Nier Updated Impressions

We get a closer look at Square Enix's upcoming action role-playing game and learn that there's more to Nier than just hacking and slashing.

The last time we saw Nier (or Nier Gestault as it is called in Japan on the Xbox 360), it was at the 2009 Tokyo Game Show where we played through an action-packed demo with no clear idea of what was actually happening. At the time, the game felt very much like an action adventure as we mashed buttons to take out armored creatures in a long enclosed corridor. We recently had the opportunity to check out Nier again, but this time, we started from the beginning to get an idea of what was going on in terms of the story. We were told that there are going to be a lot of twists, cliffhangers, and many subplots, but we weren't given too many details beyond the main storyline. The main story focuses on Nier, a father who is willing to do everything he can to save his daughter from an illness known as the black scrawl.

Get the book to do the work for you.

Our demo began with a rather animated and interesting monologue where we heard a young woman shout expletives at or about a book. After the long-winded rant, we saw a montage of different cutscenes and gameplay elements from various points in the game. The build we had was in alpha, so this sequence was just there to show us the variety of areas and styles of play because we haven't had a chance to really see what Nier has to offer. It was difficult to get any sense of the story from these scenes, but it was an early look at the diverse environments, action-oriented combat, and various camera angles.

The somber beginning sets the tone for the story as we see Nier's desperate struggle to try to help his daughter, who is stricken with the black scrawl. With a haunting children's choir singing in the background, the camera rested on Nier looking worn but still alert and clutching a large pipe in an abandoned building with large glass windows at the entrance. It's supposed to be the summer of 2049, but a layer of snow covered the quiet urban area and no other being was in sight. Nier's daughter, Yonah, was hidden on the other side of a wall that Nier guarded from creatures known as shades. We learned that these dark monsters were created by a group of scientists and doctors who tried to find a cure for a disease that was going to wipe out mankind. Instead, they inadvertently introduced shades into the world and the black scrawl, which we can assume is a disease even worse than the initial problem that threatened to kill everyone.

This initial level gave us an idea of the combat and the spells to which Nier would have access. A mysterious book was by his side, and after the first wave of attacks, he reluctantly called upon the book to draw more power. In addition to using his long pipe to beat the glittering shades--which come in all sorts of shapes and sizes--into submission, Nier can use the book to cause some serious damage. Depending on the spell, the book could summon a large red hand to bash enemies out of the way, shoot glowing red orbs, or have spears jut out from the ground--impaling anything within a certain radius. By charging your magic attack and sucking up a good portion of your magic bar, you can deal even more damage using these spells. The button configuration is entirely customizable, so you can map any button to do your standard attacks and choose which spells you want at your disposal. It's obvious that there's going to be a downside to using this incredible power and that the book is more than just a handy tool because as Nier heads out to defeat the remaining shades, he tells his daughter to never touch the book. Later on, we'll see that the book, called Grimoire Weiss, stores all your information and becomes almost like a friend who talks to you from time to time.

Nier and his daughter Yonah.

After this short intro, we jumped ahead to a point that was almost halfway through the game to a time that's 1,300 years into the future. We see Nier next to his daughter who is still sick in bed, and being the doting father that he is, he offers to go to seek out some medicine to make her feel better. Why Nier and Yonah were still around 1,300 years later, we don't know. We also don't know why they are suddenly in a quaint medieval-looking town that is surrounded by rolling hills and lush fields. What's interesting is that whenever you're inside a building, the view changes to 2D so you're entering and exiting doorways from the left or right. It suddenly looks like a platformer, but once you go outside, you have full control of the camera again and are free to wander in 3D again. We were told that at times, you'll even fight from a top-down perspective, so we're curious to see when that occurs and how that affects the gameplay.

If the game didn't feel like a traditional Japanese RPG before this point, it did now. As we wandered through the bustling streets, we were able to pick up side quests and gather information from the locals. Blacksmiths, merchants, and other useful non-player characters were strewn about to help us with our quest. Some quests are repeatable, so we did a quick mutton fetch quest where we had to go out into the open world and slaughter some sheep. Harvesting dead animals is a way to earn some cash to buy maps and upgrade weapons. We were told that there is fishing at some point in the game as well. There is also a customization system that enhances your weapons, spells, and martial art skills. As you level and kill shades throughout the world, they can drop words, which you can then attach up to two words per skill, spell, or weapon. These words didn't mean anything to us, but we were told that if you find the right four-word combination, there will be an added special effect to your attack.

