Nioh 2 The First Samurai DLC review for PS4.
Nioh 2 is undoubtedly one of the greatest Soulslikes and it has kept up that quality with its two add-ons, The Tengu’s Disciple and Darkness in the Capital. The First Samurai, ironically the final piece of DLC, has a lot riding on it as it has to live up to both expansions as well as the main game. The First Samurai slices those fears to ribbons as its not only the strongest of the three expansions, but contains some of the best content in the series.
A far cry from gray castles and boring forests
Aside from the signature weak and confusing story, The First Samurai stands more confidently above the other two episodes and main game in almost every other aspect. Level design has heartily improved as its few new stages stray quite far from the typical layouts seen in the series. While the vine-filled jungle temple and blood-soaked rural town that turns into a flowery oasis are striking for their unique designs, the final level is the standout as it expands upon the otherworldly areas from the core campaign’s last act.
The mesmerizing red sky, haunting caves, and bone-filled, graveyard-esque environment push the series in a direction it has only lightly flirted with to great effect. It’s the most appealing level in the entire series and shows how Team Ninja has significantly stepped it up since the samey environments from the original. The extra objectives, hidden areas, and clever, interlocking paths also make these stages more than just pretty backdrops, too.
A hard but satisfying kick in the pants
The new yokai are well-designed monstrosities that fit in well with the game’s already-inventive bestiary, including the old man child Konaki-Jiji that cries and screams as it swings its mighty axe (that looks suspiciously like a rattle). The other handful of new beasts are similarly well realized, but are more remarkable for their danger level. Itsumade, a bird-like monster with a reptilian tail, is an insidious beast that’s harder than some of the normal bosses and it just shows up like a regular, run-of-the-mill enemy. It’s devious.
Deviousness seems to define this expansion as it is not only some of the best content in Nioh 2, but also the hardest. Building from the main game and two episodes naturally means that The First Samurai’s difficulty curve is at its peak here as it continues rising unabated. Itsumade is only the tip of the iceberg as it’s just one of the mini-bosses ready to impale, burn, or freeze players to death.
The second campaign mission even contains four optional and unique mini-bosses that build off existing beasts and intelligently twist them into something fresh and more lethal. High-leveled foes, a suite of new yokai, and dastardly enemy combinations will put even the most skilled samurai on their toes. Conquering this additional layer of difficulty gives players a new mountain to climb and thus a new level of satisfaction to achieve; a process made possible by Nioh 2’s sublime controls.
The First Samurai is hard but the difficulty is geared in a way to give it long legs; fitting as this caps off the entire game. While it only has two main campaign levels, it is littered with many side missions that were clearly created with the endgame in mind. One such mission dumps hordes of bosses and grunts onto the player and only grants them a few short breaks between waves (and has checkpoints between each set of waves). It’s tough, but exhilarating and ultimately fair.
The dungeon-like Underworld and handful of additional difficulties are even more geared toward those who want to keep digging in Nioh 2’s wealth of systems. Structuring this last expansion around replayability and unlockable content is a smart route to take as it is a farewell with some undeniable staying power. Because of these resourceful additions, Nioh 2 is in a healthy spot where it can sustain itself for a long time.
Nioh 2 The First Samurai DLC Review | The final verdict
The First Samurai is a lovely, if bloody way to wrap up the Nioh 2 saga. From its vibrant levels to its imaginative yokai to its crushing difficulty, this DLC does almost everything base Nioh 2 did but better aside from the superfluous storytelling. Team Ninja may have been honing its craft to get to this level for the final expansion, but in doing so the developer has saved the best for last.
Nioh 2 The First Samurai DLC reviewed on PS4. Code provided by publisher.