Nioh takes the action of a Ninja Gaiden and the structure of a Dark Souls and marries them into something elegant, exceptional, and currently free for PC on the Epic Games Store.
Team Ninja’s action RPG had been easy to overlook when it first came out, for a number of reasons. There’s nothing obviously flashy about it for starters—at first glance it looks genetically grim and feudal. The combat can be brutal, requiring a lot of discipline and study of its various mechanics and idiosyncrasies. Plus it came out in February 2017, just a few weeks before Horizon Zero Dawn and just a month before The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the equivalent of being birthed into the void right on the edge of the gravity well between one blackhole orbiting an even bigger black hole.
Now you can right that cosmic imbalance thanks to the latest Epic Games Store freebie. Nioh: Complete Edition—which includes the Dragon of the North, Defiant Honor, and Bloodshed’s End DLCs, as well as some extra weapon and armor sets—is normally $50, but free to keep from now until September 16. Anyone checking it out now will also have the benefit of experiencing the PC port after years of updates, patches, and hotfixes.
Nioh follows the exploits of Irishman William Adams in 1600s Japan, fighting warring clans, colonial meddlers, and yōkai who thrive among the chaos. The game is slow to get off the ground and the story, full of political intrigue and dark fantasy, can be hard to follow, but Nioh’s world is much more interesting than it first appears and the combat is infectious.
In addition to having access to a bunch of different weapons that all fight differently, you also have different stances that let you leverage trade-offs to offense and defense depending on what type of foe you’re facing. While you have a stamina meter that caps the speed and fury of your attack, you can also utilize an ability called Ki pulses to attack and defend at just the right times, to restore some of your stamina. It’s this mechanic that makes Nioh a lot more fast-paced and a lot more like Bloodborne than the more plodding pace of the main Dark Souls series.
Correction, 3:05 p.m. ET, 9/10/21: A reference to FromSoftware has been updated to Team Ninja.