Nioh 2’s first DLC, The Tengu’s Disciple, wasn’t radically different from the main game, but was a solid addition to it. The suite of new bosses, gear, and levels sat on top of the already-impressive line-up of bosses, gear, and levels; all glued together by an immensely satisfying combat system and memorable boss fights. Darkness in the Capital is the title’s second downloadable episode with all the same bullet points as the first one. And thankfully, it’s just as great because of how it capitalizes well on a fundamentally fantastic game.
New demonic places and faces
Darkness in the Capital picks up right after The Tengu’s Disciple both narratively and difficulty-wise. The Oboroguruma — the new demonic oxcart enemy that’s based on the mythical yokai of the same name — is visually unlike anything else in the game and forces you to adapt to its oddities. And you’ll mainly be doing that by dying as it can kill you quite quickly. Given its stark design and unusual attack patterns, the Oboroguruma is quite the addition to Nioh 2’s pantheon and the standout among the handful of new grunts.
The bosses are the big attraction and also do not disappoint, even if they aren’t as bizarre as a giant demon face inside of a cart. The first is a difficult duel and unique because her ability to utilize a whole swath of yokai powers, which isn’t the norm for other human enemies. This ups her threat level and brings something slightly new to the game.
The second boss wouldn’t feel out of place in a Ninja Gaiden game and isn’t unlike the Rasetsu boss from Ninja Gaiden 2. There’s even a trophy related to that boss that references Team Ninja’s dormant franchise, further strengthening those ties (which grow even stronger in one of the cheeky side missions). It isn’t the most sadistic fight in the DLC, but it’s still a worthy challenge because of its spider-like qualities that make for one big yet fast beast.
Darkness in the Capital’s final fight is where the expansion truly takes off the gloves and delivers one of the hardest fights in the entire game. Many of this entity’s attacks are lightning-fast and unblockable; a combo that initially feels a little cheap as it almost completely negates half of your defensive options.
But Nioh 2 is a flexible game that gives players the tools and means to find a better kit if they are willing to delve into their loadout and analyze how to improve. Through some tinkering, reflexes, and pattern recognition, the boss fight turns the impossible into something very possible and is a microcosm of why the game itself is so satisfying. It is unapologetically hard but it rewards adaptation and skill and gives the player the controls to conquer whatever nightmarish monstrosity stands in their way.
Darkness in the Capital even adds one more tool to your yokai-killing arsenal: Fists and their sharp variant, the aptly named Clawed Fists. At a base level, they’re like quick tonfas that come in pairs and utilize speed over absolute power. But they become so much more than that as the skill tree unfolds.
Fists have a slew of abilities that incentivize thoughtful play and strategic Ki management. One ability allows you to link multiple moves together if your timing is on point. Another turns your important Ki Pulse into an attack if you simultaneously push the stick forward, cleverly melding both defense and offense. While the other branches of the skill tree broaden your array of skills, these two moves fundamentally make Fists different and one of the most satisfying weapons in the game because of their depth. Most Wolverine-like gauntlet weapons in other games are inherently cool to wield but few are as deep as Nioh 2’s Fists and Clawed Fists or have the “Naruto Run” sprint animation.
The level design and story otherwise match the quality bar set by the core game. Its story is entirely forgettable and abrupt, even if it does have some vividly pretty animated cutscenes. Stages are full of secrets and loop back into themselves quite well, even containing a handful of lovely vistas mixed into its typical array of forests and temples.
Nioh 2 Darkness in the Capital DLC Review | The final verdict
Darkness in the Capital may seem like a typical expansion and it is in some sense, but that phrasing gives a short shift to how it builds on top of an excellent experience and remains a clawed fist that’s as sharp as it ever was. Its combat is fundamentally fantastic so adding new variables that maintain the same level of quality is only going to make that loop even more engaging. Darkness in the Capital’s array of bosses bring in another set of challenges and its new weapon encourages both thoughtful play and fast action. And in a game full of challenges and fast action, meaningfully building on top of that is still an accomplishment.
Game Revolution reviewed the Nioh 2 Darkness in the Capital DLC on PS4. Code provided by the publisher.