Nioh

Game review by
David Wolinsky, Common Sense Media
Nioh Game Poster Image
Gory action-RPG set in feudal Japan tests, rewards players.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Although you're trying to assist an ailing country, your strategies mainly limited to killing everyone in sight; virtues of patience, persistence subverted by this. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Although there's nobility in camaraderie fostered between game's main characters, cartoonish presentation of big evil villain who can only be stopped by murdering his henchmen isn't something to aspire to, emulate.

Ease of Play

Game is dense, considerably deep. You won't be able to master complexities in a single sitting or even a single week. On top of that, it's very difficult.

Violence

Blood, gore abound. Enemies can be decapitated, have limbs amputated during combat with geysers of blood. 

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Nioh is an extremely challenging action/role-playing game. The game doesn't make exceptions for the complicated tactics required to succeed. This also is a very bloody and gory game, with geysers of blood and limbs being hacked off enemies in battle, and its graphic nature may shock some players.

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What's it about?

Set in the years before, during, and immediately after 1600, NIOH casts you in the role of William Adams, an English navigator who was one of the first of his nation to reach Japan and one of the very few Western samurai. You play as a fictionalized version of the real-world Adams -- who presumably never crossed blades with supernatural demons or paths with ninjas using kitty cats as clocks -- as he tries to help make peace in Japan during the nonfictional Sengoku period. The period was plagued by political intrigue, social upheaval, and near constant military conflict. As William, you try to restore order and along the way learn a whole lot of new moves -- and you learn why you have the gift to communicate with the spirit world.

Is it any good?

This violent action/adventure title is a challenge of a player's skill and an excellent gameplay experience for those willing to test themselves. People who have been frustrated by the rise of video games that are "too easy" will find plenty to like and appreciate in this game. But those also looking for a challenge will be frustrated by different aspects of the game -- all of which fall under the umbrella of the game's off-putting amount of depth. This can be read as a positive, a negative, or both, but with an arsenal of weapons to familiarize yourself with, tactics and techniques to discover and master, and helper characters who don't explain much, you're basically all on your own to test out whether you're as sure-footed as you think. Either way, you will die a lot. Your skills will be put to the test. You will screw up and have to start again. That's the only way you improve. And once you do, the game becomes a satisfying mix of earned successes and failures you know you rightfully earned. 

If you're up for that, the game is positively gorgeous (sunsets reflect off shimmering waves; trees sway in the breeze) and steadily rewarding in marathon sessions. The challenge should not be discounted, but this game should be understood for what it is: A rare game that grants you the freedom and trust to set about conquering the challenges ahead however you see fit. Yes, there are an intimidating amount of skill trees and character stats to tweak, and you won't understand any of it at first glance. (There's even complexity in the graphical options, because you can make things run faster or look better or strike a balance between the two.) But this game is intended to provide a challenge -- and one that you're expected to sink a considerable amount of time and effort into. As such, there's a lot to learn and a lot to be rewarded with. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in video games. Is the violence in this title acceptable because it's mainly against zombies, or is it taken too far because of the massive amount of blood spilled?

  • Talk about how works of fiction that reimagine real historic periods can yield insights into the world and culture of today. How can something like a violent video game about the 17th century give you something to think about in the 21st century?

  • Why are zombies so popular in our pop culture today? What do you think they represent in this game vs. zombies in other games or movies or on TV shows?

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