Blind-fire mode is a lighthearted column on games and the industry at large; trying to have fun while everything collapses around us.
So Nioh yet so far
How far do you have to be in a game where missing a fundamental feature is an embarrassing confession. An hour in? Really? Never mind then. In other news I know someone, lets call him ‘John’ who was recently playing Nioh, the fantastic action-rpg from the minds of Ninja Gaiden. It’s a game that draws multiple parallels to Dark Souls and Bloodborne, it’s tough, it’s vague and it’s extremely rewarding. Play it. Unless of course you hate all those things; don’t play it.
Joan however likes all those things, but for all its comparisons to the Souls games, it definitely has its own identity and is not another soulless copy and paste job. Most prominent is how the combat feels. It’s fast and satisfying, rather than asking you to hold back and be defensive the game encourages an aggressive tack, death can come thick and fast at the hands of even the weakest foot soldiers.
Nioh starts out relatively tame, the first two bosses are pushovers – though don’t tell them I said that. The third one takes the form of a Succubus/Vampire/B word. This is where one of Nioh’s weaknesses comes to the fore, boss battles can be a trying experience and not in the same way Souls bosses are. The third boss is a great example, you could say this is where the kid gloves come off but it’s also where the game expects you to learn new skills and tactics that have not been needed up to now. Good boss battles test your skills and nudge you towards varying your playstyle to accompany their unique abilities. This one teaches you to block attacks proficiently by brute forcing you by mixing in several unblockable and paralysis attacks that throw you off. It’s not actually a hard boss by design but from the lack of a gradual learning process, or so I’ve been told by Joe.
Johnny knows what he’s talking about too, beating the Souls games – even that horrendous, nightmare of a boss at the end of the Bloodborne DLC. On the other hand, Jack was listening to a podcast that was talking about Nioh, they referenced something about a skill tree for weapons. Haha-ha. Somehow he had managed to miss this whole feature of the game hours and hours into the game. It’s right there, on the menu. In hindsight perhaps Alan’s expertise isn’t quite as trustworthy as it seems. At least it can only get easier from here, maybe Nioh wasn’t all that hard after all. What’s that? You can upgrade weapons by combining them with other ones? Oh f… blast, how did I miss that too.
The lesson learned is that Nioh is in varying degrees abstruse about its mechanics, in some ways it manages to recapture the magic of learning the systems of the first Dark Souls game you played. I spent an inordinate amount of time flicking through the menus after being stuck on a boss that was reminiscent of Bloodborne‘s final encounter, in a futile attempt to leave the mission (it was an optional sub mission) or declare defeat and sniffle in a corner. After an internet search, I discovered that the use of a certain item is needed to quit a mission, I’m not even mad. Well maybe a tad. More importantly it’s exciting to find a game that bottles the same ambiguity in world design and mechanics that made the first Dark Souls a magical experience. Dark Souls III was filled with beauty and mezmerising world design but it was a known quantity, fans found the opening half befuddling in its ease and any obscure ideas were lessened by prior knowledge of the series. Having Dark Souls experience may give you a foothold in Nioh but it won’t be long before it makes you reevaluate what you think you know. It’s in its differences that make Nioh something truly spectacular and surprising, even if the bosses are naff sometimes.
So message of the column; Dark Souls/Nioh are different games, putting that at the top sure would have made this shorter. If you were taking shots every time Dark Souls was named then you might nearly be as drunk as me right now, after I spent hours on a boss. In case you didn’t catch on, John isn’t real, sorry John.