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How 'Nioh' Tells Stories Through the Deaths of Other Players

When you're surrounded by the failures of others, you can't help but pause and wonder.

There are dozens of little touches and design ideas that Nioh plucks from FromSoftware's Souls series, and in many cases, developer Team Ninja put their own spin on it. One of the most effective is bloody graves, the game's riff on bloodstains, which mark the spot another player died in. The Souls games are judicious about where those bloodstains show up—Nioh is not. Instead, the bloody graves become a blaring red siren that death is around the corner.


The actual mechanics differ, too. When you interact with a bloodstain, a spirit briefly appears to demonstrate how they died. (This reminds me when someone discovered that players had found a way to kill themselves in the starting area of Bloodborne, a spot that was meant to be completely safe, by stumbling upon errant bloodstains.) In Nioh, you're told how a player died, but when you interact with the bloody grave, they're revived and begin fighting you. If you're able to put them down, you have a chance at loot and special glory points to cash in.

During one of the game's early side missions, you're dropped into a small, contained arena without any indication of what you're supposed to do. There are no enemies, no paths forward. The game is silent. Other than several ominous piles of rocks, there's only one thing the player can see: endless bloody graves.

Clearly, a ton of people had died here. But to what? I started to look around.

Haaven. Level 32. Beaten to death by Dweller on 02/14/2017 at 12:12 p.m.
Wade__chen. Level 52. Cut down by Yoki on 02/14/2017 at 12:10 p.m.
savvy. Level 49. Beaten to death by One-Eyed Oni on 02/14/2017 at 12:11 p.m.

Images captured by Patrick Klepek.

These are just a few of the many blood graves I found littering the landscape, moments before enemies started rushing in, slowly massing in number and quickly gaining in size and strength. I was almost taken out by one enemy or another a handful of times—the bloody graves around me a constant reminder that I wouldn't be the first person to fail the mission—but thankfully, I make it out alive.

It's a small thing, but I appreciate how the bloody graves tell a subtle story. They serve as a warning sign for the player, a signal to exercise caution ahead, and a clever method for imbuing narrative into the experiences of players you'll never meet. Their deaths may have been singular experiences in their own playthrough, but in aggregate, they say something more about the space you're in.

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