I’ve been playing more Nioh, and I have plenty more to say about it. You can read my initial impressions here. I’m roughly half-way through the game, and the bloom has come somewhat off the rose. To briefly recap, Nioh is a game that has been called a mix between Dark Souls, Ninja Gaiden, and Diablo. You can probably guess that I’m here for the Souls part, and I enjoyed Diablo III as well. This should hit my sweet spot nicely, and it does. Kind of. I’ll get to that in a bit. Oh, also, there will be mild spoilers, but nothing huge. Just FYI. When we last left off, I was describing the Estus system. Er, Elixirs. You start off with a certain amount, three is the base, and for every five Kodama you find in a region, you get one more base Elixir that will replenish every time you visit your Shrine. I know I said in my Bloodborne posts that a combination of a set number of Blood Vials that replenish at each Lamp in addition to the ones you pick up as you romp through Yharnam would be ideal, and that’s pretty much what we have here. However, as much as I liked it in theory, it doesn’t quite work in execution if you’re as mediocre at the game as I am. Right now, I’m roughly ten levels above what is recommended for the missions, and it’s the minimum I need to feel comfortable. You can store up to 9999 Elixirs, but I haven’t been able to even reach a hundred extra. One thing in BB that I appreciated was that I could buy Blood Vials. Yes, they were expensive as hell by the end of the game, but I wasn’t spending my Souls, er, Blood Echoes, on anything else, so why not? You cannot buy Elixirs in this game (as far as I know), but you can make offerings to the shrine of equipment/items/weapons you don’t want, and you receive Souls, Amrita, in return. In addition, you may be blessed with a gift, often an Elixir.
By the way, I had a terrible thing happen once while I was making my offerings. I do it regularly, especially when I need a few thousand Amrita for my next level. Once, right before a boss, I was making my offerings as quickly as I could. I’ve gotten into a routine of clicking as fast as possible, clearing up as much of my inventory as I can. I like to keep my load to under half of what I’m allowed to carry 500 items, so under 250). One niggling irritation is that if you’re offered a gift, and you can’t carry any more of that item, it gets sent to your storage. That’s not the annoying part. The annoying part is that when you get a gift, you have to click on it. That’s bad enough, but if it’s being sent to storage, a message saying you can’t carry any more and do you want it sent to your storage will pop up, and you have to click on confirm. That’s two more clicks than should be necessary to accept a gift (it should just be automatic), and it’s especially annoying to have to confirm you want it sent to storage. Yes, it’s a small thing, but if I’m doing the process twenty to thirty times, it adds up. Anyway, you use the trigger buttons to go from one category to the next. Weapons, helmets, torso armor, etc. Apparently, I was holding it down plus hitting another button at the same time, so I ‘made an offering’ of all my weapons that weren’t equipped. Because I was doing it as quickly as I could, I said yes before I had realized what I’d done. I can’t tell you how upsetting that was. Not because I use the other weapons, but because some of them are given as rewards for missions. I actually had already done another sub-mission twice because I accidentally offered up the spear that I received as a reward. Now, I had four or five weapons that I could only get from redoing earlier missions. I didn’t really care otherwise because weapons drop like crazy, but I was still mad that this was a thing.
Anyway, back to the Elixirs. I hate not having max cap when I rest at a Shrine, which is eight. Which I still think is too few as a cap, but I’ve accepted that it’s not going to change. My solution for this is to grind in an area in which I’ve found most of the Kodama so I can have the Healer Blessing (increases percentage of Elixir drops) and in which I won’t have to waste too many Elixirs to get through it, and then I just grind it out. It’s similar to what I’d do in BB when I needed to grind Vials and/or Echoes, but it feels more tedious here because you can’t get out of a mission without using a special item. Hm. I wonder if you get to keep the Elixirs you’ve grinded if you exit a mission early. Probably. Anyway, it’s discouraging to make my way through an area, reaching the boss, and then watching my Elixir supply dwindle after each defeat. If I can’t beat a boss with eight Elixirs, I certainly won’t be able to beat it with four. I haven’t been in that position recently, but I anticipate it could happen. Here, the lack of a more open world really stings. If I drain my Elixir supply, I have two choices. One, I can grind in the current level, which means against harder enemies and probably less Elixir saving. Two, exit the mission and go to an earlier level, then grind there. If I do the latter before returning to the boss, I have to do the whole mission again.
I will say that being a mage helps. Onmyo magicks for the win, yo! I have several spells that allow for the regen of health, and I only now realized that one I thought was only for co-op can also be used on just me. The wording is poor because it says it’s for healing allies, but I read on the Googles that it heals me, too. It seems like the Warmth pyromancy from the Souls game, and I’ll take as many healing spells as I can get. While we’re on the topic of magic, let’s talk about the Onmyo Magic. The magicks have definitely helped me in my journey, but….Look, I’ll just say it. There are too many options. It’s the same with most of the systems in this game. It’s as if Team NINJA threw all the possibilities against the wall and said, ‘Have at it!’ As I’ve said before, there are no tutorials for any of this. Well, that’s not exactly fair. There are some tutorials, but the’re not very clear or thorough. I’m not even talking about how I need Jutsus points for my magic. Each Jutsu costs a certain amount of Jutsu points, and you have to choose your Jutsu at the Shrine. I have no problem with this as it’s similar to Souls. You have a limited amount of time you can cast each spell, of course. Most of the Jutsu if not all have three levels. Each level costs less Jutsu points to cast, but aren’t stronger, I don’t think. Oh, and you have to use Onmyo Magic Skill Points (which you get mostly from leveling up your Magic) in order to learn Justus.
