In the wake of Dark Souls, many ARPG games sought to reach the critical acclaim that made the Dark Souls franchise into what it is. Not only that, but it also made it hard for them not to copy an already established good gameplay system and mechanics. Beings compared to Dark Souls means being a game that looks like Dark Souls, but will never reach its grandeur. However, there is one ARPG that borrows a lot from Dark Souls, but still doesn’t emerge as a knock-off, but a perfectly original game. That game is Nioh.

The Benevolent King

Nioh is a game set in the Sengoku jidai period of Japan, in the early 1600s, two years after the death of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and the end of the Momoyama period. The main protagonist is an English sailor, William Adams, an actual historical character, and the first Western samurai. The player is tasked with stopping a surge of yokai, Japanese spirits and demons, born from the Honno-ji incident and supported by another Englishman and an alchemist, Edward Kelly. The game also features many prominent historical figures like Tokugawa Ieyasu, Ishida Mitsunari, and Hattori Hanzo.

Nioh is constantly being compared to Soulborne games, but the game itself is very original. The game borrows the stamina-based combat, the dodges and the light/heavy attacks from the Souls games, but it also introduces some new stuff. For starters, the game features three distinct stances, all of which add certain bonuses but come at a price – high stance is powerful but slow, low stance is fast but weak and normal stance is a jack-of-all-trades. The player kills monsters and collects Amrita, mystical stone akin to the Philosopher’s Stone, and uses it to level up. The player can also create weapons and armor, as well as reskin armor and weapons, so you can put on a set with great stats, but give it the appearance of a set which style you liked. Nioh features many levels in made with similar elements of Souls games, with scarce save points, and shortcuts to save points. The player faces many bosses, and there is plenty variety among them, as you face either fast, humanoid enemies, sometimes humans themselves, sometimes large but nimble oni, and sometimes huge, lumbering beasts that can take you down in one hit.

Alongside the bosses, there are many smaller enemies, but the variety isn’t all that great. About 6 hours in the game, and you’ve pretty much seen most of the enemies there exist in the game. This doesn’t mean that you should underestimate them – they’re just as dangerous as any enemy in Souls games and can take you down very, very quickly if you underestimate them.

Another mechanic that appears in the game is the guardian spirit. There are several guardian spirits, usually animals that can be summoned to help William. These spirits can be “equipped” at save points, and, when summoned, will imbue your weapon with their strength, granting elemental damage and making you invulnerable for the duration. However, getting hit will mean deplete the duration more rapidly, and you can run out of steam by taking few strikes.


In the end, if you liked Soulsborne games, you’ll like Nioh. However, Nioh is NOT a Souls game, and it never will be, so don’t expect to jump in and own it. This is actually a good thing, as you can experience something familiar but wrapped in different, more vibrant colors. And, let’s face it, being a monster-slaying samurai is pretty damned cool.