Nioh 2 has shown such incredible breadth and depth in terms of setting, combat, and map construction that it could easily serve as instructional material for a course on game design. To date, I have played few games that create such a strong sense of place with immersive combat. The first DLC expanded upon this quality design, with the second showing a slight departure from expectations. After tackling the third and final DLC, I have to say that I’m deflated with where this mammoth journey has led.
With only a few core missions, we rush to a finale that hardly feels like one. I wasn’t even asking myself “Is this the final boss” because it didn’t occur to me that it could be the final boss. Then a routine cutscene occurred after I finished off the enemy, which meandered into a significant sequence of events that literally occurred within seconds. Flash to logo. Wait, what? Oh, that’s it? Wait, that’s actually it?
Yeah, that was it for the story. While the ending was beautiful and impactful proportionate to its length, I couldn’t help feeling cheated after I had come so far. Nioh 2 is no weekend romp; it demands commitment in terms of time, practice, and strategy. And then we get this final DLC that felt rushed through development. At the risk of sounding dramatic, it’s borderline disrespectful to the players who love this world.
To be fair, the final few core missions were well-designed with decent new additions to the enemy cast. The map design, hidden secrets, and visuals match the title’s history. Fans of the series know what to expect here: layered, three-dimensional, sprawling maps with simple puzzles and surprises (both demonic and benevolent). The game offers several post-game missions similar to side quests in the core game and preceding DLC to complete. The typical fare appears with the occasional unique boss battle and revisiting old stages with a twist–hunting an item rather than getting to the end of the stage.
Unfortunately, even these side quests feel lazy, with some occurring as what would be a “boss rush mode” in many other games. While such a mode isn’t necessarily unwelcome, for this to be the bulk of what’s offered is inappropriate. For those seeking a challenge, though, you will certainly find it here.
For the completionists, or those who simply want to see the journey through, The First Samurai will sate, not “wow.” For all others, you are likely better off saving your $10. I can’t say I didn’t have fun, but I can say that as epic as Nioh 2 is, the material deserves better.