Since it was revealed by Square Enix at 2009's E3, the diminutively-titled Nier has been keeping a real low profile. Regardless, and as should be expected with any new Square Enix production, there's still plenty of interest around the game. If proof were needed, it ranks at 72 on our own list of 2010's top 100 most anticipated games. So we were made up when Square Enix dropped by to give us our first real good look at Nier. We are now partially enlightened and can gladly bring you up to speed with what you need to know about Square Enix's action RPG.
At the start of the game, everything in the world looks completely screwed
The game opens in the summer of 2049. But things look decidedly bleak and wintery. And not particularly futuristic. Buildings are crumbling and the city looks in a general state of neglected disrepair. This, we are told, is because a plague has crippled humanity. A supposed cure has inadvertently caused further suffering by creating a new disease called 'Black Scrawl'. Symptoms seem to mostly involve lots of coughing, which, we presume, leads to deadness.
Above: A killer plague and humungoid tentacle beasts. All is not well
The hero's daughter is infected. He must find a cure
You'll be playing as Nier. He's a big man and seems to enjoy carrying even bigger weapons - like swords and axes - on his back, although at the start of the adventure he's armed with nothing more than a puny piece of metal pipe. He also seems unconcerned about parading around bare-chested. He must know he's in an RPG.
Above: Yonah and Nier. She's sickly. He's manly
Nier's daughter, Yonah, is infected with Black Scrawl. She coughs a lot. Our sympathy for sick people dwindles after 10 minutes, so this could get annoying after 300 hours (it was unclear how long the game will last, so we've taken a guess here). Nier's quest is to find a cure for Black Scrawl and save Yonah. And, we suppose, everyone else suffering the same affliction.
There are monsters. Some of them are enormous
Of course there are monsters. It wouldn't be a party without them. They're called Shades and their presence is explained as being a bi-product of the cure. Yep, that's the same cure that created the Black Scrawl disease. So, all things considered, bit of a crummy cure. We saw several varieties of Shades, including annoyingly pesky goblin types and lumbering, long-armed, sword-wielding shimmery-shadowy apparitions.
Above: Nier goes to work on some Shades
More juicy, though, was the gigantic, tentacle-appendaged Shade that attacked a village with all the gusto of a truly grumpy B movie monster - straddling buildings and sending citizens fleeing for their miserable lives. Apparently there will be plenty towering terrors for Nier to topple along the way.
Nier's sidekick is a magical talking book
No. We're not shitting you. Along for the ride is a hardback called Grimoire Weiss. Luckily, he's good for more than just bed-time stories. As Nier levels up he is granted access to the magical powers held within the pages of Weiss. These manifest as powerful attacks ideal for battling Shades. For example: Dark Hand conjures enormous hands that punch. Dark Execution conjures ghostly spears from the ground that impale. Dark Whirlwind conjures a pair of huge, deadly, whirling blades that spin around Nier. And so on.
Above: Grimoire Weiss. As books go, a bit of a twat. But with giant magic hands
Like all really good annoying sidekicks, Grimoire Weiss fancies himself (this book has the voice of a man) as a bit of a comedian and master of sarcasm. His wisecracks, delivered in a tone of posh smugness, could get tedious quick.