There’s hard games and then there’s let’s make it completely unfair to the player games, and Nioh 2 falls into the latter. I’d say maybe half the bosses were made to be hard, but fair and the other half, the developers decided to say, bluntly, ‘fuck you’ to the players. There’s no mincing words here. The developers did not make this game as a love letter to their previous game, instead they decided to take everything that was bad about Nioh 1 and improve upon those horrible mechanics. Sure, I can now have a counter to some moves with a move of my own but most of the time, you will take damage trying to do so. You are actively punished for using the game’s mechanics. Oh, and the game suffers massively from “Do as I say, but not as I do.” In order for enemies to be staggered, and yourself, your Ki has to run out. However, in tradition with the game’s mentality of “fuck you, player”, bosses don’t need to reduce your Ki to stagger you, they merely need to hit you once.
I’m getting ahead of myself here. A quick rerun of the game mechanics is in order. You have life and Ki (basically your stamina), and when life drops to 0, you die. Ki drops to 0, you’re winded for awhile and open to any attack. Enemies also have a life bar and a Ki bar, and when you drop their Ki to 0, they are open to any attack and will get staggered, letting you wail on them until they recover their Ki – done so by a move on their part and automatically by you. You can also perform a Ki pulse which is pressing the button at the moment the Ki meter turns from red to blue. Most of their attacks can be blocked, reducing your Ki by a massive amount in proportion to the damage they would have dealt. You can also choose to dodge but dodging is dependent on your total equipment weight. Too high, and you’ll barely be able to move out of the way. Really low or none, and you can dodge out of the way with incredible distance. Some enemy attacks are highlighted in red, these can be countered with your burst which is dependent on which guardian spirit you have equipped. There’s feral, phantom or brute and each counter is different. Then enemies have the ‘fuck you, player’ move in which they have a grab that will take most or all of your life in one go. In no universe is this remotely fair to the player, and only exists to artificially inflate the difficulty. Your only hope is to be far away, and sometimes that isn’t enough because the radius for the enemy to perform this move is massive.
Let me get this out of the way, I beat the base game and I enjoyed the base game for the most part. It’s when I started the DLC and expansions that I realized, there’s no need to play any of them because they were designed purely as a “fuck you, player.” All the bosses that I fought therein had several bullshit insta-kill moves or grabs. When I finally did beat the bosses, it wasn’t because of my hard efforts to memorize the move sets of the boss, but rather because on that 10+ death, the boss didn’t use that one particular move. In other words, I won because of sheer luck and not skill. This behavior is not native to the Nioh games for all of the souls games, Bloodborne, and Sekiro also have bullshit bosses with bullshit moves and you beating them is highly reliant on them not using a specific skill or move. It seems that the Japanese developers, as whole, have that mentality of “fuck you, player”. The best Japanese ARPG game I’ve ever played, that had the most fair mechanics ever, was not made by the Japanese but by Americans – Naughty Dog with their masterpiece, Ghost of Tsushima. That really says something about Japanese developers.
As a whole, playing a Japanese ARPG game is akin to bashing your head against a brick wall in the hopes of breaking it down to get past. In Nioh 2, that brick wall has another brick wall right behind and whenever you do hit your head against it, it seals itself back up.
As for the story, it was useless and mere filler. It used the backdrop of real characters from history to tell a prequel to Nioh 1 and then near the end, acted as a sequel. It was as barebones as a story could get. I didn’t care to play the game at all for the story but for the satisfaction of being able to say I beat it. And sure, I beat it, but at what cost? My sanity? There’s a lot to love inside the game, but the sheer frustration of many gameplay decisions is immense. It’s hard to believe a lot of the elements got past QA, and that someone thought it was a good idea to implement them. Like the grabs, or having the insta-kill moves. Or bosses that ignore the mechanics but you still have to obey them and are limited by them. The decision to make loot randomized, forcing you to grind over and over in the hopes of better gear. Having a mission based campaign, are you guys still playing on PlayStation 2? Rest of the world called, we’re on open world games now.
Overall, I do recommend the base game. It’s hard but doable, and for the most part, the bosses are hard but fair. Unless you do side quests, in which case the bosses are mostly of the “fuck you, player” design requiring you to massively farm XP to get way over-leveled in order to best them. I do not recommend any of the DLCs/expansions, they are simply unfair to the player.