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A good number of media outlets recently had a chance to play through a hands-on demo for Team Ninja’s upcoming samurai-themed Dark Souls-inspired action-RPG Ni-Oh 2. As a result, we can now check out their fairly positive previews that, just as The Surge 2 did a few months back, prove that the Dark Souls formula can now be successfully executed by studios other than FromSoftware. Have a look:
Perhaps more importantly this time out there's more ways to flex that combat system. "The biggest problem with the original was lack of enemy variation," admits Hayashi. "The number of enemies was fine, but once you got to know how to deal with an enemy it got quite repetitive. In Nioh 2 new areas will have new enemies, and the placement will be more dense." The short time spent with the demo certainly suggests that's the case, the small area packed with suicidal ninjas, fiery wanyūdō, ground-shaking samurai and, in Toshiee Maeda - a stalwart of the Samurai Warrior series - a perfectly challenging boss encounter too.
You might have already faced up against Maeda in Nioh 2's betas, all of which have helped direct development of the game. "Most of the negative feedback was about how unfair some of the combat can be," says Hayashi of what's changed as a result of the betas. "It was almost too difficult, and demoralising. So we adjusted the difficulty based on that - if you make a move that's high risk and high return, if you die it should feel like it's your fault. It should feel right when you die."
All in all, Nioh 2 feels like a well-refined Nioh, which is all anyone can ever really ask for in a sequel. It’s definitely gotten a bit deeper, and that’ll keep those who are looking for a variety of gameplay options very happy indeed. Whether or not the whole game shakes out as well remains to be seen, but hey, we’ve only got to wait until March 13th to find out.
When I hit the right rhythm – restoring my ki and countering red attacks – I feel like the lead dancer in a tango, while my demonic enemies are incompetent partners unable to match my footwork. This is Doom 2016’s push forward combat applied to swords instead of guns. The best way to fight is to keep charging, interrupting any counter-attacks and staggering foes until they’re sent to oblivion. With this, Nioh 2 has finished carving out its niche in the masocore RPG genre. Dark Souls taught us patience and blocking, Bloodborne was dodging and parrying, and Sekiro was timing and deflections. Now, Nioh 2 wants us to find the perfect flow so as to strike without relenting.
Enemies are tough buggers. From towering, muscle-bound demonic sorts to nimble skeleton warriors, Nioh 2’s foes will give you a battering if you aren’t careful. It’s not just about saving your health either; these guys can deplete your stamina with massive, skull-shattering blows, so it pays to learn their attack pattern and dodge or you’ll be helpless and knackered.
There’s also added tactical depth in combat by way of stances. By holding R1 and hitting one of the face buttons, you can switch between horizontal, vertical, low, and high stances, which are more effective with certain weapons when squaring up against certain opponents.
If all this sounds a little like FromSoftware's Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, then that's because comparisons are easy to make between the two – on the surface, at least. Both have faster combat than most demanding action RPGs, they're set in the Sengoku period, and involve slicing your way through terrifyingly tough bosses. However, Nioh 2 has different fundamentals that make for a very different experience.
Sekiro's focus is in mastering the parry system, knowing how to break down enemies stamina so you can deliver killer blows. Nioh 2 is about developing a style of play based on the tools at your disposal. That includes a huge range of weapons, as well as various pieces of armour that give differing buffs. Where Sekiro is pared down to the essentials, Nioh 2 is a banquet of options that, with a fair bit of patience, lets you figure out what works for you.
Team Ninja has opted to fine-tune what it already has rather than reinventing the wheel and it's going to be all the better for it. In a time where From Software's Elden Ring has seemingly gone AWOL, Nioh 2 can be the definitive Souls-like experience on PS4 for the year 2020 -- potential it is primed to fulfil as we edge closer to release. With a refined level of difficulty, Yokai skills for those theatrical enough to pull them off, and everything which made the original game great at the helm, this is going to be a PS4 exclusive worthy of your attention.
Push Square also offers an interview with the game's general producer Yosuke Hayashi:
Push Square: Nioh 2 is, of course, a follow-up to the original, but in terms of story, it's actually a prequel. What was the reasoning behind the decision to go back in time instead of following William's story from Nioh?
Yosuke Hayashi: When we made Nioh 1, we weren't thinking about making a sequel so we concluded the story of William there. We used the second half of the Sengoku era, so the era finished in Nioh 1. After that, things calmed down, the world was more peaceful so it wasn't going to be interesting to use that part of history in the game. And so we looked at the first half [of the Sengoku era] and it's actually the most popular period in history -- it has more popular Samurais and some of them were in Nioh 1 as well so you might be familiar with some of them. You will see some connections and the story will nicely link up to the beginning of Nioh 1 so we did it that way around this time.