Nioh in the test - only at first glance a PC disaster

Author: Maurice Weber, Tim Hödl
Date: 2017-11-07 20:13:00
The fantastic action role-playing game Nioh finally on Steam? Great! The PC port? Less - but not as miserable as it looks at first.

And even the keyboard is obviously against Nioh. The tutorial already insists on only showing us Xbox controller buttons. We have to find out for ourselves which PC keys are meant - outside the game in the enclosed PDF manual. In-game, the layout is not shown anywhere, and the options menu only allows us to configure the gamepad layout at all.

Only good with gamepad - but then really!

But if you haven't stopped reading in disgust: Nioh is still worth it, even on the PC! If you can overcome the gamepad (or only play such titles with it anyway), the most serious porting problem will be eliminated. The rest works surprisingly well! That means: We also experience on the PC an addicting and challenging action role-playing game from the brand Dark Souls, which is much more than just a clone of its role model. It also shines with numerous successful innovations.

The second PC hurdle

When we start the game on Steam, we can choose whether we want to start Nioh directly or start the launcher first . Be sure to check out the launcher! Only there are the full graphics settings, including the resolution. Immediately after the start of sales, Steam customers flooded the store with negative reviews because there is no possibility in the game itself to change the standard setting of 720p. A bit archaic and cumbersome, but no broken legs as soon as you know.

And technically, Nioh ran largely smoothly for us. On the PC we can enjoy the game in full details at up to 60 FPS. On consoles we always had to choose between quality and speed: the film mode limits the frame rate to 30 for higher details, the action mode cuts the quality for 60 frames per second. These two options are also available on the PC, but here we can also simply screw everything to the stop manually. Including 4K! Bizarrely, according to the developer, it is not possible to support picture ratios other than 16: 9 - here we have to live with black bars.

We had no technical problems apart from a single crash in the test. Some Steam users report that the game occasionally resets the graphics settings, but we didn't. Nevertheless, we decided to devalue the console version by five points : Even if Nioh can be played well with a gamepad, the porting places unnecessary restrictions on control and resolution.

So much for the PC version - why Nioh is still worth it, its quirks, you can read on the following pages in the original test of the console version from the colleagues at GamePro.de.

Joho and a bottle of sake

Nioh, however, fails to bring us closer to this fundamentally exciting mixture of historically accurate backgrounds and Japanese folklore . It overwhelms me with terms, places and people without filling them with the necessary context. This is how a talking cat explains to me in less than a minute the actually complex mythological base around protective spirits, demons and their balance. And that has to be enough for me to classify many of the scenes in the game.

Live.Die.Repeat.

However, playfully, Nioh and the Souls series are close together. Although we do not explore the open world in Nioh, we select main and secondary tasks on a map after two introductory missions, but basically we do the same thing here as there: in the beginning primarily die.

Enemies lurk behind corners, floors crumble away from us, bats break out of corridors to tear us into the abyss. However , Nioh is not unfair. It makes it clear that I must not stagger through his levels like a drunken sailor.

In general, it's worth keeping your eyes peeled in the game's winding mountain villages and crumbling temple grounds. Again and again we find hidden boxes with useful items or cute creatures called Kodama, which increase the drop rate of weapons, armor and the like for a small donation at the next shrine. In addition, we come across opportunities to use the level architecture to our advantage.

In Nioh, the mostly vertically arranged level sections often interlock. As a result, we keep tapping abbreviations , for which we step down ladders to places we have already visited. "Vertical" also means that it is worth looking up or down from time to time. Maybe an archer is standing on a balcony above us? Or are there some useful items on a ledge below us?

Shrine shopping

So instead of rushing through the levels, we feel our way forward - from checkpoint to checkpoint. They are called shrines in Nioh and basically work like the beacons of the Souls games. Here we invest experience points (here called Amrita) in role-play-typical character values such as health, strength and skill, fill up our medicine supply or call other players to help as co-op partners . However, every time you visit the shrines, the defeated standard opponents of a level return.

Also borrowed from the Souls games: If the hero dies, he loses the experience points he has accumulated but not yet spent. They remain at his "grave" for the time being. If we manage to fight our way through there without dying, we'll get everything back. This mechanism builds up an immense tension and motivates us not to simply give up. In order for us to do better on the next attempt, I absolutely have to familiarize myself with the combat system.

A question of the Ki

Endurance, called Nioh Ki, plays a major role here. Attacks, blocks and evasive maneuvers devour the Ki bar. The bar fills up by itself slowly, accelerating it with a so-called Ki impulse, but it pays off. For this we have to press "R1" after a stroke as soon as William is surrounded by a cloud of blue Ki particles. Correct timing is not easy in the heat of the moment, but only those who master the art of Ki impulse will have a chance against more difficult opponents.

Because if we line up too many actions without a Ki impulse, it can happen that an enemy catches us while the bar is empty. Then we stand there completely defenseless for a moment. The same applies to our opponents as soon as their Ki is used up. So it pays to seduce your enemies to waste their Ki supplies by constant evasive maneuvers. Once they are standing there panting, it is very easy to land particularly strong attacks.

Ki against Yokai

The Ki impulse is particularly important in the fight against the Yokai. These are demons who, besides the many human opponents, make our lives difficult. The stupid thing about the evil spirits: They create a gray-black fog around them, which extremely slows down our ki regeneration. With a well-set Ki impulse, however, this fog can be "cleaned up" and the fight continues as usual.

How much endurance a confrontation ultimately costs also depends on the three fighting attitudes. Through them we control whether we lower, hold up or align the numerous melee weapons such as katanas, spears or axes. This in turn affects the strength and speed of the blows. In addition, we can switch between two weapon sets at any time, each consisting of a melee and a ranged weapon. For example, a classic katana can be combined with a bow, or a battle ax with a shotgun. When aiming with bows and the like, care is required: Whoever hits vulnerable points like the head does a lot of damage.

Ki management, fighting stances, choice of weapons - we have to take care of all this in parallel and adapt individual elements to the respective situation. After all, each type of enemy comes up with their own attack patterns. The strategy that still helped us with a bandit doesn't get us anywhere with a burning bike with a demonic grimace, and certainly not with a monster that flings its tongue at me in an all-round swing.

Finally die!

Nioh does not maintain its high level over the entire season. The Action RPG often performs level recycling on its side missions because they like to take us back to known areas. So a warrior loses his important sword several times in the same cave.

The loot system just mentioned, on the other hand, invites me to try out different types of weapons and armor, but on the other hand he exaggerates with his generosity. Almost all opponents leave at least one item that does not match my character values. A visit to the blacksmith, where I can get rid of the items, is therefore mandatory after every mission.

The quality also fluctuates in the boss fights . Nioh stages his bosses less impressively than the Souls series, but gives them more life points. The battles drag on from time to time, making them monotonous despite multiple phases or special attacks. The fact that the giant hybrid of monkeys, martens and tigers reliably shoots lightning at us after a scream into the sky, and that always strike close to us when we evade, is boring at some point.

However, this criticism does not change the overall performance of the game: Nioh challenges us, throws us into the dirt, but rewards us for getting up again. And every time.