Like a wise old sensei in a martial arts film, Nioh 2 doesn’t suffer fools. It wants you to learn through trial and error, through failure, through repeated clobberings to the skull, and it all but refuses to help you until you help yourself. If you can’t embrace its punishing philosophy, you’ll find only frustration, before inevitably storming out of the dojo defeated and dejected. But if you’re willing to persevere, you’ll unearth a meticulous, deadly, finely crafted Samurai title.
Like it or not, every game of this ilk is measured against the works of FromSoftware. Nioh 2‘s greatest contribution to the “Soulsborne” genre is its precariously complex combat system – a system that threatens to topple under its own weight, but manages to stays aloft through masterful craftsmanship. Mechanics lie atop mechanics sitting atop dozens more mechanics. It feels like two or three Dark Souls combat systems played at once.
There are three combat stances that alter high and low attacks, a dozen weapons to master, stamina (called “ki”) that needs to be actively managed with “pulses” mid-combo, multiple defensive moves, multiple status effects, magic and ninjutsu abilities, spirit guides, a demonic realm that alters how all the just-listed elements behave, and a “Yokai” wraith form to unleash when monsters desperately need a pounding. It’s all too much at first, but utterly engrossing once you’ve had all this beaten into you through, well, beatings.