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Jan 14 2018

Late Nier Review

At first, I had a lot to say about this game, mostly positive remarks. I was initially impressed by how it played and the direction of the story, but after numerous playthroughs thanks to multiple endings, I’m resigned to saying that the game feels half-finished.

So I’ve probably owned my copy of Nier for 3 years, only putting it once into the PS3 system to watch the opening intro to put the game away and remain intrigued as to what the fuck this game was all about.

I bought the game due to it being a highly rated action rpg for the PS3 and also the fact that it was published by Square Enix. All I did know about the game was that it was a spin-off from some previous rpg series, but couldn’t see not knowing of previous events being much of a problem and I wasn’t really feeling it, having to go back to playing PS2 titles. Anyhow, a few years later, it seemed to have been a sound investment with the release of Nier: Automata, further encouragement to get on with playing Nier PS3 already. Well still working through my PS3 backlog of games, I finally managed to jump onto this game during my christmas break from work.

The title sequence consists of a female calling someone a little bitch. Already, what on earth is that about. Starting a new game, we take control of a destitute father looking after his sick daughter in a snowed, run down shop during the Summer of 2049 in what looks like a world that’s gone to shit. With hostiles approaching, you see these aren’t no scavengers, but monsters threatening your existence. With pipe in hand, you learn the basics to attacking these foul glowing creatures, swiping side to side, using the occasional strong attack to finish them off. In the tutorial, you will also have a quick glimpse at the magic you can use, utilising a book to send orbs of magic at enemies, or spikes for max damage, temporarily stunning them as they’re knocked back, opening up an opportunity to come in using a weapon. After completing the tutorial and having leveled up 30 levels in 5 minutes, you run back to your daughter, Yonah, who whilst during the conflict, has used a book that she had promised she wouldn’t touch. Passing out in her father’s arms, with black lettering scrolling across her body, you’re protagonist’s screams to the heavens as the screen goes to black.

1300 years into the future, and somehow we meet our protagonist again. Again, he’s single-handedly looking after his daughter, who has contracted the disease known as the black scrawl, yet somehow neither of them have any recollection or knowledge of the previous events we had just witnessed. Yonah doesn’t have long to live, and it’s down to our character, named Samiby for this playthrough, though normally refered to as Nier, to find a cure for his daughter. His task won’t be easy, as the landscape is covered by the previous monsters known as shades. Having been completing odd jobs for the villagers that he coincides with to get by, and having wiped out the entire sheep population, Nier has to then travel to nearby towns to gather medicine and knowledge of how to save his daughter. The village elder of some-sort, Popola, who resides in a library, tells Nier that there may be something to be found at the top of a lost shrine. Going to the top of the shrine and completing the boss battle, we become acquainted with Grimoire Weiss, a talking book that joins Nier in a search for the cure. One theory they have is that if they can collect the dark verses that helps to strengthen the pair with stronger magic, they can take down the Shadowlord that is the cause of the black scrawl and shades. With nothing to lose, Nier sets out, defeating bosses to gain these verses.

Whilst looking for the verses, he comes across Kaine, a foul-mouthed, rogue lass clad in the smallest amount of cloth to cover the essentials, out for revenge on the monster that killed her Grandma. Helping Kaine defeat this monster, she joins yourself and Grimoire Weiss in their mission to take down the Shadowlord, but for whatever reason, Kaine and Weiss smack talk each time they have to engage with each other, putting Nier in the middle to keep the peace in the party. Later on, you also come across Emil, a boy that is blind due to having powers of turning anything to stone that he looks at, related to experiments that had been carried out on him in a secret, underground lab. Having cleared his house of shades, (my recollection has become a bit hazy), he also joins the team, providing some magical assistance in battles. With a crew ensembled and having collected all the dark verses, you return back to the village to plan your next move, yet monsters start attacking the village, something that’s never happened before. Whilst saving the village, Yonah takes cover in the library. As the battle continues, a large monster conjures, walking through the village market place, heading slowly for the library. Nier and crew attack at its weakspots, injuring the monster and finally managing to take it down just before it smashes into the library. You hear a scream come from the library though, running in, you find the Shadowlord with his own talking book flying off with Yonah. As you go after him, the head of the previous monster comes flying into the library. You deal with the monster, but having been weakened by the Shadowlord, the battle becomes drawn out. There’s only one way to overcome it, and it requires Kaine sacrificing herself to hold the monster behind a door as Emil petrifies her and the door behind her, trapping the monster.

