Nioh creative director Tom Lee from Team Ninja explains why the studio decided to restrict the Dark Souls-style samurai game’s co-op functionality at launch.

Since launching earlier this week, Nioh has earned high marks across the board, with many reviewers praising its deep combat system and Dark Souls-style gameplay. However, not everyone is happy with Nioh, with some fans voicing frustration about some last-minute changes Team Ninja has made to the game’s co-op functionality.

Unlike the pre-release demos, Nioh doesn’t support drop-in, drop-out co-op play. On the contrary, players can only start a co-op game if they’ve previously beaten the level in question, which means they have to go through a level on their own before they can start slaying yokai demons with a friend. Following complaints that some people bought the game with the idea that they would be able to play co-op with a friend from start to finish, Team Ninja has explained why it made the decision to restrict co-op play to people that have already completed the levels.

Speaking with KotakuNioh creative director Tom Lee explained that the restriction on Nioh‘s co-op functionality had to be implemented or else the game would have been too easy. Nioh is meant to be approached as an extremely challenging game, and co-op would make some of the tougher boss fights, like the battle with Hino-enma, for instance, much easier than the development team originally intended.

“You cannot co-op through the entire game because that would make it too easy for players to beat the game. We want players to experience Nioh in how it was intended to be. We allowed players to co-op anytime in the last trial demo only because of the limited stages and time to try out the demo.”

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Nioh‘s extreme challenge is one of the reasons why the game is earning so much praise, so from that standpoint, it seems as though Team Ninja has made the right decision. However, the fact that players could join friends in co-op whenever they wanted in the pre-release demos may have misled some consumers, so Team Ninja may want to consider bringing the feature back in a future update for the game.

In the meantime, it will be interesting to see how the popularity of Nioh‘s co-op feature informs future games from Team Ninja. The company is mainly known for its hardcore single-player action games, but with all this buzz around Nioh‘s co-op, it may be convinced to focus on co-op gameplay for some of its upcoming titles, like the probable next Ninja Gaiden game.

Even if the next Ninja Gaiden lacks co-op play, Team Ninja could always change Nioh‘s co-op to be in more line with fan expectations, or perhaps create DLC that is co-op focused from the get-go. There definitely seems to be a desire for a Dark Souls-style game with a bigger focus on co-op, so if Team Ninja doesn’t step up to the plate, perhaps another studio will.

Nioh is available now, exclusively for PlayStation 4.

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