Nioh 2 – The Complete Edition Review – The Grave is no Bar to my Call
Nioh 2 – The Complete EditionFebruary 5th, 2021
With the release of the original Nioh, developer Team Ninja proved that they had all it takes to take the hardcore action role-playing game experience made popular by From Software with its Souls series and bring it up to the next level by exponentially increasing combat speed, and adding add combat skills and a deep and involving loot system.
Improving such a tight experience was a very difficult endeavor, but Team Ninja rose up to the challenge and managed to make Nioh 2 an even better game, introducing new combat options in the form of Yokai abilities, new weapon types, and more without altering too much any of the features and mechanics that define the Nioh experience. More of the same, sometimes, is the best way to go.
Almost a year after its debut on PlayStation 4, Nioh 2 finally releases on PC as Nioh 2 – The Complete Edition, a complete version of the game that includes all three DLC expansions released throughout 2020 as well as some PC exclusive features that are not available on PlayStation consoles.
Nioh 2 – The Complete Edition is set in the late 1500s, before the events of the original Nioh. The story, like in the original, mixes together an original story with real historical events of the Japanese Sengoku era, like the rise to power of Nobunaga Oda and the events that followed which set the stage for the creation of the Tokugawa Shogunate in the 1600s. Unlike the original, on the other hand, the story this time around is much easier to follow, even without knowledge of these historical events, as it is a little more character-focused, which, in turn, makes it more enjoyable.
The half-human, half-Yokai Hide lived as an outcast most of his life, due to his unique condition. Still, one fateful day, the Shiftling decides to save humans from a nearby village from a threatening Yokai. Little does Hide know that venturing out to kill this Yokai will lead to a fateful encounter with the merchant Tokichiro, who's out to make a name for himself by collecting and selling Spirit Stones, a meeting that will change his fate and the fate of Japan forever.
As mentioned above, Nioh 2's story is considerably more engaging than the original's as it is more focused on the main characters. Hide and Tokichiro's friendship develops in a very interesting way, resulting in some emotional developments down the line that are extremely enjoyable, although not particularly surprising. This is a marked change from the story of the original, as William took a backseat during most of the adventure, and the reworked historical events take the center of the stage instead. The way the story ties back with the original's is also very satisfying, with some cool surprises down the line that fans of the original will definitely enjoy.
While the main story is definitely interesting, things are a little more hit and miss in the DLC expansions - The Tengu's Disciple, Darkness in the Capital, and The First Samurai. All three of them feature additional story that doesn't stray too far from the main narrative, featuring the same mix of real historical figures and original events. They don't add a whole lot to the overall narrative, but they are a decent enough addition.
While your enjoyment of the story may vary depending on your tastes, the Nioh 2 – The Complete Edition fully delivers on the gameplay front. On the surface, the game doesn't play too differently from the original. Controlling main character Hide, who can be fully customized at the beginning of the game, players will have to explore a variety of different locations, ranging from villages and castles to underground dungeons, caves, forests, and so on. Unlike the Souls series, Nioh 2 – The Complete Edition doesn't feature a big, interconnected world but separate Main Missions and optional Sub Missions. While the world doesn't feel as big as in the From Software games, Nioh 2's locations are quite well designed, with shortcuts, multiple paths, and traps aplenty. Most Sub Missions recycle the locations of the Main Missions, but offer enough differences, with closed-off paths, different weather conditions, and time of day that do give the feel of the passage of time.
Most of the player's time in Nioh 2 will be spent fighting all manners of enemies, ranging from humans to Yokai. The combat mechanics are among the highlights of the game, taking stamina-based combat to new heights. Every combat action consumes stamina, or rather Ki, and a small portion of the consumed Ki can be restored by performing a Ki Pulse. This technique, which is further expanded in the main Samurai skill tree and individual weapon type's skill trees, pretty much allows players to be on the offensive most of the time, making Nioh 2 feel more like a character action game than a Souls series inspired clone. Ki mechanics also apply to enemies, and depleting theirs will leave them defenseless and at the player's mercy. Depleting Ki is even more important for Yokai enemies, as they do not stagger while they still hold some. Bosses also play by these rules and depleting their Ki allows players to unleash all sorts of attacks without risking getting interrupted, and the better their Ki management and Ki Pulse abilities are, the longer they will be able to keep any enemy stun locked.
Making combat more satisfying is the Stances system. Each weapon has three different stances that determine not only the speed and strength of the attack but also the speed and effectiveness of the dodge maneuver. The game incentivizes switching stances frequently during combat, as a special Ki Pulse ability also makes Ki restoration more effective when performed while switching stances. With the new Switchglaive weapons, changing stances effectively means switching weapons, leading to some more combat options that grant even more depth to the entire experience.
Speaking of the available weapons, all those seen in the original Nioh make their comeback, including the Tonfa and the Odachi which were introduced in the game via DLC. These weapons are joined by four new weapon types - the Dual Hatchets, Switchglaive, Splitstaff and Claw. All the weapons, which are all viable for the entirety of the game, have their own unique traits and movesets that can be expanded via specific skill trees, allowing players to build their own playstyle. Heavier weapons like the Odachi and the Splitstaff are slow but hit hard, while weapons like the Tonfa, Dual Hatchets and Claws hit very fast, with movesets and abilities designed around these traits. The ability to switch between two different weapons on the fly adds even more depth, as certain weapons synergize best with others. Throw Onmyo Magic and Ninjutsu abilities into the mix, and it becomes clearer and clearer how there is a lot of depth into the Nioh 2 gameplay systems.
