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Game Info:

Nioh: Complete Edition
Developed By: Team NINJA/Koei Tecmo Games
Published By: Koei Tecmo Games
Release Date: November 7, 2017
Available On: Windows, PS4
ESRB Rating: M for Blood and Gore, Violence
Genre: Action Role Playing Game
Mode: Single Player with online co-op
MSRP: $49.99
(Humble Store Link)

Thank you Koei Tecmo Games for sending us this game to review!

Nioh mostly takes place in historical Japan not long after Oda Nobunaga’s death. It starts in London, where the protagonist, William, has his childhood guardian spirit Saoirse stolen by the antagonist Edward Kelley. This spirit is quite powerful, as it allows him to easily locate Amrita, which is a spiritual energy with powerful effects in the real world, and is the reason Kelley stole it from him. His deep relationship with Saoirse is also why he never stays dead – after every fatal encounter, he is restored to the last Kodama Shrine that he prayed at. Amrita acts as experience does in most games, and he does lose all Amrita collected after death; if he wants all of that back, he better be prepared to work to find his grave again.

Shortly after his initial encounter with Kelley, William determines to find Saoirse once again, and sets off across the world in search of her, which eventually leads him to Japan. What he finds there is a land filled with demons and death. He soon meets a ninja named Hattori Hanzo, and eventually makes an alliance with his lord, Tokugawa Ieyasu. William is soon renamed Anjin, and becomes the first foreign-born samurai.

It doesn’t take too long before William’s skill with a blade becomes renowned in its own right. But this skill is not without work and sacrifice. As the player, you must learn and understand the movement, blocking, counterattack, skills, stances, and ki systems (at a minimum) to be able to do well against the many and quite tough opponents that you face. The first two levels, the ‘tutorial’ level in London, and the first Japanese level, were quite brutal to me, with many, many deaths required for me to have any hope of passing them.

The combat is very fast-paced, with the 3D third-person action being both quick, and very precise. Even the simplest enemy can destroy you in about three hits. Blocking and dodging is required, and once you learn about the differences between armor weights, you soon discover that lighter armor leads to a more dodge-focused playstyle, while heavier armors lead to a blocking-focused playstyle, simply because you just can’t dodge that quickly. I found that, for me, medium armor with agility level ‘B’ was the best compromise between movement and armor. There are ten different types of weapons; three of them are ranged, with the rest various kinds of melee weapons. They are all interesting, and each one truly is different from the other. Not only do they differ in base stats, but also in how they feel while playing, as well as the skills that they offer.

Nioh: Complete Edition
Highlights:

Strong Points: Long and interesting game with deep and rewarding gameplay; excellent graphics; lots of historical (or quasi-historical) lore; very challenging, and rewards skilled play
Weak Points: The early part of the game is very frustrating until you learn how to play properly; long loading times; crashed once
Moral Warnings: Lots and lots of violence, including tons of blood and gore; some female enemies wear revealing outfits, including lots of visible cleavage; some curse words like ‘h*ll’ and ‘b*tch’; lots of mystical references, including magic used by both enemies and the player; there are evil spirits (yokai) and friendly ones (guardian spirits) and the main character, William, can see them both, while most cannot; a magical substance, called Amrita, is something that only a small number of people can see, but it can both help and wreak terrible havok on the world; lots of political fighting, death, and intrigue, including discussion of mistresses; alcohol use shown

Stat stacking is another seemingly simple mechanic that becomes much more important as the game goes on. There are many, many ways to increase various stats and bonuses as you go on. Each piece of equipment is randomly rolled. What bonuses it grants makes a huge difference in your effectiveness. If it was just equipment, that would be easy; but no, there are prestige bonuses, armor and weapon sets, guardian spirits, Kodama bonuses, and probably other things I am forgetting that all can add up to increases in power, skills, or other ways to increase effectiveness. And of course, you gain levels, too.

Bosses took me many deaths, and lots of practice to figure out the patterns to get them just right. As your gear and skills get better, they do seem to be a bit easier – but just a bit. Living Weapons, which are powerful attacks that you can use with your guardian spirits, can really help turn the tide, or wipe out that last chunk of health once you have your enemy’s health down far enough.

Unlike many games, Nioh has a humongous level cap of 750, and it has many difficulty levels that you use to get there. As you keep using New Game+, everything just gets harder and harder, and you get more and more powerful. With continuous loot drops, more and more skills and challenges to keep you going, there are many players with hundreds of hours into Nioh.

And I have over 100 hours in myself, and haven’t quite beaten my first playthrough yet (though I am pretty close). There are six base regions, with even more in the included DLC (PS4 had the DLC released over time, rather than at release as on PC). Each region has between seven and nine areas, and some areas have more than one level to play each. On top of this, there are Twilight and Master missions, which can be even more difficult, but with greater rewards, too. The content quantity in this game is just immense. There is a ton to do, and plenty of value – even at full price. And the New Game+ grind just keeps it going for as long as you want to keep playing.

There is very interesting lore, that I found even more fascinating once I realized that the William in this game is based on the historical figure William Adams, and that the Japanese figures represented are almost all based on reality. Yes, some artistic liberties are taken, and on some characters more liberty was taken than on others, but the game is overall based on actual history. As recent events corroborate, truth can often be stranger than fiction – but even despite all of this, it’s really the gameplay that takes center stage here.

You will spend most of your time beating (or getting beaten by) various human or yokai enemies in Nioh. Yokai are evil corrupt spirits, not all that much different from demons or poltergeists. While humans can be powerful enemies, and sometimes definitely are, most of the nastiest foes are yokai. These enemies often take the form of undead skeletons, horned demon-beasts, odd umbrella-shaped creatures, and more. From what I read, many of the enemy designs are based on Japanese lore, so they are very interesting and varied.

Nioh: Complete Edition
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 96%
Gameplay - 19/20
Graphics - 10/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 58%
Violence - 2/10
Language - 7/10
Sexual Content - 7/10
Occult/Supernatural - 3/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

Not only are many of the creatures dark and magical, but your character also can speak to (generally helpful) spirits, often called guardian spirits. These represent your grave when you die, are the powers unleashed when you use your Living Weapon, and give various bonuses that can make a significant difference in your power level, or grant you a massive bonus against certain bosses. Your character can also use Ninjitsu skills or Onmyo magic, which often have elemental properties, and you can build a character to be mage-like if you wish, though you cannot truly neglect the way of the sword (or other chosen weapon).

As you probably surmised by now, Nioh has plenty of violence, blood, and gore. You chop enemies to bits, and blood splatters all over the place during battle. Some scenes show many corpses that litter the battlefield. This game is definitely not short on blood. Fortunately, when it comes to curse words, they only very rarely use a PG-13 curse word like ‘h*ll’ or ‘b*tch’. There is discussion of political intrigue that includes putting close ones to death, as well as mistresses and such. There is nothing romantic on screen. Some female enemies show significant skin and cleavage, but no human females do that as I recall. There is alcohol use and drunkenness shown.

I had a mostly bug-free experience, except for one crash, and a funny but inconsequential bug: if you Steam screenshot while watching a cut scene, the voices get really slow as the game slows down then catches up. It’s pretty funny, but does no harm. The gamepad controls are excellent; they more recently added mouse and keyboard controls, but this kind of game is probably best with a gamepad anyway.

Nioh: Complete Edition is a truly excellent game, in both quantity and quality. The adventure is long and interesting, the battle and loot systems are varied and truly carry the game by itself, not to mention all of the other, deeper systems, like forging clans, online modes, and more. I really love how you can fight other player’s revenants, which are basically computer controlled AIs with the equipment and stats of the player character that died there. I got most of my best equipment from killing them, rather than enemies or monsters. (A double thank you to the guy who dropped an Odachi with AA Strength on it!) It’s awesome to think about who else I have helped with my great equipment, and I also wonder how many of my own pieces someone else improved, and then I got them back myself from their corpses.

Nioh is fantastic – though not without its moral issues; I strongly recommend sticking with the M for Mature rating system on this one, assuming the dark atmosphere, bloody violence, and dark spiritual forces don’t keep you away from this title.

About the Author

Jason Gress

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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