In the lead up to my hands-on time with Nioh 2
, I did my due diligence and went back to finally finish the first game, which I hadn’t quite seen through. I felt pretty good going into the sequel’s demo with a fresh understanding of Nioh’s unique brand of fast-paced, ki pulse and stance centric combat. At first, things felt pretty good. I was breezing past most enemies without too much trouble, especially because many enemies are ripped directly from Nioh 1. Nothing, however, could prepare me for the absolute terror that was Maeda Toshiie… And yes, I now know that he was in the beta, so I guess technically, I could’ve been prepared by playing the beta, but I didn’t so this was my first time experiencing him.
Nioh 2 Screenshot Gallery
But before we get to that, let’s just put it out there that Nioh 2 is hard, largely in the same ways that its predecessor was. Enemies are relentless in their aggression, and now they have even more dangerous attacks that are telegraphed by a red aura. Fortunately, you’ve got new tools too. Those dangerous red aura attacks can be “Burst Countered” to inflict massive stamina damage on opponents, very much like how Mikiri Counters worked in Sekiro.
It often feels like Nioh 2 was balanced by making sure that for every new tool that players received, something else was added to make things even more difficult. Sure, players now have access to a number of powerful Yokai abilities that could turn the tide of a battle, but you’ll now frequently find yourself having to fight enemies in dark realms, which dramatically impedes your ki recovery ability. You can now easily summon NPCs into the game to help you out even when playing offline, but in order to get the currency needed to summon them, you need to beat powerful revenants left by fallen players. And sure, you now have the ability to counter dangerous abilities with a burst counter, but that also means enemies are more likely to use those dangerous abilities, like these ninjas that will always use a quick suicide attack once they start to get dangerously low on life, just like in Ninja Gaiden 2.
Back to Maeda, the first of two bosses I fought during my playtime of Nioh 2. My first attempt went pretty well with a summoned AI to assist me, but I made the decision right then and there to overcome him all by myself. While the Switchglaive that I had from the start of the demo felt sufficiently powerful enough to deal with all of the regular enemies leading up to Maeda, it felt as deadly as a feather against this quan dao-wielding monster. So my strategy, for the most part, revolved around staying aggressive and attempting to deplete his ki meter so I could land a powerful execution attack while he was stunned. The problem is, it’s very hard to remain aggressive when you also have to balance management of your own ki to ensure that you don’t leave yourself stunned and vulnerable.
After what felt like a hundred attempts, I finally managed to take him down after reaching deep into my bag of ninjutsu and onmyo magic and finding two things that seemed to work exceptionally well: Caltrops, which would briefly interrupt him whenever he came forward to attack; and a sloth talisman, which would temporarily slow him down to the point where I could maneuver to his back when he was in the windup for an attack.
Despite the mental stress that went with the thought of potentially not beating the demo due to this boss, I still loved the fight against Maeda Toshiie. Not only because of the mechanical aspect of it just being a really fast-paced fight with tough but fair timing windows, but because I was able to take a step back, look through my available abilities, and equip myself with tools that helped me alleviate the parts of the fight that were giving me trouble. It’s this level of flexibility in Nioh 2’s combat that is most exciting, and while Maeda Toshiie almost broke me, it only made my anticipation for Nioh 2’s release on March 13 all the stronger.
Mitchell Saltzman is an Editorial Producer at IGN and a lover of action games in all their forms.