The wealth of combat options introduced in the original Nioh have been further expanded in Nioh 2 with the introduction of the new Yokai Shift system. This system lets players become possessed by their Guardian Spirit and temporarily turn into three different Yokai types. This new system replaces the Living Weapon system seen in the original game, rebalancing combat in the process, as the previous system was extremely overpowered and could be abused to obliterate any enemy easily. Additionally, the new Yokai Shift system lets players equip Soul Cores which not only alter the Attack and Defense stats but also grant the ability to unleash special Yokai abilities by using Anima Points. Add in the ability to fuse Soul Cores together, and you get another deep gameplay mechanic that can make the join of all min-maxers out there.
The new Yokai Shift mechanics also play into one more addition to the Nioh gameplay formula: the Dark Realms. These areas are special areas where Yokai abilities, for both player and enemy, are increased at the cost of Ki recovery speed, forcing players to adapt to the situation while they search for the Yokai that has cast the darkness to dispel it permanently.
The loot system returns pretty much intact from the original Nioh. Every weapon and piece of gear comes with a set of skills that can be improved and even transferred to another weapon by using the Blacksmith's services, which also include a basic shop and the ability to craft weapons and gear by using materials gathered in the field. The loot system has a lot of depth, but only those who are going to tackle harder difficulties and the extremely challenging endgame Depths of the Underworld will take full advantage of it. Impossibly high stats and perfect weapons are not required to complete the game on the basic difficulty level: if you're having trouble, you probably need to hone your skills further.
This is actually one of the major strengths of the design of the entire experience. Nioh 2 – The Complete Edition is, by no means, an easy game, but there is no challenge that cannot be conquered, aside from those seen in the endgame, without a little bit of actual skill, since stats are not as important as they may be in other action role-playing games or in the From Software titles. Sure, you may end up dealing less damage or dying in fewer hits, but the game provides all the tools you need to defeat any enemy without grinding and getting overpowered. This is also a testament to the high quality of enemy and combat design, as there is nothing that can be truly considered cheap, and each weapon moveset has the right answer for anything that may be thrown your way.
As not all players may want to spend hours upon hours learning enemy attack patterns and intricate mechanics, Team Ninja introduced the ability to summon AI-controlled NPCs based on other players' characters via Benevolent Graves which can make things a little easier. The ability to summon other actual players has also been expanded with an increase in total player count that can make things even easier. PvP is sadly not available in any form, and the only way to fight other players is to summon their ghosts via Bloody Graves.
Nioh 2 – The Complete Edition doesn't just stop at offering everything seen in the original release, as the Steam release includes some additional options not seen on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5, such as support for Ultrawide resolutions and additional graphics settings such as Ambient Occlusion, Shadows, Dynamic Reflections. The PC version also features adequate support for mouse and keyboard controls, allowing players to fully rebind controls to their liking. Unfortunately, keyboard button prompts are not shown correctly, and default to the PlayStation controller prompts, which is definitely annoying.
Performance is mostly acceptable, although you may be forced to turn off taxing options like Ambient Occlusion and Dynamic Reflections if your system meets or is only slightly above the recommended specs. On a system featuring an i7-3770 PC, GTX 980 Ti, and 16 GB RAM, the game runs smoothly at 1080p, 60 FPS with everything maxed, but at 1440p, Dynamic Reflections had to be turned off and Shadows set to Medium to get acceptable performance. This is definitely in line with the recommended specs, as the 980 Ti is only slightly faster than the recommended 1660 Super. Optimization, however, is definitely not great as of now, with slowdowns happening with little to no action on screen and CPU and GPU not maxed out, so your mileage may vary. If you own a GeForce RTX graphics card the game does support NVIDIA DLSS for improved performance, though.
Visually, the game doesn't really look all that better than the PlayStation 4 version, as shadows and draw distance are both pretty much the same.
Nioh 2 is an amazing action role-playing game, and The Complete Edition is definitely a great way to get into the game, thanks to the huge amount of content and PC-specific options and features, despite some technical issues. This kind of deep experience may not be for everyone, but anyone with even a passing interest in action role-playing games should take a look at the game. Chance is, they will end up being lost in Feudal Japan, battling Yokai, changing history, and continue moving forward for yet another weapon. Or Spirit Stone.
Reviewed on PC (code provided by the publisher).
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With a huge amount of content and a tightly designed action role-playing challenging experience, Nioh 2 – The Complete Edition is a game that can keep those willing to delve deep into its gameplay systems engaged for hundreds of hours. Despite some issues, like incorrect button prompts for mouse and keyboard controls, optimization problems and visuals not much improved over the PlayStation 4 release, the PC version is a solid port that's worth your money, especially if you have the system capable of taking advantage of exclusive features like Ultrawide resolutions and up to 120 FPS gameplay.
- Enjoyable, but not particularly inspired, story
- Excellent level design
- Amazing combat, with tons of different options
- Deep loot system and customization possibilities
- Huge amount of content
- The high challenge level can put some players off
- The intricacies of the gameplay systems can feel overwhelming
- Even with all the various additions, the game feels more like an expansion than a proper sequel
- Incorrect button prompts for mouse and keyboard controls
- Some optimization issues