It’s easy to see the title Nier and immediately think of 2B and all the hubbub surrounding Nier: Automata, but very few people actually know that Nier: Automata was a sequel. Nier was originally a standalone game from the Drakengard series creator Yoko Taro. Best described as incredibly weird, hard to follow, and janky, Nier had middling reviews upon release and vanished from sight until Nier: Automata released. Nier Replicant is a remaster of the original Nier with combat revamped with assistance from PlatinumGames. This remaster almost feels like a complete remake, with rewarding combat and a pretty timeless story. The relation from Nier Replicant to Nier: Automata is tough to see at first, but over time more is revealed and events are able to be pieced together. Even without playing Nier: Automata this game is enjoyable standalone, and is quite a wonder to experience.
It’s really hard to put any of the Nier games in a box. It’s easy to classify this as a hack and slash action game, but there’s so much variation that it fades away after a bit of playing. The Nier series has always genre jumped, and Nier Replicant is no exception. Most of the game has you playing as the main character: Nier. This sees your standard third person action combat and hack and slash gameplay. As time passes, you get access to more utilities with Grimoire Weiss. Aside from magic, Weiss allows you to augment skills and weapons with words of power that change their effectiveness and apply side effects. This leads to a surprising amount of build variation for general combat alone. Combat opens up more later in the game, but even with the most basic weapons it feels incredibly fluid and rewarding. Every parry feels impactful, dodging feels fluid, and every slash feels like it’s cutting deep. I have never seen PlatinumGames do a bad job with combat, and this is proven here with how flashy and fun it is. Even while running around doing fetch quests I felt the need to start fights just because of how fun it was.
To touch on the fetch quests, the story starts out with a LOT of them. Honestly, the start of the game is nothing but fetch quests. This doesn’t stop either, most of the side quests are really just glorified fetch quests that have you going around the world to find an item or talk to someone and run back. While that sounds horrendous, if you can push past it the story gets incredibly deep. Nier Replicant is a game that has so many hidden details and metaphors that you’d go crazy trying to write them all down. Pretty much every part of the story and every design choice is meticulously made for a reason. From the fetch quests having their tiny stories to the character’s reactions to them. It feels like a living, breathing world even though everyone is holding on to scraps. This is one of the themes of Nier Replicant as well, and one of the most prevalent aspects of the game. Holding on to what’s left because what awaits is nothing, the entire game is filled with overt nihilism and general sadness. Character stories are interesting and in-depth, but Nier Replicant really walks on the gray area surrounding the issues these characters set out to solve, and the consequences that come with solving them.
Games like this don’t come around too often, and it’s safe to say that Nier Replicant is deserving to be of the same ilk as Nier: Automata. While there might not be as many drawing features to this game aside from name alone, Nier Replicant is a masterclass in worldbuilding and viewing games as art. Keiichi Okabe’s orchestrations are downright timeless, and make every moment impactful. The writing and player agency allowing the user to delve as deep as they want with the story, and how it connects to every event around them is familiar from Nier: Automata, but executed just as well here. Every document, side quest, and event has a meaning and a consequence. The character writing is superb, and their development arcs are especially well handled. While this is a remaster and most of the elements of the game are only touched up, it looks different enough to seem like a remake. The dull grays of every area can be a turn off to some players, but the significance they have to the story cannot be understated. While I understand that Nier is a hard series to get into, especially with the intro to this game, I cannot stress enough that this is a story to experience in one way or another.
Score: 9 out of 10
Reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro