Anyone who has played the first Nioh will know that as far as Dark Souls-inspired titles go, Team Ninja’s samurai epic does a fine job of recreating their feel of vulnerability and the immense sense of accomplishment and relief that comes with victory. Nioh 2’s Alpha Demo shows that the sequel is still very much in the same vein, with a few key differences.
The Nioh 2 Alpha Demo was set across three full missions and included two new bosses to overcome as well as a handful of brand-new enemy types.
Jumping right in to what’s new about Nioh 2, this time around you can make your own character. Where before we were put into the boots of Nioh’s protagonist William, here we can design and customise our own hero or heroine. The Alpha Demo was limited to the use of preset character faces but an extensive list of greyed-out customisation options was visible. The character customisation menus go above and beyond what players have access to in the likes of Dark Souls and Bloodborne, offering players an experience that’s closer to that of the Elder Scrolls games.
The UI has also had an overhaul, providing a more aesthetically pleasing UI with menus that are easier to navigate than those of its predecessor. The mission map has also been visually upgraded, ditching the old drawn map style and opting for a living, breathing one instead.
The skill tree structure has likewise been updated, resulting in a cleaner and more modern-looking interface that is somewhat reminiscent of Final Fantasy X’s Sphere Grid. Gold nodes denote Active Skills whilst Blue nodes signify Passive Skills, and each time you unlock a node all of the nodes connected to it become available. All branches of the skill tree are visible from the get-go too, so you can decide well in advance where it will be most beneficial to invest your points. This web-like layout makes it much easier to plan character builds over the old skill list system.
Moving on to the combat of Nioh 2, it is still very much like the original Nioh. However in the Alpha Demo we got our hands on a new weapon type: Dual Hatchets. As you might’ve guessed, Dual Hatchets play a lot like Dual Swords, but there are some unique features that, in my opinion, give Hatchets and edge over Swords. (Pun intended)
The biggest difference is that Dual Hatchets give you both close range and long range combat options, allowing the player to hurl an axe at the enemy by charging up their Strong Attack. Dual Hatchets also allow you to dodge-jump backwards after a combo, which can be very useful as their main drawback is their short reach.
Perhaps the best additions to Nioh 2’s combat though, are Yokai Shift and Yokai Skills. An evolution of Nioh’s Living Weapon system, Yokai Shift allows you to merge with your Guardian Spirit, taking on a fearsome Yokai form. In the Alpha Demo, all three available Guardian Spirits had their own unique Yokai form, each with its own unique skillset. Maintaining Yokai Shift costs Amrita, so it’s best to save it for boss encounters or last stands. When you kill a Yokai, there’s a chance they’ll drop a Soul Core. Up to two Soul Cores can be equipped to your Guardian Spirit, giving you access to Yokai Skills. Some of these abilities are very handy in boss fights but using them will cost you Yokai Force, which you build up by attacking foes. So beware.
In addition to Bloody Graves, Nioh 2 offers players a new Revenant system, allowing players to summon other players’ characters at blue grave markers to give them a helping hand. Bear in mind though that you will have to part with a few of your precious Ochoko cups if you do. There are also more friendly Yokai in-game that provide players with temporary buffs. My personal favourite was a chubby little mochi cat that rolled around after me, granting a regen bonus to my Yokai Force. Damn that thing was cute.
Narratively very little is known about the game, save that the story takes place before the first Nioh. Sadly, the Alpha Demo certainly didn’t give away much in that regard.
And that about does it for new stuff coming to Nioh 2. Everything else is pretty much the same as the first game. So if you enjoyed Nioh, you’ll definitely enjoy the sequel. Similarly if the difficulty or the loot system turned you off the first one, you can go ahead and save your money this time around.
Nioh 2 is still in Alpha, so a lot can still change, but I think it unlikely. It’s a game that aims to appeal to its existing fan base rather than try to draw in a wider audience. It’s a game that keeps the same core, but continues to refine itself. Nioh 2 is evolution, not revolution. And that’s just fine.