I missed out on Nier when it first arrived in 2010, so my experience going into Nier Replicant Ver.1.22474487139 was a fresh one.I find myself rather thankful for that because if there’s one thing you need to know going into this new version of creative director Yoko Taro’s bold, genre-bending action-RPG, it’s that you can expect to revisit the same places, fighting the same enemies, and pushing the same godforsaken boxes around a lot.It’s one of the bigger issues with Nier, but the important thing to note is that the ways in which Nier Replicant disappoints are mostly forgivable when you consider the ways in which it astounds: Surprises await around every corner, characters are unforgettable, and the emotional story will resonate in my mind for a long, long time.
Ver.1.22 (for the sake of my own sanity, I’m just going to round down from here on out) is in a strange place of being more than just a remaster, but also less than a remake.It obviously looks much better when compared to the muddy original, with dramatically improved draw distances, cleaner textures, better character models, and a consistently smooth 60fps framerate.
At the same time, though, it still gives off that PS3/360-era RPG vibe: environments lack detail, NPCs are stiff and just kind of stare lifelessly into the void, the world is broken up into small chunks with loading screens bridging the gaps, and there are no current-gen console enhancements for the PS5 or Xbox Series X.It certainly isn’t an ugly game anymore by any standard, but it also still feels a step behind 2017’s Nier Automata.
However, one big change, and one of the reasons why I think it’s impossible to label this just as a remaster, is the fact that every character is now voiced.
This is a huge improvement that goes a long way in bringing Nier’s otherwise-sleepy world to life.
Beyond the visuals and voice acting, Nier’s combat also has seen some love, smoothing out its animations and making it feel extremely comparable to Nier Automata’s.One of the big things that was taken from Automata is the seamless integration of weapon combat with your skills.So where in the original you had to sit still while you charge a spell like Dark Lance, now you can pretty freely move around and charge any spell, as well as cast them while attacking.That all makes combat behave much more like a traditional action game and goes a long way in improving the actual feel of Nier’s combat.
That said, it is still pretty shallow and easy.
You never gain new sword skills, rank and file enemies come in only a handful of types that all quickly succumb to your button-mashy attacks, and I was always swimming in health restoratives, which took almost all tension out of every fight.Eventually, the challenge became more about finding the right combination of magic and sword combat to see how quickly I could clear a room, instead of being a test of whether I could clear it at all.That’s fun in its own way, and the combat certainly is flashy and fun to look at, but it did get pretty stale before I finished my 35-hour playthrough.Yes, there is a hard mode, but it mostly just makes the enemies into frustrating sword sponges that still aren’t difficult but just take forever to kill, especially in the early parts when you don’t have access to stronger weapons.
On the plus side, there are three different weapon classes with pretty distinct fighting styles and move lists.There’s a caveat to enjoying all of them, though, in that upgrading the weapons within those classes is very expensive and requires a lot of grinding.Unless you want to spend even more hours in the Junk Heap farming robots, you’re encouraged to pick one and stick with it.
There’s also a small element of playstyle customization in the form of upgrades called words that you collect as you level up and defeat enemies.These words can be added to weapons, spells, and your defensive techniques to add special properties to them, such as added strength, guard break, magic power, and so on.While being able to tailor your character by swapping words in and out is a welcome feature, I never felt any sort of need to customize my weapons or abilities in any sort of way other than just equipping whatever words that gave me the most damage on whatever I had equipped, because the combat scenarios never challenged me in any ways that required me become more specialized.
“It masterfully plays with camera angles and perspective shifts in some truly inspired ways.