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Team Ninja, hav­ing wit­nessed the suc­cess of From Soft­ware’s Souls

se­ries, have set out to carve their own slice of the dun­geon crawler pie by stick­ing the meat of a Souls game in a blender along with their own crit­i­cally ac­claimed Ninja

Gaiden DNA. Added to this they’ve topped it off with a sprin­kling of Ger­alt from the Witcher 3, but is it enough to pro­duce a heavy­weight con­tender to the Dark Souls tril­ogy?

In re­al­ity, what’s emerged is a sharp and solid take on From

Soft­ware’s es­tab­lished for­mula. Nioh’s at­mos­phere is every bit as moody, with graph­i­cal and au­dio am­bi­ence serv­ing up some dire en­vi­ron­ments that in­grain a sense of dread at every turn. Play­ers who seek so­lace in the genre will no doubt feel a con­nec­tion to this new dark world; not quite a hellish realm, but more of an al­ter­na­tive his­tor­i­cal nightmare, set in a fic­tional El­iz­a­bethan era/ Ja­panese Sen­goku pe­riod.

Start­ing as a west­ern pris­oner held in the Tower of Lon­don may seem like an odd plot premise for a game spout­ing Samu­rai sen­ti­men­tal­ity, and very close to the bone when com­pared to the first Dark Souls game, but it helps set an in­ter­na­tional foot­ing that sup­ports the mis­sion---- based struc­ture as op­posed to an open-world set­ting.

Start­ing off bare­foot in a pair of me­dieval undies isn’t the most ef­fec­tive or in­con­spic­u­ous way of es­cap­ing prison, and it’s not long be­fore Wil­liam’s pi­rate skills are used to pil­fer cloth­ing and ar­mour from bested guards, or by root­ing through a few lost-and-found chests that dot the prison. Dur­ing the in­tro mis­sion, and through­out the game, you’ll need to equip or re­place ar­mour reg­u­larly, but every piece re­quires spe­cial at­ten­tion as each has its own di­verse stats and perks; at­ten­tion to all cat­e­gories is vi­tal, as player’s will re­quire all the defensive help that they can get.

Weapon vari­ants pool from Gai­jin, Samu­rai and Nin­jutsu ar­ma­ments. Equally they re­quire care­ful thought as wield­ing dual swords for ex­am­ple may look the part; en­abling rapid con­sec­u­tive at­tacks, but they ul­ti­mately lack the power needed to take down harder ad­ver­saries.

Ki en­ergy is cen­tral to com­bat: it’s es­sen­tially a stamina gauge, but it’s vi­tal in bat­tle. Both of­fen­sive and defensive ac­tions will quickly de­plete it, leav­ing Wil­liam open to attack, of­ten end­ing in your swift demise.

For those put off by the Souls se­ries rep­u­ta­tion, Nioh of­fers a great train­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. That’s not to say this is easy go­ing – far from it! How­ever, there’s a grat­i­fy­ing flow to com­bat as your char­ac­ter deftly slices and dices his way through ad­ver­saries. It’ll en­tice you back, death af­ter frus­trat­ing death, but this isn’t some hack ’n’ slash af­fair. Dis­ci­pline is para­mount, but when you mas­ter both stance and rhythm the game re­ally comes into its stride.

BE­LOW There’s a plethora of en­emy types to dis­patch

Nioh’s Yokai (malev­o­lent Ja­panese spir­its) come in all shapes and sizes, a swift slay will de­pend on your choice of el­e­men­tal-in­fused weapon

TOP On­myo magic will sum­mon fire to en­ve­lope your equipped weapon

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