As more and more time goes by without a word from FromSoftware about Elden Ring, Dark Souls fans like myself have been looking for similar games to play in the meantime. With this in mind, I jumped at the opportunity to check out Nioh 2: The Complete Edition, a new edition of the 2020 PlayStation exclusive that includes all three of its DLCs and is releasing on Windows 10 PCs alongside the PlayStation 5. I had heard good things about Team Ninja's Nioh series before, and after how much I enjoyed reviewing Cold Symmetry's Mortal Shell, I was interested in exploring Team Ninja's take on the Soulslike genre.
I've always felt that despite the best efforts of many talented studios, no developer has managed to beat FromSoftware at its own genre. I still feel this way after playing through Nioh 2, but for the first time ever, it was a very close call to make. Nioh 2 is the best non-FromSoftware Soulslike I've played, and despite some of its issues, it's the most fun I've had playing a game in this genre since my first playthrough of Dark Souls III. It's formidably challenging, extremely rewarding, filled with excellent level designs, and it even brings a unique mechanic or two to the table that helps combat feel fresh. What's not to love?
Bottom line: Nioh 2: The Complete Edition is an excellent Soulslike that features superb combat mechanics, great level design, a beautiful world, and more, and the upgrades and bonuses that come with the Complete Edition are the cherry on top.
- Awesome combat mechanics
- Stellar level design
- Loads of armors and weapons
- Beautiful visuals
- Enemy variety could be better
- Skill trees feel unnecessary
- Mouse cursor glitch on PC
Nioh 2: What I like
Without a doubt, the best thing about Nioh 2 is the underlying combat system. Typical Soulslike staples like light and heavy attacks, blocks, dodges, and counter-attacks are present, and they all feel incredibly fluid thanks to Nioh 2's responsive controls and snappy animations. This isn't what makes the combat feel special, though — the game's "Ki" (stamina) system is responsible for that.
|Title||Nioh 2: The Complete Edition|
|Publisher||Sony Interactive Entertainment/Koei Tecmo|
|Genre||Action RPG (Soulslike)|
|Game Size||78.35 GB|
|Play Time||50-60 hours (no DLC), 85-100 hours (DLC)|
|Players||Single or multiplayer|
In Nioh 2, attacks use more stamina than they do in other games, and enemies can create pools of energy that reduce how quickly you get it back. To get around this, you need to press the right bumper at the right time (represented by blue particles after attacking) to perform a Ki Pulse, which instantly returns a large portion of your stamina and cleanses enemy energy pools. This mechanic allows you to either keep up the pressure or successfully dodge away from return strikes. The window for a Ki Pulse is small, and if you mess it up, you'll often be forced to eat damage. However, once you master the timing, the combat has an addicting, unique rhythm to it. There are other special mechanics too, such as different stances that change the speed and direction of your attacks and a Guardian Spirit ultimate ability you can briefly use for increased damage and survivability.
This combat system is complimented well by both Nioh 2's enemies and its collectible gear. Each enemy you encounter will pose a specific challenge, and there are tons of different armor types and weapons to collect that influence combat in impactful ways. Players can bulk up stats needed for things like heavy armor or specific weapon types while leveling, allowing them to craft effective builds.
The game's world design is also stellar, from both a gameplay and a visual standpoint. Much like areas in Dark Souls, locations in Nioh 2 loop back on themselves in clever and natural ways, and also often have multiple paths forward. This makes the villages, castles, and caverns you explore feel like connected, believable locales rather than stages clearly designed for a video game. Players with keen eyes can spot hidden items and shortcuts, and there are many opportunities for you to use the environment to your advantage in combat.
Aesthetically, the game perfectly captures both the vibrant beauties and the sobering horrors of Sengoku-era Japan. There isn't a single area in the game that isn't visually striking, and thanks to the fact that a photo mode has been included with Nioh 2: The Complete Edition, you can capture some great screenshots. This version of the game also supports 4K, HDR, 144Hz, and ultra-wide aspect ratios, meaning that it looks better than ever before — provided your hardware is up to snuff.
Nioh 2: What I don't like
While I love Nioh 2 overall, there are a couple of issues with it. My biggest gripe with the game is that the enemy variety feels a bit lacking. Compared to FromSoftware's games that introduce a new enemy or two in each new area, Nioh 2 only does so every once in a while. It's not a huge dealbreaker, but I wish the game pitted me against new opponents more often.
Secondly, in addition to the leveling system for stats, there's also a skill tree system you can engage with by using certain weapons or leveling specific stats to unlock skill points. This system seems like it would be cool. However, since each tree has so many options to choose from and you're already worrying about armor, weapon, and character stats, they make the game feel a little bloated. I was able to play through the game without caring much about what I was putting my skill points into, which begs the question: were skill trees necessary?
Lastly, there's an irksome mouse cursor bug present in the pre-release PC build I played for this review. Even though I was using a controller to play the game, my mouse cursor was stubbornly visible right in the middle of my screen. Nothing I tried successfully got it to go away, so I had to just deal with it. It's a small issue, but an annoying one nonetheless. I hope the developers are able to fix this bug soon.
Nioh 2: Should you buy?
While the enemy variety could be better and the skill tree system feels redundant, Nioh 2 is nevertheless one of the best Soulslikes ever made and is arguably the only one that truly goes toe-to-toe with FromSoftware's titles. The combat is fluid and interesting, the game world is expertly crafted, and the Complete Edition of the game includes all three of the game's DLCs as well as support for 4K, HDR, and more.
Nioh 2: The Complete Edition is available for $50 on Windows 10 PCs, and it releases on February 5, 2021. If you enjoy Soulslikes, I can't recommend Nioh 2: The Complete Edition enough. It's one of the best PC games for fans of the genre available.
Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.