It’s no secret that Japanese role-playing games have taken a severe dive in quality over the last few years. NIER published by Square Enix and developed by Cavia is an attempt to bring classic role-playing games back in the market and with a vengeance. Does NIER succeed? Or fall flat in its attempt to create a classic experience?
NIER starts off in a barren, snowy metropolis; a father and his daughter are struggling to find enough food to survive. To make matters worse, his daughter is gravely ill and they are in a constant battle for their lives against swarms of enemies. After a series of unfortunate events the player is transported 1,312 years into future. The setting has drastically changed, however the same problems still remain. Yonah, is still very ill, stricken by a disease known as the Black Scrawl and it’s your job to find a cure.
The story in NIER for the most part is told well. The story to save Yonah is by no means original; however it’s well presented despite the low production values. Cavia has done a good job of making the main story compelling, constantly reminding you of your daughter. There are plenty of heartfelt moments, rarely seen in role-playing games today, and this is only reinforced by one of the best musical scores of the year. NIER also features a good cast of characters, all of which are voiced well. Grimoire Weiss voiced by Liam O’Brien is easily the best performance, featuring witty, blunt, and downright hilarious one-liners.
Despite how traditional the story and setting is, the game-play is anything but that. Most of the time you’re battling enemies in a conventional third person view. This can change however, forcing the players into either a top down, or side perspective. This is a breath of fresh air into an otherwise stale use of camera. The combat system generally gets the job done, but it’s certainly not groundbreaking, and needed much more work. There are several issues regarding the combat system, most notably some poor hit detection, targeting issues with spells, bad enemy A.I, and random spikes in difficultly. This seemed more of an intention, seeing as the developers included dialogue making fun of the difficulty. While Grimoire Weiss provides an extra layer to the story, he also functions as an important part of the game-play, giving the player an arsenal of spells. While the combat itself can’t match up with Bayonetta or God of War, the addition of magic helps prevent the combat from becoming mundane.
From a presentation standpoint NIER suffers huge setbacks. The graphics are terrible with little to no redeeming factors. The first 15 minutes demonstrates how poor the graphical quality is with extremely poor textures, lighting and choppy character models. On the bright side, NIER features one of the best musical scores in recent memory. The music fits perfectly into the tone of the game, and while it repeats itself in some situations, it still manages to stay fresh throughout the course of the game. The world itself is a mixed bag. Towns are fairly detailed, but with a lack of visual fidelity become nothing more than a side note.
NIER understands what’s important in a role-playing game. Despite its issues, it’s a charming game with a lot to offer. When you think about quitting, NIER will hook you, refusing to let go. It’s a game that demands your attention and if you can deal with its major lack of polish, will give you an enchanting adventure. If you can look past NIER’s issues and crave a clever RPG, I suggest you give it a try.