The Nioh 2 open beta is a mixture of interesting and exciting ideas, truly grueling gameplay and a small helping of issues which we can make experiencing the Nioh Franchise for the first time a slightly more awkward affair than you’d like. It’s certainly an acquired taste, and one I’m still not sure many will be sold on.

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The Nioh franchise was something I had not even heard of until recently both with Nioh 2’s open beta being launched and the original Nioh being available through PlayStation Plus. For those of you who don’t know Nioh, developed by Team Ninja and published by¬†Koei Tecmo, is an action role-playing game set in a fictionalized version of Japan in the 1600s. During the mists of War, you play as an Irish Samurai named William who must battle his way through warring factions and demonic beasts. In terms of Nioh 2’s story, the beta is only relativly short and the story isn’t something we can really talk about here but I found it was the Beta’s other aspects that stood out to me more than its narrative, both for good and bad reasons.

First, let’s get character customization out of the way. This game’s character customization blew me away. Not only was the sheer number of options impressive but this game’s visuals make your characters look so damn good. I cycled through various different options including both genders and hit randomize a good few times and I was very impressed with the game’s offerings. Plus, there are still more options to experiment with once the full game launches which I’m already excited about.

One issue which I felt the Beta had overall is that it makes the assumption that you already have a good understanding of what you’re doing and I can’t really blame it for doing that. This is a niche title, one that will not be for everyone, and most of Nioh 2’s sales will come from hardcore fans of the first game and the series as a whole. For new players going into the Nioh 2 beta for the first time however, the experience can be extremely alienating.

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General combat is easy enough to understand but harder to pull off effectively, more on that a little later, but in terms of the environment, the characters, the setting, I felt completely out of my depth whilst playing the Nioh 2 beta. Now, of course, I was out of my depth, and I would have benefited massively from playing through the original Nioh first but unfortunately there just wasn’t time to do it. The world itself, however, strange as it maybe is truly beautiful. This mystical version of Japan looks fantastic graphically but also has this incredible atmosphere that intrigued me constantly. I want to learn more about this world and despite my shaky start with Nioh 2’s beta, there is a very high chance I will be playing the original Nioh just so I can try and learn more about this world.

In terms of combat, this game is tough and I mean tough. It’s fair to say fans of Dark Souls or Bloodborne are going to feel right at home here, and if that intense difficulty is something you crave (you strange, strange person) you’re going to love Nioh 2. Again, this isn’t typically the style of game I play so the added difficulty didn’t exactly help make my experience smooth. That being said I knew what I was in for and it’s important you should too. Nioh 2 can not be simply picked up and played. Timing with your dodges, attacks, blocking and managing your stamina or “Ki” as they call it is vital. Only the most masterful samurai will triumph which is why I got my ass handed to me several times.

Fighting against both human and supernatural threats named Yokai did help keep the game feeling fresh and having the ability to transform yourself into your own Yokai spirt was incredibly cool. Not only was the switch up in gameplay appreciated but again this game’s incredible visuals made playing as the Yokai really great. News moves and abilities made switching to your “Yokai form” feel satisfying and at times something you needed to do to move forward.

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In conclusion my thoughts on the Nioh 2 open beta arent as negative as maybe they initially seem. I am very impressed with what I’ve played of Nioh 2’s beta. It looks beautiful and plays solid enough but of course is a very difficult game for players new to this genre. Its world is intriguing enough but the beta doesn’t welcome newer players to this franchise or this genre as well as it maybe could. If you are looking for something new to try, with what I hope will be a great story and a true challenge Nioh 2 maybe the game you’re looking for when it launches March 13, 2020.

I just recommend you get some practice in with the original Nioh because you are going to need it. Good luck hunting samurai.

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