After playing the game for 100 hours over the last few months I’ve finally finished Nioh and its 3 DLCs.

I’m a huge fan of Dark Souls and new new sort of genre of “Soulslike” games it’s created and I think out of everything I’ve played so far, admittedly not too much, just Dark Souls 1 and Dark Souls 2, Nioh is now my favorite.

Here’s the launch trailer to give you a feel for what you’re getting into.


The Genre

If you’ve never played Dark Souls or a “Soulslike” before here’s what you need to know.

First of all the games are really hard but not in a completely unfair way. You have to go slowly through the game, looking out for traps and being very careful in every fight. Even regular minor enemies can destroy you, especially if you get attacked by a group of them.

So you have to play carefully. You can’t just hack and slash your way through. You have to keep your guard up, dodge and learn the enemy attack patterns and weaknesses or “Get good” if you’re having trouble.

You also can’t pause the game.

Scattered throughout the game are safe areas, in Nioh’s case these are shrines. At a shrine you restore your health and can level up and access other various features. Your game also saves here and when you die you respawn at the last shrine you visited.

Also though, when you visit a shrine you get healed, get your items back etc. which is great but all the enemies in the level you’ve previously killed respawn as well.

In these kinds of games when you die you leave behind a little grave and lose all your experience. If you’re able to make it safely back there and touch that grave you get all your experience back. If you die before you get there it’s gone for good.

These games are also characterized by a bunch of inter-connectiveness throughout the levels. You’re constantly unlocking shortcuts back to previous areas and stuff like that.

Everything here with this genre applies to Nioh but Nioh changes things up a lot and adds a lot of other systems and changes to the formula.


Nioh screenshot

What Makes Nioh Different

The first difference with Nioh is that instead of having a giant world like Dark Souls the game takes place throughout a series of missions.

Each mission is it’s own location, not connected to any other mission but still full of secrets and short cuts.

You have an overworld map where you select which mission you want to play. There are main story missions and lots of sub missions that’ll take you back to the same locations as the main missions but sometimes just a small part of it, at a different time of the day or with different weather conditions.

You still really get to know these areas in the same sort of way you get to know the world in Dark Souls which is great.

At first I was kind of turned off when I heard about this mission based approach but it works very well. After each mission you get a bit of a break where you can go visit the blacksmith and upgrade equipment, buy items, visit the training dojo and do other various little activities.

You can also use missions as guides for when to stop playing and do something like a mission or two per session.

The larger story missions will take you a few hours to complete and usually have 3 or 4 shrines (checkpoints) scattered throughout the level and they always end with a boss.

Nioh also has a loot system and you’re constantly picking up new weapons and armor and changing up your equipment. There are different rarities for the items and everything has different stat bonuses and effects. If you’re familiar with loot systems from games such as Diablo or Borderlands you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

Another major addition to Nioh are its Guardian Spirits. These are creatures from Japanese mythology that you can equip to get all kinds of different effects. For example if you equip Kato, a fire themed wolf you get additional fire damage and attack. If you equip Isonade a shark spirit you get additional water damage, protection and enemy detection.

You build up a Guardian Spirit meter throughout combat and when it’s full you can trigger a Living Weapon attack that does a bunch of damage and then turns your weapon into a special Guardian Spirit version that does extra damage and makes you invincible until the timer runs out.


Nioh screenshot with guardian spirit


Combat is slow and deliberate just like Dark Souls. If you get good and learn some tricks then you shouldn’t have much trouble.

There are several different weapons. The Katana, Odachi (a giant katana), tonfas, spear, dual swords and a kusarigami which is kind of like a scythe on a chain, definitely a unique choice.

You get to equip two different weapons at a time and can switch between them. I spent most of the game using the katana and switched to the odachi when I needed some extra reach.

Each weapon has a heavy stronger but slower attack and a light faster but weaker attack.

You also have 3 stances, High, Mid and Low for each weapon and you can switch between them as you fight. High stance is slower but causes more damage, Low stance is faster but weaker and Mid stance is more balanced. You can use attacks and switch stances throughout to do some neat combos.

Of course you have a stamina bar, in this case it’s “Ki” bar and when you attack, dodge or block this gets depleted. When it hits zero and you get hit you’re locked in place and completely open to attacks until it recovers a bit.

You have a Ki Pulse that activates when you time a certain button press which recovers some stamina and can purify little debuff circles certain enemies can throw down as well.

Nioh adds a lot of layers to the standard Dark Souls combat here with the different stances and Ki Pulse but once you get the hang of it (which doesn’t take long) the combat feels fantastic.


Nioh screenshot with Yokai battle

The World and Graphics

The graphics and world look great and you go through a ton of beautiful Japanese inspired locations.

You’ve got Japanese style temples and castles, snowy areas, mountains, plains, rivers, waterfalls and even a couple more supernatural inspired areas and battlefields in the middle of a war. They all look amazing and are an absolute joy to explore.

There are also little hidden Kodama spirits everywhere to find that give you little buffs and makes exploring even more fun.

The character models all look fantastic as well.


Nioh screenshot with spider queen boss

The Story

I won’t spoil too much here but basically you’re a pirate captain named William who travels to Japan in the year 1600 during that famous warring states period in feudal Japan that so many other games take place in.

You’re chasing a wizard who stole your guardian spirit and seems to be stirring up war trying to get everyone fighting with each other.

It’s a neat take on Japanese history with a lot of fun supernatural elements based on Japanese mythology mixed in.

One thing I was super impressed with though is how the game handles language.

William speaks English with the exact sort of accent you’d expect from someone in this time period.

When you get to Japan you encounter characters who speak a little bit of English but not well. Japan has had contact with Europe at this point so it makes sense that some people started learning English. But like I said, when they speak English they don’t speak well and they have a heavy accent which is exactly what you’d expect from people learning English for the first time in their history.

Later you get a guardian spirit who translates for you and most of the other characters speak in Japanese while William still speaks in English.

You also encounter a woman who speaks Spanish later as well.

I absolutely loved how the story brought together so many different languages and handled everything so well.


Nioh screenshot with fire Yokai enemy

In Conclusion

This was Team Ninja’s first attempt making a game like this. Apparently they did a beta and the version of the game then was not great. They took feedback from it and turned it into an absolute masterpiece.

It took me about 100 hours to complete everything. I’d say it was probably around 60 hours for the main story and another 40ish hours to get through the 3 DLCs so there’s a ton of content here.

I did pretty much every side mission and a bunch of side content as well although I didn’t touch New Game Plus.

When you finish the game you can replay the entire thing on a harder difficulty and there are apparently 4 additional difficulties you can unlock.

You can buy the complete version of this game for around $20 or get the Complete Edition which contains all of Nioh 1 and 2 for the PS5 so there’s a ridiculous amount of content here for your money.

If you’re like Dark Souls games at all I highly recommend you give Nioh a try.

Images and screenshots are from the Playstation Store and Steam used under Fair Use.