A change in perspective keeps things fresh.

We didn't spend too much time outside of town, but we did notice the gorgeous landscape and saw that we had a companion named Kaine, a hermaphrodite, who was tagging along. We weren't given a reason for why he (or she?) was there, but we were told that we will have a handful of companions throughout the game. From the menu, you can give him/her commands to help defend you or be more aggressive. After securing our mutton, we made our way back to town and decided to seek out Popola at the library, who was able to help Yonah feel better.

Before leaving town again, we came across Emil, who was apparently another one of our previous companions and passed out right before our feet. After bringing him back to the library, he muttered something about the shades coming, and before we knew it, the lovely town was under attack by a swarm of translucent shades. We helped the townsfolk clear out some of the smaller shades from the courtyard, but that didn't prepare us for the monstrous shade that was coming for us. This looming, gold, and glittering glob of shiny jelly was large enough to climb over the walls that were built around the city. It hovered over the courtyard with its tentacle-like limbs propped against the walls for support and would swipe at us as though we were an annoying gnat. The scale of the creature was incredible, but that also meant that this was a boss fight that wouldn't be so easily won by swinging our sword. But like most boss battles, it was only a matter of figuring out the pattern and then attacking when it left an opening. With boss fights as Nier, a clock appears when you've dealt enough damage to a particular target point, and if you can knock off all the symbols on the clock, you'll activate a short cutscene, which acts like a finishing move. However, this boss was much too large to be destroyed in the courtyard, so our battle took us to the top of the city's battlements, as well as to the open field where we could hack at its heels. The goal was to bring the shade down before it reached the library.

An example of some of the big beasties you'll encounter.

Our demo ended before we could take down the giant shade, but it gave us an idea of what to expect, and we were told we can expect multiple large-scale boss fights like this one. The game is still in its early stages, so there's still quite a bit of work to be done in terms of touching up the visuals before its spring release. We look forward to finding out more about Nier closer to release and will update you with more information as soon as it becomes available. Nier will be coming to North America in May for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. For those who are curious, Nier Replicant for the PlayStation 3 is only available in Japan, and the story is set in the same world but with a younger version of Nier who is trying to save his little sister.

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208 comments
raith616
raith616

anybody get a dirge of cerberus feel here? cant think of any kinda way it would be a bad thing @kingsgambit why does it need to make sense, moogles ,chocobo's n even an acrobat with a monkeytail couldn't spoil a square enix game that they've put their minds to

KingsGambit
KingsGambit

So the daughter is sick in 2049 and is still sick 1,300 years later? And she hasn't aged in that time either? Riiiiiiight....

Coroxn
Coroxn

Coolio. Wouldn't it be Ironic if scintists trying to kill swine flu accidently flooded the world with demons?

Gammet25
Gammet25

Come on Square Enix you can do it!

flip_flop_
flip_flop_

I much prefer the idea of an older big brother than some young skinny girly boy of Replicant.

Radium217
Radium217

@Kou-Nurasaka- Couldn't agree with you more, New info was just released, you can sail ships, grow plants in your garden and catch fish. It seems like they are really trying to inject this genre with some more variation, let's face it, this is Square-Enix so they'll probably pull it off :)

Kou-Nurasaka
Kou-Nurasaka

@Radium217- I had the same thought about Chaos Legion! I'm pretty interested now. I like how Square-Enix has an older protagonist. Maybe they want to explore new possiblities and get away from the I can't think of any fantasy game where you play as a dad trying to save his daughter; at least not as the main character.

BBQ-WAFFLES
BBQ-WAFFLES

Nier... that means kidney in Dutch...

