We all have these moments in our gaming career that we’re exceptionally proud of. Getting all the achievements in our favorite game. Taking down a boss with only one pixel of our health bar left. Crossing the finish line with just 0,001 seconds left on the clock. And each of us has at least one of those moments where we would want to erase our memory just to relive them again. Also, did you know that I once managed to beat Final Fantasy VIII without realizing that you could use limit breaks? Is my playthrough of Nioh 2 The Complete Edition in the company of those proud memories? Definitely not. It is filled with rage, despair, countless deaths, and hopelessness but behind those grim moments, there was another story. A story about a journey where the reward isn’t at the end of it, but the journey itself serves as a reward. And it only took me around 350 deaths in-game to figure that out.
Ever played a game where the story serves as both a prequel and a sequel to the previous game? Well, that’s Nioh 2 for you. Set in the late 1500s, most of the game’s chapters are a prequel to Nioh, while the end chapters of the story take place after the first game’s last storyline after the Siege of Osaka. Players take the role of a character nicknamed Hide, a half-yokai referred to as a “shiftling” whose journey through the Sengoku Era begins when they befriend Kinoshita Tokichiro, a merchant seeking to make his mark in history, and Mumyo, a demon hunter of the Sohaya group. One peculiar thing about the storyline here is that many of the bosses and side characters that you encounter are real historical figures. As you learn more about the war-ravaged Japan and take down powerful bosses, your friendship with Tokichiro will also be tested.
Years ago, an older coworker once told me that the good thing about life is that it’s difficult only for the first 100 years – then it gets considerably easier. I thought about it a lot while I played this game. Did you know that the second enemy in the game is harder than the very first boss in the game? Crazy but true. Veterans of the first game will have no trouble maneuvering through the many mechanics of Nioh 2 The Complete Edition but if you’re a newcomer, you better sit down and do some heavy tutorial reading. While it doesn’t take much to figure out everything that the combat here has to offer, the game makes the mistake of throwing everything at you all at once and leaving you alone to understand it all. You have burst counters, weapon familiarity, yokai shift, anima gauge, benevolent graves……….and I’m pretty sure I missed a thing or two there. Understanding each of these is a key to mastering the combat system of Nioh 2 The Complete Edition. Burst counter is an advanced riposte technique that, if timed right, can nullify the power of an enemy attack, and land massive Ki damage. Yokai Shift is your demonic form that gives you enhanced power, speed, and durability once activated. It’s a great way to turn the outcome of many boss battles in your favor. Benevolent graves were a welcome addition to Nioh 2 and they were basically phantoms of player-controlled characters. Incredibly useful as a distraction for enemies and you can even count on them to survive a hit or two during boss battles.
I’m a sucker for needlessly detailed customization in video games and in that regard, Nioh 2 really caters to me. The game has a diablo-like loot system (aka you won’t find an enemy that doesn’t drop at least one thing on kill) and there is an enormous amount of weapons and armor sets. You don’t like the look of your katana or armor pieces? That’s fine, cause now you can copy the appearance of another weapon or armor onto your existing one. The levels are visually impressive almost as they are long. Seriously, during your first dozen of hours in Nioh 2, it will take an hour on average to complete it and explore every nook and cranny. Each level contains a couple of shortcuts, sometimes one just near a boss area. Remember, you will die a lot. When it comes to technical stuff, visual improvements for PC also include 4K Ultra-HD support, wide-screen compatibility, HDR, and 144Hz monitor support.
After playing it for just a bit over 30 hours, I realized that this game is the closest that we will ever get to Tenchu on PC. Or at least until Tenchu magically appears on Steam one day (hope dies last). The atmosphere of post-feudal Japan, the constant clashing of steel as I traverse through the levels, flinging shurikens at Tengu warriors…….it’s all there, really. A lot of work went into the audio aspect of the game and that’s no surprise. A game where the emphasis is on repetition (aka dying often) can’t have forgettable tunes. What I particularly liked is how the theme follows the setting of whatever mission you’re playing at the moment. For example, playing “twilight missions” (harder versions of regular missions with better rewards) will be accompanied by tense and fast notes. Whenever you explore some parts of the level with fewer enemies, the music will subtly switch to something more serene.
This game is a classic example of knowing what you’re getting into. Sure, it’s fun and it looks (and runs) great on PC. However, I’m not joking about the difficulty curve. It’s not steep, it’s more of a straight line shooting upwards. It’s a game where leveling up is not a sure way to completing the game, but mastering its mechanics is. Depending on your patience you might squeeze a couple of hours from it before calling it quits or be busy with it till the end of this month. In a way, patience is what encapsulates this game. By waiting, we eventually ended up with the edition of the game with all DLC and some PC improvements as a bonus. And being patient and learning is how you will get through most of the game. Learning from enemy attack patterns, while finding their weaknesses and openings for critical blows. And once you’re done with it, it turns out that the fun has just started. The New Game+ option is there to break the very best of the best. Better loot and new smithing recipes but with higher-level enemies and bosses gaining new attacks. What’s not to like? So you liked the Dark Souls trilogy and explored everything there? Good, cause that was all a very long tutorial in preparation for this Nioh. If you find inexplicable joy in finally taking down a boss that just killed you 50 times before, look no further. A game for all you stubborn masochists is finally here.
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