If NieR Automata was your first experience with the Nier series and you are hoping to quench your thirst for more NieR styled content in NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… (I’ll just call it NieR Replicant v1.22 from now…), then you need to understand this – NieR Replicant ver.1.22 and NieR Automata are two very different games set in a very different timeline (thousands of years apart), featuring unrelated protagonists, and although both games are similar in personality, they are far from being identical in character.
NieR Replicant v1.22 is a remastered version of the original NieR game. The first NieR Replicant was released in Japan 10 years ago, featuring the protagonist Nier, and the tale surrounding his quests to cure his younger sister, Yonah, from a plague-like disease called the Black Scrawl.
There was also a second version of the same game by the name of NieR Gestalt that was released in North America. In this version, the protagonist is a middle-aged man and a father to Yonnah, the difference in role and the protagonist’s age were the only distinctions between the two versions.
As the remastered title had suggested, this upgraded version of the game takes after the original Japanese NieR Replicant. And as suspected of a remastered title, most of the changes took shape in the forms of “upgrades”, therefore no one should come expecting a brand new game with existing level graphics and visual effects.
The visual/graphics department formed the earliest impression – 60 steady frames per second on the PlayStation 5, good draw distance, and visual upgrades everywhere I saw. It goes without saying, the game looks much better visually than the original version. In fact, Replicant’s open-world consisting of lush green environments and blue skies makes it a better-looking game than Automata’s gloomy desert and ruins theme.
The developers at Toylogic have said in an interview that the upgraded Replicant will see a new combat system that’s aimed at appealing to Automata fans and to that, I would say they landed very near to their target. The high-paced intense action that produces beautiful combos coupled with meaningful parries and dodges that really put Automata above other action games is strongly felt here.
Melee attacks are dished out using normal weapons and for much of the early game, only the single-handed sword is accessible to me before my progression eventually unlocks more – Two-Handed Swords and Spear types. At this point, all 3 weapon types and their selection will be available for picks via a quick-switch menu. I could have muscled my way through any fights by just utilizing a single weapon type but the damage output would have been inefficient and less fun. It is when I switch around my weapons to take advantage of the different perks and qualities imbued into them is where the combat really shines.
The ranged attack comes from Grimoire Weiss, a mysterious tome companion that I had unlocked after reaching a certain point in the game. Weiss, a flying and talking book capable of sarcasm is also responsible for magical attacks (identical to the pod skills in Automata). A cleverly timed magical attack with the added damages from the weapon combos would usually result in satisfying results and a leftover pool of blood on the ground after a battle is concluded.
And oh, if it’s not obvious enough when I mentioned “beautiful combos”, “shines”, and “satisfying”, they mean the combat in this game is fluid and absolutely fun to get into fights for. The beautifully choreographed move sets presented in smooth frame rates makes me high.
For those coming for the game’s story – If you had played the original Replicant/Gestalt or Automata, you would be greeted with a similarly depressing theme and lore here. Full of tales of heartbreak and loss, regrets and remorse – well, the usual dark Nier theme remains.
But the good thing is the now fully voiced dialogue really cast a new perspective onto the characters’ personalities and emotions. What used to be our imagination (of their emotions and tone) from passively reading dialogue texts is now meaningfully spoonfed to us. This may seem like a docile change but I didn’t think so. While full-text dialogues are fine, they lack one important element – emotion. The voice actors and actresses brought these characters to life by showing us the characters’ personalities and what drove them to project a certain emotion. When we just read through a stream of dialogue via text, we tend to imagine how they’d sound like and what they feel, but they are never truly accurate. With the fully voiced dialogues, we can do away with guessing and just focus on taking in the content. The acting itself is without a doubt, well done.
For a lot of action games to be considered great out there, character development is a challenge they must go through. Too weak the background and we players may find ourselves questioning too much, stumble upon discrepancies, and eventually don’t feel too emotionally invested in the character. This is where Nier Replicant does exceptionally well.
Be it Replicant or Automata, the game always throws the players into living through one reality before exposing them to another perspective. This is done through the mandated multiple playthroughs if you wish to get the full ending of the game. It’s a pain in the arse playing through the game multiple times but thank goodness, the game is separated into 2 main parts – the first and second half – and the repetition of the playthroughs only involves the second half.
But unlike Automata where subsequent playthroughs allow the player to play as a different character, Replicant’s more primitive structure only allows it from the main character’s point of view. The different perspectives and additional storytelling are then injected into it via cutscenes and reading material. I was really hoping to be surprised by getting to play as Nier’s notable companion – Emil and Kaine, but it was not to be. But there is one part of the game where we get to play as the middle-aged protagonist from Nier Gestalt, I won’t spoil it for you but I will say this much – it was nice!
All the characters (main ones anyway) are briefly introduced, in fact, it was so brief that most of the time I would just brush off their significance. But as I go longer into the hours, the game started unfolding the background of each character – slowly, surely, and done so in-depth. If you had played Nier Automata, you would know what I’m talking about. Each playthrough would show more and different perspectives, where the background of the characters and the stories associated with them are eventually revealed.
