Published on January 8th, 2021 | by Sean Warhurst
Nioh 2 – The First Samurai DLC PS4/PS5 Review
Summary: A mixed bag that gets a tentative recommendation, I’ll always welcome new content to one of my favourite games but I'd appreciate it if Team Ninja didn't make it feel like busy work just so I can pop those last few trophies.
Ni-Oh, Let's Go!
DLC packs are a tricky thing to balance – You’ve got to retain the core tenets of what made the original game enjoyable whilst also adding new features in order to incentivise players to return. With action RPG titles like the Souls trilogy or Nioh, the developers often elect to add a few new creature and boss designs and environments whilst also cranking up the difficulty to compensate for the fact that players will be coming to the new content after thoroughly smashing through the base game.
Team Ninja have taken this approach to its extreme and, although the new content is enticing enough for most players, the newest level of difficulty for veterans to run through, titled The Dream of the Nioh, is just stupidly hard and really sucks the joy out of the game to a degree.
Of course you can always choose to run through the stages at the lower difficulties on offer and will likely enjoy the new content, but in order to get the full trophy list players will have to tackle the stages on the Dream of the Demon difficulty; this wouldn’t be an issue, especially for players like myself who have essentially hit the character level cap, except even high level characters are going to struggle here due to the massive increase inherent in the new content itself.
In order to mitigate this, players will have to approach this DLC in much the same way most had to with the previous release, by jumping to the difficulty level above where they’re at and struggling through the obscenely difficult stages in order to acquire high level gear and weapons and then switch back to the lower difficulty in order to coast through. Again, you could choose to smash your head against a wall and power through without taking these steps but progress will be arduous and devoid of much fun as even the peon enemies become whatever the bladed weapon equivalent of bullet-sponges are… Sword-Sponges, maybe?
All that whinging in the previous paragraphs might indicate that I wasn’t a fan of The First Samurai, the final DLC pack for the sublime Nioh 2, but this isn’t entirely true; I just personally feel that Team Ninja rely too much on jacking up the difficulty and dropping red enemies everywhere rather than finely tuning the combat mechanics and letting the calibre of the DLC speak for itself, in a way similar to how Artorias of the Abyss was a challenge but didn’t expect players to have ran through the game multiple times in order to have the ability to play through it.
Asides from the new difficulty level, there’s also the addition of The Underworld, which operates much like The Abyss from the first game, allowing you to gain new gear and weaponry as you work your way through the different floors, pulverising all and sundry along your way; think the Bloody Palace from DMC 5. If you’re at a loss and need to get new gear to continue, this is a viable option, with the only caveat being that you need to have finished the game on Dream of the Demon in order to just unlock this mode.
This kind of makes the entire thing superfluous from a gear grinding perspective, and although many players will have definitely played through the game multiple times by now in order to tick off that ever consuming trophy list, more casual players won’t even be able to access this mode at all.
One of the biggest thrills of each new DLC was the introduction of new weaponry, letting you learn new movesets and skills; here, the only additions are variations of previously acquired weapons, which kind of takes most of the fun out of things as you’ll likely just stick to what’s been working for you up until this point.
So that just leaves the new missions and Bosses, and although there are some real gems here – Some among the best in the entire game, in my opinion – Some of the other missions just reek of copying and pasting and, again, falling back on the crutch of just simply cranking up the difficulty.
One example is a boss rush that seemingly goes on forever, with hordes of previously fought enemies plonked down into an arena to swarm the player. There have always been these kinds of missions throughout the game but here it just feels egregious and these lazier sub-missions make up a fair bulk of the new content here.
The three main missions and boss battles are top notch, despite my gripes about the difficulty, and the level and character design has really evolved and become super refined between the first title and this; the narrative that runs through all of these DLC packs sees your character journeying to different points in the past, which has the unfortunate effect of removing most of the characters you had come to know throughout the base game.
The story itself is also kind of confusing, exploring the origins of the Yokai slaying sword your character wields but never really answering any of the lingering questions from the main game or clearly presenting how these revelations will come to impact the series going forward. This can be excused to a degree, as the story really isn’t the most important thing in these games, but if you come into this expecting a definitive resolution, you’re going to be disappointed.
Overall, if you’re a fan of Nioh 2 and desire some more Yokai slashing action, then there is definitely enough on offer here to justify picking this up. My main issue is that this DLC, much like the final DLC for the first game, is where I just finally have become burnt out on being expected to run through another full playthrough on an extremely crushing difficulty.
Again, this won’t be an issue if you’re coasting through the lower difficulty levels just to enjoy the new content, but if you’re chasing those elusive trophies then things can quickly become a monotonous grind.
It kind of sucks to feel this way about a game that I genuinely love and have come back to multiple times since its release, and I’m sure the more masochistic among us would vocally disagree about my opinion and snidely tell me to “Git Gud, Scrub”, but as someone who has platted all of the Souls games, Sekiro, both Nioh titles and countless other action RPG games, I feel that my skill level isn’t the issue here, it’s more the fact that I don’t find taking five minutes to bring down a regular enemy despite being at the level cap any fun.
A mixed bag that gets a tentative recommendation, I’ll always welcome new content to one of my favourite games but I’d appreciate it if Team Ninja didn’t make it feel like busy work just so I can pop those last few trophies.
Primary Format – PlayStation 5 (Reviewed), PlayStation 4
Game Genre – Adventure/RPG
Rating – MA15+
Game Developer – Team Ninja
Game Publisher – Sony Interactive Entertainment
Reviewer – Sean Warhurst