Author: Liam Riker
I had the rare treat of starting Nioh this past week, and while many were comparing this game to the Dark Souls trilogy, long before the game was released, I couldn’t help but notice some of those noted similarities as I played through the beginning of the game.
Nioh is an ARPG developed by Team Ninja for the PS4, in which you play as William, an Irish sailor, who is trained in the art of the samurai, and travels to Feudal Japan, in pursuit of an enemy, the game’s main antagonist: Edward Kelley. Going off of this description, you’d think that this game couldn’t be farther from a Dark Souls game, but once you gain control of William, as the opening cinematic comes to a close, you realize how similar they actually are. I unfortunately, wasn’t able to get that far in the game, as one of my friends was just letting me play his copy for a couple hours this past week. However, it’s not necessary to even get past the game’s Prologue, to be able to notice how much Nioh has in common with the Souls games.
From the second the game starts you are already given the impression that you could be playing a Souls game. The player is dropped suddenly into the game world, without much of an explanation as to where they are, and given the sole objective of trying to escape from their current prison. This sort of sudden, dropping the player into the middle of action, that every single Souls game, including Bloodborne, is known for, is exhibited here in Nioh as well. The element of safety and complete control is immediately ripped from the hands of the player, and they’ll need to quickly adapt to the game as they play, or they’ll die. There is no tutorial, well there is but it comes later, or relative “safespace”, for the player to practice their controls on inanimate test dummies or weak grunts that could only kill the player if they were AFK. Just as in the Dark Souls games, every single enemy can and, if given the chance, will kill you. So, unforgiving enemies and the lack of any sign of holding-your-hand on the part of the game developers? Check.
So, how about a punishing combat system, that the player actually has to use strategically and carefully in order to survive? Nioh‘s got another check for that one as well, with its version of the stamina game system from the Souls games, where nearly every single action the player takes, costs stamina, and if the player runs out of stamina they will be unable to do anything. However, in Nioh, the punishment for a player running out of the stamina they’re allotted is even more severe than what it is in the Souls games, as the player is left stunned, unable to even move for a few frames. This nearly guarantees, that if a player runs out of stamina in the middle of combat, that they’re going to take a few nasty, and indefensible, hits.
Along with the Stamina Game System, Nioh also has its own version of the Souls System from Dark Souls, where if a player dies, the EXP units they had on them, in Nioh this takes the form of the mystical golden mineral Amrita , are lost at the place of death. If the player is unable to recover their dropped Amrita before dying a second time, they lose that Amrita permanently, a sadistically addictive game system that players of the Dark Souls games are very familiar with. If the player dies, they’ll respawn at small prayer shrines, this game’s version of bonfires, which look like these:
One striking similarity to the original Dark Souls, that Nioh had, was the Prologue/Tuturial location of the Tower of London. William starts the game inside a cell in the Tower of London, and must find a way to break out of not only his cell, but the entire prison-like fortress. This design choice is very similar to the area in which the player wakes in the first Dark Souls, The Undead Asylum.
Even the bosses for these introductory locations have some resemblance to one another.
While the environments in Nioh, for the most part, seem very different from those in Dark Souls they still embody that dark aesthetic and atmosphere. For as far as I got in the game, these were the notable similarities that I was able to find between Nioh and the Souls game franchis. While the games have a number of differences between them, for instance, the gameplay of Nioh is much more fast paced than the Dark Souls games, or even Bloodborne, which stands out from the other From Software Souls games, partially because of its speed of gameplay. There is also no character customization in Nioh and the plot points of the story of the game seem to be handed to the player more freely than they are in any of the Souls games.
Overall, Nioh, from what I can tell so far, is a fantastic game, that feels like a much-needed spiritual successor to the Dark Souls trilogy. Especially, with the last Dark Souls 3 DLC, “The Ringed City”, marking the official end of the Dark Souls franchise with it’s release this upcoming March 28th, Dark Souls fans will be in desperate need of a punishing ARPG with brilliantly designed real-time combat to fill the whole left. And Nioh certainly fits the bill.