How can I explain this game without mentioning Diablo, Final Fantasy, Zelda, or even Bayonetta? I can’t really, since this game takes the best parts of each and weaves them beautifully together. NIER, however, isn’t a game for everyone, but it is one for the fans who love a great story being told and a small world to explore. Reviewing an RPG is much different than that of any other genre, mainly because the sole purpose or bedrock is to tell a story. Does NIER accomplish that? Most certainly so!
When you start up the game and see the words “Square Enix,” you’re introduced to a bit of unusual vocabulary used in almost any RPG. Never before have I heard such words used, but this isn’t to say that I dislike the way the game starts, but the opposite. It gives you that first impression that you’re in for a something special, strange, and perhaps most magical. NIER starts you off in a world and scenario that resembles Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road,” in which a father and his daughter (though in The Road it was a son) survive in a post apocalyptic time. Ash and death surround our surviving duo, but we’re soon introduced to the enemy, call the Shades.
Labeling your foe, who can be both vast in number and size, a Shade isn’t that original, but the name itself has more meaning to it as you go along in the story. At first, they are small or midsized, either fighting bare handed or wielding a weapon. After time goes by in the game, they grow in number, size, and intellectually. What was once viewed as mindless monsters, they become more… “human.” No longer can you use the same tactics or spells, for they have an arsenal themselves, be it weaponry or magic. And by magic, I mean shooting red balls that you can destroy or block, which me reminds me of some shmups where you can do the same thing.
When it comes to using magic, you learn “words” and “verses” as you progress through the story or by defeating Shades. Words are much like augmentations in Diablo II, where you can insert gems into your weapons to deal magic damage or increase certain stats. But in NIER, you can use two words for any weapon, magic, or martial arts (that being blocking and evading). The more monsters you kill, the more words you will receive, but keep in mind that the words you get are random but will never get two of the same kind. Verses are the kinds of magic that you can use, but is very much limited in variety. The only two that I’ve found useful is the Dark Lance and Dark Whirlwind, mainly because the DL can deal massive damage in successions, while the DW can both protect you and harm nearby Shades. Although, the combinations are up to you, which is one of the many features that I love about this game.
Another great feature, which is both subtle and informational, is the loading screen. For the most part of the game, random pages from the daughter’s journal will be present for you to read. Why did this catch my eye? Because it keeps on changing with the story, and lets you in a bit closer in the story and characters. As I have mentioned before with saying that bits of various games are woven into this one, you get the sense that these characters have much more to them as you take up quests, be it involving them or not, because they will speak their mind on the quest at hand.
Speaking of characters, Kainè is perhaps the most interesting one of them all, because… Well, I’ll let you find THAT one out. Rest assured that it will be a most interesting experience and one for the books. Never in any RPG that I’ve played, have I come across a character like this, and that is saying something. As for Emil, you can only pity the poor fellow as time goes by. First a boy, and then something else. Weiss can be a bit annoying for a talking book, but his remarks towards Kainè and bosses are hilarious, all due to his arrogance. The main character, that being called “The Father,” but you can name him at the start of the game, reminds me of someone else…
It’s the voice and I can think of only one other person in another video game that has that same voice. Lu Bu, from the Dynasty Warriors series! That’s right folks, Mr. Jamieson Kent Price is voicing the protagonist in NIER, and oh how wonderful it is. I never thought that I would hear the VO for Lu Bu in a hero that must save the world and his daughter. Just having that alone makes this game worth the purchase!
The gameplay changes depending on the dungeons that you adventure through. For example, there are parts in the Barren Temple, be it puzzle or level design, that quickly remind you of almost any past 2 generations of a Zelda game. The developers even went as far as to include an easter egg when you complete the temple for the first time, so pay attention! Another example of changing the gameplay is when you go underground of a ruined mansion to find a secret lab (sound familiar?). Instead of a 3rd view, it becomes a bird’s eye view (i.e. Diablo, Fall Out), and this isn’t the only dungeon where this occurs. I’m glad to be playing a game where the level design and focus changes not too much to frustrate the player, but to help give them an overall view of what is going on around them.
The Final Fantasy thread is one that is recognizable in the most recent titles, and that is when you upgrade your weapons. In order to do so, you must collect these strange materials that you would never have thought of being used for forging your weapons. Also, you do level up and will notice a noticeable change in damage taken and received. The other thread that helps weave this game together, comes from Bayonetta surprisingly enough. This happens when you deal enough damage to a boss and a timer appears on a certain part of their body. Once you’ve dealt enough damage to that spot within the time limit, an in-game cut scene occurs that only in Bayonetta would you recognize. Not to spoil too much, but it’s fun to watch Weiss and the father team up during those scenes to take down a massive Shade. The only real issue I have with the weapons is that there are too many of them. I don’t mind variety, but the list is just too long for me to care. Yes, I do love the weapon design, but that doesn’t mean that I should try out each one.
The world that you will explore is rather small, but enriched with detail as you take on side quests, and doing that will either reward you with money or a new weapon. Money can be scarce, since the only two ways of getting it is by completing quests or selling your goods. Going back to the world and the very little that you will explore, I have to say that it’s a good enough size in which you will have very little trouble getting lost. There are two modes of transportation, but one is much more useful as you could harm enemies should you enrage it. The level of detail for the entire world and each of the dungeons do need a bit of a push towards looking as they should. A good example would be the Junk Heap, as the name implies machinery and the dungeon being a factory, it doesn’t have that run down, aged and ruined look to it. I understand that 1300 years into the future is a bit of a stretch, but please try to make it look like it.
The side quests can be a hassle sometimes and a bit repetitive, because some of them become more about fetching this and that when you know that the NPC giving you this quest could’ve done it themselves. Although, there are some quests that open up the world some more and a deeper understanding of how these people must survive. Things become much more dire as the story progresses and the world changes, so most of the quests themselves change to fit the flow of the story.
Now for the main course, and that would be the story! As you were told before about a deep story, it doesn’t involve just the main cast of characters, but eventually everyone in the world, including the Shades. Think of it like The Never Ending Story, where everyone is affected by The Nothing, but only a hero can save them. Not everything is what it seems, and that alone is what drives you to play further on to find out more. Even when you complete the game, you’d have to play it again on the New Game+ mode where more background story behind the enemies and characters are revealed. There’s so much to know about the world of NIER and I have to say that this should be in anyone’s gaming library if they love a great story being told.
For the final score, 8/10.