Support Dom, click to buy via us...
Other GamePeople columnists have reviewed this from their perspective - huh?:
Soulful Gamer (PS3)
Returning Gamer (PS3)
Intimate Gamer (PS3)
Dressup Gamer (PS3)
Microcosm Gamer (PS3)
Tired Gamer (PS3)
Nier somehow turns its car crash of elements into a real page turner. What should by rights be utterly forgettable became a perpetual experience I was happy to keep with me.
I should hate Nier. I really should. It has holes all over the place. Game play holes, plot holes, voice acting holes, consistency holes. But for some reason, I can't put it down. It has its hooks in me even when I'm not playing it.
I get the impression that at the start of the project, the team behind Nier all sat in a room and wrote out their favourite elements in gaming -- they then made the decision that they would try to include all of them.
The premise of the game is that my character is a muscle bound sword for hire who is searching for a cure for his daughter who has 'The Black Scrawl'. He lives in a future Earth where technology and population have reverted to those used in a much earlier time with remnants of the old world littering the landscape. Great bridges, libraries and forgotten military research centres being some examples.
The action saw me swapping between open world 3D areas, side on platforming, top down action and even text based adventuring. For the most part it is a button-mashing, monster-bashing, levelling up game like Devil May Cry or God of War but it also has liberal sprinklings of magic, puzzles, fetch quests and even a little farming. All this is wrapped up in a heartfelt story behind my character's desperate search for a cure for his daughter. At this point, the designers had probably crossed everything off their lists and got on with their next project.
Nier started to reveal a beautiful, rewarding experience.
I hate the fact that my character is called Nier and yet I am asked to provide a name at the start! Nier is an odd name but if it's good enough as a title, why not leave it there? I hate the fact that it uses invisible walls to stop me doing things. If I want to try to walk off a cliff edge, let me die.
I hate the fact that if I miss a jump I'm transported back to try again but if I am knocked off of a platform by a boss it's game over. I hate the fact that despite my daughter having a deadly illness I am still happy to run around like a lackey delivering packages and collecting fish even after I've discovered a potential cure. It makes my blood pressure rise just thinking about it.
For me, Nier's biggest failing are the interactions with my daughter. They are so few and far between that it engendered no real emotional attachment to my only family in the game. As a new dad I'm ripe for the theme of fathers and daughters but Nier never came close to capitalising on such emotional freight.
Despite the fact that she was gravely ill, my contact was limited. I lost count of the number of times she pleaded for me not to hate her for being ill, some that as a father in real life I know I could never do.
And yet there is something within the mishmash of styles and the annoying loading screens that makes me want to find out what happens next. It's like a Dan Brown book. You know it will never win any literary awards, and you can hear the wind whistling through the plot holes when there is a low breeze, but you just have to turn the page.
Once I looked past the hodge podge of styles and the confusing game play, Nier started to reveal a beautiful, rewarding experience. The locations are small but nicely formed with warm rich colours. The soundtrack as you travel through the countryside is delightfully arranged and is imbued with foreboding and drama when the action kicks in.
If I am being honest, I don't think that I would want it any other way.
Very early on, my daughter decided to go searching for a magical flower that could heal her. In trying to find her, I encountered a magical book with its own personality and voice by the name of Grimoire Weiss. Weiss adds the right amount of humour to lift the mood while traipsing across landscapes devoid of much interest. He also provides a fascinating take on some of the game's other characters including the interestingly dressed female companion Kaine who seems to favour battling magical creatures in her underwear.
All of this wiped away the frustration of all those little niggles and allowed me to look at it as an adventure. An enjoyable, emotional, rush around and kill stuff adventure. Nier falls short of potential greatness due to a lack of direction but if I am being honest, I don't think that I would want it any other way.
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: