Nioh Review: More Than Dodge Rolls And Cheesy Combos

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Nioh Review
Source: Nioh in-game screenshot

Several hours and four regions in, Team Ninja’s Nioh definitely proves itself as a good “Soulsborne” game made outside of FromSoftware. Nioh does share a part of its success due to the existence of this genre but Team Ninja’s work actually stands on its own. Here’s why Nioh is a good entry in its genre and successfully identified itself from the seminal series.

Soulsborne Nioh?

In games like FromSoftware’s Dark Souls, players are encouraged to play as safe as they can as these games heavily punish mistakes through taking a large chunk of the player’s health. Nioh is no different. Even players who build William to tank and take many hits know when to drop their guard and get out of the way. Players who’ve played FromSoftware’s Souls entries or Bloodborne will definitely find some familiar controls in Nioh. Meanwhile, new players already know what they’re in for due to the harsh difficulty of FromSoftware’s titles.

Battle Gameplay Separates Nioh From Souls

Nioh’s gameplay systems allow it to completely separate itself from its comparison with FromSoftware’s titles. Nioh’s attacks, block health, and evasive moves consume Ki and players are also expected to manage this meter during their battle. Nioh’s active Ki recovery and stance system eliminates the extremely repetitive attack moves seen in FromSoftware’s games.

Rather than just rolling out of the way and spending stamina on enemies until they die, Nioh ties in the player’s offensive, defensive, and evasive moves to three stances. High Stance focuses on maximizing damage output but has large, slow, and easily punishable, moves. Meanwhile, Mid Stance specializes in Blocking and is the general go-to stance for assessing fights due to its balanced mix of tools. Lastly, Low Stance emphasizes on speed which is seen on this stance’s low-damaging but quick attacks and has fast recovery evasive moves. The player’s use of these two battle systems decide the pace in each fight.

Nioh also has some universally effective moves particularly the Block and Parry moves. Players can keep their guard up if they have enough Ki to spare. The current strength of Block and Parry might be a problem or at least start a defensive meta once the PvP update rolls in.

A More Straightforward Story

Unlike Dark Souls which likes to keep its overall story subtle, hidden, and mysterious, Nioh doesn’t follow the same storytelling. Nioh follows William Adams as he tries to retrieve a Guardian Spirit from the hooded villain introduced early in the game. William also meets notable Sengoku Jidai personalities like Ieysasu and hears mentions of Oda Nobunaga himself. Alternatively, players may have heard these characters from the otherKoei Tecmo Samurai Warriors series. However, Nioh is not aiming for a historical recreation of this Japanese war’s events as they blend fictional content like Amrita energy, Japanese demons, and even magic in this war story.

Players need not scratch their head in confusion with the plot as the characters are great in setting up the story. In cutscenes, William isn’t an eloquent protagonist and even his quips feel dry at times, which makes him bland as a character. Regardless, William’s status as being a lone Irish samurai caught in a Japanese conflict is definitely an interesting, if not catchy, tale to follow.


Team Ninja’s Nioh is definitely a more stylish, proactive, and traditionally Japanese cousin of the Souls series. The game has definitely defied expectations through being more than the “Souls” game that people thought it would be. Nioh deserves a 8.5 due to lack of any large glaring flaws and delivering a complicated but rewarding gameplay experience.


– Fast-paced Battles

– Straightforward, easy-to-follow story

– Attack Move Variety

Overflowing Loot

– Difficulty Curve Depends on Player Skill


Inconsistent Blacksmith Patronage System

– Difficulty Curve Depends on Player Skill

– Kodama Hunting

Final Score: 8.5/10

Note: This game was reviewed on a standard PS4. The copy of the game was purchased by the reviewer.

The Bitbag is a contributor for OpenCritic, one of the leading games-only aggregate site in the industry. A pool of other Nioh reviews can be seen here.

Also read: Nioh Update 1.04 Today Includes New Free DLC

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