Definitive proof that there is fun in challenge and frustration – Nioh: Complete Edition Review [PC]
After taking console players by storm earlier this year, Nioh: Complete Edition releases today on PC to challenge the metal of PC Gamers and see if they can make the cut. Players take the role of William, a blonde Irishman with enough experience wielding a blade to assist Tokugawa Ieyasu and Hattori Hanzo to take on the Yoaki infesting Japan. The Yokai conflict is being driven by John Dee, Cheif Advisor of Queen Elizabeth, to lay unrest in Japan. Players must traverse this dark fantasy imagining of the Sengoku period, defeating yokai, and putting an end to John Dee’s sinister plot.
I was extremely torn about Nioh’s story. Objectively, the story is a great narrative that is compelling and rife with drama and action to entertain fans of action, sword battles, and fantasy. On the other hand, it’s kind of a white guy saving Japan. It is unfair for me to impose my ideology on to the developers and writers of the game and judge them on it, but I honestly can’t help it. However, aside from the white savior complex, Nioh’s story is gripping and well put together. In fact, it is a masterful work of historical fiction. I am by no means an expert on Japanese history, but I have vague knowledge through doing research on the Samurai and through martial arts movies. The inclusion of Hatori Hanzo had me giddy. Being able to fight with the legendary samurai is amazing nerd bate. The parallels of the actual conflict of the late Sengoku period, to the events of the game, are matched rather well throughout the game. I’m basing it largely on the history found in Wikipedia, but it’s still a pretty interesting comparison. At the very least, it shows the great depth of detail the writers and developers put into the game. The best analogy would be someone using grand metaphors and imagery to describe a horrific battle, and someone turned that imagery into a video game.
Aside from the epic, albeit triggering story, gameplay is where the game really hooks players in. From the very beginning, you are given control over William and feel in tune with his movements and attacks. Which makes it gloriously satisfying when you get a kill, and infuriatingly devastating when you are killed. I learned right away, not to attack a guard head-on, in my underwear, and unarmed. Common sense should have led me to understand that, but video game hubris convinced me, “I got this.” Well, I didn’t have it and was killed almost instantly. The attacks deal damage that look and feel appropriate. It’s not like other games where generic or repetitive motions deal random amounts of damage. The attacks look and feel proportionate to their animation and character models. The same attacks that look, and are, life ending when you are armor-less look, and are, feeble to you later as you progress. This detail fades as you get further into the game, but it’s a nice touch that I found to really increase my enjoyment.
On top of the intuitive controls and interactions, the game’s wide variation of enemies and overall difficulty really make the game. Each enemy has different fighting styles and different ways of adapting to you. Fighting Tower Guards, to Yokai, to other Samurai never feels monotonous. It also gets pretty hard. What I like about this game, in particular, is that the difficulty does not feel out of reach or like you end up memorizing patterns and events. You are constantly adapting your play style and tactics to overcome groups of enemies or a rampaging demon. The game is difficult, but it’s actually within the ability of the player to beat in the first playthrough as long as they aren’t the type to go with the same strategy every time. If you beat the game in one playthrough without dying, you’re a gaming master. I love games that are “hard” that provide an actual challenge, and not just increased obstacles, and more damage dealing and damage resistant enemies, that you have to memorize and check off to beat. Every “Hardcore” mode in FPS games is exactly that, and it’s seriously a huge time waster. Granted it’s a very fine line to determine what is hard/challenging/difficult and enjoyable, versus what is an algorithmic rendering that is a memorizing game. But, Nioh has found the sweet spot and continually challenges players, while still remaining fun, despite some induced frustration.
Nioh: Complete Edition elevates the visuals from its console predecessor, but not to the point I would say it is a must-have on PC. In fact, if you don’t have a good controller for your PC, I would highly recommend getting it on PS4. Though the graphics are better, it’s not definitively better. There aren’t any games I would say are truly that much better on PC, aside from Rise of the Tomb Raider. Chances are though if you have a PC that can run the game, you have a controller, and being the Complete Edition, you can get more bang for your buck this way. The game has a noticeable difference in visual quality going from gameplay to cutscenes, which isn’t uncommon, but it’s also something that is becoming less common. It doesn’t hinder the experience, but something you do notice. Regardless, the game is still a visual masterpiece and perfect compliment to the gameplay and story. The customization of your load outs allows you to compliment your playstyle give you that control you want, and need, for the difficult battles that await you. Giving you everything you need to take on the yokai invading Japan, as well as removing any excuse for it being the games fault that you got killed by a minion. Lastly, the RPG system is intricate, without being overwhelming and tedious. There is never any noticeable amount of grinding, and I don’t recall any random chance at upgrading your character. While the game’s challenge is often times frustrating, the systems of the game never are. Lastly, I loved how the game wasn’t bogged down in the beginning with a hand holding tutorial that many Asian games have.
Nioh: Complete Edition is a new gold standard for Action RPG’s. Nioh hit the perfect balance on every conceivable aspect of the game. The difficulty is definitely challenging, without being a pointless chore. The RPG system feels natural and doesn’t feel like it’s designed to needlessly extend a game’s length or add a random stat for no reason. The visuals are stunning, the controls are intuitive, and beating anything is refreshingly gratifying. The story, personal ideology aside, is a brilliant piece of historical fiction akin to Gladiator or 300. Actually, it’s exactly like The Last Samurai for me. I love it, but the protagonist is a very questionable choice. Nioh: Complete Edition is a must play for action RPG fans. My Nioh: Complete Edition review gets a 9.5/10
Genre: Action RPG
# of Players: 1
Developer: Team Ninja
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Release: November 7, 2017