Nioh has the Best Combat of 2017, Period.

Nioh has the Best Combat of 2017, Period. 3

It’s Game of the Year time again, and let’s be honest here; it’s a safe bet that nearly every single list will be topped by Nintendo’s heavy hitters: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey. Being the natural contrarian that I am, and safe in the knowledge that my personal selection for best game of the year won’t hurt either of those franchises, I decided to go with something different for my choice. Moving forward, though, let’s keep in mind that this article will be centred on my favourite game of the year, not necessarily the one I think was the very best in every category. This game isn’t perfect, and certainly has some flaws, but it was right up my alley in the criteria that I look for in a game. I don’t care for story, scope, or the prettiest graphics. I don’t care if a game has something profound to say, dripping with deep philosophies and characterization. I don’t care about cinematics, representation, or loveable and charming characters or how they interact with each other. And I really, really don’t give two flying f-bombs about multiplayer.

Nioh has the Best Combat of 2017, Period. 6
Nioh (Complete Edition) – gameplay image provided by Koei Tecmo.

What I do care about first and foremost are deep, robust gameplay mechanics and high levels of challenge. I like a game with a steep learning curve, complicated but attainable combat depth that offers a huge sense of satisfaction when perfected, and plenty of variety for weapons and character builds. I will also (usually) enjoy any game that apes Dark Souls in one way or the other. With this set of criteria in mind, my personal selection for Game of the Year is none other than Team Ninja’s absolutely fantastic ARPG Nioh.

Nioh follows an English sailor named William Adams, who washes up on the shores of Sengoku-era Japan and is recruited by Hattori Hanzo to help rid the island of its infestation of Yokai, which are supernatural monsters that love to maim and murder. The setting is a popular one for fans of Japanese history and mythology, and allows for a great combination of Ninja, Samurai, and magic abilities that William can use to whup Demon ass across a Japan torn asunder by strife and civil war.

Nioh has the Best Combat of 2017, Period. 2
Nioh (Complete Edition) – gameplay image provided by Koei Tecmo.

The basics of the gameplay in Nioh are familiar to anyone who has played a Souls game before. Players will navigate each level, battling monsters and opening up shortcuts while collecting Amrita, which are Nioh’s equivalent of souls, blood shards, or experience points. The more monsters you kill, the more of these you get, and these can be cashed in at shrines in order to expand William’s selection of abilities and stats. Of course, if you die at any point, you lose your Amrita and are forced to start at the most recent shrine with all enemies re-spawned. It’s a familiar mechanic at this point, but one that doesn’t become super tedious thanks to a brilliant combat system that absolutely nails the “easy to understand, difficult to master” idea.

Nioh has the Best Combat of 2017, Period. 4
Nioh (Complete Edition) – gameplay image provided by Koei Tecmo.

Blocking, parrying, and attacking all use “Ki” AKA stamina, a bar that depletes with every action but can be refilled by releasing a “Ki pulse”, which has the added effect of removing the energy draining miasma generated by enemies. Adding to this system are three stances—High, Middle, and Low—that offer different combinations of strength and speed. Switching between these stances on the fly—at the right moment—will also help replenish Ki as well as offering various other bonuses when done at the correct time. Linking together a string of perfect combos, switching stances and weapons, is immensely satisfying in Nioh and really makes you feel like a Ninja master. It’s a lot faster than the Souls games, and, while complicated, eventually feels surprisingly natural and fluid once the muscle memory and mechanics sink in. There are also ranged weapons, Ninja abilities, and Onmyo buffs, which all come together in a complex yet cohesive combat system with a fantastic amount of variety. The weapons are also discovered via a Diablo-esque loot system, which while not perfect, ensures that no two builds are exactly alike. The combat system is addictive and incredibly challenging, but for someone like myself who prizes these mechanics over all else in a video game, that’s exactly what I want. I like trial and error. I enjoy getting my ass kicked over and over again until I finally nail that perfect run. It’s what kept me coming back to Nioh despite an overwhelming amount of quality titles released this year.

Unfortunately, a lack of variety and a lot of repetition in enemy and level design does cause Nioh to feel very same-ey after a while. However, every now and then Twilight missions will become available, which switch things up and offer a fresh challenge in a familiar setting. The level design is excellent, but is held back by only being offered in small, independent chunks selected from a menu rather than a single, sprawling world.

