Underneath my yellow skin

Nioh V. Dark Souls: An Unfair Comparison

I recently tried out Nioh again after a long period off from it (because I was sick and did not want to sit at my desktop. It refuses to run on my laptop. At all) because I read about a Jutsu (magic spell) that supposedly trivialized bosses. I didn’t have it, but I ‘bought’ it and equipped it. I went through some old sub-missions, and I can’t say it made a noticeable difference. I encountered a ‘boss’ in one of the sub-missions, but she’s not the same as an actual boss, obviously. In fact, she becomes a common enemy in another mission.

I like to do old missions in order to farm and to brush up on my skills. I have to say going from Dark Souls III to Nioh (and back again) is not easy. I am so used to the DS controls (right bumper and trigger for weak attack and strong attack respectively, B for roll/run, A for interaction with items. X is for using the consumable item in the down position on the D-pad, and Y is to two-hand your weapon), that when I play Nioh, it takes a good half hour to adjust to the buttons. X and Y for weak attack and strong attack (like The Witcher 3 and apparently most games), A for dodge/run, B for interaction with items.

Both games have systems that are almost impregnable. I think the members of FromSoft (devs of Soulsborne games) pride themselves on their menus being counterintuitive and byzantine. They change their stats every goddamn game, and there’s always one stat that just doesn’t do jack or shit. One small example of needless obfuscation*–in every game, there is a consumable item (souls in the Souls games and coldblood in Bloodborne) that if you crush, you get a large quantity of souls/blood echoes. The thing is, they all have these weirdass names and refuse to tell you exactly how many souls you’ll get for crushing it. So you might pick up a Soul of an Intrepid Hero, a Large Soul of a Proud Paladin, and a Soul of a Great Champion (all names of consumable souls in DS III), but you probably wouldn’t know they give you 2500, 1000, and 50,000 souls respectively.

They decided that wasn’t opaque enough and went even weirder for Bloodborne with the consumable blood echoes. There are categories such as Coldblood Dew and Thick Coldblood, for example. Then, in most of the categories, they are numbered. Therefore, Coldblood Dew (1)  is 350 blood echoes, and Kin Coldblood (12) is 20,000. I’ve played Soulsborne games countless of times and still cannot tell you how much each consumable soul/coldblood is worth without Googling it.

Nioh is obviously influenced by Dark Souls, and I feel as if they took a look at DS‘s menus and saw it as a challenge. “You think that’s obscure, mate? Take a look at this!” I don’t know why I made Team Ninja British when they and FromSoft are Japanese, but so be it.

Another reason it takes so long to reacclimate to Nioh’s control buttons is because there are so many things to do with the buttons.

*taking a deep breath*

There are eight slots controlled by the D-pad, and you flip through the two sets of four by pressing the right trigger. You have two melee weapons that you flip between with the use of right bumper plus right or left on the D-pad. You have two ranged weapons which you flip by using right bumper plus up (or down, probably). To use the ranged weapon, left trigger to aim, right trigger to fire. That’s not even talking about the stances, which I don’t use, or how to do the ki pulse, which I suck at.

It’s a lot to think about during combat. As I’ve said several times in the past, I’m old and slow, and my way of playing Dark Souls is to muddle through. I am terrible at dodging, and I like being able to block through most everything. I’m roughly halfway through Nioh, and I’m sure that I’m not using half the abilities I could.

I have to give Nioh props for one obvious upgrade from Dark Souls–the ranged weapons do crazy damage. It is really satisfying to snipe someone in the head with a bow and see 4,000 points of damage. Bows in Souls games are trash, even fully upgraded. I use them to draw out singular enemies or ‘cut’ off the tails of dragons, but that’s about it. I have heard tell that you can use a crossbow to cheese the Nameless King and Midir, but I haven’t tried it for either. I love the bows and rifles in Nioh, and the hand cannon is out of control.

I will also say that the combat in Nioh is very fluid despite being so complex and nuanced. Even if you’re a lunkhead like me and stick with only high stance, it still feels like dancing. Right now, I’m maining an axe and the dual swords (a special pair imbued with fire), but I really like the odachi and tonfas as well. In fact, all the weapons feel really good, except the kusarigama–which I just cannot get my head around.

you're not looking so hot, Midir.
Fighting Midir pre-boss battle.

It’s frustrating because I *should* love this game. And, in many ways, I do. I love Samurai Geralt, and I fucking LOVE my axe (Brute’s Axe, I think), and I like experimenting with the different weapons. I like the magicks, though I feel as if I’ve only scratched the surface. I don’t like that I’m loaded down on the defensive magicks, so I don’t get to use all the cool offensive jutsu. I love the guardian spirit and the living weapon–I love that part a lot. Though, funnily enough, I forgot the button combo for shooting off my living weapon (Y+B) as I was reacclimating myself, and I was mashing button combos madly trying to find it.