Oxy80
Oxy80

Im liking how this looks, kinda has a final fantasy feel but also a shadow of collesues feel, and a prince of persia feel. so it works for me, this battle system is great too and i think final fantasy should do the same thing because i hate the super slow and boring turn based combat it just doesnt make you feel like your actually fighting something

Ginnnnnnn
Ginnnnnnn

a mix of prince of persia, god of war and final fantasy? geez...

thegarethh
thegarethh

This game looks pretty terrible at this stage, the character models are some of the blandest and derivative I have ever seen and Nier looks like a junky of sorts. Those eyes are dreadful. Hopefully, I'm wrong.

Radium217
Radium217

This games art style reminds me of capcoms Chaos Legion. They really are trying to innovate which is something that is becomming increasingly difficult to find nowadays. It's understandable why so many people are sceptical about this game, Cavia has made some really crappy titles like Vampire Rain and Bullet Witch, BUT let us not forget that they do have the backing of Square-Enix. Drakengard and Drakengard 2 which were made by Cavia but under the supervision of Square, were actually pretty decent games.

Lordborg909
Lordborg909

Looks interesting to say the least... will keep my eyes on this one

Egostristy
Egostristy

@Mkeegs79 I've read it some more, and a little bit more than that, and... IT'S GOING TO BE SUPER DUPER AWESOME! Well, actually I don't know, but hey, could be anything. It just doesn't sound too appealing to me. I don't support caring fathers! Joking Also @Shinkada Sorry for being skeptical! I guess I'm becoming too judging on things nowadays.

Vasot
Vasot

Meh from what i saw it deserves a 7.5 out of 10

sulli42
sulli42

Just a quick note on the overall originality of gaming companies in general and Square in particular: While they have certainly milked their successful franchises for everything they are worth (and then some) they have also put out a few stunningly original and enjoyable games...for DS owners, The World Ends With You springs to mind as something pretty amazing and engaging and fresh that Square Enix has done lately.

ToRNiO
ToRNiO

Looks somewhat... interesting.

immjg
immjg

I love this game !!

ostinado
ostinado

So far, if you take a closer at the characters models you"ll realize the look amazing, the only thing it needs are better textures but off course that comes almost at the end of the developing cycle. Personally, I'm itching for a good old school 2d plataformer, and this game looks just like what I'm looking for.

sensual-_-panda
sensual-_-panda

I won't mind the 2D thing, there was something similar to a game I played a long time ago, except that the gameplay was regularly turn-based strategy. By long I mean PS2.

Aegyss
Aegyss

Original is fine, but this just seems like an action adventure game with a storyline so desperate to be different they decided to take any ideas. A hermaphrodite? Sure! Let's jump the game 1300 years into the future at the halfway point, why not? Oh, let's not forget gameplay though, I know, we'll make indoor scenes 2D instead of 3D! And then they just added an upgrade system. I'm pretty skeptical, yes, weird stories are fine but I'm not getting the feeling that they're trying too hard on the gameplay. Still, I won't know till I play it.

sensual-_-panda
sensual-_-panda

Honestly I think this will be at least a good, hopefully great, game. Action RPG's are my favorite kind, without the sometimes frustrating turn based element. Kingdom Hearts series was kiddy at times in terms of story, but the gameplay is what's made it one of my top games, and what made me start to love Action RPG's. If SE wants to make another one, I am all for it. The fact that this game's rated M will let it have so much more and with GOW coming in March, I'll have a game to go to after it to keep my bloodlust satiated.

Jacoora
Jacoora

rinoa has a point with the fanbase comment. it's not just square enix though, nintendo's becoming stagnant as a production company. nearly the entire business is selling out to the money-spinning fame that 'player-friendly' content can offer, mass producing eye-catching, no-rage games that are more geared towards the casual gamer than anyone else. this presents a problem for those of us who grew up on a steady diet of legend of zelda and super mario bros (the pixelated version), where we grew to love gaming for the challenges and the rage quits and the trouble we had to go through to beat that final boss.

Jacoora
Jacoora

interest piqued, but i'm not convinced yet. can't wait till it comes out, i'm itching to try it.

