There had been plenty of confusion since Nier was first announced, due to the different regions getting different versions of the game. However, Square Enix decided to end the confusion when they brought just one version over to the US. Developed by Cavia and published by Square Enix, the game looks to bring players into the fight against the “shades” in a God of War styled Action RPG. Are you ready for this fight against the darkness or is this game not worth it and should never have seen the light of day?
Nier introduces players to a world where human civilization is on the brink of destruction at the hands of enemies called “Shades” and a disease called the Black Scrawl. You start smack dab in the middle of this whole mess as the main character (who you may name to your liking) on his quest to cure his daughter of this disease. Of course the only way he knows how to cure it is by killing everything in sight, but I guess it wouldn’t be much of an action game if you just made peace with everyone. The story is slow and confusing as you start the game and really only picks up towards the last 3 or 4 hours, which is a shame because once it picks up, things get very interesting.
Almost 90 percent of the game will be consumed by accepting quests from townspeople, running around to complete them, and fighting off anything in your path. You can have multiple quests going at one time but make sure to complete them because they can become void after certain story events. The big problem here is that there is no tracking on your map to easily track your current quests and even when you have finished the quests, it is not always clear which NPC to return it to as there is not always a marking above their head indicating to turn your quest in to them.
Your character starts off with only the option of a one handed sword but later in the game you will unlock two handed swords, axes and lances. The combat in the game feels pretty fluid though with only one button to swing your blade of choice it can become a bit dull and you might find your square button fading on you. The game does feature a block and a roll button but both can actually be replaced by the magic of your choice. Speaking of that, magic is the big plus to the otherwise dull combat in the game with various different verses as they call it in the game to learn. These verses are a bit tough to get the hang of at first but once you do they will become your greatest weapon. The camera throughout the game and especially combat is overall bad even though you are able to freely adjust it. You won’t be alone in the combat as at times during the story you will have one or two companions with you. Look forward to the times when you’re alone because your “friends” in the game are a royal pain in the ass and I often tried to stab them in the back only to find out “friendly fire” was not an option. They will continually stand in your way when exploring areas and you have to physically push them out of the way, though luckily they stay out of your way during combat.
The HP and MP bars assigned to your character are very visible but I wish i could say the same about taking damage. At times I found myself not realizing I was taking damage until I was halfway down on life. This can probably be attributed to so much blood on the screen at once or the fact that if your hero is not thrown off his feet, he makes little movement when hit so the game doesn’t do a good job of conveying the fact he’s taking damage.. Health during your quest will be replenished through items but in a cool twist, mana will be gained by killing shades and absorbing their blood. The result of this is at times a screen full of blood whether its flying off enemies after a hit or swirling towards your character after victory. Boss fights are definitely the highlights of the game’s combat, as each boss is well thought out, requiring a fair amount of strategy. Although every boss battle basically unfolds the same way; deal enough damage and be prompted with a circle clock and a countdown. Do enough damage here before the time runs out to pull off a staged attack on the enemy or if time runs out before you can do enough damage, the boss refills some life and you start again. Through the trek inside some of the dungeons in the game you will be introduced to various puzzles that are neither hard nor enjoyable, falling on the dull side.
Upgrading your weapons and magic help you a lot during the game and Nier introduces a new way to do just this. “Words” can be collected in the game with each word giving a different stat bonuses or effect and these can then be assigned to a weapon or magic. Each sword or spell can be equipped with a primary and secondary word and each of these words can be used multiple times. For example I have all of my weapons with +Attack Power words assigned as their primary. Players will also find options to upgrade by more conventional methods of collecting materials and paying someone to upgrade the level of your weapon.
Outside of the combat and quests there is not too much else to do in the game. You can collect or buy seeds and plant them at your house, watching them grow into food that you can sell, or you can even buy lure and fish. Harvesting your crops brings some money in but won’t keep your interest that long and fishing is very lacking, though not as hard as some reviewer out there might make you think. Invisible walls will pop up while running through the world and come at the most annoying of times, like the mini-pyramid structures that can only be accessed from one side, even though every single wall is the same height.
Nier’s presentation leaves a lot to be desired at times as there really is not anything that stands out. The voice work for the majority is pretty bad aside from a certain book and the writing could really use a broader vocabulary as one such character can’t go 3 words without cussing. The environments are bland and boring. The character design is a bit better and the bosses all look pretty cool so that is a plus. Another annoying part to the presentation is the randomness of how the game switches from voice to text and back to voice. The communication and interaction between characters is funny at times but for the most part feels pretty flat. The game features one of the worst areas ever created with the Forest of Myth. Picture an area where in order to save the people from their dreams, you must read almost 50 pages of complete and utter nonsense (seriously, none of it made any sense) while not trying to fall into a dream yourself.
When it comes down to it, Nier is a decent game that has some very cool ideas behind it, but overall falls short of what it could have been. The unique word system to upgrade your weapons, fun magic spells and well designed bosses are overshadowed by the many glaring issues to be found in the game. A bit more time enhancing the overarm presentation, fixing issues and fine tuning pieces of the game and Nier could have really been something awesome. The game will take you about 15 hours to complete without doing side quests and has some replay value with a save game+ option. As it stands though, this is a game that swings and misses a few too many times and though it is hard to recommend paying $60 for, you wouldn’t be wrong at all in giving it a rent.
PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score
Combat Feels Dull Outside of Magic
Unique Upgrading System