Ni-Oh Best Combat of 2017

Going hand in hand with all the best RPGs of 2017 lists is this CGMagazine article that boldly claims that in 2017, Team Ninja's samurai-action RPG Ni-Oh had the best, most mechanically-complex and rewarding combat. Here's their reasoning behind such a pick:

The basics of the gameplay in Nioh are familiar to anyone who has played a Souls game before. Players will navigate each level, battling monsters and opening up shortcuts while collecting Amrita, which are Nioh’s equivalent of souls, blood shards, or experience points. The more monsters you kill, the more of these you get, and these can be cashed in at shrines in order to expand William’s selection of abilities and stats. Of course, if you die at any point, you lose your Amrita and are forced to start at the most recent shrine with all enemies re-spawned. It’s a familiar mechanic at this point, but one that doesn’t become super tedious thanks to a brilliant combat system that absolutely nails the “easy to understand, difficult to master” idea.

Blocking, parrying, and attacking all use “Ki” AKA stamina, a bar that depletes with every action but can be refilled by releasing a “Ki pulse”, which has the added effect of removing the energy draining miasma generated by enemies. Adding to this system are three stances—High, Middle, and Low—that offer different combinations of strength and speed. Switching between these stances on the fly—at the right moment—will also help replenish Ki as well as offering various other bonuses when done at the correct time. Linking together a string of perfect combos, switching stances and weapons, is immensely satisfying in Nioh and really makes you feel like a Ninja master. It’s a lot faster than the Souls games, and, while complicated, eventually feels surprisingly natural and fluid once the muscle memory and mechanics sink in. There are also ranged weapons, Ninja abilities, and Onmyo buffs, which all come together in a complex yet cohesive combat system with a fantastic amount of variety. The weapons are also discovered via a Diablo-esque loot system, which while not perfect, ensures that no two builds are exactly alike. The combat system is addictive and incredibly challenging, but for someone like myself who prizes these mechanics over all else in a video game, that’s exactly what I want. I like trial and error. I enjoy getting my ass kicked over and over again until I finally nail that perfect run. It’s what kept me coming back to Nioh despite an overwhelming amount of quality titles released this year.

Unfortunately, a lack of variety and a lot of repetition in enemy and level design does cause Nioh to feel very same-ey after a while. However, every now and then Twilight missions will become available, which switch things up and offer a fresh challenge in a familiar setting. The level design is excellent, but is held back by only being offered in small, independent chunks selected from a menu rather than a single, sprawling world.

Nioh isn’t a perfect game. It didn’t innovate at all, and definitely features some glaring flaws. It’s pretty repetitive, the story is cliché as hell, and killing the same types of enemies over and over for tens of hours will become fatiguing for many players. However, no game this year did combat as well as Nioh, and many months later I’m still finding new ways to craft a character and link together the perfect string of attacks. It’s got the best third-person combat mechanics of any game this year, it’s incredibly hard, and incredibly rewarding. That alone makes Nioh my game of the year.