Want Bloodborne in feudal Japan? Nioh trailer and hands-on impressions

A new trailer for Nioh debuted at Sony’s 2016 PlayStation Experience keynote and shows off the game’s lush visual style and fast-paced action.

Nioh is also brutally hard.

For that reason, it’s tempting to think of Koei Tecmo’s action-RPG as an homage to Dark Souls with the unique setting of feudal Japan, but I think it’s more in line with Bloodborne, the PS4 exclusive. Bloodborne is faster than the renowned Souls games; surviving in its unforgiving world means mastering dodges and a quick, decisive offense.

Nioh is no less unforgiving; indeed, it’s even faster than Bloodborne. Your dashes carry you a good ways and are essential for dodging the sword slashes, axe strikes, and tongue lashings (yes, tongue lashings) of your demonic enemies. In my hands-on time at PSX, I found that enemies are incredibly aggressive and just as fast as you. There is no good way to approach an encounter ultra-defensively; winning simply means being faster and smarter than your opponent.

To that end, there are a wide variety of weapons and items to use. I love how plentiful loot seems to be in Nioh. After almost every encounter in my short demo, there was some new katana to compare with my current one or a piece of armor to equip. Helmets, chest pieces, gauntlets, belts come alongside accessories for a really customizable RPG experience.

I ultimately favored a quick-striking katana and unwieldy axe as my melee weapons of choice. Holding R1 and pressing left or right lets you switch between them on the fly, while pressing face buttons changes stances to match the situation. Combat is a super-fast-paced chess game; the hip stance allows for quick side-swipes, but holding your weapon above your head grants a damage boost with slower attacks. Is it worth it? Do you have time to land those hits, ending the fight before your aggressive foe ends you?

Ultimately, think of Nioh like a hyped-up Bloodborne. No less difficult (I died six times before making it out of the first area) and boasting a great wealth of RPG loot and customization, Nioh’s interesting setting is actually just a single selling point. It’s out February 9, 2017, and it should be on the radar of every gamer aching for tight action and a true challenge.