Andrew Whitehead has travelled Nioh and far to bring you this preview
It’s hard to believe that Koei Tecmo’s Nioh actually exists. This was a game that was announced by Koei all the way back in 2004 and originally conceived as a strange tie-in to an unfilmed Akira Kurosawa film script. After that fell through, the game was retooled for the PS3, targeting a 2006 release… which, obviously, never happened. Fast-forward to 10 years later, where things have changed dramatically: Tecmo and Koei tied the corporate knot, the PS4 is leading the market, and games like Dark Souls have become massive global success stories. So, when Nioh re-emerged last year, recreated by Team Ninja into a tough-as-nails action-RPG, people were genuinely surprised it still lived.
Of course, languishing in development hell for over a decade is certain to set off a few alarm bells – remember the messes of Duke Nukem Forever and Aliens: Colonial Marines? But we’ve got good news: Nioh’s looking like a superb Sengoku-era adventure. Hooray!
Players assume the role of William (based on real-life historical figure William Adams), a strangely Western samurai in a Japan that had gone to great lengths to shut Westerners out during that particular period in history. Unfortunately, William’s rugged blue-eyed, blond-haired appearance isn’t just drawing
attention from his human peers on the Japanese islands. There’s a whole host of demons, ghost, and other assorted yokai out for his blood for reasons as of yet unspecified. While there seems to be some hints of an interesting backstory here – and there are rumours that fictionalised versions of other Japanese historical figures from the Sengoku period will put in appearances – most of the emphasis in the demos and hands-on time Koei-Tecmo has given us has been on the gameplay.
Team Ninja’s forte is action-based gameplay with a hefty challenge level, and that’s precisely what you’re going to be getting here: Nioh takes no prisoners in its combat. But don’t be expecting to zip around the play-field with the acrobatic combat of the Ninja Gaiden games here. Nioh takes a page from the From Software playbook for its combat design (a fact the developers proudly proclaim), making it so that every movement must be carefully considered under pressure. A stamina meter drains away with every slash, dodge, and guard William performs, leaving him nigh helpless if he expends it fully. Foes don’t go down easily, though, and players will need to fight many times to learn effective strategies against their assailants. You’ll also be able to make use of mythical guardian spirits that grant passive effect bonuses, protect your valuable accumulated Amrita, and transform into living weapons that can grant immense attack power.
Team Ninja seems determined to make Nioh a fantastic experience, and they’ve already taken feedback from an earlier playable alpha on the PlayStation Store into account, eliminating weapon durability, rebalancing stamina use, adjusting the camera, and expanding the playable tutorial to help else players into the adventure before it cruelly tears you apart. A second, limitedtime demo is slated for August, so take it for a spin if this sounds like your bloody cup of tea. You can look forward to leaving this mortal coil many times over later this year on the PlayStation 4.
Nioh takes a page from the from software playbook for its combat design, which means constant pressure
DEVELOPER PUBLISHER PLATFORM RELEASE DATE Team Ninja Koei Tecmo PS4 TBA 2016
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