The Nioh 2 open beta is here months ahead of release. Available to anyone with a PlayStation 4 until November 10, this highly-anticipated sequel follows Team Ninja's uber-difficult world established back in 2017.
We've taken the time to try it out, and are here to give you some thoughts on the initial experience. Put simply, it's more Nioh. There hasn't been any major overhaul or anything like that, just a decent amount of tweaks and changes. If you liked the first game, chances are you're going to like this sequel. Our entire impressions are in this video, though there will be a brief text summary below that:
Let me get this out of the way: Nioh 2 feels exactly the same as the first game. There are a few tweaks here and there, but overall the visual experience is notably similar, to the point where I can share a screenshot of either and, aside from the updated user interface, you’d have a hard time picking which is which.
If It Aint Broke...
On the surface, the gameplay mechanics appear similar, with many aspects like stances, weapon types, and skills returning. Upon deeper inspection, there are a ton of little tweaks on the backend that tighten up the overall experience.
From the get-go, the Nioh 2 beta lives up to its predecessor in terms of challenge. One of the first enemies is a big Yokai-beast that killed me not once, not twice, but upwards of seven times before I could beat it. Of course, part of that was due to the return of the game’s deceiving level design, making paths look wider than they are, causing me to fall into the water again and again. But, deceiving level design is no excuse for not being good enough, and Nioh 2 makes sure to show me I’m not good enough.
That said, as similar as it may be to the original game, Nioh 2 does have some gameplay tweaks that, while initially seemed fairly unassuming, proved themselves to be valuable additions that will very much make the difference between life and death. Just don’t go in expecting anything revolutionary.
First is the introduction of Soul Cores, which tie into your Guardian Spirit super attack and act as customizable moves that can help whittle down enemy Ki and give yourself a few seconds of breathing time. These moves, known as Yokai Skills, are limited by Anima, which was useful for PvP in the first game. Now, it prevents you from spamming. You earn Soul Cores by defeating the different Yokai creatures you come across, and by gathering one, you’re essentially gaining control of one of their powerful moves.
What’s great about this emphasis on Yokai powers is it forced Team Ninja to spice up the enemies a bit. One of my biggest complaints about Nioh was the enemies felt much too samey. Nioh 2 seems to remedy that with all sorts of different beasts, both big and small. However, this change also means you’re fighting more Yokai than other enemy types, upping the challenge, which can be frustrating for some. I view it as a way to experiment with every mechanic the game has to offer, continually searching for new ways to one-up these creatures.
The new Switchglaive weapon - one that scales based on your Magic skill - feels a little overpowered, allowing you to defeat some enemies in only a few swings, but it’s incredibly fun to use. It features multiple forms, is fantastic for both crowd control and one on one fights, and invokes similar feelings to the Saw Cleaver weapon from Bloodborne. It absolutely destroys humanoids and does substantial damage to the Yokai as well.
Small Changes Make a Big Difference
A lot of these larger changes tie directly into gameplay and making the Yokai more of a threatening force. However, there are smaller quality of life touches, too. One is the Kodama Bazaar, which can be accessed at any Shrine and allows you to buy items like Elixirs, Arrows, Bullets, Charms, Bombs, and much more with a new currency called Divine Rice, which you gather by offering items to the Shrine. The ability to buy Elixirs whenever you need is massively helpful, especially if you keep wasting your extras fighting a hard boss over and over again.
There’s also a deep character creator now, as opposed to playing as a select protagonist like the first game. It’s as deep as systems you’ve experienced in other RPGs and should cater well to those who really want to dig in deep and customize every aspect of their character’s looks.
Nioh 2’s level design is a joy to traverse. The few levels we’ve seen in the Beta cater much more to verticality, with a variety of hills to climb and monsters to throw bombs down at you from. Much of the levels loop into one another now, eliminating the need to add additional Shrines and providing a little more respect for player’s time than the first game did.
Overall, the Beta proved that the Nioh formula was already quite strong and only needed some slight tweaks and additions to make it even more fun to play. Again, just don’t expect the overhaul that each Witcher game received. Treat it as more of a Destiny-type sequel. If you liked the first one, chances are you’re going to like what’s on offer here.
TechRaptor previewed the Nioh 2 Open Beta via a free download from the PlayStation Store.