The Dark Souls formula is tried and true. It’s been adapted into science fiction settings, placed into 2D, and refined time and time again. 2017’s Nioh is arguably the most successful spin on the genre, adding flashy combat and the turbulent politics of medieval Japan. Nioh 2 is an improvement on every front. There’s no other way of saying it: I’ve never played a game where fighting feels as good as this.
This piece was first published on March 11, 2020. We’re bumping it today for the game’s release.
From time to time, writers describe video game combat as a complicated dance. You press buttons in time with an understood rhythm, dodging and striking as if you were timing everything to music. The best combat is creative, with enough of an underlying “beat” that you never lose pace even as you discover plenty of options for improvising. I’ve reviewed Devil May Cry games. I’ve waded through countless “Souls-likes” and their quirks, including the percussive parrying of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. I wrote a book on Platinum Games’ action-wonder Metal Gear Rising Revengeance. Many of those games can feel like you’re dancing. Most have a sort of music that you perceive, a beat that you stick to in order to create bloody chaos.