I love feudal Japan, and I love the characters Samurai Geralt runs into (I know his name is William. Don’t @ me). I know it sounds like I’m trying to convince myself to love this game, which is exactly what I’m doing. I want to love this game. I just…don’t. And I can’t even tell you exactly why. It’s not the ugly environments–and they are ugly. Not only are they usually drab and dreary, the graphics just aren’t great. I was recently in a snow area which is my jam, and all I could think of is how fake and bad it looked. It’s not the bosses–they’ve been pretty interesting overall, but I was gobsmacked at how changing to the odachi for the last boss I fought made cake of the boss. It went from a five minute slog to disposing of the boss is less than thirty seconds. At least that’s how it felt to me.

I just finished NG+4 as a tank in DS III, and I’m past Bordt of the Boreal Valley (yes, I know it’s Vordt, but it’s Bordt in my brain) in NG+5. I fought *spoilers* Midir with the NPC phantom most of the time, but I managed to get a human summon and nearly beat him on the first try with a human. For whatever reason, the human phantom inexplicably stopped doing anything when Midir had about a fourth health left, and I think he was having connectivity issues. I fought Midir several times with Shira (NPC) and just couldn’t do it. I went on and beat *double spoilers* Gael (end boss) with the help of an awesome phantom human named The Ocelot wearing Artorias’s armor. He had the Toxic Mist spell as did I, and he helped me make short work of Gael. He also made it to the end and got his ember, which made me happy. The last time I fought Gael, my human friend died literally with one hit left on Gael. I quickly finished off Gael and hoped my phantom got his ember.

Gotcha, Midir!

I went back to Midir, which meant the NPC was gone (long story). Was I really going to try to do him solo on NG+4? Apparently, I’ve become THAT PERSON because why yes, I actually was. I rolled up my figuratively sleeves and got to work. I don’t know why I felt I had to do it because I really had nothing left to prove, but I hadn’t beaten Midir solo yet, so why not do it? I switched my load-out almost every time, trying to see what worked. I was using the wrong spell at first (Toxic Mist instead of Pestilence Mist), so it made a huge difference when I used the right spell. I found the Dragonslayer Spear +5 to be the most effective because you can keep some distance on Midir, and he’s weak to thrust (and lightning. All the weapons I tried had lightning), but I found the best weapon to use was the Washing Pole +10 infused with lightning because it had even longer reach. I love the Dragonslayer Greataxe +5, but its reach is way too short.

The other big change I made was I switched to Havel’s Greatshield +5. I could do that because the Washing Pole is relatively light, and it’s by far the most stable shield in the game, especially fully upgraded. I just Googled, and I’m wrong. The Greatshield of Glory is more stable, but it also reduces your stamina. Havel’s Greatshield is fucking amazing, and I needed as much stability as I could get because part of my plan in fighting Midir was to block the shit out of him.

I fought him at least a dozen times before I got him down to one or two hits left. It was one of those lucky runs in which he inexplicably didn’t follow up on certain attacks, and he didn’t do his insane laser attack in the second phase at all. I felt as if I was really seeing the fight, and while I was aware that I was one or two hits away, I didn’t let it get to me. I went in for the kill, made a miscalculation, and he killed me (I only had half a bar of health left and no heals). I screamed in frustration, and my heart was pounding. I was so close to killing him, I could taste it, and I didn’t know if I had the patience to go through another dozen attempts to kill him again.

I considered skipping him and going straight into NG+5, but I’m stubborn. For whatever reason, I chose this as my hill to die on, and I was going to beat Midir come hook or come crook. I died to him a few more times, and then to my surprise, I was able to summon a phantom. Zlatandarkness12 (pictured in the victory shot above), and we rocked the shit out of Midir. Zlatan used Pestilence Mist as did I, and we double-teamed that bad boy into oblivion. Zlatan was a beast, and I am appreciative of both my phantoms for being so badass. You kind of assume they will be at this level, but I had a couple that weren’t very good.

I felt conflicted about the kill because I almost had him. Half of me wanted to kill him solo and the other half was just glad to be done with him. I want to beat him solo, however, because I know how to do it (in theory) now. Probably not in NG+5, but who knows?

My point is, I’m still excited to play DS III. Yes, it’s my comfort food, and, yes, I can play it on my laptop which makes me inherently biased to it, but it’s more than that. There’s just something about DS III that makes me come back to it time and time again that Nioh just doesn’t have. Coming *thisclose* to killing Midir was heart-poundingly thrilling in a way that beating a boss in Nioh isn’t.

In addition, not being able to dip in and out of missions in Nioh in order to grind in earlier areas after running out of Elixirs while doing a boss run is the main stopping point for me. Right now, I have 50-some Elixirs in my storage, and I know it won’t be enough going into a new mission. That means I should go back to a first region mission with my regen spells equipped and farm Elixirs, but I still might run out. It’s a huge demotivation factor, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to overcome it.

I love the idea of Nioh more than I love playing it. I’m going to get back into it–eventually. Probably. Maybe.



*I am not including the lore, obviously. I love how you have to do some deep digging if you want to get all the lore. Then, you’ll probably have to watch Vaatividya’s lore videos in order to piece it all together. Or listen to Daniel Krupa’s exasperated explanations in the Prepare to Try series as Rory and Gav laugh and talk over him.

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