A few months ago developer Team Ninja released a closed alpha for their game Nioh, coming sometime in 2016. I sadly wasn’t able to be a part of the alpha but today the beta version released on PS4 and I had a chance to jump in!
Nioh was first announced in 2006 but quickly fell to the wayside without much comment from the publisher Koei Tecmo. It wasn’t until recently that the game resurfaced and soon thereafter a closed alpha was presented for player feedback. Nioh has been compared to the Souls series in it’s toughness and realistic, high stakes combat system. As a huge fan of the Souls series I was pretty excited for Nioh, and when I booted up the beta earlier today I definitely wasn’t disappointed.
The Beta opens up with the option to go through a tutorial, then sends you into your first mission. The controls feel a bit odd to me, and the beta doesn’t seem to offer a scheme that really suits my playstyle, but it is easy enough to get used to. The combat system feels pretty deep if you want it to be, offering three different stances each with a different strong and weak attack, as well as specialized dodging/rolling animations. You have a low stance which gives you faster yet weaker attacks, though they are easier on your stamina bar. The high stance is exactly the opposite, offering you slow yet powerful attacks, and the mid stance is, you guessed it, right in between these two. This gives you a nice blend of speed and strength. Each stance has new move sets for both the weak and strong attack, giving the game a really interesting arcade brawler style combo system.
Now let’s talk a bit about stamina. Many games have some type of stamina system, and Nioh’s brand isn’t too different. Your character will consume stamina, or Ki as the game calls it, with each action aside from walking. The stamina bar will gradually regenerate at different speeds depending on your stance and your character’s current actions. This is where it gets a bit interesting though! Nioh has implemented a system referred to as Ki pulse. Basically for each action that you take which requires stamina, there is a short cooldown period before the Ki gauge begins to refill. During this time a pretty animation of blue sparks will circle your character then enter him. If you have good timing (this is especially difficult in the heat of battle) then you can hit R1 at the right moment to regain a lot of stamina instantly. Pulling off a Ki pulse will also place your character in a neutral stance allowing you to move into nearly any action instantly. A lot of players had complaints about the stamina system in the alpha, namely that your character runs out of it too quickly. I found this to be true until I figured out how the Ki pulse system worked, and then realized the genius behind it. You are essentially given the ability to cancel an attack recovery animation and refill your stamina gauge for the amount that attack used instantly. After a while practicing my timing, the Ki Pulse mechanic turned out to be a super fun and essential action that became second nature.
Nioh is often touted as being incredibly tough. I think that this holds some merit, though of course this can be more or less true depending on the player. No matter who you are though, you will inevitably die at some point during the game, and I am sure you would like to know what that means. In addition to a combat system that is similar to the Souls series, what happens after death in Nioh is similar as well. No, you don’t turn into beef jerky samurai, that’s not what I mean. When you die in Nioh, the place you perished is marked with a glowing golden dog and katana. If you are able to reach this place before dying again you can regain your items and experience. This puts a little extra pressure on the player to always try to improve, even just a little bit. If you happen to die on the way to your grave however, your experience is gone for good, so be careful.
As you travel through the Nioh beta you will likely notice these interesting red glowing katanas sticking up from the ground. These would be the equivalent to other player’s bloodstains, denoting the place where another person has recently perished. Interacting with these spots will cause what I like to call ghostVP to occur. A character will appear before you and you will begin to duel. Due to how quickly this fight begins and the nature of the opposing character’s moves I am guessing that this is an AI controlled character, with difficulty levels being upped based on the skills that the character knew when they died. I will have to do some more playing around with this feature, it seems fun and can net you some sweet goodies early on if you can hack it.
I plan to dive into the Nioh beta more throughout the week to really get a feeling for things, but my day one impressions are pretty positive. There are some things that I would like to see tightened up but all in all for a beta it is pretty impressive.the game seems tough yet fair, the combat system is deep and the game itself is quite pretty (albeit dark). Loading is pretty fast and I never felt annoyed about any of the complex systems or menus, though these things are subject to change somewhat for the final release.
Oh, did I mention that beating the beta gives you access to DLC when the full game releases? Not a bad deal!