Nioh has the Best Combat of 2017, Period.
Nioh (Complete Edition) – gameplay image provided by Koei Tecmo.

Nioh isn’t a perfect game. It didn’t innovate at all, and definitely features some glaring flaws. It’s pretty repetitive, the story is cliché as hell, and killing the same types of enemies over and over for tens of hours will become fatiguing for many players. However, no game this year did combat as well as Nioh, and many months later I’m still finding new ways to craft a character and link together the perfect string of attacks. It’s got the best third-person combat mechanics of any game this year, it’s incredibly hard, and incredibly rewarding. That alone makes Nioh my game of the year.

retail version of the game discussed was provided by the publisher for a previously published review. You can find additional information about CGMagazine’s ethics and review policies and procedures here.


Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out more of Brendan Quinn’s work such as his look at the relationship between comics and Hip-Hop, why the Witcher 3 was not as great as everyone thinks, and or which historical stories he thinks should be made into videogames!

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Nioh May Lead to More Ninja Gaiden

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Team Ninja’s upcoming action RPG Nioh has already drawn numerous comparisons to the Souls franchise (Both Dark and Demon), and this demon slaying adventure hasn’t even release yet. You’d be forgiven if you had forgotten that Team Ninja dominated the insanely difficult niche market before anyone had kindled a bonfire when it revived the classic Ninja Gaiden franchise. Now, as Nioh goes gold and approaches its February release, it seems that Ryu Hayabusa is not quite as dead as we thought he was.

Team Ninja revived the classic Nintendo game back in 2004 with the stellar Ninja Gaiden on the Xbox, following it up with two enjoyable enhanced editions. Following releases showed a substantial drop in quality until finally reaching a series low point in 2014 with Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z. It was believed that a string of sub par sequels finally did what what ninjas, demons, and frustratingly placed birds could not, finally kill this decades old franchise, but Team Ninja’s Creative Director Tom Lee seems to be hopeful.

“Maybe I can say can say that Nioh is a gateway into the next chapter for Ninja Gaiden,” said Lee in an interview with US Gamer. “[Ninja Gaiden] is a very important, if not the most important franchise, for us, but at this point I think this franchise needs to be in the shadows for a while until we bring it back. There will be a time, and when the time is right, we will bring it back.”

While the uncertain time frame can be disheartening, the passion Lee showed for the franchise should be a relief for fans of the series. While Nioh takes its cues from the Souls series and Dynasty Warriors, its setting of a demon infested Japan at the beginning of the Edo period certainly brings to mind Ryu’s sword swinging, shuriken tossing antics.

Nioh Preview: Shaping Up to be Brutally Difficult

Nioh Preview: Shaping Up to be Brutally Difficult

Nioh is an upcoming ARPG from the crew over at Team Ninja. The temporary beta has been running this week on the PS4. Essentially, there is one major question that, depending on the answer, will decide whether or not Nioh is for you.

Have you ever wanted a game that took threw Dark Souls, Ninja Gaiden, and feudal Japan into a blender? If so, Nioh will be right up your alley.

The story revolves around a sailor named William Adams. He ends up in Japan, then slices and dices his way into becoming a samurai. It’s a tale we’ve heard a million times before, so that’s the last I’ll say on it. Besides, considering this is only a demo, who knows where the narrative will wind up going?

What’s has been shown most all so far is the gameplay, which Team Ninja have cribbed heavily from Souls games. So much so, in fact, that there’s a point where major features and mechanics feel instantly familiar—familiar, but not exactly the same, which is both cool in a few ways and sort of irritating in others.

To start with the cool, Nioh is a third-person ARPG that features a lock-on, dodge, block and parry system for melee combat. Various weapons are available, with more on the way, and players can take a variety of approaches to the combat. The weapons all fall into four categories: the Katana, the Duel-Katana, the Spear, and the Axe. There are also two separate categories for Ninja and Onmyo Magic for those of you who prefer a ranged or caster build. Like Dark Souls, each weapon scales differently with one of eight different statistics.

