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Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4
Genre: Action
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Team Ninja
Release Date: Feb. 7, 2017


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PS4 Review - 'Nioh' Dragon of the North DLC

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on May 23, 2017 @ 2:30 a.m. PDT

Nioh is a dark, samurai-centric action RPG where players will traverse war-torn Japan as William, a blonde-haired swordsman whose background as a fierce warrior and seasoned knowledge of the blade allows him to survive in the demon-plagued land of the samurai.

Buy Nioh: Dragon of the North

Nioh: Dragon of the North is downloadable content that picks up at the end of the original game. Dragon of the North takes you to the new region of Oshu and pits William against the legendary Masamune Date in a quest to bring peace to Japan. This is a post-game expansion, so you shouldn't rush out and buy if you haven't finished Nioh yet. Beyond the story beats, the content is intended for an end-game character who is looking for challenges, not those who just want to experience new things.

The content in Dragon of the North is substantial. There are a couple of new story maps over three new story missions. The level design is robust, and the levels are linear and well-designed. The developers are very good at frontloading new content, so it doesn't take long before you run into yokai that weren't present in the base game. The pacing of the stages can be a little off, with save shrines peppered about somewhat randomly. There are some absurdly long stretches between, and others have a short jaunt between shrines.

The new stages are fun, and there's plenty of new stuff to encounter, which keeps the DLC feeling fresh. The levels felt like solid Nioh levels, and there were a good variety of encounters. It won't change the mind of anyone who felt that Nioh's level design was repetitive. This is not a game-changing expansion but more of the same content. There are about four new bosses, and each one is a delight to fight, but they don't offer much in the way of new or unexpected mechanics.

New to Dragon of the North is the odachi weapon type, effectively an oversized blade. It's more reminiscent of the spear than any of the existing swords. It's slow and unwieldy but gives you incredible reach and a ton of power. It's tough to get a feel for it, since this shows up after I've gotten used to my preferred weapon types, and it doesn't fill any niche as well as the others do. It seems to exist for those who want a midpoint between a spear and a katana, and although it feels like a good weapon, it's not one that will make people switch their weapons. Unlike a lot of content in Nioh's DLC, the odachi is available right away.

The changes in Dragon of the North are limited, but they're nice. You can now equip multiple guardian spirits, which allows for more flexible builds and increases the amount of equippable stats and items that you have to track. I like the feature, especially since there are new guardian spirits, and it provides a way to play around with them without giving up my favorites, but it doesn't change much. There are also new sub-quests and dojo missions, but perhaps the coolest addition is the ability to transmogrify your protagonist into female characters, a heavily requested feature in the original game that made its way into the DLC.

Nioh is known for being a difficult game, and Dragon of the North continues along that vein. It throws brutal enemies and mechanics at you that expect you to have finished the game and spent a fair bit of time with it afterward. If you're not already in the hundreds in your level with well-tailored gear, you'll probably feel unequipped. Even if you were equipped for it, the new enemies can be brutal, and the new bosses feel like a huge difficulty spike. Rarely do they feel unfair, but that doesn't change the fact that you might find yourself repeatedly ramming face-first into the challenge and having little luck, even if you're an experienced Nioh player.

Despite all the content, Dragon of the North is only the first of several expansions, and it feels rather thin. Once all of Nioh's DLC is out, it'll clearly be worth the cost, but unlike the Dark Souls DLC, which felt like stand-alone expansions, Dragon of the North isn't worth buying on its own.

Nioh: Dragon of the North is more of the same, but that is a good thing for such a well-made game. There's a new weapon type, new monsters, new stages, a new story, and some nice mechanical updates. None of them are game-changers, but they flesh out and improve the solid core game. For those who've already finished the game, a handful of requested features help add some zest to the proceedings. If you're desperate for more Nioh and have already finished the main story, then this DLC will scratch that itch quite nicely, but it isn't a must-have.

Score: 7.0/10

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