Nioh 2 – Complete Edition is the re-release of the 2020 action-RPG developed by Team Ninja and published by Koei Tecmo in Japan and Sony Interactive Entertainment in the rest of the world. It takes place during the Sengoku period in Japan, a time of constant civil war and power struggles. Players are put in the shoes of Hide, a half-yōkai orphan mercenary that specializes in hunting full-blood yōkai. After a tutorial level where Hide teams up with traveling merchant Tokichiro, who has his eyes firmly planted on fame, Nioh 2‘s story takes off.
As Hide and Tokichiro begin hunting down powerful soul stones to sell, they quickly become entangled in the political warring of the Sengoku period. The narrative plays out almost like an old Assassin’s Creed title. The player interacts with very loose interpretations of historical figures and eventually plays a pivotal role in events, all with a supernatural twist. By the end, the narrative is sufficient but leaves a lot to be desired. Reading all of the lore and journal entries fills the player in on the interesting history and beliefs behind the different yōkai and characters throughout the game. Still, even then, there is a lot of the story that goes unexplained. Certain interactions or plot developments occur completely unmotivated, with developments feeling more like the next bullet point in an outline rather than a natural progression. The story is interesting enough not to skip cutscenes and gets the player from one point to another, but that is as high as it reaches.
But the chances are that the story is not the reason players are coming to Nioh 2. This is a souls-like action-RPG; the mechanics are its flesh and blood, which is where Nioh 2 really shines. There is a ton of mechanics to cover, but it all starts with the player picking their two-weapon loadout. There are 11 weapon types to choose from, each with its own complete skill tree, combos of light and heavy attacks, and distinct play styles. On top of that, while fighting, players cycle through three different stances: high, medium, and low. High stance slows your attacks down but greatly increases the damage. Medium stance offers median damage while decreasing the amount of Ki (similar to stamina in other games) used when blocking enemy attacks. Low stance has the fastest attacks with quick combos while also decreasing the amount of Ki used when dodging.
Nioh 2 also has a great mechanic known as a Ki burst. After a short pause following an attack, players with good timing can activate a Ki burst, replenishing some of the Ki they just expended. These bursts allow players to be much more aggressive, knowing that a successful burst will give them enough Ki to dodge away or block the enemy’s returning attacks while still punishing players who approach combat too recklessly. It can be a lot to keep track of in the heat of a difficult fight, but once the player has familiarized themselves with the systems, it is immensely rewarding. The multitude of options gives the player countless choices of approaching every encounter in ways that are engaging and effective.
But do not forget, Hide is also half yōkai! This manifests as the third important bar in the top left of the screen: the player’s Anima. Anima is charged by dealing damage to any enemy. Once the player has enough, it can be used on both yōkai abilities and burst counters. Yōkai abilities are high damage, flashy moves that are unlocked by eliminating enemy yōkai who drop soul cores. Each yōkai has one specific to them and is reminiscent of one of their signature moves. Players can equip two at a time as well as leveling them up through combining similar cores. There is quite a bit of variety, and they offer great options for crowd control or limit the maximum Ki of the more powerful enemies and bosses that players will come across. Conversely, Burst counters are a well-timed defensive counter that can cancel some of a boss’ biggest moves and leave them briefly stunned and vulnerable.
Hide’s yōkai heritage also brings with it a new inclusion for the series known as yōkai shifting. Shifting is available after building up enough charge through dealing damage to enemies and temporarily transforms Hide into one of three yōkai forms. Each form has its own set of moves as well as a special move. Shifting is a great resource to deal a ton of damage when needed and avoid damage as well. When the player shifts, their usual status bars are replaced with a power gauge. This gauge slowly depletes over time, and whenever the player attacks, dodges, takes damage, or uses their special attack. This also means that when shifting, players take no health damage from incoming attacks, making it a great resource to close out those boss fight attempts that are a little too close for comfort.
The deep combat mechanics are great, but they are really given room to shine by the enemy design. Each enemy has a very defined and surprisingly expansive move set, especially the bigger yōkai. Their animations are reactive and natural-looking, all while maintaining good silhouettes so that they’re easy to read even in the most chaotic of fights. There is a good enough variety in the enemies, although there is a lot of repetition. Nioh 2 avoids this being a detriment through both the large move sets the enemies boast and placing them in varied environments and groupings that dictate how you can engage them.
The environments stand up to scrutiny all on their own. While not the most technically beautiful game to release in the last few years, its art direction more than makes up for it. The environments are saturated with a desolate atmosphere as you traverse war-torn locales, all highlighted by moments of contrast with the small instances of brightly colored life. It is a shame that some bad framerate issues slightly squander the beauty of it. While easily passing the recommended specs, maintaining 60 fps was a struggle, even with low settings.
Nioh 2 – Complete Edition offers an absurd amount of content. With dozens of hours of story-driven content, a solid three-player multiplayer mode, and multiple new difficulties for new game+ playthroughs, there’s a lot of great content to play through, even if you do not want to touch the grindy end game known as the underworld. The story can be largely ignored, but the core gameplay and the complexity of the mechanics are satisfying to master make Nioh 2 – Complete Edition a great option for any fan of the genre.
Nioh 2 – Complete Edition is available on February 5th on PC.
Nioh 2: Complete Edition
Nioh 2: Complete Edition offers an absurd amount of content. With dozens of hours of story-driven content, a solid three-player multiplayer mode, and multiple new difficulties for new game+ playthroughs, there’s a lot of great content to play through, even if you do not want to touch the grindy end game known as the underworld. The story can be largely ignored, but the core gameplay and the complexity of the mechanics are satisfying to master make Nioh 2: Complete Edition a great option for any fan of the genre.