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Review: Nier

Greg Tito | 11 May 2010 15:15
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The game elements of Nier work well enough on the surface. You start out swinging a one handed sword and learn magic spells to blast the bad guys, known as Shades. The first act feels very one note. The leader of the village you reside in, Popola the female librarian, will send you out on quests, and then you go back and check on how Yonah is doing. Rinse, repeat.

The locations that Popola and Grimoire Weiss send you to track down the Dark Verses are analogous to levels or temples in a game like Zelda. The Dark Verses empower you with different magical spells, such as Dark Lance or Dark Hand, which you can swap out and equip with different "words" to give power ups or add effects like confuse or paralyze. Each dungeon offers a different play-style, from side-scrolling platforming to top down puzzle solving to isomeric dungeon-crawling. One location sucks you into a nightmare of text and you must choose the correct series of directions to go or you perish. Consumed by a grue, I assume.

Keeping with the Zelda theme, there is usually a big boss at the end of these dungeons. They are generally fun, and keep you jumping to avoid their big strikes or fist pounds. But after you face the third or fourth one, I realized that I was successfully using the same technique for most of them: evade their attacks and save up a big Dark Lance to finish them off. It starts to feel very samey.

Nier's major fault is that, despite delivering all of the right pedals for me to push in order to receive the reward, I never felt totally engaged. The caustic dialogue might have done it, but it felt too calculated. The different dungeons ruined my immersion by forcing me to realize that the designers were paying homage to certain styles. Combat was enjoyable, until I realized that I was doing the same thing over and over again.

I had fun playing Nier, and I was happy that its script and voice acting were both better than your average JRPG. It hit all of the right RPG chords; I found myself getting swept up in finding lost dogs and collecting materials for merchants. It pulled beats and samples from all kinds of games; it's even got a strangely addictive farming sim. To continue the musical metaphor, Nier is the catchy pop song that doesn't force you to change the radio, but it's not exactly the anthem for our generation.

Bottom Line: Nier delivers all of the facets that make up a successful action role-playing game: fun combat, diverse characters, good voice-acting, and addictive quest mechanics. It just doesn't do any of them excellently.

Recommendation: Fan of Square-Enix, action RPGs or chicks swearing while wearing underwear? Buy Nier and be amazed. Otherwise, pick it up on a down week or from the bargain bin.

This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.

Greg Tito is glad that at least there wasn't an airship in Nier.

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