Review: Nier (2010) (Xbox 360 / PlayStation 3)

The following is a review of Nier (2010), available on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Yes, the main character is ugly, but the story is anything but

Nier, released in 2010, and developed by Cavia, gained mediocre reviews when it was released. The one thing I remember most about those reviews is the common statement that the main character in Nier was rather ugly.

Of course, he (named whatever you name him) is rather ugly. And as time goes by he doesn’t get much prettier. But Nier doesn’t tell just the story of this one man living his live. No, instead it tells the story of a man trying to save his daughter, and going to the greatest lengths to do so.

In 2003 the Cavia developed Drakengard was released, followed in 2005 by Drakengard 2. The game play style of Nier is similar to both of these, as you play a third-person behind action game, with RPG elements, including health and magic points. You can either attack, use some type of (attack) magic, defend, jump, or roll, as well as use items.

Your weapons, starting with one-handed swords and growing to include both two-handed swords and spears, can also be upgraded, assuming you can find the necessary materials to do so.

To progress the story you speak with the various inhabitants of the world, going from place to place, fighting enemies between villages, and doing quests (the majority being optional) for various characters.

One other common complaint is the amount of backtracking required in this game. However, there are approximately a dozen major areas in the game, and moving between the furthest points takes much less than 10 minutes, on average (two areas are fairly long, but they are not the norm, and since you go through them multiple times, depending upon how many optional quests you do, you can move through them rather quickly). Because of the small number of unique areas, backtracking in a 12 to 45+ hour game is of course going to occur.

The game features four endings, however the game is split into two parts, and you start near the beginning of the second on subsequent playthroughs. The last two endings involve different choices at the very end of the game, so you really only play the game 1 and a half times, and the last battles twice, if you’re going for all four endings (which I recommend).

Nier is, in some ways, the spiritual successor to the Drakengard games, with some even considering it as part of a trilogy. Indeed the story of Nier is rather good, and reminiscent of the Drakengard games. As mentioned above, the story tells the tale of a man seeking to save his daughter, and in the process gains companions, and discovers a deeper truth. This deeper nature of the world is especially clear when you start on the path to the second ending, and results in additions to the major plot elements. One could argue, in fact, that without playing at least through the second ending you can’t really understand the story they’ve told.

Since the game was attacked on its fishing component, that’s worth a mention here. Nier does feature a fishing component, which turned one game-related Web site off of the game. However, once you realize the trick to fishing in Nier - which is really just paying attention to the pole, as it’s pretty obvious after the first couple times when you’re supposed to start pulling back - and pay attention to map markers, the fishing component is actually pretty relaxing. (And sure, like real-life, a little boring as you keep trying to catch the fish you want, but instead get other fish or junk.)

Keeping in mind that I enjoyed Drakengard and Drakengard 2, and will overlook certain things if a game features a good story, I must give Nier 5 of 5 stars. I only wish I had picked up Nier sooner, and disregarded the reviews I had read.

I played the Xbox 360 version of Nier, which supposedly offered some advantage over the PlayStation 3 version. I clocked approximately 45 hours of game play, with 28 going towards my first playthrough, and obtaining 100% weapons, 91% quest completion, and 37 of 41 achievements.