NIOH 2 – Review (PC tested)

NIOH 2 sets out to be better than its predecessor and while it arguably achieves that in very specific areas and more NIOH is not a bad thing, as it is the best souls inspired game in my opinion. It has a major issue, and that is simply it is an incremental update that feels quite detached from its predecessor, despite its cameos, and does not do enough to justify its £50 price tag or be called a sequel.  It also adds far too much anime to the NIOH formula, which feels hard shoved in just to pander to a wider audience at the expense of the game’s integrity.

Story

Now the start of this game is very jarring and as far as I am concerned, incredibly poorly done. You start with a 2 cent MMO like char creator and instantly dumped onto an island where you choose your weapon and then BOOM with no build up explanation or anything turn into a Yokai (cause anime). When you compare this to the start of NIOH 1, this is incredibly amateur and just feels completely detached. It honestly feels like they used the excuse of your own custom character as an excuse for a lack of cohesive story.

I was actually quite a big fan of NIOH 1’s story, its opening was quite fantastic, starting off in the dark gritty tower of London, then swapping to the shores of Japan, arriving at a village and starting William’s Journey. It felt deeply personal, the story was well presented, made you want to see where it played out. The tone was the perfect balance of gritty realism and mythical.

Meanwhile Nioh 2 just starts with you being a half Yokai (who are suddenly a whole thing), some villager comes to you scared you kill 2 Yokai chasing them, then boom you are in the map and select the mission and get randomly dumped. It feels just thrown together for an excuse to exist and the story does not really go anywhere, it is a half-baked generic anime plot, thrown into what was a decently crafted world established in NIOH 1. When I finished NIOH 1, I wanted more, what I did not want is anime shoved into it for mass appeal.

It should have built on what was established, which it could have easily done in a “prequel”. You could have been a Japanese Samurai before William, and during that tale of what could have been a proper Yokai Origin story. The story slowly builds up to you becoming corrupted and being able to turn into a Yokai, which would have made much morse sense, and actually give the Yokai Shift actual impact… Instead we get this.

Gameplay

Now this is where the game does not really do what it should do as a sequel. From footage before its initial PS4 release, I could tell the gameplay was NIOH 1.5 at best. However, this is called NIOH 2, a sequel, the gameplay does not in any way feel like a sequel, it is an incremental upgrade at best. Dark Souls may not have massively changed the gameplay in its sequels, but it did not need fixing as it was not broken, the world and exploration is what makes a DS game. Nioh due to its mission structure does not have any of that wonder, which is fine, but the gameplay should have been massively built upon because of that.

There are new weapon types which are good additions, there are burst counters, and Yokai abilities plus a shift form. This sounds like a lot, but it really is not. All it is a new special counter for specific attacks, and some new demon form which only really exists because anime, and a big excuse to say it is quite different to 1. When in reality, it is not. The weapon variety is nice to have but is merely incremental, I am also not sure what I think of punching enemies to death in NIOH. The burst counter while key to how NIOH 2 plays, does not take any real skill and is simply another counter. The Yokai forms adds no real depth, it is just effectively a way for you to go to town on strong enemies, it is flashy but it has no real substance it’s your generic super Saiyan esque mode that many games add, there is no real fundamental shift on how you play. Infact it is more basic if anything, it turns the game into just mashing. A Yokai form could have had new movesets, different mechanics and so much more. Instead it’s a quick burst of overpowered mashing. It really is the most uninspiring generic mechanic they could have ever conceived.
DMCV recently added Vergil in a special edition and the amount of hidden mechanics Vergil has that you have to discover yourself absolutely bury the changes in NIOH 2. In fact DMCV’s Vergil DLC actually feels like an entirely new game, due to his playstyle. CAPCOM added in a very cheap DLC that adds more to the gameplay of DMCV than Team Ninja has achieved with a “sequel” in NIOH 2.

