The Nioh Collection (Review)

This was my first venture into the Nioh series.  And it wasn’t hard for me to quickly surmise that Nioh is essentially a hybridization between the hyper-active speed of Ninja Gaiden with the difficulty of Souls.  But of course, the core question is if this actually pans out.


GAMEPLAY

…you’ll just die without exception like the sun sets and rises each day.

It’s necessary to know that this game is, at its core, a difficult game.  Despite the speedy, complex, and absolutely wonderful stance-based combat system, and even the ace up your sleeves provided by guardians to give you a flamboyant edge, you’ll just die without exception like the sun sets and rises each day.  And therein lies an interesting part of gameplay: as hard as this game is, it seems to favor the idea of co-op play, particularly more so in Nioh 2.  In fact, Nioh 2 even adds the ability to leave an NPC version of yourself behind for other players to call in for assistance.  This is where you have to make a judgment call because sometimes… well sometimes the bosses are just cheesing you and it’s not worth the time to solo.  So outside of the quietude of Souls-like exploration, you’ll find yourself up against a number of lethal beings, and even mid-tier enemies can be your end rather quickly though some form of help is always around the corner.  The rest of your time is spent preparing yourself, and that’s where I think it’s worth noting that the equipment management is old-school awful.  There IS such a thing as too much gear to go through.  Furthermore, the way skill unlocks are laid out in both games is rather unintuitive, so when it comes to the UI, things can be a bit daunting.  There are also more complex functions like managing your guardians and soul cores in Nioh 2, but there’s that reminder that sometimes “less is more”.  To add more administrative tasks, there’s also the Forge, but I honestly found that to be more for hardcore purists angling for a perfected build, as I could steadily move through gear I picked up and was just fine.  So far then, the answer is yes: this hyper speed combat system pans out, and though you can die in the blink of an eye, you also have the added benefit of getting help when you need it.


CONTENT

Rest assured, you are given a dollars-per-hour golden price ratio.

I will never stop being against Sony’s push to raise game prices by $10, but fortunately this collection more than justifies this on the content front.  The collection has both games and their DLC, so by the time you’ve reached the point of picking up the Nightmare Bringer soul, you’ve easily put in an impressive 70+ hours.  And that’s just your first playthrough in which you probably built your skills and leveled yourself up to get through it rather than create a build.  Rest assured, you are given a dollars-per-hour golden price ratio.  There isn’t anything more to say here other than “money well spent”.


PRESENTATION

The engine is just not designed for the modern generation…

This is where things get a bit ugly, in all truth.  The game is clearly built on not a last gen engine, but a PS3 era engine when this game likely started development.  The attempt to remaster just can’t remove these underpinnings and neither can focusing on dark environments.  While there are also occasional bugs, (that includes Nioh 2), there’s only so much that can be done when the infrastructure is so aged.  The engine is just not designed for the modern generation, and its terrible draw distance manifests in the more ample daylight of Nioh 2.  They did clearly focus on trying to make closeups look good, but even with the remastering, we’re still really only hitting early last gen standards outside of resolution. On that resolution part does also come a pretty solid framerate where the dips were so rare that it is well above acceptable and considered stable.  But, a core differentiator from Souls, the Nioh series does have a story, one rooted in the use of historical Japanese culture and references but centered around a fictional yokai story complete with cinematics.  Both games’ stories, while fortuitously contiguous, get unfortunately confusing around their midpoint with sudden multi-character collaboration and plot changes, and you might just find yourself having to go back and read up to fully understand who is what and why.  While you’re in there, though, one thing you might end up doing is checking out the monster booba… you damned dirty ape.


CONCLUSION

…these two games combined saw me turning on my PS5 every night until the end…

I start with an odd statement: neither of these games individually would score as high as they are combined in this collection, and this collection is what I’m reviewing.  Nioh as a series sets itself apart with visceral, engaging, and joyously complex combat not found anywhere else in the Souls-like subgenre.  And while it is hampered by a story that is just as unintuitive as its UI, at least it actually delivers one.  If you get into Nioh through this collection, you’re treated to an impressively long, grueling journey filled with all your dollars’ worth in tears and frustration, one that is easily shared with others.  Sure, its visuals are not at all impressive on current gen hardware, but these two games combined saw me turning on my PS5 every night until the end, and that says everything it needs to.

I give The Nioh Collection

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