Graphics:
5.8
Gameplay:
8.3
Sound:
8.9
Control:
7.6
Replay Value:
8.5
Overall Rating:
8.0
Online Gameplay:
Not Rated
Publisher:
Square-Enix
Developer:
Cavia Inc.
Number Of Players:
1
Genre:
Action/RPG
Release Date:
April 27, 2010


Perhaps Nier is the epitome of “greater than the sum of its parts.” Perhaps it strikes a chord with me, simply because I’ve been looking for a role-playing game that feels familiar; that I recognize and enjoy. Perhaps the genre-blending going on in this game is oddly fascinating. Or maybe, just maybe, I should admit that my expectations were way off base, as they were with inFamous . Granted, the latter turned out to be a better overall game with better production values and a higher level of professional polish, but Nier still falls into the “pleasantly surprised” category. That being said, I can’t in good conscience give the game a very high score, primarily because as a critic, I’m simply not allowed to ignore the drawbacks and shortcomings. I am, however, allowed to let my enjoyment of the experience influence the score just a tad; let’s consider it “reviewer tilt.” We all have our own personal preferences and I can see how this title might receive a 6 from somewhere. But for me…well, you’ll see.

We start with what is arguably the biggest crutch for Nier . The graphics are just plain mediocre from front to back; in fact, one might almost confuse it for a late-gen PS2 title rather than a PS3 production released in 2010. The lack of detail unfortunately combines with a flatness, drabness, and an overall unappealing palette of boring colors and hues. On the good side, some of the boss designs are decent and the basic construction of the world is great; the towns are distinct and fun to explore, the world map can be large and inviting, and the atmosphere of a post-apocalyptic world where only nature and a few hardy humans survive is consistent and fitting. I can only imagine what the world might have looked like with the vibrant brushstrokes we’ve seen in games with accomplished visuals. Thankfully, Nier survives on its charm, despite the obvious lack of refined graphics.

In stark contrast, most all aspects of the sound are great. The first example we have is Kaine’s profanity-laced tirade directed towards Weiss; it happens when the game first starts up and one just has to wince. It serves no purpose other than to vainly say, “see, it’s mature! See? See ?” But after that, everything gets much, much better. The voice acting is really quite excellent – with an exception or two – as Nier’s deep, somber intonation is perfect for his character, and Weiss has a dry wit that is really refreshing. Yonah, Nier’s daughter, is perfectly voiced; she sounds every bit like a sick, dying girl and there’s nothing forced about her lines. The soundtrack is also very good, especially if you’re a fan of verbal hymn-like pieces when exploring; the music in general fits beautifully. The sound effects can be a bit on the dull side (much like the graphics), but special abilities and magic can resound nicely in your ears. In the end, hearing people talk is usually a pleasure and the tracks are original and prettily arranged.

It’s difficult to describe the gameplay because while the included elements are familiar, you’ve probably never seen them come together in this manner. Firstly, it’s a third-person action game where you simply maneuver about in real-time during battle, dodging, mashing Square to attack, or tossing out a variety of Dark magic attacks. Secondly, this standard view can actually switch to a top-down view (reminiscent of Gauntlet ) when in the cramped rooms of a dungeon. Thirdly, when entering certain rooms or buildings in the world, you’ll move to something that is more 2D; remember how Valkyrie Profile 2 was set up? Kinda like that. Then there’s the traditional party and gaining experience for levels, and the mostly 3D adventuring that makes it feel a lot like Zelda . Now, you would think that a game like this would be a bizarre hodgepodge of the aforementioned elements but to their credit, Cavia blends them together very well and you sort of only notice them in passing.

The story centers on Nier, a dedicated father who is on a quest to cure his daughter, Yonah, of the Black Scrawl. It’s one of those nasty, incurable diseases that is somehow connected to the evil sweeping the land, an evil that is also responsible for the Shade invasion. Shades appear to be shadowy, wispy forms that seem to barely hold their structure, but can be quite vicious and aggressive. They come in various shapes and sizes and although they’re clearly a huge threat, Nier is more intent on saving Yonah at the start of the story. He also meets up with an eclectic cast of characters, including the bold and brash Kaine and the talking book known as Grimoire Weiss. He has it within him to heal Yonah but he has forgotten much of what made him the savior of the world at one point, so he must tag along while Nier helps to unlock the lost scripts. Weiss is a genuinely humorous companion and as noted above, the banter with Nier is actually a nice little highlight. The story is decent – not great – but it’s more about the gameplay, anyway.

