating it, Nioh 2 has proved to be a rewarding sequel to its predecessor.