Shinkada
Shinkada

A confusing and unique story. An actual emotional plot premise that isn't drowning in anime/J-RPG archetypes. A.. Hermaphrodite in your party? Could it be? COULD SQUARE ENIX FINALLY BE DOING SOMETHING ORIGINAL? And of course, the comments are overflowing with people who hate it. Guys. Seriously. Could you, for once, NOT encourage Square into making repetetive bull****? The one time they seem to be trying, and everyone gives them crap for it? No. That's... Wrong. There's something wrong with that.

damon-beth
damon-beth

Sounds pretty cool. I think combining rpgs elements with hack and slash elements is cool. But will wait for some more information before I make my decision if I will buy this game.

bgranli
bgranli

Hmmm.. I hope this turns out to be a positive surprise, because I'm not totally convinced about this game yet.

Mkeegs79
Mkeegs79

I am damn sure all of you who say this game is going to suck and looks like crap HAVE NOT read the article.

Rinoa_Bunansa
Rinoa_Bunansa

This will probably be a failure because Enix couldn't care for it's fanbase, and are producing half-ass games to keep up with the market. But you never know, it might not be half as horrible as it looks. Enix lost my favor when they changed the name of the "Square-Soft" FF8 hero, Squall to Leon and when the FF-7 games were poppin out left and right and they were hardly worth playing.

Rinoa_Bunansa
Rinoa_Bunansa

This will probably be a failure because Enix couldn't care for it's fanbase, and are producing half-ass games to keep up with the market. But you never know, it might not be half as horrible as it looks. Enix lost my favor when they changed the name of the "Square-Soft" FF8 hero, Squall to Leon and when the FF-7 games were poppin out left and right and they were hardly worth playing.

Daxo90
Daxo90

Hmmm got a hunch this won't be great ... hope they prove me wrong though

Flavour666
Flavour666

This looks like a total stinker to me. After games like Darksiders & Bayonetta, there isn't room for some lackluster, last-gen looking crapfest like this turd.

Egostristy
Egostristy

Not liking this, but hey, it's in an early stage. Still doesn't look nice to me... Not sure why...

X2Sagat
X2Sagat

Ppl complaining about graohic but then still playing consoles? I guess u guys play only crysis if graphic is the most important thing in a game for you.

Barighm
Barighm

Squeenix was never very good at action games. Let's hope their new acquisitions will pay off.

ebookerd1
ebookerd1

Uhhhh.... I know there are a ton of fan boys in here but do you really think this game looks good??? To me it looks like last gen graphics and I expect better form SE and no excuses since it is on PS3?? Are there better images because I play more than FF games and this looks as good as Tobal and Sword of Berserk. both came out almost 10 years ago? Please someone pose were we can see some good images these blow.

Grant41
Grant41

Squaresoft is Square Enix. Square and Enix merged to form one company. So you are both wrong. They worked together on Chrono Trigger, but now are officially one.

Se7en18sHiNoBi
Se7en18sHiNoBi

just every year the games r getting crapier and crapier jus like this one here just another hack and slash.PS2(not a fan boy) still got the best games ever.in my opinion.

Evenios
Evenios

We are the knights who say Nier! Nier!!!

Megamanx266
Megamanx266

Interesting how Square Enix works on everything NOT Final Fantasy while Squaresoft just works on Final Fantasy. Nice use of rescources (no sarcasm meant). Makes sure the main franchise doesn't get ripped off on talent and yet you can still shell out other games that may or may not be of the same cailbur.

cvfish
cvfish

@LordofCashland Granted, I have not played a JRPG since last gen, but all the stories are pretty much the same in regards to the romantic aspect, so I'm going with history that main character+scantly clad "female"=couple. And I don't remember a single JRPG that had that had optional anything in regards to the story, FMVs play a major part in those games, and they were largely missing from Dragon Age due to this.

DPhunkT
DPhunkT

Interesting concept. I like the originality in this.

iboo01
iboo01

hope this doesnt flop like the last remnant

MasterRoper
MasterRoper

I agree with twv25... why compare a game that you know barely anything about with final fantasy? Why can't you just wait and see what the game is like when it comes out rather than judging it before its even finished... and the people who don't like japanese games are the type of idiots that just hop on the bandwagon and buy games like modern warfare 2 which are completely overrated and offer no depth. Personally I think this game looks decent but I think i'll wait until i know more about it before i make a final decision.