 

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5 years pass (I hate this shit, just an unexplained gap in events with nothing transpiring anyhow other than Nier somehow losing an eye and the side-quests I was previously in the process of completing now uncompleteable), and Nier meets back up with Emil who has discovered some information that could reverse his power and bring Kaine back. Going into an underground lab, you find Emil’s sister, a wreck of a monster that you destroy, though it absorbs Emil, causing him to merge with his sister’s body, now making him some ugly as shit skeleton being that can float around, but atleast he is no longer blind, having control over his powers and that of his sister’s. Going back to the library, you manage to use supersoft on Kaine, bringing her round from her 5 year sleep, whilst also dispatching the monster from 5 years ago. Now with the crew back together, you set out to the Shadowlord’s liar, hidden at the top of the lost shrine. Going back to where you met Weiss, you come across another boss resembling the previous two that used to accommodate that dungeon. Defeating him causes a lance to be plunged into Kaine, who then transforms into a Shade that you also then defeat, managing to bring Kaine back round. From that site, you acquire a piece of a key required to unlock the magic barrier keeping you from the Shadowlord.

You go back to Popola, the village elder who informs there are 4 other pieces to acquire. You again go back out into the world, which is quite small to explore in hindsight, completing small story quests required to take on the bosses in those areas. So now just to wrap things up and prevent giving any further spoilers, you face against the shadowlord, things happen, and then you’re giving the opportunity to replay the game to gain access to the alternative ending. When you do restart the game, it resumes from the point after Kaine is restored from petrification, essentially the second half of the game.

In the additional playthroughs, there is no sense that the character’s are experiencing any de ja vu (apart from some 4th wall breaking comments made), or that time was reversed, it’s just playing from the second half of the game for the hell of it, in which each playthrough from the beginning of the second half to the end taking about 6 odd hours to complete, taking on again all previous bosses, just to see some additional cutscenes or the alternative ending. In the second playthrough, there is some additional dialogue being able to read Kaine’s dream whilst she was petrified which gives her some backstory, and there are also additional scenes with the bosses essentially explaining why they are doing what they are doing, trying to now seek some sort of sympathy from the player. I think from a story telling standpoint though, all this could have been included in the first playthrough, to have actually then made that first playthrough a much more engaging, thoughtful story for most of the players that would only ever play the game once, rather than wasting our time having to replay the second half of the game over and over, just to witness the smallest of addition to story. Like I say, at first I was initially impressed with the game, and I will get to what it was in due course that I liked about the game. It’s just that the multiple playthroughs to some degree, really did sour the overall experience.

The story pretty much plays out like a Japanese anime, with supporting characters having niche clichés that cause for sudden outbursts during the smallest of emotions being expressed. Kaine, being a headstrong, female character, appears to be comfortable wearing nothing but a nightgown and some bandages as clothing, skankidly dressed for no apparent reason, seeing as no other character/npc dresses anywhere similar in the game, thus all you ever see are shots of her arse crack alongside showcasing the game’s boob physics. Not really needed, just thrown in to keep the 13-year-old japanese boys entertained but it does draw away from the serious moments in the story when the camera pans down to an arse-crack shot. Other than that, I thought her voice acting was fine. If there’s supposed to be a love story here, I would have prefered to have seen some actual scenes between Nier and Kaine having feelings for each other rather than just two scenes of a flower given and Kaine nearly kicking Nier’s head in. Also, I was unsure if Kaine was somehow going to turn out to be a grown-up version of Yonah, somehow placed into the present, as they look similar enough, especially the grey hair which only Nier, Yonah and Kaine have out of the whole population in the game, so I was really edgy about how things would turn out at the end. Emil, is just a really high pitched, screeching mother fucking that’s always optimistic and wears his heart on his sleeve. I think they tried to make Emil similar to Alphonso from Fullmetal Alchemist, so I can’t say I’m a fan of Square Enix nicking an idea from a different series, makes the game now feel unoriginal. I struggled to get behind Emil. There’s also some King in a desert that tries to make emotional moments in the story, losing his wife was one thing, but drawing out how he sacrifices himself to allow Nier to move on in the Lost Shrine didn’t make the most of sense considering I’d no idea how he even got there anyhow, even Nier questioned it, but as is the repetitive theme in this game, very little is ever answered.

Ok, so that’s most of the plot laid out, I won’t bother trying to explain it or really comment on individual scenes as I could continue waffling for days. I’m now just going to focus on the notes that I made during gameplay, hopefully pulling this article back into a review format. I’ll just make a quick mention of the fact that this is the first game I’ve played in ages off a disc rather than a download, and the disc loaded fine throughout the game, including how quiet it was whilst spinning in the drive, which honestly quite surprised me. Playing off the PS3 slim has been far quieter than playing on PS4 or PC I’ve noticed.

So the first thought I had of this game within the first hour of gameplay was that if felt very similar to Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The gameplay and camera controls feel fairly similar, you have a sword that you swing at enemies as well as being able to block and dodge attacks. You also run around and do some exploration, whilst gathering required story unlocking objects. The game to be honest is influenced by many games really. I haven’t played any games from the series, but the game is quite reminiscent to how God Of War looks and plays, specially during boss fights. I would probably side more with God Of War than Zelda, just due to the sheer amount of blood that comes spraying out of enemies, very mature feel to the combat. The game also has a Final Fantasy 13 feel to it, with the scenery and exploration, maybe even a dash of FF14 thrown in with the seaside town in Nier looking similiar to a seaside town in the online multiplayer game. I couldn’t say that Nier is original in many ways, as even the fishing is similar again to Zelda aswell as the Shadowlord just being a dark version of Nier, similiar with Dark Link to Link which is something I’ve definitely spoken about in the past, asking for more Dark Link in some form, so I can’t much complain about Nier utilising it. Nier is a good combination of the best ideas and playstyles from these series, so it does deserve credit for making it all work together.

I think we do owe Square credit for the number of RPG titles they smashed out around that time of that generation’s lifespan, as they did carry the RPG genre for quite a while, kickstarting it straight away from launch providing with maybe not the greatest of games, but atleast they were there from the beginning with FF13 and whatever else they were doing, now leaving it open for many smaller studios to have their moment in the spotlight, especially those novel games that have sadly taken off.

In regards to the level design, with the game set 1300 years in an apocalyptic future, there isn’t really much in the scenery that portrays this. Apart from some rundown iron bridges in the Northern Plains and down at the seaside, there isn’t anything that really showcases the past as I was hoping like derelict skyscrapers or an unrecognisable New York City skyline, which I felt Journey To The West absolutely nailed and I recommend all to play, and was actually released on PS3 also. Areas that contain npcs aren’t particularly interesting to explore, not having anything hidden to be discovered. A big let down was the treasury in Facade that’s guarded by 4 guards across the map, yet you are never allowed access once, what on earth was the point of that. Also Popola’s room of gold statues that populates after defeating each boss appears to be nothing more than a creepy as fuck shrine, I’m sure this was supposed to have ended up as some means of rechallenging previous bosses, otherwise what a waste of resources.

Running back and forward is a common theme in the game. Fast travel is at a minimum. Shops are miles away from each other and require running for ages to restock on resources and inventory. External terrain can cover large distances, just containing enemies that are easy avoidable as well as glowing spots that you can collect resources from. Again, not a lot to gain from exploring these spaces, but require a tonne of running. The dungeon designs are much better, each dungeon usually having some unusual aspect to it. When exploring the Underground lab, you view from a 2.5D perspective, guiding the player along from above, whereas in the Desert tomb, you’re playing 3rd person as usual but each room has a rule that you have to follow otherwise the room resets. There are atleast a few side areas here that you can explore to find some additional loot. The only issue with the dungeon is that there’s only like 5 of them, yet the side-quests will make you revisit them over and over, having to explore through the entire dungeon again each time, though nothing ever changes, so it becomes repetitive and dull very quickly.

What I will rave about is the music. Absolutely beautiful alongside working really well with the theme of the game and cutscenes. Some great adventurous and relaxing tracks that you could listen to for hours and not get bored. In the DLC, the music has been remixed with some additional beats and sound just as great. The DLC soundtrack was also actually released as a standalone CD at one point aswell, which is interesting and the music from the game has gone on to inspire many bands and additional releases from Square Enix.

Now there is quite a bit that doesn’t make much sense in the game, one of those being that mailboxes are the save points in the game. Like why is there a mailbox in the middle of an abandoned military missile silo, what postman would possibly have access to that, and this is the case for the positioning of most mailboxes in the game. Also considering you have a book following you around everywhere, I really thought he would have been utilised in some way instead, even as a field log.

