Remasters and remakes are the norm, let’s face it. They are everywhere, and they are not stopping anytime soon. That’s a good thing for me, I love them, especially when they are done right. Suffice it to say I never took a single glance at Nier when it came out on the Xbox 360 or PS3. I know, I know I missed out on an RPG classic, but now that Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139 has arrived on current platforms, I can finally give it a go. Be aware I did say I skipped Nier when it first came out; therefore, this review isn’t a comparison, I’m going in blind here. I’m a self-certified newbie. I played Nier: Automata to bits when that hit the shelves, and I loved it, so I do have a slight bit of knowledge of the lore and such, but Nier Replicant ver.1.224…. let’s just call it Nier Replicant, is my first time playing the first title in the series.
So, you begin the game as an unnamed protagonist who cares for only one thing: saving his sister, Yonah, who has succumbed to a mysterious sickness known only as the Black Scrawl. It is down to you as the protagonist to find any way possible to get rid of this blight killing your sibling. But how? The post-apocalyptic world in which you inhabit has gone to hell, laden with ruins populated by humanity clinging onto survival by the skin of its teeth. There are also much more things at stake than an illness of a young girl. Regardless, you must save her at all cost. It’s an endearing plot that carries the story forward beautifully. You’ll be embarking on quests to find ways to a cure, speaking to the fully voiced NPCs and visiting some beautiful locations brought to life thanks to the graphical prowess of current systems. The story really kept me going, especially when I encountered companions Grimoire Weiss, a wise-cracking, floating magical book who is constantly criticising your every move, and Kaine, a foul-mouthed beauty with awesome skills of her own. These guys certainly keep the entertainment factor alive when it comes to the excellent cutscenes throughout the game, which is a good job because the fun stops there.
The game world is empty and scarce of interesting features. Massive fields, towns without a smidgen of personality and no way of fast travelling making traversal a chore has serious impact on attention span. As I mentioned before, the cutscenes are excellent; however, getting to the next one is bound to require a lot of footwork and mundane go-here then go-there tasks. This follows onto side quests too. Near pointless fetch quests are all that are available here, and the bleak rewards for completing them diminished their importance to my character’s growth. The main storyline takes you to some diverse places. From suspended tin pot towns connected by bridges to ancient temples and haunted mansions, there’s certainly variety here, and the camera angles create some nostalgic moments within them. Searching a mine caused me to enter a grid-like series of rooms to clear out enemies, which made the camera pan to a top-down isometric viewpoint reminiscent of The Legend of Zeld, and searching a haunted mansion had the camera in set positions whilst I roamed the halls akin to a certain classic survival horror game. A really nice touch.
The combat is fast and fluid. The protagonist’s swordplay skills are slick and stylish, but you soon realise that they can’t be improved upon. Your guy keeps the same moves the entire game until you gain access to a few other different styles, but the moves remained the same. Thankfully, the action doesn’t slow, the game doesn’t move into a combat mode when encountering enemies. Enemies can be seen before engaging and fought if desired. The stale melee combat has a saving grace in your sidekick, Grimoire Weiss, though. He is not just some floating book firing off one-liners. He bestows the player with magical abilities in the form of Verses, which can be used when required. Spells such as Dark Blast; a steady stream of magical bullets that pummel enemies, Dark Lance; a chargeable magical spear that deals heavy damage and Dark Phantom; a spell that conjures up a doppelganger for a short amount of time are but a few of the spells you’ll find, and they can be used seamlessly during the sword swinging.
Aside from the bosses, which can be huge and intimidating beasts, the standard enemies’ designs are bland. Shades, which are everywhere outside of towns and cities, are nothing more than squiggly stickmen of varying sizes, but they can be harrowing hulks when it comes to boss types. Some require a thought process to their demise though, it’s not all about hammering the attacks until their health bars are gone, no, it’s about thinking about when to strike, where to strike and managing Weiss’s mana meter. Magic isn’t free.
Of course, Nier Replicant is an RPG, and with it comes RPG elements in the form of words found from defeating enemies. These words can be equipped to weaponry and spells that enhance them in a variety of different ways, such as buffs that help take down the game’s tougher foes, but there is an option to use the best available straightaway if you don’t fancy faffing on with all that.
The overall plot requires a few playthroughs after the credits roll to see the whole picture, and that in itself requires patience as the plot is a slow burner, but once it gets going, you’re in for a heart-warming and exciting story that definitely causes you to forget the long, boring trip you took to get there.
Developer: Square Enix, Toylogic
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC (backwards compatible on PS5 and Xbox Series X/S)
Release Date: 23rd April 2021
Gaming Respawn’s copy of NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… was provided by the publisher.