The mission structure is identical, the poor inventory system still exists, you still get showered with tons of useless loot. All the major problems one suffered from which could have done with a big QOL update, and usually do in “sequels” have got nothing. They are left identical to 1, for a sequel that is not acceptable. The gameplay loop is identical warts and all, a sequel should be attempting to at least fix these issues. Instead we the sham of the new mechanics and some new weapon types and that is it.

There are some nice tweaks to level design and enemy placements here and there, but nothing significant. Once you see through the charade of the new mechanics, there’s nothing else to see. To add more salt into the wound, the game also uses the same animations, same assets, and same enemies from the original. Sure, there are a few new enemies sprinkled here and there but make no mistake, there are no big surprises here, that despite what some people will say, add no real depth. NIOH deserved more, it is absolutely unforgivable. If this was packaged as an expansion to one (or a large DLC by modern standards), it would be perfectly acceptable. However, a Sequel has no real right to re-use so much of its predecessor. There is no way this could justifiably be called a sequel.

This leads to a big problem, burnout, just like the Yakuza games, as much as I adore them, you can get burned out fast, but not as fast as NIOH. However they have far more variety than NIOH 2 offers as a “sequel”. I already feel like I have played NIOH 2, due to the massive re-use of everything and uninspired missions that are less creative than its predecessor. It didn’t even take 12 hours before side missions in new acts, set in new regions, literally copy pasted areas from old regions for its side missions.

Graphics

Just like the first, this is an incredibly muddy, ugly game, with a mediocre generic art style. The lighting and models are somewhat improved, but it again is a very incremental change, and objectively not a huge leap in any shape or form.Infact I feel like 1 might actually look better overal. What makes it even more disappointing is the aforementioned re-use of assets. Chances are if you have seen it in 1 you have seen it in 2. In fact, due to the tower of London in NIOH 1, you could say there is less visual variety in the sequel. The game still has no real inspiration that the series that inspired it has. The texture work is also still incredibly poor and uneven. Right at the start you will notice cherry blossom trees, some trunks will be decently details, others look ripped out of the ps2 era, just at a higher res.

There are no undeniably beautiful scenes due to a hand-crafted world, with new assets where you can see a conscious decision and artistic integrity to create a beautiful world. It all feels thrown together for the sake of being able to sell another sequel, it is uninspired and devoid of passion.

Presentation

Nioh 2 Beta Demo_20191106000610

To add to what was already a disappointment in the graphics department, the sounds are basically the same, there has been no real shift in sound design or re-recordings, the UI is also pretty much identical. Again, if you have seen it in 1, you have seen it in 2. Everything is merely serviceable at best but is one of the laziest sequels I have ever seen. Sure, there was no real need to fundamentally shift anything from NIOH 1, but some minor tweaks and spit and polish would have been nice, given this is a full priced sequel…

Summary

This puts me in a hard spot, it is more NIOH and that is without a doubt a good thing, however it should have been much more than what it is. Instead of significantly building on the fantastic foundation NIOH 1 built, it is devoid of passion and actual thought, there is no confidence or desire here to try fundamentally new things and make an actual sequel. Instead, it feels like Team Ninja took its surprise hit, and then they slapped anime into the game re-used almost everything they had, forgot to write a story actually grounded in its world in a cynical attempt for more cash. In some ways it has moved forward (barely), in other major areas it has taken a step back.

I am not sure I can stomach fully finishing it, as I have already experienced this before. Burnout is a problem and I have seen that echoed by other players. However, if you never played NIOH 1 this is a game you should consider, albeit at a lower price point in my opinion.  If you enjoy souls games and action games and have not played 1 it is ABSOLUTELY worth a look, although I would advise you just buy and play NIOH 1 instead. If you have played 1 however and can stomach another 30+ hours of doing almost exactly the same as before, just this time with no real attachment to the lifeless custom protag and just desperately want more of the same, then it is indeed worth a look.

6/10

Credits

AuthorCharles Charalambolous
YouTuberCublikefoot
ProgramFreedom! Scholarship
PublisherMGN TV
GameNioh 2

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