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Nier review

Competing for the best not-very-good game we've played in a while

Pros

  • Fun adult language
  • Unpredictable tone
  • Weird
  • fun twin-stick shooting

Cons

  • Plenty of boring lulls
  • Too many fetch quests
  • Frantic action becomes overwhelming

How rare it is to hear the word ‘shithog’ used in a fantasy world. Nier is a fantasy-action-RPG with the mouth of a sailor. Rolling grasslands and ominous temples put us in Zelda territory (graphically, Nier could be super high-res N64) but the script refuses to stay put. An ancient spell book, for example, is referred to as a “little bitch”. Don’t worry, the spell book says far worse things back. It’s a talking book, of course; one of many reasons Nier is the quirkiest RPG you’ll play this year.

Mechanically, Nier is remarkably well-read, borrowing from everywhere. Action-wise, our hero is of the Kratos (or, if you’re on a tight budget, Dante – of Inferno) variety: swordings, evasive dives and lashings of blood. Into this, developers Cavia mix Bayonetta-style magics, all demon lances and house-sized fists. Our hero can also fire giant red bullets. When you fire your bullets and the enemy fires theirs, Nier looks a little like Ikaruga and shooters of that ilk. Alas, all this proves to be more overwhelming than empowering; a mistake none of the title’s influences would have made.

Elsewhere, there’s a hint of Zelda in the crate-pushing puzzles and dungeon design. And the general structure – a free-roaming field dotted with temples – is a clear nod to Hyrule Field. Add to this a dash of Monster Hunter – hunting livestock and rifling through herb patches nets you the raw materials for upgrades. Too many fetch quests are spun from this, however. While the story bombs along at a good old pace, those hoping to pad the game with sidequests will have to get used to carting berries back and forth.

More interesting is Nier’s eye for direct homage. A versatile camera often subverts action on the fly. Switching to birds-eye view turns Nier’s magic blasting into a twin stick shooter, a kind of medieval Smash TV. When a further zoom shrinks hero Nier to a tiny speck on screen we’re suddenly in Diablo territory. Entering a ghostly black-and-white mansion only to find the camera fixed at awkward angles reeks of Resident Evil. Despite not elevating the action in any way, there’s a real allure in seeing what crazy thing the game does next. In this sense, Nier reminds us of Suda51’s freewheeling No More Heroes; a sort of make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach to the RPG.

Like Suda51, Cavia tread a dangerous line between mad and bad, but misstep too often to forgive. Those innovative highs only make the inevitable drops more painful.

Apr 28, 2010

More Info

GenreAction
Description

Like Suda51, Cavia tread a dangerous line between mad and bad, but misstep too often to forgive. Those innovative highs only make the inevitable drops more painful.

PlatformXbox 360, PS3
US censor ratingMature
UK censor rating18+
Alternative namesNier Gestalt (360), Nier Replicant (PS3)
Release date27 April 2010 (US), 23 April 2010 (UK)
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