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Nioh: Dragon of the North
Score: 85%
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.
Developer: Team Ninja
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/RPG/Online

Introduction:
Somewhere in the press materials I received for Nioh, the game was referred to as something like the height of Team Ninja's development ability. Having played almost all of Team Ninjaís body of work over the last couple of decades, Iím very familiar with the dizzying highs (Ninja Gaiden and to a lesser degree Ninja Gaiden II) and the painful lows (Metroid: Other M, Ninja Gaiden 3). Nioh absolutely belongs with the high points; itís simply an amazing action role-playing game. So when posed with the question "want more Nioh?," the answer is a reflexive "hell yes."

Ultimately, thatís all that Nioh: Dragon of the North is: more Nioh. Thatís by no means a bad thing, but depending on your experience with the core game, you may need to temper your expectations. While Dragon of the North certainly grows the experience in terms of content, it doesnít really do much for the philosophy of its design. If, however, you simply want more Nioh, this will absolutely fit the bill.


Stranger in a Stranger Land:
As much as I was surprised to find myself somewhat taken in by the cast of historically real characters and the historically false supernatural conflicts between them, Niohís gameplay is good enough to render any semblance of context generally unnecessary. That being said, itís nice that Dragon of the North gives it to you anyway. This comes with something of a cost, however; if you havenít finished the main game, this expansion will remain locked off until you do. Given the storyís historical trappings, this might be obvious to the hardcore, but for those who are only now just getting started with Nioh, it would be best if you held off on reading this review until youíve completed the game. Itís about to get spoilery, so avert your eyes if you must.

Nioh: Dragon of the North picks up after the events of the core game. William Adams has reclaimed his guardian spirit Saoirse and put an end to Edward Kelley Ė at the height of his power, no less. The Sengoku Period is drawing to a close, and Japan is beginning to unify under the shogunate established by Tokugawa Ieyasu. And with the most immediate threat on Williamís life (Hattori Hanzo) snuffed out, a return to Japan is the first line item on the itinerary. Unfortunately, the political and the supernatural are about to come to yet another bloody crossroads, as Masamune Date (the One-Eyed Dragon himself) is staging a rebellion against the new shogunate. His ambitions involve Amrita and, of course, those damned Yokai.


Places to Go, Demons to Slay:
Your satisfaction with Nioh: Dragon of the North is directly proportionate to what you expect of it. As publishers try time and again to sell the lowest amount of content for the highest price, Team Ninjaís approach is the classic standard. Thereís some good stuff here, but some players may feel like itís spread far, far too thin. If youíre a keen observer and possessive of incredible reflexes, you shouldnít have any trouble getting through it. That being said, you wouldnít have gotten to this content if that statement did not apply to you.

Its first impression is a good one; Adams is immediately transplanted to the chilly snowscapes of the Tohoku region. At first glance, it feels like a totally different kind of place than veterans of the core game will be used to seeing, but it still very much feels like it exists in the same world.

As you progress, completing questlines, vanquishing boss monsters, acquiring loot, and generally honing Adamsí skills as the ultimate samurai badass, you might be forgiven for thinking that the action in Dragon of the North isÖ samey. Long story short, this downloadable content is short on surprises. There arenít any real departures from what Nioh is best known for: fast, unforgiving combat encounters with soldiers and monsters. But thankfully, enemy designs and combat encounters are kept varied enough to the point where youíll never confuse it with a "musou" game. And hey, thereís a new weapon to obliterate your foes with, so thereís that, as well.


Value:
At $9.99, Nioh: Dragon of the North is reasonably priced on its own; the new experiences and new content on hand are about what we should expect from an expansion bearing this particular price tag. However, it bears mentioning that this is the first of three planned expansions. A Season Pass is currently being offered for $24.99. At this point in the cycle, investing is a gamble, but given the upcoming summer software drought and the uncertain state of the fall and holiday lineups, it might be a good idea to pull the trigger now, depending, of course, on how you feel about Nioh as a whole.

I canít recommend buying Dragon of the North if you havenít yet finished the core game. How could I? Itís a direct continuation of the main game, and you canít access it until youíve completed it. Given Niohís incredible level of difficulty, this may ultimately hinder Dragon of the Northís success, but ultimately, itís a good show of faith and confidence on the part of Team Ninja. They know theyíve got a quality product and they know their audience. I canít wait to see whatís next.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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