Nier feels a little neglected in terms of Square Enix’s promotional activity. That’s expected from a game that is releasing after their triple-A line-up for the first half of the year, with games like Final Fantasy XIII, Just Cause 2 and Supreme Commander taking the lead – but with those out we got to spend a little bit of time with Nier before Square Enix launch the game early last week.
First up, a little history. Nier is developed by Cavia, a Japanese developer that’s worked on a bunch of Resident Evil spinoffs as well as the PS2 Drakengard titles and Bullet Witch on the Xbox 360. It's been conceptually envisioned as one of the first Japanese-developed games from Square Enix that has actively been aimed first at a Western audience.
To that end there are actually two versions of the game – Nier Gestalt and Nier Replicant. Nier Replicant is exclusive to the PS3 in Japan, and features a more effeminate, traditional lead for a Japanese RPG, while Nier Gestalt is the main version of the game and the one launching in the West, featuring an older, gruffer lead character.
We went hands on with Nier Gestalt, which tells the story of the titular warrior Nier in a quest to save his daughter from a terrible disease that is slowly but surely killing her and turning her into a monster.
We’re promised that the game’s narrative aims to be effecting and will go some way to make you really want to save Nier’s daughter, though we really didn’t get enough time with the game right away to pass judgement on that.
The monsters that the plague creates are known as shades, and they’re the main enemies throughout the game. Nier had access to a pretty badass sword to take down the shades initially, but as the game progresses he can gain access multiple other types of weapons and upgrades.
In addition to the sword Nier can also take on the shades with a selection of magic, as you’d expect in any decent RPG. The magic can set enemies on fire, bash and slash at enemies just as quickly as the sword can, and of course there’s a level of skill in choosing what attacks to use on what enemies.
There’s a decent amount of variety especially as you unlock more spells and weapons but the combat in Nier doesn’t seem any more interesting or in-depth than the combat in any other third-person hack-and-slash RPG on the market.
The most interesting twist in Nier’s relatively standard combat comes in the form of the Word Edit system which allows you to augment your abilities with extra powers. As enemies are downed on the field they’ll periodically drop words which can then be collected. Words can then be equipped to weapons and skills to change how they perform in battle.
The Word Edit system is interesting and does add a bit of flavour to an otherwise bland and generic battle system, and hopefully there are enough words in the final release to ensure there’s enough variety to spice this battle system up, as it certainly needs a little something to keep it interesting.
Right now combat in Nier has a tendency to feel a little mindless, but the Word Edit system has the potential in introduce interesting tactical options into battle.
As well as pretty average-looking battle mechanics, Nier seems to be pretty simplistic graphically. What we saw was a bit hit and miss - sometimes looking quite pretty but overall lacking in the detail we’ve come to expect from Square Enix’s titles.
Structurally Nier is meant to resemble The Legend of Zelda or THQ’s recent title Darksiders, we’re told, so the simplistic combat and mediocre graphics could well end up not being a big deal if the game packs in awesome boss battles and puzzles like Darksiders and Zelda do – but only time will tell.
Nier is set to arrive in every territory later this month, and we’ve just received our final copy of the game to review on the day of publishing this article, so stay tuned to RPG Site for our full review!