To be honest, I have a few issues with Weiss, such as where the fuck is he on the screen. I’m not sure if he provides the camera angle that we’re viewing from or what, but even though your other companions are viewable on screen at all times, Weiss is never to be seen, just seemingly providing magic attacks from the side. It’s a shame you don’t see him at all times, as it’s weird during conversations between Nier and Weiss as it just appears to be Nier having a conversation with himself, but atleast it does provide a platform for inner monologue, being able to listen to Nier’s thoughts on events etc. It’s a good opportunity to see another side to a hero rather than them being the mute and stoic type all the time, making them much more personable. But if Weiss had been onscreen, I’m sure that he would have been capable of some funny animations during interactions. What I don’t get is why the fuck don’t villagers freak the fuck out when they see a talking book, rather than engage with it? People will just accept any old shit these days. But then again, how the fuck is a book even talking, I still didn’t understand how that came about even after watching 4 endings or why there was two separate books that had to combine for some spell to work rather than just already have them as one book already. He does atleast provide some one-liners that did get a chuckle or two.

Whilst Weiss provides magic attacks in battles, he also doubles up as an itinerary, keeping tabs of your inventory and quests. He also has pages that let you add boosts to your weapons and magics, refered to as words. You can add two types of words to each skill, with the words providing boosts for damage given, exp received or drop rate. These words can be acquired by defeating monsters who will randomly drop them, in which each successive drop of a type of word will unlock a higher performing percentage of that particular word. The fact that these boosts are referred to as words, makes me think of Shouts from Skyrim, so I wonder who did it first.

 

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For how expansive it is, and for what it contains, the sea side town, Seafront is barely used in regards to the story other than acquiring a fish at the beginning of the game. Seafront does on the other hand relate to a tonne of sidequests, and shout out to the old lighthouse lady who reminds me of most of my customers that I have to deal with. The fishing quest and related trophies can take about 5 hours to complete alone, relaxing as it is and reminiscent of Ocarina of Time, it was again repetitive as shit but it doesn’t seem to ever be disappearing from Japanese RPGs anytime soon. What has to be a first that I’ve ever seen in a game is that the beach contains sea lions! They looked absolutely beautiful, just laid out on the beaches slowing turning over in the sun. Penguins aswell looked great.

Alongside the fishing trophies that I took hours acquiring, I also went after most of the other trophies in the game. I managed overall to unlock 90% of trophies after 4 playthroughs, but I felt there was an issue with the descriptions of the trophies giving away spoilers of what was to come in the story, whilst hiding the description of trophies that were actually obtainable that weren’t related to the story. I had to refer online to find a list of trophies that I could obtain, though some like upgrading every weapon in the game I was not even going to bother attempting as it otherwise would have required spending hundred of hours looking for rare resources for one upgrade. Also obtaining a white lotus flower would have involved again spending hours messing around with the local time on the Playstation system just for some flowers in the game to grow, in which apparently there was something like a 2% chance of obtaining a white lotus even after hours spent just getting everything else ready in preparation. Having said that, I’m sure that while I was experimenting, I did find the best combination for the flowers, which whilst others say to do rows of red/gold/red/gold/red flowers in the beds, you need to mix up the middle row to be gold/red/gold/red/gold, which I found to provide the highest output of peach flowers that are required to make white lotus flowers. I feel that you could somehow put down blue alongside red/gold possible to obtain white and save some time, but hell was I going wait around and try to find out.

Combat in the game is average. Just essentially hacking with sword whilst using magic that’s cast in real time. Swordplay isn’t the most responsive at times, and there’s only a few combinations to be activated. Starting the game on normal mode wasn’t bad, enemies and bosses were fine to handle. I did try to mix it up, switching upto expert but it then made it possible to be one hitted, so I remained on normal for the first two playthroughs, which was fine for that second playthrough as I was slightly overpowered in boss fights which helped me to unlock timed challenge trophies. By my third playthrough, I was already getting bored and decided to finally crack expert. It made fights that originally took 2 minutes into 20 minute endeavours, which isn’t a bad thing as I would usually beat a boss on normal mode before all dialogue was said, usually missing parts of the story. Essentially, the enemies had more health, could deal increased damage and more of the smaller enemies would spawn than usual, but at lv35, I felt confident I could handle them. What it did require though was a change in tactics in regards to magic used and it was only until the final dungeon I discovered that I also needed to be switching up on the type of weapon used to make combat easier depending upon the situation of surrounded by enemies or going one on one. The final boss fight, practically used by my entire reserve of heals and boosts, only to then fight against the unlocked final final boss, which I had no experience or idea of how they fought. I don’t know how the fuck I managed it, but I beat them on my first try on an absolute dot of health with nothing left in my inventory. One of my prouder moments in gaming I hope I’ll be able to remember back to in future.

