The age of ports continues! Yes, we’re rapidly approaching that glorious moment when games are no longer exclusive to consoles – or at least I hope so, anyway, since a nice PC and monitor make for a gaming experience unlike any other. The latest in the long line of games making the leap from console to PC is Koei Tecmo’s Souls-alike Nioh, showing up on Steam as Nioh: Complete Edition.
After escaping from being imprisoned under questionable circumstances, pirate William Adams finds his spiritual fairy companion Saoirse stolen by the sorceror Edward Kelley. Kelley flees to Japan and William pursues, finding the Far East to be inhabited by monsters of both the human and demonic persuasion. Finding Saoirse won’t be easy without help, so William ends up working with the locals and clearing out an overwhelming infestation of evil yokai in his hunt for Kelley. Mostly, though, he’s going to spend a lot of time dead – Nioh is mean, to say the least.
Most of what I mentioned in my original review of Nioh remains the same here, which, summarized: it’s hard. Really, really hard. I realize that I had to sacrifice a significant portion of my gaming skill to join the video game press corps, but Nioh is the real deal, and it’s not playing around. William is fragile at the best of times and will die in a single blow at the worst of times. You have to consciously end your combos with a button-press to fight efficiently, while running out of stamina from spending too much time attacking, dodging or blocking is basically a death sentence. As with any Souls-style game it’s possible to overcome and prevail, but your lessons will be knocked into your head time and time and time again until you learn. Nioh mixes up the Souls formula by incorporating a ton of Diablo-style randomized loot that you’ll need to sift through and customize to get the most out of your character.
What’s different on PC? Well, two of my biggest complaints have been addressed to some degree. First, the game’s text is much less small and irritating to read on PC, presumably because you’re more likely to be up close to a PC monitor. That’s a bonus when it comes to dealing with the massive amount of loot that you’ll accumulate as you play through the game, since you’re not trying to use a magnifying glass to tell what’s what anymore. You’ll still need to take some time every so often to deal with the ever-growing hoard, but at least you won’t need an optometrist anymore when you’re done.
The PC version of Nioh also includes all of the original game’s DLC areas and content; most notably, this adds a pair of new weapon options for William to use. The odachi, a huge two-handed sword used for powerful sweeping attacks, and the tonfa, a pair of clubs used for nimble hit-and-away tactics, are both viable choices that add a lot of variety to the gameplay and encourage new build styles. For reference, I spent my playthrough of the PC version using the tonfa almost exclusively and found that their style encouraged paying more attention to the randomized loot in order to wring the most damage possible out of their quicker, but weaker, attacks. As for the DLC areas themselves, they’re almost comically brutal and very much intended for players who have proven themselves up to Nioh’s challenges; fortunately, the new weapons are available right from the start and can even be chosen as starter options. Other updates to Nioh have also simplified the co-op system, making it much easier to play with your friends, and added enhancements to character customization.
There’s graphical improvements and increased performance on PC as well, particularly if you’ve got a high-end machine, though it’s worth noting that the game can be a little buggy. I ran into the odd crash here and there, and the less said about trying to play in the awful borderless windowed mode the better. After some tweaking around with the game’s various settings and features, though, it’s possible to reach an acceptable level of playability and performance; I’ll never complain about a stable 60FPS framerate in any game, even if it does take some work to get there.
If you’ve already played through Nioh and its DLC on console then you probably won’t feel the need to do so again, but even considering the bugs inherent to the PC version Nioh: Complete Edition remains the definitive version of the game for new players. If you’re prepared for a rocky start when it comes to getting the game configured just so, you’ll be in for a delightfully difficult treat. Nioh, as with the games from which it takes its inspiration, is like a jawbreaker – it’s as tough as it gets, but if you’re patient then it’s going to be sweet indeed.