These statistics are levelled up at shrines (bonfires) using Amrita (souls). However, a neat twist on the system is the various skills and combos that can be unlocked. Each weapon category that opens up different combos and attacks as you level them. Rather than just dumping points in stats to improve your attack rating, players are able to add a deeper level of customization to their preferred approach to combat.

Nioh Preview: Shaping Up to be Brutally Difficult 6Another twist on a classic mechanic is the Ki system. Underneath your health bar at the top is a very familiar looking stamina bar, but rather than stamina it is now an energy that is used for different kinds of attacks. This meter can be replenished by hitting a button at the correct time following an attack. It also has the added benefit of allowing skilled users to chain together even longer combos provided they can continue refilling the Ki bar.

As for another one of the Souls series’ more infamous features that Nioh is evolving on is the difficulty. This game is tough, and even veterans of From’s games will find themselves challenged here. Enemy attacks often do massive damage, and rolling through or blocking/parrying attacks will take some getting used to.
Nioh Preview: Shaping Up to be Brutally Difficult 7
Visually speaking the game looks decent enough, but nothing to write home about. Character models and textures are pretty sub-par, but for games like this only one technical quality is important: the framerate. So far, Nioh plays extremely smoothly and clips along at what appears to be at least around the 60fps mark. There were mentions earlier this year of an option to switch between 1080p/30fps and 720p/60fps but that option is not available in the demo. Either way, fans of action games know that speed>detail, and a game that has fast and buttery combat is preferred over one that has great graphics but moves at a sluggish pace.

Nioh is shaping up to be a game that will surely whet the appetite of gamers looking for a new twist on the Souls formula. Looking past the many, many similarities between the games, it looks like it will be a blast for anyone who enjoys fast, fun and difficult third-person combat. The game still doesn’t have an official release date, but hopefully once the demo ends Team Ninja and Koei-Tecmo can nail one down for those who enjoyed what they played and want more.

Koei Tecmo’s Tokyo Game Show 2016 Lineup has been Revealed

Koei Tecmo's Tokyo Game Show 2016 Lineup has been Revealed

Tokyo Game Show 2016 is little under a month a way now and the games that will be appearing on the show floor in Japan’s capital are beginning to be announced, with another twenty being added to the list today.

Japanese publishers Koei Tecmo have revealed their full list of games that they’ll bringing to the show, which contains a healthy helping of both console and mobile games.

There are several interesting titles on the list such as Nioh, a demo of which was released on PS4 on 23rd August, Toukiden 2 and the new Berserk game.

The full list, as posted on Reddit, is as follows:

Console games:

  • Atelier Firis: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Journey (PS4, PS Vita)
  • Berserk (PS4, PS3, PS Vita)
  • Blue Reflection: Sword of the Girl Who Dances in Illusions (PS4, PS Vita)
  • Dead or Alive 5: Last Round (PS4, PS3, XBO)
  • Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 (PS4, PS Vita)
  • Geten no Hana with Yumeakari Aizou-ban (PS Vita)
  • Harukanaru Jikuu no Naka de 6: Gentou Rondo (PS Vita)
  • Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon (PS4, PS Vita)
  • Nioh (PS4)
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII with Power-Up Kit (PS4, PS3, PC)
  • Samurai Warriors: Sanada Maru (PS4, PS3, PS Vita)
  • Toukiden 2 (PS4, PS3, PS Vita)

Mobile games:

  • AKB48’s Ambition (FP, iOS, Android, PC)
  • Nobunaga’s Ambition 201X (iOS, Android, PC, PS Vita)
  • Nobunyaga’s Ambition (iOS, Android, PC)
  • One Million Person Nobunaga’s Ambition (FP, iOS, Android, PC)
  • One Million Person Romance of the Three Kingdoms (FP, iOS, Android, PC)
  • One Million Person Winning Post 2016 (FP, iOS, Android, PC)
  • Toukiden: Mononofu (iOS, Android)
  • Winning Post Stallion (iOS, Android)

Rumours suggest that Koei Tecmo CEO, Kou Shibusawa, will also be making a surprise announcement during a live stream at Tokyo Game Show, but as of yet there is no hint as to what exactly that could be.

Tokyo Game Show 2016 will run from 15th September to 18th September, 2016, and will be held in the Makuhari Messe convention centre.