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Nioh 2: Complete Edition (for PC) Review 2021

Nioh 2 is a fantastic sequel that takes challenging combat, stat-allocating RPG elements, and gear-based character builds, and frames it within a Sengoku-era story that marries real historical figures and Japanese mythology. The original game’s thrilling, technical action returns, but adds four new weapon types, yokai abilities that let you summon supernatural attacks, and an incredibly useful counterattack mechanic. If you like hardcore action and tweaking character builds, the $49.99 Nioh 2 is a PC game to pick up without hesitation.

More Than a Fresh Coat of Paint

Nioh 2 embraces the supernatural elements that made the original game so fascinating, ratcheting up the yokai variety and quantity. You no longer play as William Adams; instead, you create a character. The plot follows you, a half-yokai warrior, embroiled in the power scramble during the end of Japan’s Sengoku period.

Almost all of the first game’s yokai, such as the ogre-like Yoki, the raven-headed Tengu, and the one-eyed Oni, make their return in Nioh 2, and their ranks have swelled to include new monstrosities from Japanese folklore. Nure-onna, woman-headed serpents, batter you with their tails or paralyze you with their gaze. Gaki, man-like spirits with distended bellies, maul you to sate their cursed hunger. The ape-like Enki wield human weapons, but move as erratically as monkeys, making them deadly adversaries. The list goes on, expanding the yokai roster to more than 50 different types, including a few boss characters.

Fortunately, Nioh 2 offers several in-depth tutorials that teach you how to effectively use the rich offensive and defensive options against enemies. The tutorials help you master the two-button combo system, three attack stances, blocking, countering, and Ki-Pulse system, the stamina-recovery mechanic tied to the game’s many advanced techniques.

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Ki management is one of the biggest hurdles new players need to overcome when coming to grips with the combat. Ki-Pulse is functionally similar to the Gears of War games’ Active Reload mechanic, in that you must press the stance button at the end of an attack (with precise timing!) to restore your stamina gauge. While seemingly ungainly on paper, the Ki-Pulse system gives the combat a wonderful degree of complexity by encouraging you to return to neutral after an attack (or before extending a combo by swapping stances). 

The Demon Within

The tutorial also introduces the Yokai Shift mechanic, an expansion of the first game’s Living Weapon power up. In the original Nioh, a circular gauge near your health bar filled as you fought and defeated enemies. You could tap that full meter to channel a guardian spirit into your weapon, infusing your attacks with elemental magic for a few moments. The system works similarly in Nioh 2, except that your half-yokai avatar adopts a full-demon mode instead.

This mode opens unique combo strings and special attacks, depending on the selected guardian spirit. There are three types: a club-wielding brute, an agile feral demon with short blades, and a projectile-flinging phantom. The demon type also defines your counter type. The brute has a short-range parry slap that doubles as an attack, the feral form has a rushing parry that also serves as a panic evade, and the phantom demon has a bubble parry that can be used as an emergency shield.

Nioh 2 enemies

Countering is particularly important, as it is tied to the new Yokai Burst technique. Unlike the original game, Nioh 2 has enemies with abilities divided between melee attacks, command grabs, and high-damage special attacks called Yokai Bursts. Those powerful moves are telegraphed by a red aura, but the attack itself can have various properties depending on the enemy; some can be blocked, while others ignore defense and must be avoided. In all cases, however, Yokai Bursts deal vicious damage. Fortunately, the Yokai Bursts’ red glow also signifies that the incoming attack can be reversed with a technique of your own—a Burst Counter.

If you can master the timing, you can interrupt a Yokai Burst, momentarily stunning the foe and giving you a sweet counterattack opportunity. Yokai in particular are good at shrugging off light blows, but a Burst Counter sends them reeling and greatly reduces their Ki, making them easier to weaken afterwards. This system is incredibly rewarding, and while the timing for some Burst Counters feel inhumanely tight in some situations, the technique gives you more control over opponents.

Nioh 2 Yokai Skills feature

Yokai Skills are the second major addition to your arsenal. Yokai you defeat may drop a Soul Core that you can collect and purify at a shrine. After doing so, you can equip a Soul Core and gain access to a special move unique to that defeated enemy. For example, Enki, the ape-like yokai, has a jumping spear-toss that it uses liberally against you. But with the Enki Soul Core equipped, you can perform the very same move on other enemies. Every yokai, including bosses, drop Soul Cores.

Collecting these Soul Cores and incorporating them into your build is extremely fun, and leads to incredibly powerful combinations. On your first playthrough, you can only equip two Soul Cores at a time, but this gets boosted to three near the game’s end, giving you plenty of room to experiment with going into the next game cycle. 