Now, the control is definitely a little iffy. Nier’s movements are extra fast and a little uncoordinated, and this herky-jerky movement is on full display when you partake of the small amount of platforming in the game. For instance, the double-jump is all kinds of screwy and unreliable and for some reason; Nier climbs ladders like he’s half-dead. But here’s the really weird part: it doesn’t seem to hinder the combat too much. During battle, you can control the camera (and set the speed of said camera, if you wish), block, roll-dodge (ala God of War ), hack away with your weapon, and cast two pre-set spells with the R1 and L1 buttons respectively. And despite those control issues, everything seems to gel when fighting. You never feel unfairly compromised by any control imbalance or unresponsiveness, the camera usually keeps up, and I suppose my only complaint is that the perspective is a bit too close. It should’ve been set further back for a better overview of the field.

But besides that, the fighting is really fun. The rest of the game is set up exactly like an old-school albeit open-ended RPG. The towns are large and nicely portrayed, the landscape is a bit bland but still sweeping and atmospheric, and it won’t take long before you’re given the freedom to go just about wherever you wish. Heck, it even has a dose of the MMORPG, in that you can wander far and wide early, meeting up with foes that you have no chance of vanquishing at the time. Then there are the missions. You can accept missions from people in the towns and for micromanagement buffs who tend to enjoy such things – even if they’re menial fetch-and-deliver tasks – this can get crazy addictive. The only problem is that too many of these missions really are silly and they only involve retrieving items and ingredients; you only rarely have a specific combat mark to take down. They also have nothing to do with the story, but on the plus side, you don’t need to do them. If you want to ignore the missions and simply push through with the main story, go for it. The game isn’t hard enough to halt you in your tracks.

Besides, sticking to missions for too long really causes you to lose track of the story and slows the pacing down to a crawl. If you’re an old-school RPG fan, though, you might not mind it… As a unique twist to the game, in addition to purchasing and upgrading items and weapons, there’s a very cool “Word Edit” upgrade function. Some enemies drop words or pieces of words that can be attached to your weapon, magic, or martial arts. For instance, a mini-word like “Bes” might add +2% to physical strength, or “Ashura” might add +4% to Item Drop. The best part is that you can equip any owned word on anything you’ve got; in other words, “Bes” could be equipped on everything from your weapon to your spells, and it will have different effects depending on the attachment. Casting magic in battle is as simple as pressing the R1 or L1 button (you can assign spells to each) and typically, holding the button down will allow it to be far more powerful. In fact, if you hold down the button with one of your first spells, it actually slows time down while you aim, and it flies through enemies to hit other enemies lurking behind. Awesome.

The bottom line is that Nier surprised the hell out of me. I always attempt to go into every review with a clean slate, but everything I saw up until playing didn’t instill me with a whole lot of confidence, and I’m really on this kick where I don’t like the new direction of RPGs this generation. But I’ve found something that reminds me of the old days with a definite twist, and despite the seriously lacking graphics and that odd, herky-jerky control, I love playing it. Things like fishing and having your own garden normally doesn’t do it for me, but it all sort of fits with the entire presentation. I really can’t ignore what’s wrong with the game – it’s painfully obvious – but even so, time slips away when I play, and that normally doesn’t happen unless I’m playing a game that is vastly superior in terms of technical elements. I guess that proves just how badly I’ve wanted something like Nier . I can overlook the bad and just have a blast. If they ever do a sequel, Cavia could really do something special.

I’ll leave it at this- if you’re not really into RPGs, you won’t be impressed. However, if you are like me (a role-playing veteran), and you’ve agreed with things I’ve said in the past about the genre this generation, get it. I can almost promise you won’t regret it.

P.S. The reason it gets a 8.5 in the Replay Value is because there are actually four endings, each of which sheds a bit more light on the entire story.  It just seems silly that one would have to play through the game four times to see it all.

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OtisFeelgood
OtisFeelgood
11 years ago

This game has been getting low scores on Metacritic, I'm iffy about it. o_0

SayWord
SayWord
11 years ago

I am about 10 hours into it myself and right off the bat I fell in love with it. The combat feels so smooth and engaging. Oh my god the music to me is amazing! I love the vocals they used. Its really easy to get attached to the characters, which is one of the main reasons I love japanese role playing games. Graphics are meh, but everything else overshadows it. I look forward to platinuming this game!

