Nioh Alpha Demo2

Careful Now! Best do a runner against these 3 lads, just like real life ‘ey.

Demo Impression: PS4 Version

Should I say it or will you? Who will snap first… what’s the first thing you think of when you look at the screenshot?

Dark Souls: Japanese edition.

Now, consider that carefully. Does that sound like a bad thing?

Nioh is a fantasy adventure set in feudal Japan and you are a Samurai. Oh yes you are.

I could start with ‘get off your arse and download the demo’. Impression over. Good wasn’t it. Come back next week for another thrilling instalment of Try a Demo: The article.

Oh ok, we’ll talk about Nioh and the ‘Dark Souls effect’, as it’s impossible not to. It’s probably closer to Bloodborne due to it’s speed… but sod it. When I say Dark Souls you can also think of Bloodborne too. It’s up to you, you can imagine Demon Souls or maybe a butterfly if you want. Where was I… oh yeah.

Nioh Alpha Demo1

That Noih: A lovely shade of the browns. Lovely.

First things first. the Nioh demo is very good. The second thing Niod is pretty tough. It took longer than expected to get a feel for the combat, before I was chopping heads off on a regular basis. It’s entirely possible I disrespected Niof, as I’m pretty fluent in the dark arts of patient methodical butchery. Noih has its own language.

Speaking of chopping heads off, you start with a Katana, but before long you’ll weld axes and spears and they have their own individual set of skills to learn.  The amount of choice is remarkable and I will admit, when I looked at the Skills menu I was taken aback with having to learn all this shit (plus you can scroll down the list and there’s more!)

I had just started to work out the different moves associated with the 3 different stances for each weapon. Perusing through the various weapons and armour drops I’d acquired. Blimey, I was 30 minutes in and I hadn’t even looked into magic. This is a generous demonstration.

Eventually I was changing stances mid battle, tripping enemies up with my pointy stick and spinning around my hammer like lunatics do. You’ll put together your own box of dirty tricks, which you’ll best employ, if you want an easier life. Pulling individuals from the crowd with shurikens and slowing giant bastards with magic. Highly rewarding. Of course, if all else fails, you can always do a runner.

Unforgiving melee fights and a vital stamina system. That’s a Dark Souls.

Open world, branching paths, minimal explanation and no direction. That’s a Dark Souls.

Game doesn’t pause when you look at the menu. That’s a Dark Souls.

Status screen looks like… That’s a Dark Souls.

You get the picture. I shall say this only once, so lean in.

So fucking what.

Dark Souls was great.

Also don’t re-read this, as you would ruin the ‘saying it only once’ bit.

dark souls

That Dark Souls: A lovely shade of muted browns on the ground and around.

In recent years the big budget third person action games, or ‘fighty faux-platformers’, like your God of that Wars, Darksiders or even Uncharted have become the third person adventure de rigueur (Review of Uncharted 4 here). Death is not a horrific setback, you can’t fall off the edges of maps, you’re shepherded down an agreeable plot dependent on cut scenes and wit. It’s friendly to the player and that’s ok and has evolved that way for a good reason. I remember being stuck on Tomb Raider 2 for hours on end because there was a secret drop and grab, that you couldn’t see or possibility know about. That was distinctly unfriendly and I’ve no wish to revisit such practices. By standardising these games for all the correct reasons, it can be argued that it has gone too far the other way which has lead to gameplay atrophy in the genre.

Hell, there is always room at the table for more ideas. The more ways to run around a third person digital environment, the better.

I know people who don’t like Dark Souls, they can’t get there head around it. They get lost, they become frustrated, they don’t want to, or can’t grind (or even know the term, check out the glossary) and they cannot get past ‘orrible bosses.

That’s ok. Not every game is for everyone and we can’t all like the same things. Hooray for choice.

Nioh Alpha Demo3

Chip pan fire in local kebab shop.

Dark Souls has been a smash hit because it isn’t just an excellent game, but an excellent game with interesting and different concepts and systems. For years the games industry pushed to get closer to the Hollywood experience, ignoring the strengths of being a computer game.  Making a game with deep lore and story without explaining it every five minutes was a master stroke. It’s your experience to guide and chip at the world, on screen and in your brain, as you stitch it all together. Brilliantly Dark Souls contradicts itself, because people lie and it’s up to you too choose what you want to believe. Not me though. I wouldn’t lie to you would I. You look great and those white underpants, bring out your lovely eyes. Of course you needn’t bother with any of that story nonsense an’ just get to some quality killin’.

Reiteration is how it all works folks. No problem having a Lords of the Fallen or Salt and Sanctuary in the wild. Wasn’t too long ago everyone was rehashing reiterating First Person Shooters over and over again.

With this interesting take on the Dark Souls formula Niob could well carve out its own niche and this early look shows promise. The fighting isn’t just decent, it’s varied and deep with tricksy foes. Due to it’s incomplete nature, I assume the targeting mechanics will be tightened up, as every now an then I’d miss a targeted enemy for no good reason. Plus it was annoying to continuously swipe and recoil, as my spear hit a stone wall in tight surrounds. Swipe the other way dammit. Sigh, could change stance I guess. It’ll be interesting to see where the full game takes us, as I’m not sure I can handle another lava pit. Ok, maybe one more lava pit.

Oh…. just one last thing, what’s the point of ‘regular’ boring weapons in all these games. You end up with a selection of great ‘rare’ weapons that make the regular ol’ boring weapons redundant. Nioh isn’t the only game to do this, but I realised I was spending far too much time in the menu’s looking at little numbers. Far too much time. Possibly my fault there. Stupid menus.

With all this promise I wouldn’t get overly excited though. How many times have you played a demo only to have the full game fly off the rails in the third act.

You walk into the giant cavern, the end boss awaits. Nibbleknackers the Dragon awakes, burns you alive and the main characters wakes up in his bed. To make matters worse it is the early 90’s and the Mr Blobby song* is playing on the radio. It was all a dream and you turn the console off in disgust. 3/10.



*Brainchild of Simon Cowell, your national hero. You all disgust me.

mr blobby

National Treasure.