Team Ninja’s Samurai version of Dark Souls- and all-around Onimusha, Ninja Gaiden (insert other action RPG franchise) inspired title- Ni-Oh (or Nioh) has had its 2nd beta test recently. The title was fairly well-received amongst gamers the first time around and, minus a few issues, was a fairly solid and fun experience, but how is the game currently shaping up after Team Ninja’s latest tweaks?
The combat feels smooth and satisfying, giving a sense of power as you cut down humans and yokai (phantoms) alike with your choice of weaponry, ranging from katanas, dual katanas, to spears, axes, and hammers. The great thing about the combat in Ni-Oh is that the system allows for a much more varied experience, giving you access to three separate stances for different styles of play. Mastering all three styles of fighting is one of the game’s more challenging aspects. Ni-Oh also features an upgrade tree where you can spend skill points earned on new attacks or buffs that can be applied to certain weapons and stances. The combat is surprisingly deep for a game that many are already claiming is just another Dark Souls clone.
Attacks and techniques aren’t the only thing you can spend your points on: the game gives you the ability to learn magic and Ninjitsu. Ninjitsu, however, and at least when I used it, seemed to be the weaker class as I rarely felt the need to use it over my magic.
In regards to enemies, the deck seems much more fairly stacked than last time. Damage has definitely been decreased- a welcome change when cheap deaths from one-hit kills were aplenty in the game’s first beta- making the game far more enjoyable. Ni-Oh is not without its challenges, but the game play now feels far more balanced and the effort more evenly distributed.
However, in true Team Ninja fashion, Ni-Oh suffers from a lot of cheap tricks to artificially enhance the difficulty. There are a number of times (especially in the 2nd main mission of the beta) in which the player will be approaching an area only to have bats fly out of an opening, causing your character to be pushed off the edge of a cliff and fall to their death. These moments happen fairly frequently and sometimes appear at random. The damage from the hazard itself is low but the possibility of instant death dials the game from “fun challenge” all the way to “complete fucking nightmare.”
We’re not just talking random hazards that cause controller smashing frustration, either; some of the boss characters have moves that are insanely overpowered. The boss of the 2nd mission has a grab that is unblockable, and unlike other enemies with unblockable attacks, this move does not feature a visual cue, leading to many deaths from an attack I could not anticipate. The final boss of the beta is by far one of the cheapest, using lightning-fast attacks that can’t be blocked. Beating them can get your adrenaline pumping but it can sometimes feel like the game would be far more enjoyable and the fights more tense if some enemies were simply tweaked just a little more to be a fairer challenge.
One change in this beta that does feel strange is the complete removal of the durability system. Before, your weapons and armour would weaken and break over time, in the first beta this system was insanely brutal, however, rather than tweak the durability and give players a chance to repair weapons at shrines, Team Ninja outright removed it. This isn’t a negative change but is a bizarre one.
The 2nd beta for Ni-Oh has significantly improved the formula overall, and the re-balancing of the difficulty is welcome. All that Team Ninja needs to do- in this writer’s opinion- is to stop artificially enhancing the difficulty with blind traps that can cause instant deaths and perhaps work on some of the boss characters, fixing some of their broken offense. Bearing these and other possible future modifications in mind, Ni-Oh could be poised to take the action RPG throne.
Looking forward to Ni-Oh? Played the recent beta? What did you think? comment below and let us know and for all the latest news and reviews follow @Untoldgaming_