I feel like I’m not making full use of my magicks, but I don’t think it’s possible to do so. Right now, I’m mostly using defensive Jutsus with one or two offensive Jutsus as well. I love the defensive Jutsu, and they’re pretty powerful, but I would really enjoy a few flashy offensive ones as well. I do like the fact that the different levels of a Jutsu are stacked in one slot rather than taking two. If I were going to do a second playthrough as a mage, I would–actually, I don’t know how I’d do it differently. I don’t know how to maximize this system, and that’s a concern for me. By this point in the game, I should at least have a vague sense of what I’m doing, but I don’t, really. I mean. yes, I’m mostly concentrating on defensive Jutsu, but it still feels very haphazard to me. I will say, though, with the latest boss I fought, two of my defensive Jutsu were what made the difference in the end. Plus, switching to my odachi, which is really weird that changing my weapons made such a big difference. In context, the boss before (the one right after I gave up all my weapons save the ones equipped) was a cakewalk. I beat her on my first try, and it wasn’t even a challenge at all. This boss, however, frustrated the hell out of me. Mostly because I knew she wasn’t as hard as I was making her out to be, but she killed me easily twenty-plus times. Once I tweaked my armor a bit, relied on the aforementioned two spells, and switched to the odachi, I made short work of her. I was astounded by how few hits it took and how short the fight was. The heavy attack of the odachi staggered her, and that was all I needed to make short work of her.
In fact, the odachi in general is great for blamming people from afar. I whack them with the end of the odachi, and they sit right down. With common enemies, I can kill them without them even getting in one swing. Obviously, it’s not useful for all enemies, but it’s a problem solver in many cases. It’s made me recommit to the axe/odachi/magic combo, which means I probably should put a few more points into Strength. It’s very strange because I wear the lightest armor I possibly can because fast movement is more desirable than being able to tank a hit. Also, the mage armor, as you can imagine, helps with casting speed and other magical attributes. The lightest load is under 30%, and I’m currently rocking roughly 26%. Normally, if you’re a tank with strength weapons, you’re usually wearing heavier armor as well. It’s a weird combination, but it’s working for me so far.
I have to mention that the environments continue not to impress. Again, the cutscenes are nice, but the gameplay graphics themselves aren’t impressive. I’m not talking about fidelity because that’s my computer, but I’m talking about the different levels themselves. The current level I was in was a snow level, which I normally love. However, the snow didn’t look real, and it just felt…off to me. In addition, the enemies are mostly the same. Humanoid zombies who barf poison on you. (The Hollows, if you’re a Souls fan.) The Yokai (demons) of different varieties. There’s a sameness to the missions that gets wearying after sometime. That’s not to say that there isn’t that ‘five more minutes’ feel to the game–there is. But it’s still not as compelling to me as the Souls games are. When I play a Souls game, my breath is taken away when I enter a new area. I was talking about the snow area in this game–well, I can’t help but compare it to the snow area of DS III, and this one falls far short.
The bosses have all been different, which I appreciate, but only one has been truly grotesque–and that one is very reminiscent of a Souls boss. In addition, the three female bosses have all been hot, of course, because WOMEN IN JAPANESE GAMES* MUST SHOW THEIR BOOBIES AT ALL TIMES. The boss difficulty levels are very uneven in this game as well. I acknowledge it’s partly because of my own over-leveling, but going from one-shotting a boss to dying dozens of times to the next does not speak well to gameplay design. Don’t get me wrong. I like the bosses in general, but I’m underwhelmed by them. They don’t have the same epic grandiosity of, say, Ornstein & Smough, which I admit is a really high bar to clear. I’ve only seen ten bosses so far, too, which means I may be blown away by a future boss.
A few small things that constantly irritate me. One, unseen traps. I don’t mind traps that you have to look carefully for, but I do object to traps that you cannot help but tripping the first time. In the same, enemies that are hard to spot are fair game. Enemies that are around the corner and you can’t see at all until they attack you is not sporting. Bland levels that are like labyrinths are frustrating as hell when I circle around and around, and I can’t find where I’m supposed to go. Holes in the floor, annoying. Boulders being pushed down stairs–oh that old hoary Souls classic! Adds in a boss fight or a mini-boss fight just to make it harder? No. Just no. Mobs of enemies for the same reason? Ugh. One bigger issue is the use of terrain. It’s an issue I have with Dark Souls as well, and it’s even more frustrating in Nioh. I just did a Twilight Mission in the water level, and it was as infuriating this time around. The walkways are crafted in such a way that you have to twist and turn as you run while multitudes of mobs are coming at you. I don’t mind difficulty and deaths that are my own fault, but these deaths felt cheap to me. Very cheap.
Am I going to finish this game? I don’t know. I still think it’s a solid game, and it does satisfy that Souls itch to some degree. However, the longer I play, the less I want to play. It’s not as direct as that, but it’s missing something that makes it a ‘must play’ for me. I don’t know what it is because on paper, it ticks all the boxes. Yet, when I think of playing it, it feels slightly more like a should play than a want to play. I wish I could pinpoint it better than that, but I can’t. Hopefully, I’ll feel better about it further into the game. We shall have to wait and see.
*Not just Japanese games, of course, but there’s a specific way that Japanese games does it that is really creepy. We talk about a lack of diversity in Western games, but the way women are done in many Japanese games is really depressing. In this game, they all pretty much look the same, and their personalities don’t really differ much. A different post for a different day.