2017’s Nioh was a far better game than most had thought it would be, especially given how much of a gap there was between its very first announcement and its final launch- but that wait definitely paid off, with one of the best action RPGs we’ve seen this decade. Its sequel, Nioh 2, is bigger and better (you can read our review through here) and it takes the ideas of its original, expands on them to great lengths, and absolutely runs with them. It’s been out in the hands of players for about two weeks now, but before it launched, we sent across some of our questions to its developers at Team Ninja. You can read our conversation with them below.
NOTE: This interview was conducted prior to the game’s launch.
“It was very important to balance the weight of the new systems – not too much nor too little. If new features are too dominant, then the value of elements which players enjoyed from the previous game would have diminished. Likewise, if new features are inconsequential, the game would not feel like a refreshing experience.”
What was behind the decision to have a custom player-made protagonist instead of a defined protagonist, like William in the first game?
We received numerous requests of “I want to experience Nioh with my own character” after the release of the previous game. We felt that gamers desired a top-notch system and we decided to take on this challenge from a very early phase.
This is because we received numerous feedbacks from customers,
The Yokai abilities are an interesting twist, but how much would you say they help differentiate Nioh 2’s combat from the first game in the grand scheme of things?
In the previous game, Ki was the core element in the combat system. Ki was required to perform all actions with the only exception being “living weapons.” Yokai Abilities is an expansion of that concept. With “living weapons” now replaced by “Yokai Shift,” Yokai Abilities serves as an alternative that can be casted very frequently, becoming an essential part of the combat system. It is particularly useful in tough spots like when players “just need a little more Ki to finish the job” or “must evade but ran out of Ki,” so we are confident that players will realize that they are given more options in facing various situations.
Nioh 2’s expanded progression and the Yokai abilities give the impression that player expression in build variety is going to be an important characteristic of the game. How much of a focus was it for you during development to expand upon that aspect over the first game?
It was very important to balance the weight of the new systems – not too much nor too little. You are right about player expression in build variety being a crucial aspect of the game. If new features are too dominant, then the value of elements which players enjoyed from the previous game would have diminished. Likewise, if new features are inconsequential, the game would not feel like a refreshing experience.
“The period in which the story takes place is the most interesting time of the Japanese history. Having such a background, we cannot ignore the actual historical events nor not take advantage of them.”
Difficulty and accessibility in games is something that’s become a pertinent topic over the last year, especially in games like Nioh that seem like they’re designed around challenging the player. What’s Nioh 2’s approach to difficulty in light of that?
Because Nioh is an action RPG franchise, our top priority was pursuing the response time of the actions. Next, to ensure the exhilaration from victories, we set out to find the perfect balance between game difficulty and options of various solutions for single play, including RPG elements that help strengthen the characters.
On top of that, if RPG elements are still not enough to overcome game difficulty, or one cannot invest too much time and effort into character development, there are online features that allow players to enlist help from others in order to progress in the game.
It seems like greater enemy variety is something that Nioh 2 is putting a great deal of emphasis on. How does that play into things like combat and progression?
As a game of battles, enemy variety is indispensable in delivering a rich gaming experience. Learning about your enemies is the biggest part of understanding the game. Once you know about an enemy inside and out, defeating it should become easier. And in an effort to keep the game engaging, we created a variety of maps and situations, as well as enemy combinations for players to take on. This is not only for keeping up the challenge, but also to ensure that the game is visually interesting, bringing depth to the world of Nioh.
Nioh’s focus on Japanese history was one of the most interesting things about its setting, but with Nioh 2, it looks like things are going to be a lot more fantastical- what sort of a balance does the game strike between those two aspects?
The period in which the story takes place is the most interesting time of the Japanese history. Having such a background, we cannot ignore the actual historical events nor not take advantage of them. That said, it was important to interpret the time from Nioh’s perspective with its own fantastical touch. The defining factor for that would be the setting of “two individuals, one Hideyoshi.” The identity of Hideyoshi that people are familiar with is only one of them, and the success of Hideyoshi was also built on our protagonist’s contribution, bringing about a fresh tale without conflicting with the well-known historical facts.
“Compared to the previous game, we worked closer with SIE to improve the quality of localization, not only in the form of more accurate text translation, but also in providing thorough explanation for things that are common sense in Japan but unknown to the Western audience.”
Team Ninja have said in the past that Nioh was primarily developed for Japanese audiences, and that its popularity and reception in the West came as a bit of a surprise. Did that bring about any change in the team’s mindset or approach to development for Nioh 2?
The answer is yes. Compared to the previous game, we worked closer with SIE to improve the quality of localization, not only in the form of more accurate text translation, but also in providing thorough explanation for things that are common sense in Japan but unknown to the Western audience. Moreover, we made sure that the character creation system is capable of customizing the race of the character.
How important was the pre-release beta period in terms of collecting feedback from players and making adjustments to the game based on that? Were there any elements in particular that were tweaked or changed significantly as a result of feedback?
For features implemented after the closed Alpha, it was imperative for us to receive players’ direct feedback so that we could determine their effectiveness as well as prioritizing them. The open Beta was especially invaluable for that reason, but also because it was the last chance for us to make major changes under the development schedule. We made two major adjustments based on the Beta results: we toned down the penalties of the “Dark Realm” for players but modified it so that players can gain an upper hand when fighting in specific ways; we also upgraded the tutorial where we added many new elements to the older, less-developed system from the previous title, turning it into a much more friendlier experience.
Will Nioh 2 feature PS4 Pro-specific enhancements? Is 4K/60 FPS on the cards?
The Action Mode on PS4 Pro offers an improved performance of 60 fps at 1080p. In Movie Mode, the frame rate is from 30 fps while supporting 4K. It is worth noting that the game offers high quality anti-aliasing even in a non-4K environment.
“For features implemented after the closed Alpha, it was imperative for us to receive players’ direct feedback so that we could determine their effectiveness as well as prioritizing them. The open Beta was especially invaluable for that reason, but also because it was the last chance for us to make major changes under the development schedule.”
How is the game running on the original PS4, in terms of frame rate and resolution?
In Action Mode that focuses on frame rate, one can expect a stable 60 fps from 720p and beyond, in the resolution focused Movie Mode, the resolution will be locked at 1080p with a floating frame rate starting from 30 fps.