Square-Enix has been trying to appeal to a wider worldwide audience for quite some time now; this new emphasis on expansion has resulted in their new Los Angeles studio, the acquisition of Eidos, and a more adult/mature-oriented focus in projects like Nier. It may take a definite backseat to the likes of Final Fantasy XIII and maybe even Level 5’s White Knight Chronicles but if you’re looking for something fresh, it might be a mistake to ignore Nier. An action/RPG that should feature an engaging storyline, fast-paced combat and a unique set of characters with a lot of added flash, this one might become a massive sleeper hit. There will also be some platforming and we expect to see some puzzle solving as well; as for the setting, that’ll be dark, gritty and loaded with a ton of attitude. This may or may not be up your alley, but people are always saying they want something different from Square-Enix…
The story centers on the main character – fittingly named Nier – and it’s the year 2049. The world is suffering from the nasty effects of some mysterious pandemic called the Black Scrawl, which comes complete with an influx of dark monsters that are threatening the existence of humans. And as is the nature of humans, they initially created a medicine to combat the Black Scrawl, but this only spawned an even more powerful and deadlier disease (so what else is new?). There’s also an evil book of sorts that Nier finds in the beginning but despite his warning, his daughter goes and opens it, thereby causing her to become infected. So Nier suddenly finds himself on a very personal quest, which involves a lot of combat, a lot of twists and turns, and a lot of unsavory characters. That book? It’s Nier’s source of magic, basically, as it’s capable of firing off volleys of magical bullets and summoning a huge fist to bash enemies.
Weapons will be a primary focus and you’ll be able to experiment with multiple types. You’ve got the one-handed weapons that are quick and deal light damage, the two-handers that are slower but deal heavy damage, and spears, which deal moderate damage along with added range. The book is known as the Grimoire Weiss, which can also be used to boost physical attacks. Upgrades are worked into the progression of your weapon expertise; such upgrades come about thanks to a system known as “Word Edit.” When your foes fall in the field, they will sometimes drop special words, which can then be “attached” to your weapons. These words can also be applied to martial arts abilities, spells, and other skills. According to IGN, there are around 100 words in the game, which means the total number of combinations available should be almost countless. It’s definitely a good idea to experiment, here.
Square-Enix is intent on calling this an “action/RPG,” so it will most certainly boast the requisite depth, but it should still play like a standard, real-time action, hack ‘n slasher. However, interestingly enough, they’ll mix this type of combat in with platforming sequences and original boss encounters that might surprise you with special perspectives. Those boss battles are bound to be big crowd-pleasers, too; from some of the media we’ve seen, they’re as big and intimidating as those seen in straight-up action titles like Bayonetta. And although the battles will feature the intricacy granted by role-playing elements, you’ll still need a firm handle on the action mechanics. We’re hoping Nier will be a game worth playing, just because we could use a fresh take on the RPG genre.
1/12/2010 Ben Dutka