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Nioh 2 - Matt Espineli's Most Anticipated Game Of 2020

I'm eager to see just how much Team Ninja has learned in Nioh 2.

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2020 is almost here, so we've asked GameSpot's staff to share which games they're looking forward to most in the new year. New consoles are going to dominate the headlines, but at the end of the day it's all about the games, and there are a ton of exciting ones to look forward to. When you're done reading this entry, follow along with all of our other end-of-the-year coverage collected in our Best of 2019 hub and our Most Anticipated of 2020 hub.

For years, Team Ninja's Nioh was one of my favorite action games set in ancient Japan. I particularly love that setting, so my passion for it came naturally. But then Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice happened, and all of a sudden, my appreciation for Team Ninja's interpretation of the Soulsborne genre dwindled. Like Nioh, Sekiro fulfilled my dream to see a grim wartorn Sengoku-era Japan in a video game, but it did so in ways that Nioh could only dream of--which is all the more shocking as it pulled this off using a fictional kingdom. Still, I find myself excited for Team Ninja's second shot at Nioh. The studio always had a knack for crafting challenging combat mechanics that allow you to express yourself through stylish combos--a quality I find appealing as a fan of character action games. It just may be the opportunity the series needs to further cement a place in the Soulsborne genre.

Nioh 2's combat looks to build upon the original in significant ways by expanding the abilities available. Set during the height of the Sengoku-era (Yes!), you play as a nameless mercenary you create yourself, who just so happens to be half-demon. This unique bloodline affords you a host of devastating supernatural powers, such as the ability to summon demons and even transform into one yourself for a limited time. At a glance, these additions don't sound like they'll reinvent the wheel, but I'm hoping the new abilities will enrich the combat with a deeper focus on experimentation. I loved Nioh's combat, but it grew easy to stick to a single loadout and strategy. More abilities and weapons could expand the tactics available and make combat that much more thrilling.

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If there's another aspect I hope is further developed, it's Nioh's sense of place. The original's world was a smattering of ravaged shrines and villages, which, while I appreciated, didn't offer much visually to make your journey through feudal Japan genuinely memorable. The army of demons you fought also lacked intrigue and were repetitive in design--something I found unacceptable when you consider all the mythological creatures available in Japanese culture. Based on trailers, Team Ninja seems to be addressing these issues in Nioh 2. There are more intriguing otherworldly locales; your character is capable of traversing the demonic realm this time. And it appears there's a larger cast of gruesome foes to slay, like a terrifying anthropomorphic horse creature and a fiery cat-lady demon with wagon wheels for legs.

The more I recall just how outstanding the original Nioh was at making me feel like a graceful master samurai who can slice a foe as quickly as sheath their blade, the more excited get about playing the sequel. After giving it some thought, I'm not looking for Nioh 2 to dethrone Sekiro in my love for all action games set in ancient Japan. I firmly believe they can both exist and be exceptional at different things.

Aside from the recent open beta, not much major news has circulated about Nioh 2. While those slivers of gameplay have given us some understanding of how it'll play, Team Ninja hasn't revealed many explicit details around its story. Hopefully, we're due for more information and another hands-on with Nioh 2 before it launches on March 13, 2020.

For a brief rundown on everything you need to know about Nioh 2, be on the lookout for our explainer highlighting all the essential details.

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Matt Espineli

Matt is a GameSpot Editor who, like a Dragon Quest Slime, strives to spread love and joy to the world.

Nioh 2

Nioh 2

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