Game Reviews

Nioh 2: Complete Edition Review

Team Ninja has separated Nioh from the Souls series

by Joshua Garibay

How should one be rewarded for enduring and overcoming a challenging year? With another challenging experience, of course! Team Ninja’s Nioh 2 certainly fits that bill and its long-awaited arrival on PC is opening up the pathway to punishment for an entirely new group of players.

Nioh 2: Complete Edition brings all that was highly praised in 2020’s (then) PlayStation 4 exclusive and wraps it up in a comprehensive package containing every bit of post-launch content goodness. For those that didn’t dip their toes in the sequel’s console release or have skipped the series entirely up to this point, let’s get you acquainted with what exactly Nioh 2 is.

The term “samurai souls-like” has been thrown around, and it’s not an inaccurate description in terms of painting a general picture. But Nioh 2 is far more than From Software’s Souls games that rallied a community of masochistic gamers. Team Ninja has carefully crafted a demanding experience that reveals a depth well beyond the standard souls-like. In fact, it may be inappropriate to call Nioh 2 a souls-like because, aside from its notable difficulty, it does not sit within the confines of the Souls franchise but rather beside it as its own entity.

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The game stars a Yokai-empowered character, one that can be fully customized as either male or female via an impressively robust set of options, placed in Sengoku-era Japan. Despite sporting a number two in its title, the narrative spun in the sequel actually predates and postdates William Adams’ outing in 2017. And although its predecessor found success, Nioh 2 doesn’t blunt its sharp edges in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience. It’s perfectly comfortable with its identity and the harsher aspects of its personality have been expanded upon.

We won’t dive into the storyline specifics because, frankly, they are not a prominent part of the Nioh 2 experience. I know that brushing the narrative aside may seem like I am glossing over one of the game’s weaker points. It is certainly a lesser component, no doubt. But the story is not the draw of the game. It isn’t the piece that will draw players back time and time again to test themselves against towering bosses.

The brilliance of Nioh 2 is found within its multitude of complex systems and mechanics. Since the game has absolutely no intention of holding a player’s hand, a majority of the inner workings and intricacies of Team Ninja’s work must be actively sought out and studied.

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Ki Pulses help restore stamina through an accurately timed button press, pushing the player to conform to the game’s inherent rhythm. Burst Counters can abruptly disrupt a boss’ onslaught and severely damage their Ki (read: stamina). And then there is the devastating Yokai Shift, allowing the player to transform and deal massive damage. These combat options are only a drop in the bucket.

Of course, our protagonist wouldn’t be much without a weapon (or two). Two weapons can be actively equipped simultaneously. The DLC weapons, the Fists and Splitstaff, are available from the very beginning in the Complete Edition. For those new to the game, each weapon sports three stances — low, mid and high — providing greater control over the flow of fights as they develop. Character can be equipped with a mix of short and long range options or completely adhere to an engagement range preference of your choosing.

A bevvy of expansive skill trees exist for multiple playstyles and weapon types, all of which one can lose themselves within. Every weapon already manages to feel distinct in its combos, timing, and overall control, but the associated skill trees further flesh out the options with active and passive skills.

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Supplementing the available arms are four core skill categories: Samurai, Ninja, Onmyo, and Shiftling. The weapon types already help players shape their warrior to their liking, but the available selections continue to surpass expectations. It’s hard to manage a situation where a player is unable to find a combination of skills to align with their preferences. This is one area that Nioh 2 stands well above the other souls-inspired games; it encourages players to invest in builds.

The sheer amount of upgradeable and modifiable areas is staggering. In fact, this aspect of the game is certainly going to either excite or frighten people. But that about sums up the Nioh 2 experience. The game strives to test players and that is either viewed as a welcome challenge or a deterrent. Those that meet the challenge head-on will uncover one of gaming’s most customizable and rewarding experiences, one that can speed past the 100-hour mark.

Verdict

Nioh 2 inhabits the same space as From Software’s critically-acclaimed Souls franchise, but it is by no means its inferior. Unlike the other “inspired by” series circulating the market, Nioh 2 has pushed past that descriptor. Team Ninja has developed a game that, like From Software’s games, has no equal. It is an experience that simply does not exist elsewhere. And the Complete Edition turns an alluring package into a must-have for those not previously engaged.

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Nioh 2: Complete Edition

  • Available On: PS4, PS5, PC
  • Published By: Koei Tecmo
  • Developed By: Team Ninja
  • Genre: Action RPG
  • US Release Date: February 5th, 2021
  • Reviewed On: PC
  • Quote: "Nioh 2: Complete Edition carves out its own identity, standing tall as an evolution of the Souls formula instead of a derivative."
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