Alienange
Alienange
11 years ago

There's fishing and gardening in it?? I kinda wish you'd have elaborated a bit on that. How the heck does that fit into the game? Well regardless, you make this game sound very interesting. Thanks for the "role-playing veteran's" perspective.

SayWord
SayWord
11 years ago

The fishing and gardening are kind of like mini games in a sense. You know how square enix are with those. Its also ways to get items you might need or sell. There are two trophies for catching all fish and planting some sort of special flower.

Alienange
Alienange
11 years ago

I'll admit it. I like Harvest Moon. I don't know what the hell I'm doing in those games, but I like the idea. Thanks for the info.

SayWord
SayWord
11 years ago

The fishing takes some patience, not as fun as yakuza 3 fishing lol. The planting you gotta like plant seeds in different order based on their colours. Havnt put much time in them yet lol.

Anonymous
Anonymous
11 years ago

I'll look into getting this during the summer. I still have too much of a backlog on the PS3 and Wii. I need a few more reviews, too, but Ben's review is top-notch as always.

Bugzbunny109
Bugzbunny109
11 years ago

Square-Enix has lost their mojo.

LimitedVertigo
LimitedVertigo
11 years ago

Been looking forward to this review. Thanks for letting me know about the upgrade/weapons system. I'm adding this to my Gamefly list and I'll most likely end up keeping it.

SayWord
SayWord
11 years ago

To me its kinda of making progress for me to forgive SE if they continue to push games like this that feel so classiic.

SayWord
SayWord
11 years ago

Hah stupid weed and spelling mistakes:(

piratedrunk
piratedrunk
11 years ago

Thanks for the review I will probably keep an eye out for sales on this one later.

kraygen
kraygen
11 years ago

@ Ben
Honestly your review surprises and confuses me.

You seem to not really care for some of the combat controls and in turn gave it a lower control score, but gave the game a good gameplay score.

Every video I have seen has made combat look like a simple hack n' slash, yet you said it reminds you of old school rpgs. Are you referring to games like baldur's gate? Curious because you often say how much you like turn-based rpgs.

Another question, is this one that you have not yet completed? Wondering because I'd like to know how many hours it might take the average person to beat it. Also because I was wondering about the missions. You said they mostly involve retrieving items, so wondered if they got repetitive.

I usually feel very confident with my decisions after reading your reviews, but this one seems to have left me with more questions. Altho it's making me wonder whether I should try it or not, before reading this I had no plans to, but now I'm not sure.

Any help would be appreciated, thanks.

SayWord
SayWord
11 years ago

I do not find it repetative at all. The combat is really simple yet really fun and smooth. I recommend it forsure especially if you love classic rpgs. It might not be turn basd but you will understand when you play it.

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
11 years ago

Well, I said very specifically that the controls don't affect the combat. It's right there in the text… It is hard to explain, though.

As for the missions, I suppose they can get repetitive but like I said, it all depends on if you like that sort of thing.

As for the old-school, it's more in the setup and structure than the combat. It feels a lot like your standard RPG with towns and a map and stuff like that, and there's the regular leveling up and options to grind, etc. The combat might remind you more of Zelda or something. It's hacking and slashing, yes, but you actually use your magic just as much, if not more so.

All I can say is that it's fun IF you like these kinds of games.

kraygen
kraygen
11 years ago

alright, well that does help actually. It being structured like an rpg is important to me, as opposed to all the hack 'n slash games that have been coming out claiming to be rpgs just because you can level up.

Which from the video's is what it looked like, good to know there is more to it than that.

just2skillf00l
just2skillf00l
11 years ago

Great review Ben.

Although I've been waiting for a great turn-based JRPG this gen on the PS3, maybe Nier might help to fill a hole I've been so desperate to close.

My experience with great PS1 titles like Azure Dreams, Eternal Eyes, and Final Fantasy Tactics (just to name a few), really have me aching for a title that invokes thoughtful and strategic approaches to enemy battles instead of the whole hack-n-slash gameplay approach.

I don't know if I'll end up getting Nier but I know it's definitely a possibility that I'll look into it when we have a gaming dry-spell.

maxpontiac
maxpontiac
11 years ago

Ouch at that graphic score. Are they really that bad?

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
11 years ago

Yes. And it should say something that I still want to play it.

maxpontiac
maxpontiac
11 years ago

Actually it does. I am looking for a new RPG, and I was keeping my eye on this one.

