Some time ago, Square-Enix would release one game every two years at max. Usually this was a new Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest, but also other top titles managed to shine with the company’s logo. These days it’s like Square-Enix has swapped the slower craftsmanship for super hi-tech machines as only this year already the Japanese company has released no less than seven games. The Japanese Yen bills are coming in nicely, but whether this quantitative approach is hurting the quality is not a question but a fact.
Those that think about Square-enix think of Final Fantasy but the Japanese in the land of the Rising Sun have learned that change of spice makes a good meal and come up with a new IP. Nier is a JRPG with hack&slash influences. The story is set in a future in which the human race is having a tough time due to a virus called Black Scrawl. Next to the virus which managed to decrease the population already quite a lot, the world is plagued also by dark mutated beings that go by the appropriate name of Shades. For Nier, the main character, things get serious when his daughter Yonah gets infected with the virus. It’s up to you to find a cure.
Throughout the game you get in contact with a magical and talking book, the so-called ‘Grimoire Weiss’ and through him (or it) you find out that the dark beings are orchestrated by a counterpart of the book, the ‘Grimoire Noir’. With the help of your encyclopaedia and some cool moves you need to tear the walking Wikipedia to pieces.
We’re used to interesting and deep stories from Square-Enix but strangely enough that’s not the case with Nier. Whether it’s due to the inspirationless and dead world or the open world structure remains a mystery to me, but the game certainly didn’t manage to take me by the throat.
Nier is a mix of two popular genres. On one side it’s a JRPG (what else did you expect from SE?) and on the other side the action is mostly based on hack&slash. The typical RPG elements like leveling, upgrading weapons and doing sidequests are all present. Next to that you can also do some fishing, grow crops or craft some animal skins. Maybe we can add a third influence to the game, Farmville?
The enemies are taken down by shaking combos from your sleeve and casting some magic spells from your book. Our hero has three different types of weapons; short swords, long swords and spears. They all have their pros and cons but don’t hesitate to choose the one that deals out the most damage. After all, we boys like big strong swords, don’t we? Sadly enough Nier’s combos are all but spectacular or adrenaline-pumping, an immediate disappointment.
Unfortunately Nier isn’t the best of two worlds but fish nor flesh. The RPG part is pretty limited and simple, while the hack&slash part clearly can’t match top titles like God of War III or Bayonetta. All in all it isn’t a disastrous game, but what do you do with this milkshake.
Gameplay-technical Nier barely manages to come through, but the graphics is where things go wrong. Most surroundings are uninspired and finished quite ugly. The color palette is very gruesome which makes it look like there’s a pile of dust on your screen. Even the cut-scenes look awful while these normally are seen as a signature of Square-Enix. You never get the feeling the devs have put time and effort in developing the environment or characters. Of course gameplay is more important than graphics, but that’s not really an argument here. To put some more oil on the fire, this game looks almost as good as God of War II… on the Playstation2!
‘Luckily’ the sound is of a decent level. The voice acting of most characters is pretty good and the dialogues between Weiss and Kaine are quite amusing. The soundtrack is a bit monotone at times but seeing the circumstances it can still be considered one of the better aspects of this game.
Nier is an average game that tried to unite RPG with hack&slash but sadly enough didn’t succeed in that. The story isn’t immersive enough and the gameplay just doesn’t work. Graphically the game looks dated with countless inspirationless surroundings. If you’re wondering whether Square-Enix will make a sequel: I wouldn’t bet my money on it.