Nioh 2 is an action-RPG best comparable to games like Dark Souls, Sekiro, and The Surge. It’s set to release on March 13, just three years apart from the first Nioh, and is developed by Team Ninja, the minds behind Dead or Alive and Ninja Gaiden. Last November, they released an open beta for fans to hop in and try out some new features including new weapons and an all new character creation. Team Ninja incorporated feedback from this beta into Nioh 2 in order to balance weapons as well as to fix some bugs. So how do these updates feel, and does it feel ready to go with only two weeks left until the official launch? Here’s our impressions of Nioh 2’s Last Chance Trial.
What Changed Since the Open Beta
The differences between the Nioh 2’s Open Beta and this Last Chance Trial are primarily the different missions available to play through, meaning there are new areas to explore and some new enemies to fight. Those that finished either the open beta or the last chance trial will be rewarded with a helmet for use in-game after the official launch called ‘The Mark of the Demon Slayer’. Character designs from the new character creation feature can also be saved and transferred for use after the official launch, but no level or mission progress from the Trial will carry over.
Besides weapon balances and big fixes, some notable updates after the open beta include improving AI for acolytes and NPC characters, adding active skills to all weapons, and making performance adjustments to enemy attack tracking and hit frames. You can read more about what got updated after the open beta on the PlayStation blog, and there is a lot that Team Ninja is changing to make Nioh 2 an even better experience than the first game.
Getting Into The Last Chance Trial
The first mission offered in the last chance trial was significantly harder than the one from the Open Beta. This new area started out in a swamp, progressed through cliff encampments, then into rice paddy fields and then finally concluded in a Japanese castle where a battle between two lords was taking place. There were a couple of new enemies not seen before, but for the most part had the same types of enemies that were introduced in the first Nioh. Although a couple yokai, including the the the Nure-Onna snake lady and the Ubume (a bird-like woman yokai that uses its hair to attack from range), were introduced much earlier than I liked and presented quite a challenge to me. I’m pretty good at souls-like games and I have been re-playing Nioh to get back into the groove, but I died way more times than I thought I would during this first foray.
Despite the detailed list of improvements the developers released, I really couldn’t tell what gameplay elements had been changed from when I played the beta several months ago. Nioh 2 still feels much the same as the first Nioh did, with several weapon types allowing a diverse and eclectic range of moves to utilize while fighting monsters and bandits. Loot still dropped generously during my time in the trial, and the Diablo-style RNG modifiers on weapons and armor seemed to be more catered towards the specific type of weapon or armor it was on. For example, as a Tonfa user I primarily stick to the middle-stance during combat. Most of the Tonfas I found seemed to include mods such as +mid-attack damage boosts or minus mid-attacks Ki cost, and if they didn’t then I was usually able to augment them at the blacksmith.
Beating the Boss
The boss at the end of this first mission, Ryomen Sukuna, was among the most difficult bosses I’ve encountered in a souls-like game. It was much more difficult than the first boss shown in the Open Beta. I was finally able to beat the boss only after summoning other players to come help me. He took me about a dozen attempts, summoning others to help me each time, before I finally managed to beat him. I would imagine that this mission is a good number of hours into the story, because his move set was something much more advanced than an introductory boss should be. Hopefully I won’t have to face him again so soon after I start Nioh 2 after launch.
In Nioh, the co-op system greatly annoyed me that I couldn’t just hop into a friend’s game and assist him unless I had already beaten that level. I wanted to play together with my friend, not separately like we were in a race to see which one of us could finish first. I’m sure that may sound fun for some people, but not me. Unfortunately, this same co-op system is in place for Nioh 2. Though in a way, it is nice to know that everyone who comes to help already has experience in beating this boss – you won’t be wasting time with some newbies that are just trying to level up so they can tackle the boss themselves, eventually.
Sub Missions and Twilight Missions
After clearing that first level, rewarded with not only the Mark of the Demon Slayer helmet, but also 1 two new stages that unlocked. Both of these showcase different types of mission available in Nioh 2. The first one I tried was a Sub Mission, in which I had a one-on-one duel with Matsunaga Hisahide. It was challenging, especially trying to learn his moves after spending so much time on the other boss, but he was comparatively much easier and went down after only a few attempts. Hisahide used tricky attacks, including a one-hit kill move where he tackled me and slammed a bomb in my face, throwing bombs and poison clouds, as well as utilizing dual swords for quick and brutal attacks. It’s in these one-on-one duels with other characters – not the big boss battles – that I love most from both Nioh and Nioh 2.
The big set piece boss battles are certainly fun – and can be extremely challenging as mentioned above – but I love seeing the personification of historical Japanese figures like Hisahide (who fought against Oda Nobunaga in the 1500s) offering a glimpse their personalities. At the conclusion of the fight, he sat down to enjoy a nice cup of tea. I looked him up afterwards to see what historical importance he had, and Hisahide was renowned as a famed tea master. It was said that when he died in 1577, he smashed his tea bowl beside himself so that his enemies could not get it. I like that the developers included this little fact as an homage after the fight. The first game had such notable historic figures as Oda Nobunaga, Hattori Hanzi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu so I am excited to see the more obscure characters that get brought to life in Nioh 2.
The other mission type is called a Twilight mission, in which an entire area becomes overtaken by darkness and the enemies are almost exclusively all Yokai. These missions were extra hard variants in Nioh that utilized earlier missions but incorporated much higher-level enemies. Unfortunately, this particular mission was much shorter and much easier than the first one which made me feel like it was a bit lacking. The level was only about half the size, and I rarely died as I soloed everything up to the boss’s room. Even then, it only took me two tries to defeat Mezuki, a Yokai with the head of a horse that carries a massive, bloodied cleaver. He moved considerably slower than Ryomen Sukuna, and his tells were easier to distinguish and be able to guard against.
Changes from Nioh to Nioh 2
The Last Chance Trail addressed changes implemented after the Open Beta, but it would be remiss not to discuss what has changed in Nioh 2 from the first title. The biggest change overall in my opinion is the new Yokai Shift feature, which enables the character to shift into a Yokai spirit temporarily to fight, as well as utilizing soul cores picked up from fallen Yokai to augment stats and provide new moves. The three Yokai to transform into are the Brute, the Feral, and the Phantom. In my opinion, the Phantom seems like the clear favorite to use because of their easy-to-understand parrying skill, but each has their own unique strengths and weakness to cater to a wide range of gameplay types.
The story behind how this Yokai Shift ability is obtained will have to wait until the game officially launches but overall, I find it to be a unique and interesting system that mostly adds to the overall depth of Nioh 2. I can see it being possible to spend hundreds of hours just searching for a Soul core in order to perfect a character build. Although I am not nearly as tenacious as that when it comes to getting god rolls for a perfect item, I know that thanks to the new Equipment Set system I will have an armor set specifically tailored towards increasing my chances of gaining Soul Cores for when I inevitably do hunt some down.
Especially when it comes down to finding the perfect gear to support the switchglaive, one of the new weapons available in Nioh 2. I primarily used the Tonfas or Kusarigama in the Open Beta and didn’t really give the new weapons much of a try. This time around, I was determined to utilize these new weapons and I’m glad that I did. The switchglaive is a scythe that can switch into a spear-like weapon or even a sword-like slashing weapon depending on which combat stance its in. I found that the mid-stance spear-style attacks suited my playstyle the best, but something I can’t wait to master is the ability to switch between different stances while attacking in order to reduce time in-between switching stances. The switchglaive is unique in that it can attack while switching to a different stance, allowing different combos to be strung together.
The new hatchet weapons I didn’t enjoy nearly as much, however. I liked its move sets where the axes are hurled towards the enemies, but I think the weapon is both too slow and too weak to be as useful as some other weapon types. I hope this gets adjusted before launch however, because despite their weak attacks it was still fun to be able to throw axes around at bandits and Yokai.
My Final Thoughts
I am more personally more excited for Nioh 2 than anything else coming out this year. Souls-like games are amongst my favorite genres and I absolutely love the Japanese setting and Yokai enemies that set Nioh apart from others, like Sant and Sanctuary and Lords of the Fallen. It’s great to see Team Ninja already putting out a sequel to this young franchise. I remember working at a video game retailer when the first Nioh came out, and we sold out after the first day because nobody except for the staff (and one hardcore Souls-fan I convinced to try out Nioh’s beta beforehand) had pre-ordered it. Three years later, I’m excited to see it grow and I hope that more people will be able to check it out on launch day.
Although I did run in to a few network connectivity issues over the weekend, they only lasted for that first day during the Trail. It is worth noting however that if you have an unstable or slow network connection, you may run into problems with gravesites loading and being able to summon other players’ acolytes to come and assist you. When playing with other players, I experienced rubber banding issues on some monsters because of the network not syncing up to the host. The was only detrimental when I was facing a boss and didn’t affect my gameplay otherwise.
I spent over 15 hours playing Nioh 2 Last Chance Trial this past weekend, and I probably put the same amount of time into the Open Beta when that ran last November. I know that none of this progress with carry over to the full game, but I find Nioh 2 just so darn addicting that I can’t stop playing. If you enjoy souls-like games, or action-RPGs with hardcore combat and Diablo-esque loot pools, then Nioh 2 is definitely something you need to try out. Stay tuned for our official review after Nioh 2 launches on March 13 exclusively for the PlayStation 4.