The one thing we know for certain about Nier is that as a father, he would do just about anything to save his young daughter. From our last demo, we learned that Nier's daughter, Yonah, is afflicted with the black scrawl, and he must protect her from the mysterious creatures known as shades. The developers are keeping the story tightly under wraps, revealing just enough information about certain characters and story elements to make us scratch our heads and wonder what is going on. After checking out the game again, we're still not quite sure what is happening, except we did get a glimpse of the desert city of Facade and meet its ruler, played around with some new weapons, and eventually faced an overgrown wolf shade.
The focus of our last demo was the combat, so for more information, please read here. This time, we jumped ahead to more than halfway through the game to meet the young king of Facade, who is about to get married to a lovely girl that Nier already knows. We don't actually see what she looks like because she, like all the others in the city, is fully covered and masked in an unusual garb that makes her look like a walking tepee. The dry-looking city is nestled in the middle of a golden desert, with a sand river that flows through the crevices so you can always hop onto a small raft to get from one end of town to the other. Before meeting the king, we stopped off at a merchant to pick up a couple of weapons first, which would come in handy later. There will be 30 weapons in the game, and each can be upgraded three times if you can collect the ingredients that are needed to enhance them. To be able to afford weapon upgrades or even weapons at all, you'll have access to a variety of side quests and things to do, like fishing, gardening, and slaughtering sheep to earn a living. The merchant in Facade also sells seeds that you can't find in Nier's village, so it's worthwhile to snatch some up to plant in your garden later.
One of our companions, Kaine, stayed outside the city walls the entire time, but we were followed by a floating skeleton instead. We can't share too many details beyond that, except that Kaine's backstory, along with some other story elements, is explained during your second play-through of the game. The game should take roughly 15 hours to complete, but during your second and even third play-through, more of the story will be revealed should you choose to play the game again. For example, the shade wolf that we were about to face spoke in a garbled voice that sounded like digitized snarling. But if you were playing the game for the second time, you would be able to understand what it was saying.
The king and queen play crucial roles in the story, but we didn't learn much about them other than that their wedding gets rudely interrupted by aggressive shade wolves and their pack leader. The wolves have been harassing the citizens of Facade for awhile now, so Nier, Kaine, the skeletal companion, and the king then decided to hunt down the perpetrators and get rid of them once and for all. A small army of soldiers also tagged along to help with the fight, and through your menu you can give them orders to defend the king or help you take down the vicious beasts. Your combat style changes depending on which weapon you're using. To fend off the wolves, Nier armed himself with a spear in order to charge up some powerful jabs to take out enemies ahead of him. Other two-handed weapons are extremely slow but have a deadly arc, whereas one-handed weapons are quick and easy to maneuver with. It's important to know what kinds of shades you're dealing with and arm yourself with the appropriate weapon. Nier's powers at this point in the game were stronger, and he was able to summon a wall to protect himself against magic, as well as call forth a whirlwind attack to dispose of everything around him. Your magic attacks can also be charged up, so instead of smacking down enemies with one dark hand, you can summon three giant fists to pummel the wolf pack.
After we defeated the wolf leader and his minions, we received what looked like a puzzle piece that would complete whatever it was we were collecting. No details were given about this piece and what it means, but Nier and his companions mentioned something about finding Yonah and the Shadowlord. If you're confused as to what's going on, you're not alone. Only tidbits of information have been released so far, and they only lead to more questions. Nier's story does seem intriguing, and we're curious to see how it's all supposed to come together. We'll be sure to have the answers soon when Nier is released on April 27.