I, personally, came into Nier with high expectations. The trailers were absolutely epic, and had me looking to sink lots of time into this somewhat overlooked release. With promises of 'beautiful immersive worlds' and 'diverse action-packed gameplay', it sounded exactly like what Square-Enix is known for. Though certainly unique title, Nier looked to offer a genre-melding adventure wrapped in a satisfying narrative, but in the long run ended up short of the mark.
Nier starts out on a strong note with an original, albeit confusing, story that mainly takes place 1300 years in the future summarized in some flashy cinematics. Fans of Square Enix games and JRPGs will find themselves at home as this game is a definite product of Japan. Characters, art direction, dialogue and the overall feel of the game have 'Japanese Developer' written all over it.
Nier will probably be put in the RPG/Hack ‘n’ Slash category but borrows from numerous other genres. The majority of the time is spent with third person fighting, but at any given time, you can find yourself in a side-scrolling platformer, or a top-down shooter. However, while the game takes some bits and pieces from classics like Final Fantasy and Zelda, Nier’s “Jack of all trades” label is accurately followed with “Master of none”.
While the gameplay doesn’t fall flat on its face, most of it leaves plenty to be desired. The third person combat becomes shallow after a short time with your standard assortment of dodge, attack and magic commands. The level and quest design quickly becomes repetitive and boring as much of your time on side (fetch) quests and the main story involves an absurd amount of backtracking through barren, lifeless maps. The graphics in Nier are fairly brutal, with environments that lack a sense of realism and believability and hordes upon hordes of enemies that are, for the most part, clouds of Post-It notes. This is one of those games that probably would’ve felt great a few years ago…but it simply doesn’t hold up now.
Nier doesn’t do everything poorly, however. First and foremost is the voice acting. Absolutely fantastic. This also helps push forward a unique, and fairly compelling story. The main cast of characters is quite diverse, from a sentient book with an accent and attitude, to a foul mouthed swordswoman who fights in her nighty, happens to be possessed, and has both sets of sexual genitalia. I said they were diverse right? Nier also includes a soundtrack that is quite soothing and epic at times, albeit repetitive. The grandeur of boss battles is quite awesome with an epic feel to most, and the variety of gameplay gives much needed breaks in the monotony of dungeon crawling and other game mechanics. But keep in mind, this doesn’t make up for the game’s non-stop hack-and-slash.
On the whole, Nier is a passable game with some high highs…which, unfortunately, pop up infrequently amidst the game’s low lows. I'm sure many RPG lovers will dive into the deep end on this game, but for the rest of us, our time could be much better spent playing something else. Many of the game mechanics seem quite outdated (God help the fishing mini-game) and the lack proper tutorials. I had moves in my arsenal that I didn't even know existed.
There are a lot of novel ideas in this game with the seamless blending of multiple genres, but just not enough time spent making them fun. It feels like if the game was a bit more polished, it could’ve been special. Instead, it just shows a lot of promise, but ends up spreading itself too thin.