If you’re wondering whether or not Nioh will take it easy on you in the DLC, the answer is a stern ‘no’.

The Dragon of the North DLC, the first of three slated expansions for Nioh, dropped on 2nd May. Alongside that came a few updates dealing with balancing and bug fixes, as well as the long awaited PvP feature of the game. Recently, I finally got the chance to sink into this expansion and found it to be a challenging, albeit short, adventure. New enemies, weapon(s), guardian spirits and a handful of tough bosses await those willing to enter. Travel to the Tohoku region, and begin your quest to put a stop to Lord Date Masamune and once again bring peace to the land.

The new region, unfortunately, doesn’t really have a new, unique style to it. It might be hard to notice you’re in the DLC. Most of the time when you’re running around, you’ll hear the crunch of snow underneath you. The enemies you encounter are, for the most part, the same old usual suspects. The new faces are all some Yokai, two brand new types and one variant. The new encounters, while fresh at the beginning, become routine after a few fights. Learning the strategy for them is no different than in the base game. But don’t be fooled: the Tohoku region is not for the weak. The difficulty is intense, enemy health is immense, and the level requirements are upwards of 150. Make sure you’re equipped, otherwise you’ll get trampled pretty quickly.

The screenshot above gives a good look at two new pieces: the main Yokai addition, and the fantastic new Odachi weapon. The Odachi move set is great for crowd control and has enough power to deal with tough Yokai one-on-one. The giant butcher knife the Yokai is wielding there can also be found in a smaller, dual version for you to use, but it has the same skill tree and move set as the dual katana. I found myself using the Odachi quite frequently, mainly because I obviously wanted to get the most out of the expansion but also because it’s pretty damn good. All in all, the gameplay and the fighting are still incredibly good. If anything, Dragon of the North turns it up a notch.

While the average Nioh player won’t struggle too much getting through the levels, the bosses are a whole other beast. There are three main bosses in the DLC, and a fourth after defeating Date Masamune. They are all brutal, punishing fights. Each boss, from a centipede-like Yokai hybrid to the lightning-fast, ten move combo monster that is Date Masamune, will leave you in pieces. The ‘final’ boss, known simply as Maria, was one of my personal favourite fights of the game so far. You really need to be on your toes for every single one of these fights, because you will get punished for the slightest misstep, and it can feel a bit unfair at points. In this expansion, Nioh shows it can create epic boss fights with the best of them.

Totalling the main missions and sub missions, you have ten outings to take care of. The sub missions offer some great challenges, including the now infamous double boss fights. It cannot be avoided how quickly this DLC is over, but it’s hard not to love it. If the next two expansions are anything close to this, I’ll feel completely justified in spending the £20/$25 for the season pass. Not to mention, the added PvP is there to enjoy for all players, with or without the expansion. Nioh quickly cemented itself as something more than a mimic, and has garnered admiration and praise for all the right reasons. Taking down each mission, here and in the base game, feels like an accomplishment worth noting. The quest to down Lord Date Masamune is no easy feat, and it’s hard to forget when you finally do.

Any seasoned player can probably slice through this content in a day or so, but it’s content worth slicing I think. If you crave difficulty, a reason to get back into Nioh, or just loved the base game then you really can’t be disappointed here. However brief it may be, it adds enough to feel like something more than just an update. The boss fights are insane, the new enemy encounters are fun, the Odachi is a blast to use and PvP gives you even more to do. Counting the updates, alongside the DLC, it’s hard to find a reason for any fan of Nioh to say no to this expansion.