Life is crap, then you die.
Nier is an action RPG from Square Enix, somewhat of a sequel to Drakengard, which i havn't played. It's quite obvious what the gameplay is like, most of the time. Run around and slash dudes, use item to recover health if low, level up stuff like that. However, this is an RPG, from SE nonetheless, so the focus is on the storyline/plot/characters, and it is this that i will focus on.
Firstly though, i'll address the gameplay, then move on to the more important stuff. As an action RPG, you essentially can run, jump, attack, dodge, block, use spells. Much like every other action RPG out there. The main difference is in the spells, which you have to rely on quite a lot, and change the game quite a bit at times. There are also many parts where the gameplay style will change. Multiple parts of the game involve a dual joystick shooter esque style, where you avoid millions of 'bullets',usually in some weird pattern, which shooting back with your own magic, in an isometric kinda view. Then there's the sidescrolling, Metroid-like part. And also the mansion undeground, with the isometric view, feels kinda like the Ultimate Alliance games. Then there's the mansion itself, which is oldschool Resident evil fixed camera angles, complete with screens where you'll just constantly go back and forth cause of messed up controls. While these parts of the game are somewhat rare, they are a nice touch, however, controls become a bit problematic during them quite often. During normal gameplay combat, most enemies are quite weak and easy to kill, especially if you use your magic properly. Bosses and tougher enemies however, are significantly harder. Some sidequest enemies can kill you instantly if you're not paying attention. Some of the puzzle/dungeon stuff can be like this as well, with some being extremely easy and simple, while others are just insanely hard. There are many weapons you can find and use, and the ability to upgrade them as well. Also an 'enchant' system called word edit, where you can add abilities/effects to weapons, magic etc. Finding these words seems somewhat random though, as they just randomly pop up when you kill enemies. Overall, the gameplay is quite fun, but nothing spectacular, and it has its share of problems.
Onto the more important stuff then. A major theme of the game seems to revolve around the title of this review. From the start, you're thrown into this future earth, where humans have lost all technology and are living like medieval times again. Not only that, but the world is just full of horrible stuff happening, death, suffering, disease, everywhere. So what's the usual expectation? You save the world, and help people out, and everything goes well, right? Wrong. Almost everything that happens in this game ends in a depressing horrible way, usually with a death, or multiple deaths. Main storyline, sidequests, character backstories. All 4 endings. The strange thing is, even throughout this dark depressing story, the game manages to weave in lots of humour everywhere. The conversations characters have are often humourous, especially ones involving Weiss and Kaine. There are lots of parodies to other games in the story events as well, much like the gameplay. There are also lots of typical JRPG cliches. Emil, the whiny little kid character who doesn't want anyone to die. Town that speaks a weird language that nobody understands. Town where everybody's unfriendly and won't even talk to you. Fishing. At a certain point in the game the theme in the trailer starts to kick in. That theme being 'Nothing is as it seems' or something to that extent. Some people may get it earlier, others later, but you start to feel something is wrong with the world and what you're doing, start questioning the reality of it all. It all works quite well, up until it gets revealed, and, to me, was somewhat of a dissappointment and very anti-climatic.
The characters of the game are quite well done. Well, the 4/5 main ones anyway. There's the protagonist, a father who will do anything to save his daughter. The daughter, a sick little girl who loves her father, and just wants him to stay home, instead of worrying about her disease. Then there's the arrogant, talkative book, Grimoire Weiss. Not much gets explained about Weiss, but you do get a feel for his character and personality by the end of the game, and his comments are aways amusing. The next major character is probably the one you've all been looking forward to. Kaine, the hemaphrodite, as it would be, even though the game never explicitly states this, and the only time you'll even get a hint is on the second playthrough. She's extremely foulmouthed and irritable, but actually quite a nice person. This is shown quite a few times, but mostly with her interactions with the final party member. That member being Emil. Emil is the whiny little kid mentioned above. When you first meet him, he's essentially blind, as his eyes are cursed to turn anything he sees into stone. It's because of this 'curse' that seems to draw Kaine and him together, as they both have afflictions they can do nothing about. There's not much more i can say about the characters without giving away spoilers, and these are the only characters who get any real development. Actually, apart from these characters, i can only remember 3/4 other who even get a name.
The game has multiple endings, which you'll need to replay the game multiple times to get. However, it seems that they are all continuations of the same ending, showing different scenes. With the only difference being between C and D. There are 4 endings altogether. There is one thing special about the 4th ending though. Ending D, when acheived, will erase all your save files of Nier. It'll go through all your status/items/skills/abilities pages, and one by one, erase them, turning them into blank pages. Then going through the 3 save slots, and erasing them as well. Kinda freaky to watch. Of course, the game does warn you, and asks you about 5 times if you're absolutely sure you want to do this.
One of the most memorable things about Nier, is the music. The game is some of the most memorable and greatest music i've heard in a game. Most of it is in a made up language, and not understandable, but is extremely well done, especially fitting for the themes of the game. A lot of it is quite sad or mellow, and really serves to bring some emotion to events.
Overall, i quite enjoyed my time with Nier, some of the crazy things that happen, and homages to other games in its gameplay styles, were very interesting. The characters and story were well done, even if extremely depressing. If you want an open wordly type action RPG, somewhat like a Zelda game, but with more rpg elements, Nier is quite good. Just try not to let it get you too depressed or suicidal, the world isn't that bad yet, although it's kinda close.