It's been a long road for Koei Tecmo's NIOH. We've been hearing about this game for almost ten years now. Originally announced as a Playstation 3 title, it seemed like another piece of vaporware that would never see the light of day. But here we are, in 2016, and the game is very close to release. There's been some comparisons to Namco Bandai's Dark Souls games, and they're not far off, but with the Team Ninja influence, there's something to NIOH that made me sit up take notice of this game.
The first Alpha phase of this game passed me by, as I had other stuff in my playlist at the time. After playing it at Koei Tecmo's booth though, I think I'm going to have to check out the next open testing phase. Thirty minutes was not enough time to get a full idea of what this game's all about, but here's what I got.
I got vibes of the Square classic Bushido Blade while running around the demo area. Players can shift between three different stances, high, low, and mid, and depending on which stance you've chosen will affect the speed and range of your attacks. This is important to note because some enemies might require the quick strikes from the low stance, while weaker enemies can easily be dropped by swings while in the high stance. That's not to say that enemies are easy, if another NIOH has the potential to be more difficult than Dark Souls.
Players collect Amrita which is used to level up your character, while continuous use of a weapon will improve a character's skill with that weapon. This leads to new attacks and combos as well. There is also a bow for ranged attacks, as well as spears and axes, and other weapons not present in the demo.
Death in NIOH is similar to that of Dark Souls as well, if you pass with enough Amrita in your possession, your grave will be left for you to recollect on your next playthrough, though you'll have to be careful as enemies are ruthless. In fact, the loss of stamina is incredibly devastating in NIOH as you'll need time to recover, which leaves you open for attacks.
The challenge is there, this game looks beautiful, and the gameplay is tight and fun. Those looking for a Japanese twist on Dark Souls would do well to check out NIOH the next time it goes into an open testing phase or when it launches later this year.