Nier looks promising but ain't worth the full purchase.
What would you do to save the daughter you love? This is the theme to Nier, an action RPG developed by Cavia Inc, the makers of Bullet Witch and Drakengard and published by Square-Enix. Cavia has not had the best track record in the past but will this game change all that for them?
Nier tells the story of Nier (although you can name the character something else), a gruff looking man who is the father of Yonah. There is a problem with Yonah in that she has a disease known as the Black Scrawl and Nier is trying to find a cure for this disease. He finds out that collecting the so-called Sealed Verses might help him achieve that task and by navigating through an old temple, he encounters Grimoire Weiss, a no-nonsense talking tome that also has another purpose within the game. Your character also meets Kainé, a woman who has seems to have a passion for obscenities since most of the stuff that comes out of her month is a swear word. This personality doesn’t really fit at all into this game and can became unlikable from the get-go due to her ‘couldn’t care less’ persona. With the exception of Grimoire Weiss and possibly Kainé, all the characters in the game are pretty much lifeless and therefore cannot relate to them or become attached to them in any way possible.
Like another game reviewed recently, the story in Nier is nothing special due to the fact that the first half of the game sees you going about this world collecting the sealed verses and nothing exciting comes out of it but a couple of decent boss battles, which will be discussed about later. When the you know what hits the fan in the game is when the story goes in some direction and becomes intriguing in a way but it definitely is not a fantastic story and you will soon forget about it not long after completing the game unless you plan to play through it multiple times to get the whole picture.
Nier is an action RPG hence all the combat occurs in real-time and to an extent, it is enjoyable to play but there have been better RPGs with better combat systems done in the past although some of the magic attacks in the game are quite pleasant to pull off and during the later half of the game, it is essential to use some of the superior magic against the gang of shades that surround you and fire their endless orbs at you.
As you begin the game, you are in this crumbled-down building with Yonah and all of a sudden you are attacked by the shades. This part of the game is essentially the tutorial and helps you pick up on how to do the different weapon and magic attacks nicely. Similar to other games, you have all the magic and equipment pretty much but then you start the game proper and you have only your sword to defend yourself with against the spooky shades. Early in the game, you meet Grimoire Weiss and he acts as your magic support since each of the various magic attacks you pick up throughout the game come from the tome itself. Every time you beat a boss in the game, you acquire a sealed verse and with it, a new magic attack. Some of them are really helpful like dark lance, which sees a lance or several if you charge it come out and shoot at the targeted enemy. Others like dark blast, which consists of little bullets orbs shooting at the enemy, seem like a waste. I mainly used two throughout the adventure and did just fine with them since the game is not really hard but at times, can get annoying due to stupid knockback attacks and the like.
In the game, your main weaponry at the beginning is a one-handed sword but once the 2 half is reached, you have the ability to use other weapons such as spears. Each weapon has an attack power, a magic power and a weight to it. Lighter weapons would be the ideal ones to use even though they do have weaker attack power compared to the heavier ones but you will be able to pull off faster combos. In other games of the genre, you usually insert runes or gems or some sort of object onto your weapons or magic to increase its power or whatnot. This game does that same thing but with words. Sometimes when a shade is defeated, you gain a word and it has its stats that can be anything ranging from increased attack power to extra EXP rate, as your character levels up whenever you get the EXP required. This system is used with both weapons and magic and you can use any combination as you please although there is a recommended option there also, which is ideal as well. The gameplay is not very complex but it is easy to get into and is fun for the most part during my time with it.
Like most RPGs, you have your standard shops such as items and blacksmith outside of getting a few healing items I did not really bother shopping much at them but you can pretty much find a lot of medicinal herbs throughout the land by killing enemies or finding a shining spot somewhere in the world. In order to purchase some of the costly items in the game, you would be best doing some of the side quests that offer money in return amongst other things since that is really the only option into getting a good amount of money.
Shades are the main enemy in the game and during your adventure; you will come across different variations of them although they all the same colour, which is yellow. If you’ve ever played Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, you will notice that the shadow beasts within that game are similar in looks to the shades. This is not the only thing that Nier takes out of the Legend of Zelda book since a couple of the bosses are reminiscent of bosses in the Zelda series, which can be a good or bad thing assuming whoever you are talking to. Personally, the boss battles were enjoyable but the main problem I had was several of them went on a little too long where it got to the point I just wanted to beat it and move onto the next part. The boss designs are interesting to look at despite the mediocre visuals.
Nier has its fair share of side quests but the core drawback into actually doing them is that they are pretty much the same. During the playthrough of the game, a number of side quests were done just to give you a better indication of what was included alongside the main quest line in Nier. But in reality, they are not really worth doing unless you are the completionist kind. Most of them are of the fetch-quest variety with one example being having to get ingredients for a woman in your village that sees you travel to this port town and get them then come back. Another thing that has to be mentioned is that the side quests are not available all the time and some go for good once you pass a certain point in the game. There is also some fishing to be done although the introduction to it was terribly done and took me a while to get the fish required and never bothered doing it again. A gardening activity can also be done in your adventure but cannot be talked about since it was never done during the playthrough.
The game is not really long considering it is a RPG but it can be done in around 10-15 hours if you do very little of the side quests. Add the side quests to that and you can easily spend about 20 hours or more, which is poor compared to most RPG standards but the different endings can add more time to that if you really want to.
Nier, as you can see has its fair share of problems and another one is in the graphics department. The visuals looks mundane and dull and doesn’t help especially when you are travelling through what seems like a deserted land most of the time since there are no characters to interact with outside the 3 towns in the game, which gives you an indication as to how small the world in Nier really is. The dungeons aren’t exciting to navigate through since they are linear for the most part although one of them is fun to do, as you have to go through a number of rooms hitting a glowing cube at the end but you have to adhere to the rule or rules of that room and it can be you can’t run or defend yourself etc. The maps for the most part are badly designed and look ugly and during dungeons, it might be hard a few times to figure out if you can go this way or not since it is not wisely displayed. One positive things that can be said has to do with the way the camera pans around whenever you enter some buildings or going through doors in said buildings and becomes a nice side-scroller view. The models themselves are not heavily detailed and it looks like something that could have possibly been done during the last generation of games. The game is not horrible looking in any way but with the power of this generation’s consoles, you expect Cavia to do a better job with the supplies.
While Nier doesn’t do justice in the visuals, it more than makes up for that with the splendid musical soundtrack in this game. The music is very memorable and is beautiful, enchanting and sometimes haunting at the same time. Melodic vocal arias during some of the more memorable themes add a fresh lease of life to the game and really fit the mood to what is occurring on the screen at the time. It is not necessarily a huge soundtrack but what is there is very memorable and can see myself listening to some of those beautiful tracks again in the future. The audio side is nothing to shout about as the voice-acting is so-so at best although I enjoyed Grimoire Weiss’s voice and felt it fitted the character very well. Your standard sword slashes and enemy screams are there but don’t bring any great deal of ambience to the table.
When it comes down to the swing of things, is Nier worth the full purchase? I have to say no but it is not a game that should be totally ignored since it has its moments in the story, gameplay and music departments respectively. Also, adding new endings and backgrounds to some characters the more times you play through the game can add a little replay value for those that enjoyed the experience the first time around. Nier is a game that looks promising on paper but doesn’t quite live up to that once you see its drawbacks.
Reviewer’s Note: This review is based solely on one playthrough of the game therefore some of the extra content during other playthroughs cannot be discussed in great detail.