Thanks for the review.

MysteriousMagus
MysteriousMagus
11 years ago

I wonder if Replicant which is PS3 exclusive has better graphics since this version of Nier we got is a port of the XBOX only Gestalt…
Anybody knows if Replicant will include english subs in the Japan or Asia Release?

Anyways I heard this game is supposed to be the spiritual successor to Drakengard… and damn I loved that game…
I Might get it later when the price drops or if Replicant has Eng subs.

Orvisman
Orvisman
11 years ago

I was just going to right that. According to Cavia, Nier and Drakengard share the same world.

LunarJ
LunarJ
11 years ago

I still have both Drakengards that I play regularly on my PS3 and I have got to say, Nier is most definitely made by the same people. The weapon leveling and fighting remind me so much of Drakengard. The eerily soothing music is done in the same vein as well.

Scarecrow
Scarecrow
11 years ago

Fair review all around

MIGHT get it, but probably when it's way cheap

___________
___________
11 years ago

Nier is a perfect example of less is more.
better to be the jack of no trade master of one, jack of many trades masters none.
in other words, a game that does one thing well and many things decent is better than a game that does no things decent and one thing well.

the combat and storyline are by far heads and shoulders the best part of the game, and are better than many games out there.
and they alone are what saves this game.
most games these days get so heffed up on graphics and realism that they forget about the gameplay and the most important thing.
FUN!
if a game is not fun, than no matter how good the graphics, storyline, gameplay, and such, no matter how good they are the game ultimately blows!

a game that is FUN and has terrible graphics and such, is much better than a game that has stellar graphics and is boring as bat sh*t!

nier i guess is best compared to just cause 2.
yes the graphics are crap, yes the controls are annoying, yes the missions are repetitive, yes the level structure is a mess.
but as long as the games fun THATS ALL THAT MATTERS!!!!!!!!!
that, and that alone is why nier and just cause 2 are brilliant games!
its been a very long time since i have put 30+ hours into a game and not get bored of it.
GOW3 could not do it.
uncharted could not do it.
uncharted 2 could not do it.
killzone 2 HA! that could not even last 10 hours!
hell even MGS4 could not do it!
but nier and just cause 2 had absolutely no problems what so ever!
im not even done with either of them yet!

Scarecrow
Scarecrow
11 years ago

I think YOU have seriously come to a point where you just don't like/enjoy games anymore

Nothing personal meant by that. Just my opinion based on your comments (could be wrong)

MysteriousMagus
MysteriousMagus
11 years ago

lol…
I been playing Uncharted and 2 for more than 30 hours it, that is counting all the modes i finished, from easy to crushing which i am still halfway through in 1. same with too.
I don't usually play games to the point i want to throw the controller away but those 2 are just hat good. Then I still have to do the same with God Of War 3.
Nier seems to be good… so I reckon no matter how short a game is as long as the story and gameplay is fun while it last still enjoyable.

___________
___________
11 years ago

i have fun with plenty of games thank you.
assassins creed, assassins creed 2, heavy rain, infamous, R&C future tools of destruction, R&C future quest for booty, R&C future a crack in time, resistance, stardust HD, shadow complex, splinter cell conviction, gears of war 2, burnout paradise, just cause 2, prototype, mirrors edge, dead space just to name a few.

Oxvial
Oxvial
11 years ago

half of those games have mixed reviews so yeah is only your personal taste, good that Nier its good for you like your ballet lessons.

Atoris
Atoris
11 years ago

The soundtrack to Nier is something that i really liked about of the game.

JackC8
JackC8
11 years ago

I guess the fact that the graphics are on a PS2 level removes any concerns I might of had about us getting a bad xbox port lol. I dunno, last gen graphics and iffy controls…I think I'll just spend one-third as much money and get a really good PS2 RPG instead.

DeathOfChaos
DeathOfChaos
11 years ago

Try finding Sword of Etheria, that's a fun game.

DeathOfChaos
DeathOfChaos
11 years ago

I might try getting this game when the price drops down to about $30 or $40. If it's about the same quality as a PS2 game, I'm not gonna pay more than what a brand new PS2 game would cost. Sounds intriguing, I'm a littler curious to play it now.

Lotusflow3r
Lotusflow3r
11 years ago

Thanx, Ben for this and for elaborating on Kraygen's comment.

