Nioh is a really, really good game. I played it on PS4, so I’m fairly confident in saying that – as far as Dark Souls-esque games go – it’s probably the best that wasn’t made by From Software, and one of the few that evokes the Souls feel of gradual progression, exploration, creeping dread, and “how the hell am I meant to kill this”, only with slightly more action-y gameplay and its own little twists on combat, equipment, and levelling.
Nioh‘s PC version is, uh… rather more problematic.
Let’s go through this in the usual manner. I’m running on an i7-3820 with 16GB RAM and a GeForce GTX 1080 Ti. I can run pretty much anything. Remember this, because it’s going to matter a bit later.
I had a mild heart attack on noticing that Nioh required 75GB of hard drive space, but surprisingly, it’s incredibly well compressed. The download is a (relatively) mere 29GB, which is far more reasonable – and 75GB, while large, isn’t too bad for an edition that contains the game plus its three DLC expansions.
After that, we’re into the settings. Most of these are also available in game, but we’ll cover them in the launcher instead.
Screen Resolution: 3840×2160, 2560×1440, 2048×1152, 1920×1080, 1600×900, 1366×768, 1280×720
Rendering Resolution: High, Medium, Low
Shadows: High Quality, Medium Quality, Low Quality, Off
Frame Rate Cap: 60, 30
Display Mode: Windowed, Borderless, Fullscreen
Ambient Occlusion: On/Off
Camera Motion Blur: On/Off
Dynamic Reflections: On/Off
In game, you’ve got all of these except for Screen Resolution and Rendering Resolution. You do also have the presets, but I’m not sure if these only change the visible in-game options, or if they also fiddle with the rendering resolution and the like.
“Custom” aside, there are also four presets. Lowest quality puts everything at absolute minimum; Highest quality maxes everything out (except Camera Motion Blur, for some reason). Then there are “Actions” and “Cinematic”, which mimic the slightly odd PS4 options: “Actions” (which I’m assuming is meant to be “Action”) lowers the quality but sets the framerate to 60, while Cinematic raises the quality and sets the framerate to 30.
This being a Souls-like, save points (and having to quit out of the game to change rendering resolution) makes getting comparison screenshots a bit of a pain, so here’s a shot of a save point at the highest and lowest quality settings. As ever, you’ll want to click for bigger to really see the differences.
Inevitably, the biggest difference is Rendering Resolution. Presumably, setting this to Low renders the game in a lower resolution and then upscales it to whatever your display resolution is; likewise, setting it to High does the opposite. I’m not sure of the exact details of the rendering resolutions, but as the comparison makes plain, it’s pretty noticeable.
So yeah, not too bad, although not very many options. Aaand now we get into Koei Tecmo port territory.
Let’s start off with the controls: this is yet another game which believes that mouse and keyboard is a fad, and basically directly maps controller inputs to the keyboard. Only the keyboard. There is no mouse support at all. Here’s a screenshot from the PDF manual unintentionally explaining why you should never, ever touch the keyboard controls. Ever.
As far as I can tell, there’s also no way to redefine the keys. You can switch to various “types” of control, which changes which controller button does what, but I’m pretty certain these leave the keybinds where they are and just change what each keybind does.
Don’t worry, though. If that’s not enough to convince you not to play without a gamepad, there’s a fucking baffling bug which utterly kills the framerate if you don’t have a gamepad plugged in.
I started Nioh up without a gamepad plugged in, and suffered stuttering and freezing every second. I quit out, lowered the settings, restarted, and discovered that the framerate had actually dropped further. I quit out, set the framerate cap to 30FPS, and was still getting the stuttering, meaning that the framerate was now technically lower. Plug in a gamepad and start up the game? Silky smooth 60FPS.
I mean, I’d argue that you shouldn’t touch this game with a pole if you don’t have a gamepad, but apparently Koei Tecmo agree so much that the framerate makes it even more unplayable if you try. Also, Alt-F4 brings up an “are you sure you want to quit” text box, but it’s in Japanese. Which probably says something about the attention to detail paid here.
Odder still is that, while PS4 pads work fine all of the in-game prompts are for Xbox controllers. I wasn’t expecting any keyboard prompts because ha ha Koei Tecmo, but considering Nioh was originally a PS4 game, I figured there might be an option for PS4 button prompts. Apparently not.
Oh, and occasionally the launcher settings don’t actually save, or they do save but the game ignores them. It’s… odd.
These are just the issues I’ve encountered, for what it’s worth; a bit of internet browsing brings up yet more issues. There are those who have framerate issues regardless, and those who claim that having the shadows set above Medium basically destroys your framerate. So do a bit of browsing and hunt for more information, but buyer beware.
In short, Nioh is a hard console port, and not a very good one at that. The concessions to PC are a constant 60FPS (assuming you’re using a gamepad, because… reasons) and 4K resolutions, but other than that, you’re basically playing the console version.
Great game – really! – but Nioh-t a very good port. With a decent PC, a gamepad, and suitably low expectations for port quality, you’ll hopefully be able to enjoy this genuinely wonderful game. With a constant 60FPS and all three expansions included, this is also arguably the best version of the game, but only if you can put up with the many flaws and shortcomings of this port.