Riddle of Steel

Nioh 2 introduces four new melee weapons on top of the original game’s seven, totaling 11 dizzying and utterly unique ways to fight. You can duel against man and demon alike with a classic katana or spear, or opt for something a bit fresher with the Splitstaff. Inspired by the morningstar-headed staff from the Ninja Gaiden series, the Splitstaff ordinarily deals heavy, blunt, but its attacks can be charged to deliver flail-like, multi-hit blows when you hold the attack button. If that’s not wild enough, the new Switchglaive is a transforming polearm that cycles between cleaver, glaive, and scythe depending on your stance.

You have carte blanche when it comes to weapon selection. You are urged to pick two weapons at the start of the game, but within the very first mission you will invariably come across all other weapon types. Changing your play style is as simple as equipping a different weapon, so you can experiment to your heart’s content. 

Weapons also have unique blessings associated with them, which deal bonus damage and effects. Purity weapons, for example, let you Ki-Pulse after blocking an attack, which you cannot ordinarily do. They make defensive play styles more viable. 

Nioh 2 boss fight

Mythical Missons

Like the original title, Nioh 2 is a mission-based game that transports you to stages packed with monsters, samurai, traps, and loot, usually culminating in a brutal boss fight. These stages are packed with shortcuts, which is particularly important as missions can be quite lengthy. Sure, you can speed-run through a stage in minutes if you know where to go, but your first time through a mission can take upwards of an hour provided you don’t die much. These shortcuts are critical your first time through, as they almost always lead back to a safe zone or save shrine. With 20+ main missions, dozens of optional sub-missions, and DLC content on top of that, you can easily clock a hundred hours of playtime. 

Nioh 2 crafts an odd world that combines Japanese architecture and fantasy environments, resulting in bizarre, yet utterly fascinating, environments. One mission takes you to a ruined castle overtaken by ice and precarious crystalline structures. Another takes you to an inverted shrine beneath a frozen lake. Yet another leads you to a dilapidated shrine within a moonlight-bathed cavern flooded with poisonous water. There are many returning stages from the original game, too, though these are used exclusively for sub-missions.

There is a fair amount of new stage repetition, too. Many of these impressive new environments are repurposed for optional sub missions, though there is usually some new lighting or weather effect to tweak the look. It is important to note that Nioh 2, much like the original game, incorporates repetition and replay into its design. Completing the game on normal mode unlocks a new difficulty, which opens up new gear tiers and completely remixed missions. Perfecting your build and conquering the game’s many challenges requires many replays, with each cycle unlocking more goodies. As a result, the game feels a bit grind-heavy.

Can Your PC Run Nioh 2?

Nioh 2 is slightly more colorful and vibrant than the original game. It is visually similar, though there are obvious visual improvements in terms of shadows and effects. Nioh 2 looks great, but it is not a graphical powerhouse, either. It blends realistic character models with faithful, yet cartoonish, interpretations of monsters from classic Japanese woodblock art. 

That said, Nioh 2 is also a smidge more demanding than its predecessor. At a minimum, your gaming PC must contain an Intel i5-4460 CPU, 6GB of RAM, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 GPU. With its various graphical settings at low, the game is visually on par with the PlayStation 4 version. When tested on a desktop computer packing an AMD Ryzen 5 3600 CPU and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 GPU, the game moved at a silky 120 frames per second (at 1080p resolution), occasionally dipping to 110fps during effects-heavy action sequences.

Nioh 2 features 4K support, HDR monitor support, and ultra wide-screen compatibility. The game also features full mouse and keyboard compatibility, as well as key bind customization. The keyboard-and-mouse controls are surprisingly intuitive, delivering tight and accurate inputs once you acclimate yourself to the key layout. As a Steam game, Nioh 2 supports Steam Achievements, Steam Cloud, and Steam Trading Cards.

Revisit a Legend

If you enjoyed Nioh, then rest assured that Nioh 2 is more of the same, but better in virtually every way. Nioh 2 admirably builds and expands upon its predecessor’s gameplay bedrock, delivering superb action and engrossing RPG customization. The new mechanics are extremely satisfying, the new gear offers creative build options, and the new enemies ramp up the challenge to meet your enhanced offensive abilities. Nioh 2 is excellent action-RPG, and a PCMag Editors’ Choice pick.

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Nioh 2: Complete Edition (for PC) Specs

Topic PC Games
Product Games Genre Role-Playing
Audience Gaming
Product Price Type Street
Product Games ESRB Rating Mature
Product Games Platform PC

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