Short Game Review: Nier

Nier is kind of a weird game, but not weird in sufficiently interesting ways to come with a strong recommendation from me. It’s a Japanese action RPG (i.e., no turn-based, menu-navigating combat) which occasionally borrows gameplay from shoot-em-ups, Diablo-style games, and text adventures. It makes not-so-subtle references specifically to certain Final Fantasy games, Zelda, any game that has you go around killing giant monsters based on the unspoken assumption that big monsters probably have keys in their bellies, and surely others I missed. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t say that Nier is ever more than the sum of its parts, and many of the aforementioned parts are kind of poorly done.

To the game’s credit, a few of the characters are fun, and the combat is occasionally interesting in the latter half of game—but I think I was over 10 hours in before I had a full party of NPCs and fights started being somewhat more interesting. The story had a great deal of potential, but rather than simply tell a story that makes sense from beginning to end, the game leaves a lot unexplained after one playthrough; I’m reading now online about how you need to play through two or three different ways for different endings and to actually get the subtext of what was going on (i.e., some characters’ dialog is undecipherable until your second playthrough). I wish I could say that I’ll endorse any game with a cast of characters as bizarre as this one—including a talking book, a foul-mouthed and seminude woman, and a friendly skeleton/magician—but I’ll withhold that endorsement until the sale price drops below twenty bucks.

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