Nioh 2 Open Beta Impressions- The Way of the Demon Samurai

Posted November 11, 2019 by Thomas James Juretus in Video Games

When Nioh arrived on the scene in 2017, it offered a samurai experience on the PS4 not really seen since the Onimusha franchise form Capcom appeared on the PS2. Developer Team Ninja was inspired by From Software’s Dark Souls series, and sought to deliver a similar type of challenging gameplay. Players could still take a companion along for support- provided said companion had previously beaten that level- against some very fast and tough bosses. The story, following an Irish born samurai named William through war torn Japan circa 1600, was an engaging one, a nice mix of both Japanese history and folklore. The PS4 exclusive was very well received by both fans and critics alike.

Come March 13 of next year, a prequel arrives in the form of Nioh 2. This game takes place in the 1500s, and follows a nameless samurai on his/her journey through a Yokai infested Japan. This time Team Ninja has allowed players to create their own character. The character creator is a fairly robust one, with plenty of customization options for players to build someone that best reflects their own play style. You get to choose your Guardian Spirit and two melee weapons to start with (these can be changed as you go along). As in the first game, EXP is gathered in the form of Amrita, which is held within your Guardian Soul. And, as in the first game, if you fall in battle, you’ll need to get back to that soul to recover any Amrita it held.

Weapon choices will be familiar to returning players, as well as those who have played their fair share of any slash and hack action adventure game. There are swords, both the larger single blade variety as well as the swifter dual swords. There are also dual hatchets, the battle axe, the kurisagama (a blade on the end of a rope), the tonga (two wooden batons), and the new Switchglaive, a powerful, scythe like weapon. You can try each one out before making your final decision. You go through a brief tutorial (you can access these later through your menu should you need a refresher), and then it’s off to the first of the open beta’s two missions.

The first mission brings you to Sunamata, a castle that has fallen into ruins. Fall like foliage dots the landscape made up of various paths and dams you need to lower, both to drain areas to explore and retrieve items and as a way to proceed to the next area. It’s filled with plenty of nasty Yokai shrouded in smoke, as well as Imperial soldiers. There are also areas that will take you into the Yokai Realm, where your stamina will be slower to replenish. The area ends with a giant weasel-like boss, whom if you defeat you’ll unlock the Mark of the Demon which grants you a piece of armor for the full game.

There are a couple of new things you’ll notice here. Bloody Revenants, the hostile spirits of other fallen players, can be found to challenge for pieces of equipment and the all important Ochoko cups (items used for summoning aid), as well as the familiar shrine to pray out populated by the helpful Kodama. New are the blue graves you can find. Benevolent Souls are the ghosts of other players that can be summoned through using an Ochoko cup, same as you’d summon another human player to your game. Benevolent Souls are summoned at their graves, not at the shrine, giving you some freedom in where you get some assistance if you need it. Note that these are avatars and not other human players, so they’ll often just go on the attack and won’t just follow you past any enemies. You can only summon one at a time, and how many cups you need to summon them will vary, depending on their level. Each Soul will greet you, and you can do so in return. You can summon a Benevolent Soul along with a human player, giving you a party of three to tackle tough areas and bosses.

The second area will take you to another outpost, this one marked by several Yokai infested areas and leading to a underground cavern filled with snake-like creatures, blobs, and poisonous water (you’ll need to make sure you have antidote equipped to one of your quick menus mapped to the directional buttons). This one has a shortcut to open up, but you’ll need to take long winding path around to get it done. The enemies here can be faster than the first mission area, and pack poison as an extra punch. This area ended with a giant horned snake boss which moved incredibly fast and could catch you between poisoned pools of water. My time ran out before I could defeat this boss, but I got close and am looking forward to doing so when the full game launches.

Overall, the open beta really won me over and has me excited for the full game. Gameplay is as smooth as before, and the camera has been smoothed out so you don’t hit those bad angles as often in tighter quarters. A lot has been retained here- the challenging bosses, how you upgrade, the shrines as save points, and the ability to bring in an ally should you need some jolly cooperation. The new additions just make things better. Benevolent Souls offer an alternative for gamers who enjoy these games but may struggle with progression by being available for help. You’ll occasionally get an NPC companion as well. Now when making offers to the Kodama you can get more than just extra Amrita. Rice cups form a currency for a Kodama Market, enabling you to buy items such as arrows, healing flasks, and even Ochoko cups. The inventory is limited in the Kodama Market, but it helps for a quick supply of the essentials. Your coin buys Kodama blessings as well as modifications and creations at the blacksmith, found in an area separate from the missions (the training dojo, tearoom, and Torii Gate for engaging in the multiplayer aspects are also found here).

The other big addition is being able to use a Yokai Shift, which replaces the Living Weapon from the first game. Enemy Yokai Souls can be attuned to your Guardian Spirit, and by using R2 in conjunction with Square or Triangle helps you unleash a powerful attack once a meter is filled. These attacks do have a cooldown period, so be mindful of that. In addition to finding wayward Kodama to send back to the shrines, you also encounter trapped cats. These cute little balls of fur give a slight boost when petted, as they fly around your legs with joy. It’s a cute moment in an otherwise dark environment, and provides a welcome reprieve to all of the violent death around you.

In all, Nioh 2 looks like it will be as good as the first game with its solid gameplay, and the improvements may make it an even better experience and more accessible for gamers who feel too challenged by most Souls- like games. Being able to transform into a Yokai and lay a nice beating down on a boss or an enemy is always satisfying and easy to pull off once the meter is full. Visually the game looks terrific, the English voices are nicely done, and the music is excellent. And it helps that the first game is now free on PS Plus to make the wait more bearable. I put plenty of time into Nioh when I first played, and based on the open beta I can see Nioh 2 taking another 100+ hours of my life. Something I gladly give to have that demonic samurai experience. Just have to sharpen my dual swords so they’re ready for some slaying come March 13, 2020.

About the Author

Thomas James Juretus