Nioh 2 will kick your arse to Hell and back. Having never really dabbled in SoulsBorne games before this, I had no idea just how many times I’d end up brown bread during my hands-on time with Team Ninja‘s upcoming action-RPG. But you know what? I didn’t really mind. As any Dark Souls aficionado will probably tell you, the satisfaction in a game like Nioh 2 comes from learning from your mistakes and methodically raking up one little victory at a time.
PSU was lucky enough to get some extended time with Nioh 2, which takes place roughly half-way through the game. As such, our weapons and stats were considerably buffed; not that you’d know it from the amount of times I ended up cut to ribbons in a bloody mess.
Nioh 2 PS4 Hands-On Preview
Nioh 2 Leaves A Lasting Impression
Ostensibly, Nioh 2 is pretty much the original game as you remember. Combat settles into a steady and strategic-fuelled rhythm of dodging, attacking, and blocking attacks while keeping an eye on your Stamina (or Ki) gauge.
If you run out of juice in combat, you’re going to be left wide open for attack. As such, one of the key components the Ki charge; this activates are attacking with a timely whack of the R1 button to buff your meter up. It’s an essential took for keeping up the attack, and much like the Active Reload in Gears of War, it becomes second nature soon enough.
Enemies are tough buggers. From towering, muscle-bound demonic sorts to nimble skeleton warriors, Nioh 2’s foes will give you a battering if you aren’t careful. It’s not just about saving your health either; these guys can deplete your stamina with massive, skull-shattering blows, so it pays to learn their attack pattern and dodge or you’ll be helpless and knackered.
There’s also added tactical depth in combat by way of stances. By holding R1 and hitting one of the face buttons, you can switch between horizontal, vertical, low, and high stances, which are more effective with certain weapons when squaring up against certain opponents.
Speaking of weapons, I got to tinker around with quite a few in my hands-on (the developers gave us access to a ton of equipment). Aside from your standard samurai-like sword, there’s a hefty axe to wield which has huge reach, while the twin blades were particularly useful against more nimble opponents even if they lacked decent range.
Meanwhile, firearms and a deadly bow are perfect for landing critical headshots, especially when you’re faced against the many archers that punctuate the meat-and-potatoes of enemy encounters. Playing around with these various limb-slicing tools is fun in its own right, and allows you to pick a weapon that best suits your play style or current situation.
Meanwhile, whacking R1 and Circle buttons as your opponent radiates a crimson glow will result in a meaty counter, giving you opportunity to strike back. Indeed, it pays to experiment and get creative in Nioh 2, and that’s where you’ll find combat the most rewarding.
One of the newer features is the ability to channel various creatures’ powers during combat by holding down R2 and pressing a face button. My favourite was summoning a chap with a massive hammer, which pulverises smaller foes and dishes out some meaty damage to the bigger critters. Naturally, these have to recharge, so you can’t spam them willy-nilly.
Nioh 2 is definitely a title that requires plenty of micromanagement. You’ll be juggling lots of plates in this game; simply mashing out combos and blocking isn’t going to be enough. You really have to study your opponent and plan your moves accordingly, resulting in even the smallest achievement seem like a massive accomplishment.
My hands-on ended with a sub-boss battle against a samurai warrior, who effortlessly kicked my arse even when we summoned a fellow NPC to help us out. I managed to get about a quarter of his health bar down, but ran out of time before I was able to beat him.
Interestingly enough, it turns out that there was still more of the stage to come – I had just died so bloody much that I ran out of time. Still, Nioh 2 definitely left a mark, figuratively speaking; it’s brutal, beautiful to look at (the game’s visuals are gorgeous on PS4 Pro), and thoroughly rewarding to boot. This is definitely one to watch.
Nioh 2 is slated for release on PlayStation 4 on March 13, 2020.
This preview is based on a hands-on event hosted by Sony UK at their London office on January 30.