It took something like the entire 4 playthroughs for me to even have an idea what the story was about, and that includes stuff that was explained by npcs in the first playthrough. Really confusing story that isn’t well explained, if anything you’re only given 4 documents right at the end of the game to optionally read about what the past 30 hours of gameplay was all about. Still confusing though, so it does essentially require going online to read someone else’s interpretation. Square, alongside releasing some manga that includes a fifth ending! also released a physical book version of Grimoire Weiss that contained the full backstory of the game and events that transpired since. Basically, Nier fucked up a science experiment that was supposed to fix the world in the future by killing his shade self, which I imagine will have an effect on humanity which will then be explained in Nier:Automata, which as far as I’m aware, is set something like a further 10,000 years in the future. The only thing that wasn’t explained was what the 2049 scene of Nier in the shop with his daughter was all about. But I’m not going to go out to buy the Grimoire Weiss book or read online interpretations as I don’t really want to spend any more time becoming invested in this lore as 1) as the story hasn’t been properly explained in the game, where the explanation basically should have been, I shouldn’t have to refer to other media just to understand what the fuck is going on and 2) the story just doesn’t sound that interesting. I’m more than happy to give Nier:Automata a go, essentially based on gameplay elements that should hopefully be more redefined due to it being a sequel of some sort and hopefully, I can pick up the story as I go along in that game instead, if not, then I will probably knock playing any future Nier games on the head.

So alongside the story not feeling complete in the game, most of the game didn’t feel complete. Side-quests came to unsatisfying conclusions with no benefit from completing, there was only a few dungeons to explore, but what really made the game feel half-finished was the text-based parts of the game. At first, coming across the dreams that involved having to read text was different and I thought it was an interesting enough alternative playstyle as had been previously introduced in other parts of the game. The problem is that whilst you have all the residents to talk to in some village, being absorbed into their text-based dreams which takes awhile to read through a load of text etc, later you then come back to read in a boss fight. Also when Kaine dreams in the second playthrough, you again now have a load of text to read of events that whilst explained sounded cool, it would have been 100 times better if they had just actually created these dreams in the game itself to explore. The scenarios presented would have been much better to watch, and it just seems like the lazy-ass developers instead saved themselves hundreds of man hours by just implanting the storyboard directly into the game rather than bothering with rendering each scenario using what is supposed to be the fantastic medium of video games. If I wanted to read a book worth of text, I would have read a book instead of booting up my PS3 to play video games, which was costing me 80W/h just to read some bull bull. I honestly feel cheated of half a game really, instead forced to replay the second half of the game over and over to obtain a small additional piece of story rather than just being able to experience the story in a single playthrough of a fully fleshed out game.

The DLC is average on gameplay. Like I said previously, the remixed music tracks are cool, the gameplay just consists of fighting through some dungeons. I think there are some new enemies, but otherwise most of the areas you explore are quite familiar. By completing the first two stages, you unlock some outfits for the character’s which really aren’t anything to write home about. For some reason, when using the dlc outfits the magic orbs that are fired now go from purple orbs to Emil’s skeletal head, which is creepy as fuck to look at 200 on screen at once. The third and final stage of the DLC contains a chain of boss fights which you need to ensure you’re either of a high level or a competent enough player to handle, with this stage rewarding you with rare gear for weapon upgrades. It cost me £5.49 7 years after release date, so I wouldn’t say it’s worth it, as there’s no real reward for completing it, there’s no story to gain from it and it only provides about an hour and half of additional playtime. The only thing the DLC is good for is to obtain a trophy if you didn’t manage to obtain it in the first half of the original game, which is a quest that allows you to ride a boar to run into sheep with. If anything, just spend that money on obtaining the remixed music cd instead.

To some degree, I feel that the game was mis-represented in trailers and in advertising means. Even watching back the opening video when booting up the game, which originally intrigued me as to what on earth the game was about, I can now see and recognise the only action scenes in the game, stitched together in a manner that makes the game to appear much bigger than it actually is. I feel like I’ve been taking for a ride, coming right back to the same spot with both my time and money taken. There was no indicator from the beginning of this game that it was lackluster on story, or that there were multiple endings, which as previously mentioned, is a game mechanic I absolutely can’t stand, ie Mr game developer, please make up your fucking mind rather than leaving it down to us to make up what the story is supposed to represent. I will give Nier:Automata a go in a few years from now if I can ever find it cheap enough, but I’m not going to expect much from it as I was with Nier. Nier ending up becoming a patchwork quilt that just fell apart due to being too ambitious.

 

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*I did end up losing some screenshots due to setting my capture button to the wrong shortcut. Absolutely gutted.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thelategamer.com/video-game-review/ps3/late-nier-review/

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