Nioh is an astonishing game with fast samurai action. Ninja tools, magic spells and a variety of weapons should have made for fun player versus player battles. Unfortunately, sloppy connections and overpowered builds drag down the experience.
A free addition to the game, Nioh‘s new PvP mode drops right as a new DLC, Dragon of the North offers players more bosses to slay and gear to grind. It seemed a natural fit. Nioh‘s focus on swift dodging and active stamina management seemed perfect for creating multiplayer mayhem and tense one on ones. But it completely falls apart in practise.
There’s very little that works well in PvP. You either fight in duels or in teams of two. Duels would have been excellent, but shoddy connection unhinges fights. Opponents suddenly leap around, your hits don’t land, and you’ll die before your health bar can even update. 2v2 does a little better. At its best, it turns into a calculated match of item use and target prioritisation. Who do you leap in and weaken with a quick spear attack? When do you use those debuff scrolls? These little moments point towards a much more cohesive experience that the game fails to provide.
Things are still normalising in the PvP mode and it is possible that stability will improve. Tougher to manage will be the various gimmick builds that favour stunlocks or one shot rifle attacks. Improved matchmaking could change the currently inscrutable process, which seems to match players with drastically different skill levels and gear. At the very least, I hope players will sort out a standard level for PvP much like Dark Souls 3‘s soul level 120 meta.
Nioh remains one of favourite games of the year. The pace of combat can sometimes surpass the Soulsborne games, and the world is imaginative and packed with great bosses. I just don’t see myself returning to the PvP any time soon.