These past few years, the only games I ever truly played again to my personal best would be from From Software's Souls series.

It took me months to complete my first run on Demon's Souls, and it would take me days to finish it again on a fresh start. Bloodborne is a pushover once you learn how to use a gun. Dark Souls, my personal favorite, was a hell of a lot easier compared to Demon's Souls, and I even did a few speedruns on it with just a little over six hours as my personal best. Then there was its sequel, Dark Souls 2 and all its DLCs, which I finished at least nine times. It wasn't a pleasant experience. I didn't know why I even tried it but I did. Dark Souls 3 on the other hand was hard, unforgiving and often unfair, a big difference when compared to the first game.

But nothing, and I mean nothing, prepared me for Nioh. I finished Ghosts & Goblins on the NES; that should have meant that any game after would be a pushover! But no, Nioh is a brand new evil altogether.

Nioh is a fantastic game. It deserves whatever praise it gets from anyone who has ever played it. But it is by no means for everyone. Filthy casuals from the Souls games can at least learn from their mistakes just enough to let them finish the first playthrough, but Nioh, once again, is an evil bastard all throughout.

Playing Nioh is a bad acid trip through hell. It follows the footsteps of the Soulsborne games, being as unrelenting and merciless as From Software's iconic titles.

The shrine, your one and only save point where you can spend souls and do all sorts of stuff, allows you to forge items as well as customize your hairstyle.

The battle mechanic is a nice departure. On the basics, you kill enemies to gain their souls. If you die, you get a single chance to reclaim them or they will be lost forever. You will cry over the loss. The difference here is that you can switch between three different stances. Learning how and when to use each stance is essential as it makes all the difference in combat. Of course you can simply use one stance to finish the entire game, but what's the point of not trying out everything the game has to offer?

Nioh has a straightforward mission-based system. Every mission, including its tutorials, is available through an overworld map. This was quite disconcerting at first, as the beauty of the Souls games was allowing you explore the world, going through toxic swamps, breaching castles, unlocking shortcuts, and discovering treasure chests rich with lore or death.

However, after a few hours in, I learned to see the world map is something of a welcome sight as it became a place for me to rest. It doesn't mean that each area you go through has less to explore; far from it, actually. There are a lot of secrets and areas to uncover, each path being deadlier than the last.

When you complete missions, you can play them again in different difficulties to gain better rewards. You can also get better gear by spotting the Souls' equivalent of bloodstains and summon the phantoms of defeated players to a duel. If you kill them, you get new gear - which I assume is their gear.

The game is ridiculously hard but you can summon friends to play co-op by using an item that's fairly common. It makes a lot of difference when playing with someone else, to the point that Nioh becomes a little too easy.

The boss fights are amazing and are comprised of huge monsters with relentless attacks, each one being almost always better than the last. This isn't Dark Souls 2 where you fight one cool boss and then the rest are just "meh". There is consistency here and Team Ninja made sure that each boss fight is something to look forward to. It's all about dodging until you find that fraction of a moment to strike back once, doing little damage to these bosses. And their health bars are massive, making it seem like it will take forever to bring these monsters down.

I knew Nioh was going to be a difficult to play.

Dark Souls has indeed shaken up the gaming action scene, with many developers trying to mimic the formula. Capcom's Deep Down is looking like it was inspired by the Souls games, and even the upcoming God of War, based on its trailer, appears to have shifted to a more tactical approach. I wouldn't be surprised if more AAA games come out Souls-spired.

I suppose it's safe to say that I have yet to finish the game; I am only over twelve hours in. I just beat this boss and I moved on to the next area. I never knew how ignorant I was of this game up to this point. It seems that those first twelve hours, everything from the beginning up to this point where I am was nothing but a tutorial. The most grueling tutorial I have ever gone through. 

About the author: Karen Benitez

Skater, musician, carpenter, gamer. Karen is interested in culture, science fiction, and Cthulhu. She participated in MMA bouts, got her ass kicked many times, and ended up with broken bones. Life is good.

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