Like many RPG fans, I had high hopes for Nier. The fact that it was put out by Square Enix, a company responsible for the Final Fantasy franchise and the Kingdom Hearts games, made it, for me, a definite must-have. The Square Enix name signifies high quality and an eye for detail. In Nier's case they have teamed up with Cavia (Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles) to develop the game. Two quality companies, for sure. But with Nier, they have missed the mark on many levels.
As usual, the character driven plot is more than intriguing. Nier is a father driven to find a cure for his daughter, Yonah, who has been infected with the Black Scrawl, a scourge that has swept the land and unleashed creatures called The Shade. These creatures come in various shapes and sizes and, like evil will-o-the-wisps, appear out of the blue. They are vicious, persistent adversaries; some more difficult to destroy than others.
Two additional characters round out the cast: Grimoire Weiss, a talking book that has the power to cure Yonah. Unfortunately, that cure has slipped its mind. Now it must tag along with Nier, supplying him with magic, so Nier will be able to battle The Shade and find the lost scripts he needs to jog Weiss’ memory. A brash young woman named Kaine joins the story about halfway in, her magic an important aid to Nier and his cause.
The gameplay isn’t bad, but it isn’t great either. Battling the smaller Shades is a simple matter of using the old hack and slash. Nier is able to dodge and roll and block with ease. But the more formidable foes require Weiss’ magic. The challenge is knowing which of Weiss’ offerings is the right one for the job. It took me three or four tries with the big bosses to get it right and continue with the game.
Unlike many modern RPGs, it is not possible to save your progress anywhere you please. You must seek out a mailbox, which is your save point. Getting killed when you are almost to the end of a level, only to be thrown back to the level’s beginning, is frustrating and lowered my enthusiasm for continuing.
Another problem with the game is its graphics, which are not up to the standards of a modern PS3 Square Enix game. Remember how those late generation PS2 games looked? The colors are washed out and many of the monsters are poorly rendered. I actually thought this was because of a defect in the game but found after an hour into it that this was not the case. The graphics are simply sub par.
On the plus side, the world is laid out well and surprises do abound along the way. Just make sure to always have an ample supply of healing medicine. If you get caught short, you’re going to have to go through the level all over again.
I do like the fact that if you tire of your main quest, many side quests are available. Just ask the residents of the village. Most of them have tasks for you. Your completion of the tasks don’t garner much in terms of rewards, but they are different and add a touch of variety to the game.
The voice acting is excellent and the banter between characters is amusing (and Grimoire Weiss sounds like Alan Rickman's Snape at his most irritated). The music is another strong point: haunting melodies that will stick in your head long after you’ve put the game away for another day.
For all its shortcomings, Nier is still a fun game to play if you are an RPG fan. The key is: don’t expect too much and you won’t be disappointed.
Nier is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood, Partial Nudity, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes and Violence. This game can also be found on: Xbox 360.