We go hands-on with Team Ninja’s Nioh at E3.

Nioh’s announcement back at PlayStation’s Tokyo Game Show press conference last year had a lot of players intrigued — more specifically, dare I say it, Dark Souls players. The combination of Ninja Gaiden meets Dark Souls is a fascinating prospect, and having some hands-on time with Nioh at E3 showcased that, while the game seems heavily influenced by the aforementioned titles, it’s subtly lacking in what those games so wonderfully gave players — that being the grace of hope. At least for now.

While I’ve only dabbled in Dark Souls and Ninja Gaiden titles throughout the years — sitting at around 10 – 15 hours in each of the Souls games and a few hours in the Ninja Gaiden games — I still understand what makes them tick, and, similarly, what makes them such a joy to play.

Even with the arguably little time I’ve spent with the aforementioned games, I’m always intrigued and excited to continue in my efforts to take out that one enemy that keeps killing me, or, of course, the area (and subsequent boss) that continues to reek havoc in my world. It’s an often painful game of retries and skill development to get things right in the Souls games, and Team Ninja have mostly got it right in Nioh. Although, the two levels that I tried out during E3 seemed to more often than not continue to punish me, no matter how much I tried to alter my tactics.


When I say that, you have to take into consideration that E3 is a crazy few days of running around like a madman — you don’t get the time to just sit and play, more or less. And, as a consequence, I think my time with Nioh suffered because of that. The game, as far as I can tell, is, of course, all about refining your skills and continuing to develop your play style to fit in with what the game’s asking of you. It’s a game that is all about patience, and it will continue to punish you for trying to play any other way. This is, arguably, a key pillar in what makes Dark Souls tick, although the enemies in Dark Souls are much more forgiving than those in Nioh.

As I started my 15 minutes with the game, I quickly got to grips with the controls. There aren’t a lot of differences between how Nioh and the Souls games play, though the big one is stances. In Nioh, you have three main stances, all of which can be initiated at any time. These stances are indicative of how you plan to take on a fight — the high stance, for instance, will deal more damage than that of the low stance, which favours defence, in turn allowing you to dodge and roll away from enemy attacks faster and more fluidly. The mid stance, is, well, what you’d expect — it’s a bit of a combination of the two above.


This addition is particularly great, allowing you to plan out your attacks and how you’ll play against some of the game’s bigger foes. However, while alternating between stances isn’t hard, it seems like you get punished incredibly quickly if you mess up, even in the tiniest way. As I didn’t have a lot of time with the game, I favoured the high stance the most, as it allowed me to plough through most of the smaller enemies and deal quite a bit of damage to the bigger ones. However, if I ever got caught or stuck, I was toast — dead almost instantly. Making use of a more defensive stance meant that my attacks were much less powerful, and, as a consequence, I’d meet my untimely demise in the end, though it’d just take a little bit longer — even against the smaller enemies, at times.

It was incredibly frustrating to try and venture through the first part of the levels I played time and time again, trying to change up my play style in order to push and get through to the next area, only to fall at the hands of one of the handful of grotesque monsters Nioh offers up. Though, I think that if I had more patience (and an hour or two, rather than 15 minutes), I would have had a much better time with it. The gameplay is very similar to the Souls games, and I really enjoyed the beautiful setting the game takes place in, but it seems like an extremely hard game to show off at E3 and to come away with a realistic impression of how the game will really shape up.


I’m really keen to try Nioh out again, though, albeit when I have a few hours to kill rather than in the midst of the E3 madness. Team Ninja’s latest favours time and patience — something that I was unfortunately not afforded at the time. I can see the potential here, and the game is definitely much more than just a Souls clone — it feels like an entire new world, filled with creepy, unpredictable enemies and a universe that is oozing with character. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on it as we come towards its release.

Nioh is set to release on PlayStation 4 later this year.