Some of the stories are explained through common encounters and dialogues, but there are also parts where you just do a plain reading over a wall of texts. It was a risky move, to be honest, to make reading through a wall of texts part of the gameplay experience. I reckon the developers must have felt themselves taking a huge gamble, for them to have decided to challenge players’ patience like that. I read through them with interest and it wasn’t hard because the storytelling effort in the game had been nothing but convincing so far. The wall of texts, as boring as it may sound, was actually very interesting and offered a perspective-changing experience for me. That few minutes reading through them has given me such insights on one of the characters and my opinion of her went from one that was indifferent, to one who felt like I understood her a whole lot more now.
Unlike most of the games out there where they feed the players with a list of questions – why, who, when, how – and then leaves it to the narrative of the game to lead the players to the ‘answers’, Nier Replicant, or just Nier games, in general, does it in reverse. The game actually fed us with a bunch of answers but we are just not aware of it because we do not know the question. As the game progresses, the game will slowly unveil those questions and it is then that you realize why certain things are how they are, and that the answer had been there all along.
If it sounded too philosophical or sentimental at this point, it is because such is the nature of the game’s theme. Nier games have never been binary – nothing in this game is as clear as night or day, right or wrong, black or white. What you know to be true is only temporary, until you learn of what you didn’t know.
Words can only describe so much about the plot-twisting albeit mind-blowing nature of the game’s storytelling, one would really need to play it to experience the beauty although complicated storytelling ways of the game.
I’ve always thought music is an important part of any video game. They might not be crucial to the gameplay, but they are one of the strong factors that make a game memorable. Any games with however great the gameplay will be a better game if it is accompanied by good music.
As for Nier Replicant v1.22, I am full of praises for the department in charge of music for this game. The game comes with extended versions for some original tracks as well as new ones. They are splendid and sets the mood in the game beautifully (I highly recommend playing this game with a decent headset).
Each area is paired with its own style of music and they all suit speechlessly well with the theme of the map. I recall the first time I dropped into the Village my character is staying at and there was this soothing calm music in the background. While walking around to explore the area, I came across Devola, a female NPC sitting near a fountain with a Mandolin in her hands and she was singing – what was pure instrumental music in the background before I approached her was now added with her voice singing over the tune. I would walk away and back to her to test the transition between the two versions and the transition was seamless and smooth. Needless to say, it was beautiful. Over the course of my playthroughs, I’d occasionally find myself pausing to take a break and just enjoy this artistic side of the game.
Personally, I’ve enjoyed playing this game a lot, but the game isn’t without irksome moments. There are some areas where I wish it was less torturing, especially the part where I needed to farm for weapons upgrade materials. To make it clear, I don’t mind grinding, farming, repetitive tasks, but the process needs to be somewhat meaningful, or at least enjoyable to motivate repetition.
Materials are collected in two ways – defeating mobs and hope they drop, and those that spawn in the environment free for pick up. The RNG for mob drops can be unkind most of the time and it is especially torturing when you have multiple weapons requiring the same material. The process involved is to re-enter a map every time I failed to get what I want to force a respawn of the mob or of the loots until I get them.
There had been instances where I’d re-enter for more than 30 instances and found none of what I needed. There was also a material that requires a special spawn trigger that involves me smacking the crap out of the chickens around the village for it to have a chance to spawn the next time I re-enter. I would abuse the chickens for a good 5-10 rounds before seeing a single, sometimes two, spawn of the said material if I’m lucky. This sadistically primitive method of farming is an absolute waste of time and is my biggest complaint about the game.
The game is comprised of several areas and needless to say, Nier Replicant being an RPG game in nature would definitely have elements of side quests in it. The constant need to travel back and forth can be a chore especially when some quests require only the simplest of tasks “Go talk to that dude at Map D” – and I’d end up running to that place before being sent back to report my quest.
Quick Travel unlocks much later in the game and honestly, when it finally unlocked for me, I had gotten used to the back and forth traveling. There was a glorious hog that I managed to tame and it acts as a mode of transport offering some convenience. The game did try to entertain me in between my travels by dropping some minor bosses in my path, but that only happens in one map and it doesn’t happen enough.
With all that’s been said and done, here are a list of things I really admired about the game and what I wished was better.
What’s good –
- Combat is really good and fun to play.
- Music….very nice music…
- Good loading speed on the PS5
- Smooth framerates
- Good story and the way it’s told.
What I wished was better.
- Quick travel should have been enabled earlier
- There should be more fighting opportunities between travel
- Material Farming needs to stop torturing us
I’ve had many hours of fun reviewing this game and I found myself liking most of it, but to be fair, I don’t see it being able to impress a large number of new players like Automata did. Although considerable efforts have been made by the developers to attract new players especially those who played their first Nier game in Automata, this new Nier Replicant still feels like it would please the old crowd (the original Replicant/Gestalt players) more. My fondness for the game came mostly from nostalgia and enjoying the niche aspect of the game’s storytelling style, music, and memorable combat system. If you are new to the series, you might want to take a moment and watch some gameplay videos first before deciding. But if you had played the original Nier games (Replicant/Gestalt) or Automata, then there’s no need to wait, you would like this one.