You might be wondering why it’s taken me so long to publish this review.

It’s simple, really: Nioh is hard. Painfully, swear-inducingly hard. By the time Sony’s coverage embargo lifted, I was still struggling my way through the opening few levels.

And, yet, I loved every minute of it. Even after dying at the same boss for the tenth time.

It’s the Dark Souls mentality: you’ll spend hours hitting your head against a brick wall, only to jump for joy when you finally make some progress.

Sure, the resulting migraine hurts, but somehow in a good way - just like it will an hour or so later, when you repeat the whole process again.

Better stock up on paracetamol - you’re going to need it if you plan on finishing this epic action adventure.


It might be a third person adventure with light RPG elements, but don’t think the developer has just taken the Dark Souls formula and moved it to feudal Japan. Ninja Gaiden, Team Ninja’s other rock-hard slash-em-up, is equally as influential.

There are plenty of weapons to master, but each one has three separate stances, too. One might give you better defence, but not hit as hard; another will do more damage, but each swing of your sword will be slower - leaving you open to attack.

Each different weapon has its own skill tree to unlock as well, adding more moves and attack combinations to learn. And that’s before you start learning how to balance it all with a constantly draining stamina meter.

It might be called Ki here, but it still plays a huge role in combat - even more than stamina does in Dark Souls.

Time it right and a squeeze of the right trigger fires off a Ki pulse, restoring a chunk of your stamina and making your next few attacks do more damage. Think active reloading in Gears of War, only with samurai swords instead of chainsaw-guns.

Enemies have their own Ki meter too, so you can tire them out with dodges, parries and strikes, then follow up with a devastating critical hit while they’re staggered.

The biggest ones spawn pools of Ki-sapping energy, which can only be dissipated by performing a Ki Pulse in the centre of them - no easy task when you’re also being battered by a 30ft ogre.



Aside from the mind-numbing difficulty spikes every time you get close to a Yokai boss creature, Nioh has a few other problems that stop it from usurping Dark Souls as the master of punishing action RPGs.

The game is practically overflowing with treasure, weapons and armour, and keeping on top of it all is a challenge in itself.

Sorting and selling your gear takes up too much time, a relic of the early access alpha where weapons would degrade as you used them. Now that your swords don’t break over time, there’s no reason to constantly rotate out your equipment - but the frequent loot drops remain.

There’s not enough variety in other areas, either. A lot of the side missions re-use maps you’ve already explored, only condensed even further and set at a different time of day. These levels aren’t filled with secret areas to uncover or NPCs to meet, either - just more gear to add to the collection.

I got a little tired of facing off against the same giant Yokai demons, too. There’s almost too much weapon and armour variety, but not enough when it comes to the enemies you’re hacking and slashing.


Nioh verdict

Nioh is brutal, fast-paced, and crushingly difficult - so everything I was hoping it would be, really.

Team Ninja has taken a lot of familiar mechanics, then added its own twist on them, with the resulting game keeping both Dark Souls and Ninja Gaiden fans happy.

I’m tempted to say it’s even tougher than FromSoftware’s epic adventure series, with so many more systems and abilities to master.

The combat is more nuanced here, with weapon stances and Japanese folklore-inspired magical abilities adding to the familiar mix of recognising enemy patterns, learning to parry and striking at the exact moment to avoid a nasty counterattack.

Nioh’s world doesn’t feel as alive as Dark Souls III’s Lothric, though - even if it looks beautiful when you get a second to breathe and take it all in. An overabundance of menu management and a fairly simple story mean it isn’t a masterpiece, but if you want a serious challenge, it’s still a must-buy.

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Stuff says... 

Nioh review

Brutally tough, but deliciously rewarding once you master the many, many system mechanics. Nioh is gorgeous, if you’ve got the patience to play it
Good Stuff 
Looks gorgeous in motion
Massive game with huge gameplay variety
Uber challenging, just what Dark Souls fans will love
Bad Stuff 
Uber challenging, if you hate Dark Souls you’ll hate this too
Complex mechanics and modes take a while to master
Seriously, it’s bloody hard