Nier is a game with obvious, easily identifiable problems, but it is also a game that does other things well enough those negatives are forgivable. Sure, the endless backtracking and fetch quests will wear on you after a while, but probably not until you have seen two of the four endings and played for 20-25 hours. Nier is one of those games you know isn't all that good, but you keep playing anyway because it tells a great story and is easy, mindless fun. We liked it. Find out all of the details in our full review.
- Publisher: Square-Enix
- Developer: Cavia Inc.
- ESRB Rating: “M” for Mature
- Genre: Action Adventure RPG
- Pros: Dark storyline; Kaine and Emil are awesome; amazingly good music; main character moves crazy fast; fun boss battles
- Cons: Game world is tiny; tons of backtracking; fetch quests; ugly graphics, super ugly main character; text puzzle sections
To sum up the storyline in Nier, it is a game where horribly bad things happen to good people. The modern world fell into ruin, and hundreds of years later mankind scrapes a modest living by farming, hunting, fishing, and scavenging the remaining ruins of the species' former glory. The main character is known as Nier (though you are free to name him whatever you want), a Neanderthal-looking adventurer-for-hire who spends his days doing odd jobs for people while searching for a cure to a terrible disease that has affected his daughter. Lurking in the shadows of the world are a mysterious enemy known as shades, and as the shades become stronger mankind's chances for survival grow increasingly slim.
What makes Nier so interesting is that for pretty much every positive thing that you accomplish, something equally terrible happens right after. This story is dark. The characters that join Nier on his travels, Kaine and Emil, are also hiding deep dark secrets that come out through the course of the story and greatly effect things as well. Unimaginably awful things happen pretty regularly in Nier, which easily sets it apart from the happy "save the world and everything is magically better" tone that RPGs usually have.
The gameplay in Nier is a mix of genres. It is part combo-driven hack and slash, part adventure (like Zelda), and even has some nifty text adventure and 2D platforming thrown in for good measure. You can collect a number of weapons to use and can also upgrade them to make them more powerful. There are also a large number of magic spells you can choose from and use by assigning them to the triggers and bumper buttons. Combat is a pretty simple affair of button mashing out weapon combos and/or using magic when you need to.
There are also boss fights every now and again, and these are some of the best parts of the game. They are usually grand in scale and have multiple parts, and the best of them will definitely remind you of boss fights from recent 3D Legend of Zelda games.
In addition to fighting, you also spend a fair amount of time just exploring the game world and occasionally harvesting plants and rocks for items. You then use these items to upgrade weapons or give to NPCs in side quests. You can also plant a garden to raise crops in order to earn extra money. There is also a fishing minigame which is pretty awful (bad controls, bad design), but aside from having to do it once for one super easy storyline quest, it is completely optional. Another interesting note is that when you enter some areas the game switches to a 2D platformer camera angle, which is pretty cool. Not really necessary, but cool.
Unfortunately, there are quite a few problems in Nier. First, the game world is fairly tiny and there are only a handful of locations you can even go to. A couple towns, a few dungeon/temple things, and that is it. Everything is connected by a couple of hub locations. There is one big desert and one big field area, but they are pretty much just empty space. In short, the game world is bland and uninteresting. The second problem is that since the world is so tiny, you have to go to each location a million times to do any side quests. A third issue is that the game has a habit of sending you right back to somewhere you just got back from. Sometimes your next quest marker (marked on your map as a red X) is just there so you can talk to a character that tells you literally nothing ("Oh, I don't know anything, go ask someone else") or you'll travel to one side of the map to talk to someone just to have them tell you to travel to where you just were to collect something. And that is another problem, pretty much every mission in this game is a fetch quest. Playing through the same dungeon fifty times to collect items gets really, really boring after a while.
My final complaint is the use of text puzzles in the game. There are some long sections where you have to read a story and then answer questions about it and there is one section with logic questions you have to figure out. The first time, these are pretty cool. The second time, it'll drive you crazy.