It seems it may very well appeal to me.

I'm quickly growing tired of this gen, there just isn't enough that tackles my imagination. I will see what Nier has to say.

I've gone back to PS1 for my fixes….currently doing Alundra. Probably one of the best games on PS1 and one of the best games that nobody knows lol. Almost Sony's answer to Zelda.
With it's 2d graphics and my 100% enjoyment, graphics officially do not matter to me anymore so, maybe i will enjoy Nier even more than you!

I have 3d Dot Game Heroes in two weeks so, i will wait till that has died down before i get Nier.

🙂


Last edited by Lotusflow3r on 4/30/2010 8:31:04 AM

Orvisman
Orvisman
11 years ago

According to Cavia, Nier and Drakengard share the same world.

Mr Bitey
Mr Bitey
11 years ago

I've been playing Bayonetta recently for the first time. The game is amazing! I've been really impressed with it.

Neir has my attention, but does the combat stand up to games like Bayonetta, GoW, or Ninja Gaiden?

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
11 years ago

No, it's not about that. Totally different genres; this is an action/RPG, so you'd have to compare it to other games of that type. Thing is, there are so few these days…

Mr Bitey
Mr Bitey
11 years ago

So it's more like Star Ocean then?

I've been playing that also. 🙂

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
11 years ago

Yes, more like Star Ocean, only entirely real-time.

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
11 years ago

Hmmmm. A Hack 'n slash RPG. Or is it a third person action game with RPG trappings?

Either way, I like the fact that it points back to certain classic RPG features like towns and mini-games. But the poor graphics, the hack 'n slash controls and "desperate to prove it's mature" language are kinda turn offs. If there was a way to turn off the language I might be OK with playing it, and had SE seen fit to bring the more Japanese version here too, I might even have given it more consideration. But as it is, I still don't think this is one for me.

I do think that SE missed a trick by not bringing the other version of the game to Playstation 3 in the West. I wonder whether that version would get higher scores from reviewers? I guess we'll never know.

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
11 years ago

Bear in mind that in my sound rundown, I only singled out the opening tirade by Kaine and that after that, everything is much better. The voices are pleasant from start to finish, and some are even excellent. It's why the sound received the score it did.

As for "hack 'n slash," bear in mind that it's also an action/RPG. It really IS like a cross between Zelda and Summoner.

SayWord
SayWord
11 years ago

The ps3 version and xbox version are exactly the same with the exception of the look of the main character. We did not just get an xbox port since the japanese ps3 version is pretty much the same.

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
11 years ago

Hmmm…..well, after I finish Star Ocean 4, give up trying to bind every item in WKC and finish Heavy Rain, perhaps I'll give this one a go, unless Mod Nation racers catches my eye of course.

NeoHumpty
NeoHumpty
11 years ago

Wow. I was going to ignore this game. I'll wait until the price goes down, though. Already set to buy Red Dead Redemption and Modnation Racers soon. Can't afford every game, I guess. Plus I'm still playing catch up on several games. Thanks for the heads-up. You're love of old school RPG's is what makes this my favorite site.

Imagi
Imagi
11 years ago

Graphics don't make the game, but it goes a long way in helping sales and making money.

Nynja
Nynja
11 years ago

Thanks for the well written review. After reading this, I feel a bit better about my compulsive purchase.

coverton341
coverton341
11 years ago

"I’ll leave it at this- if you’re not really into RPGs, you won’t be impressed. However, if you are like me (a role-playing veteran), and you’ve agreed with things I’ve said in the past about the genre this generation, get it. I can almost promise you won’t regret it."

This paragraph right here is the only reason I am willing to give this game a shot. Mostly because I am 90% of the time aligned with your perspective Ben.

Off topic, will you be doing a review of 3D Dot Heroes? I know the game is a bit of a ways off and I don't really expect a review up before it comes out, just wondering really if we can expect one.


Last edited by coverton341 on 4/30/2010 3:28:25 PM

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
11 years ago

I will definitely try to do one.

Shams
Shams
11 years ago

Great review as usual, Mr. Dutka. Quick question. Which would you recommend: this or Demon Soul's? I'm not an RPG vet, but I dig awesomeness wherever it's found.

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
11 years ago

Er…well, Demon's Souls is the better game but it's also extremely challenging, even for RPG vets.

Actually, Nier might be good for you…it's an action/RPG, so it may feel more familiar.

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