Team Ninja’s Nioh has been getting a lot of comparisons to the Dark Souls franchise, and for good reason. The game is clearly inspired by From Software’s success, and it is not really shy about its connections. Publisher Koei Tecmo no doubt wants this samurai action game to be seen as a replacement.
However, those looking for a straight up equal to the Dark Souls series will find that Nioh probably comes up a bit short on those lofty expectations. Not that it is bad or anything, but that extra step of polish is just missing.
Nioh’s approach, at least in this demo, is far more linear than the Souls series. Branching pathways don’t lead to entire other worlds, just an extra treasure or two. Nor does combat have that perfect hint of weight, either, falling somewhere between Dark Souls’ excellent sense of grounding and Dynasty Warriors’ floaty, “obviously a video game” feel.
Our lead ninja slashes, dodges, and blocks with the same mindset as a faceless Dark Souls sojourner, but not with the same extra hint of inexplicable quality. Magic, so to say.
Nioh does shine on its presentation, though. I played for 15 minutes and bumped into beautiful recreations of Japanese mythological figures. The yurei, these goofy spirits with rice bowls on their heads, and Yuki-Onna herself. This famous creature took the role of a boss battle and wiped the floor with me several times.
There we have a similarity. Nioh is challenging, and it will appeal to those looking for that same sense of old-school gaming, memorizing boss patterns, reacting to animations, and waiting for that perfect moments to strike.
Armor and treasure are also abundant, and the game throws plenty of goodies at you. The hero looks great no matter what he is dressed in, but as we remember from Dark Souls, armor should be based on a character’s build, not his looks. Stat advancement works in the exact same fashion, so be sure to choose early where you want to focus.
Nioh was fun, but the comparisons to Dark Souls come up short . It can probably stand well on its own when it comes out, but maybe the connections are too strong to separate these two different games at this point. A replacement this is not.
Try your best and force yourself to think… this is not Dark Souls. Nioh will be released Feb. 9 for the PlayStation 4.