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Nier is a peculiar game that isn't shy to cull from any genre. I want games to engage my role-playing spirit regardless of their type, and found a kindred spirit in Nier's wide ranging styles. Unfortunately though, the lack of focus made it quite a struggle to maintain a strong connection to my character.
With just scant coverage of Nier within the press, you might be wondering what type of game you are dealing with here. This could well be something that also puzzled developer Cavia when they were putting Nier together, since it borrows elements of many different style of game. For those that like to file their games under genre it can best be described as an action RPG that borrows heavily from many other titles, most noticeably God of War.
The role you play and how it affects the story is what interests me and in that respect itís a strong start. Nier of the title refers to your character; an aging father come muscle-bound hero trying to save his daughter Yoni from a wasting illness of mysterious origin. Unlike most video game characters Nier isn't much to look at and with his grey locks he could easily pass for Conan on a pension. When he moves however, he has the grace of a man much younger. In fact, the energy of his movement is more reminiscent of a certain ash covered Greek anti-hero rather than the geriatric figure that stands before you. This was certainly a wakeup call for me as I expected a rather more sedate journey through my adventure.
A battle hardened warrior you may be, but to listen to Nier speak you are reminded that he's also a father and is willing to do anything to save his daughter. There's plenty here to help you empathise with the unlikely hero. You get the feeling that he is a man of high moral standing, just doing what he needs to do. Although his demeanour makes him difficult to love initially, after 30 hours of adventuring you really care about him and his supporting cast.
As any actor will tell you, you are only as good as your opposite player.
Dialogue is handled well with a script that is both witty and from moment to moment intelligent. Eventually it does collapse under its own weight though leaving you wondering exactly what's just happened, but this isn't disastrous for Nier, since it's a game that focuses more on the journey than the destination.
That journey will see you facing a number of interesting bosses, which encourage you to strive for the next encounter. Thankfully, Nier obtains a number of great magical powers, whilst obviously overpowered are great fun to use giving you the feeling of being a powerful warrior and are varied enough to allow you to adopt different strategies for different enemies. A chance to individualise your adventure is something that I really value within a game and I suspect that there are many ways to efficiently despatch each of the larger enemies.
As any actor will tell you, you are only as good as your opposite player. Nier does well here again with characters that are worthy of mention. They are both well voiced and interesting to listen to. Weiss, the floating book, is perhaps the star of the show, providing commentary throughout, adding sarcasm that at times pokes fun at the ridiculousness of the genre. At one point he even reaches through the fourth wall, commenting on the game's plot and contradicting the narrator. The other characters include a foul mouthed female warrior dressed in almost nothing, a boy named Emil with the power to turn foes to stone and your daughter who for the most part just coughs and acts helpless. All of them add up to an interesting cast that cements your role within the game world and help you to understand who you are.
The characters provide an entertaining canvas upon which you will experience a nonsense story.
If you enjoy the dressing-up and equipping aspect of role playing, Nier unfortunately provides relatively few options, negating any choice of armour or clothing and any complicated stat building. Your only real choices involve upgrades to your weapons and even here it's unnecessary to partake in order to succeed.
This simplification is counterbalanced by the many genres that Nier borrows from, not always completely successfully. Maybe it's because I'm willing to enjoy the role within its context though that that lets me revel in that variety rather than focus on any missteps.
At times though the meshing of game mechanics is too much even for the most ardent of players. Side quests are a particular sticking point. They are numerous, but almost always dull, adding nothing to your appreciation of the world you inhabit. Your only reward is often currency, which is almost superfluous since you can scavenge almost everything you need in a big nod to the Monster Hunter series. The discover animation looks like it was copied frame for frame.
Nier is a game that provides a curious hybrid of many games whilst removing many of the elements that typify the genre. The breadth of experiences counterbalance a potential lack of depth and the characters provide an entertaining canvas upon which you will experience a nonsense story.
I enjoyed the challenge to stick with my role in such diverse settings and genres.
The game certainly isn't great, but a game by Square that doesn't force you to play the part of a teenage boy suffering terrible dialogue is an interesting prospect. I enjoyed the challenge to stick with my role in such diverse settings and genres - but I admit that says more about me than about Nier. But if you're the type of person that is tickled when you see referential nods to other well loved games, then you should check out this quirk of Japanese development.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: