“Pull your head out of your goddamn ass and START F***ING HELPING US!!”
These words, yelled by the semi-naked hermaphrodite Kainé to a witty floating book named Grimoire Weiss, pretty much set the tone for the game ahead; but we start the journey with an opening scene set in a grim, snowy world. Here we have a mystery hooded male battling an unyielding wave of shadowy type monsters in order to protect his sick daughter, who we learn is called Yonah. This early start just feels like most other hack and slash games that you’ve probably played but then we jump 1,312 years into the future and we see the same man, albeit a lot older, tending to the still poorly Yonah in a sleepy and very generic village in the middle of nowhere. The focus of the storyline is the protagonist’s journey through the world, meeting several colourful characters on the way, in order to find a cure for his daughter’s illness, called the ‘Black Scrawl’.
It doesn’t really play like an RPG; to me it felt more like an adventure game. We start off with you trying to protect your daughter from these monsters Shades, there’s one or two cut scenes but the beginning is pretty much hack and slash- spam X, roll, run round, spam X, for about 10 minutes until you come across the first boss which is easily defeated. After another cut scene the game then starts proper.
Your village naturally acts as a hub, with open fields directly outside the village gates, and strange exotic places spread far and wide. Cavia have done a very good job in giving the world a sense of vastness, and when you’re wandering through the plains hunting mutton you really do get the impression of being a small part in a big universe and this really helps to immerse you even further into the game.
I also want to take the time to mention one certain quest I had to undertake where I had to go fishing for a certain type of fish. Here’s a little tip: stand exactly where the map tells you to, otherwise you will face god knows how much time p***ing into the wind trying to catch one tiny goddamn fish.
Other than the swear inducing fishing quest, the game play is very enjoyable. It can sometimes get a bit samey with a lot of back and forth, and there are quite a few side quests to get your gold fund up. Then you get to the first boss. You will be glad to know that through the course of the game the bosses get decidedly odder, ranging from the quirky to the downright mental. One feature that I like is the trophy room where you can see statuettes of all your defeated bosses. The first main boss is two armoured skulls on legs surrounded by loads of mini Shades. This is also where we get reacquainted with our sidekick Weiss, whose magical abilities help you to win the first boss battle.
After a while we have our first encounter with the aforementioned Kainé, who is an even more mysterious being than our hero of the piece. She is a very insecure character with her own personal vendetta, but later she decides to team up with Nier, following him on his travels in the hope that he can cure her of the Black Scrawl too.
NIER features quite a few puzzle elements (i.e. moving crates and dodging balls of magic), as well as hack and slash and dialogue driven sections. I was half expecting to have a boar or mount race, Mario Kart fashion (I may, there’s still time). With all the borrowing from other games and genres I was half expecting the game play to feel tacked to together, but surprisingly the different styles of play complement each other really well, and while it still feels kind of generic, the effort has been made to mix it up a bit.
For the most part though, you will be destroying Shades of all sizes as you travel between towns. Oh and a huge wild boar that is surprisingly difficult to slay. NIER is quite addictive though, even when it gets tedious you can’t help just pushing on to get on with the tasks at hand.
While NIER’s visuals won’t win any awards for originality, there is a certain solid feel about them. The use of camera angles is one thing that I really enjoyed, with the camera facing side on when you enter buildings in a decidedly old school move. On occasion you get a very Zelda styled top down look when fighting Shades inside buildings, which changes the style of play rather dramatically to a more 2D feel.
First thing I want to highlight with the audio is the language. Yes it’s rather…. colourful, but NIER doesn’t go overboard and swear in every other sentence like some other games. Although whenever Kainé opens her mouth you can pretty much guarantee that she will make your grandma blush. What amuses me is the ongoing dialogue in the background between Weiss and Kainé who cannot stand each other and constantly make snide remarks.
The soundtrack that plays gently during the background has been scored really well, with a very mythical, enchanting feel that instantly drums up memories of times gone. The music changes when you get into different areas, getting ‘mechanical’ when you enter industrial areas, and soothing melodies when roaming the open plains. The score plays its part creating the mood very well.
I found this game to be very enjoyable; if a bit slow to get into to start off. Once you get past the initial back and forth between villages to set the scene the action soon starts to pick up and you’re propelled to faraway lands in order to track down the cure. NIER kept me hooked even when people were pestering me to join them in other games, I was just drawn in to the world that Cavia have spent a lot of time making unique and (somewhat) believable. I don’t quite think it’s worth the full £39.99 R.R.P, but for five or ten pounds under that you will get a great game for your money, and one that promises to give you a great pound per hour investment.