Review: Nier

Greg Tito | 11 May 2010 11:15
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I've been playing Nier for a week or so and logged over 20 hours in the game. Through all of that time, I never once was fully engaged in the game. Nier is not one of those games where you look at the clock and wonder where 12 hours went. I was hungry playing Nier, not only for food, but for some meaty sustenance to feed my gaming soul. That's not to say that it's a bad game. It isn't. It is just ... average.

As a third person action RPG, developed by Cavia and published by Square-Enix, it delivers on all of the right levels. You gain levels, collect items, and get more abilities as you progress. The scenery is generally pretty, the character design is top-notch and it uses disease, corruption, and disfiguration as recurrent themes. The game is set 1300 years after the world was destroyed by some sort of apocalypse; I love games that use the end of the world. Despite the fact that all of the elements are there, Nier just doesn't do enough to set it apart as a "great" game.

The one part of the game that might push through the average barrier into greatness is the cinematics and the voice-acting. The language and content of Nier is what some would refer to as "mature." It's not sexy, other than the weirdly provocative costumes, but it can be creepy. Not scary, just ... off.

The main character, supposedly named Nier, is an older man. In a nice departure, Nier is father to Yonah, who is infected with a disease called the Black Scrawl. It's nice to see the drama of a game be emotionally tied to fatherhood and caring for your daughter. Their scenes verge on saccharine without ever going full-tilt Lifetime Channel.

Early on, you meet a sentient book, Grimoire Weiss, and he is kind of a snobbish jerk. He's lost his memory, but remembers enough to saucily task you with collecting Dark Verses, ostensibly to stop the aptly named Grimoire Noir. (Get it? Black Book and White Book? Genius!)

The scantily-clad half-breed woman named Kaine is abrasive and drops F-bombs all over the place. Her spats with Grimoire Weiss are pretty funny; it's not often that you hear a woman say, "Fuck you, book," even in a videogame. Kaine's vitriolic monologue plays when you boot up Nier, which I think was intentional. Her attitude and choice of language feels like the developer's attempt to say, "Hey Americans, we can fucking swear too!"

That's the problem. While the story is interesting enough, it feels terribly calculated. It's sculpted by executives and focus-groups. Perhaps that's why another version was released in Japan, NieR RepliCant, wherein Nier is a lithe young dude caring for his sister, Yonah. The Western version is based on NieR Gestalt, the same game but with the older Nier, and I imagine that all of the mature language was written into the script to specifically appeal to us heathen Americans. The recent announcement to release the younger Nier to the Western market as DLC also feels like an attempt to cash in on assets that were cut out of the game.

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