Nier automata was one of the best games I’ve experienced in the past few years. Its action-packed gameplay, bizarre timeline with 26 endings, and haunting score pushes it to being one of my wife’s go-to games to replay when she just wants a great game. And the hard left it veers into somewhere after the first act (spoilers), as well as the end credits, firmly elevates Nier Automata from a great game to (in my opinion) a work of art.
Before Nier Automata, I had never played the Nier series, so I had high hopes when they announced the re-ver (halfway between remake and remaster) for Nier: Replicant. While it was technically one if Automata’s predecessors and not a sequel, I was really excited to experience more of Yoko Taro’s weird thoughts and thought experiments in a new (to me) game.
Maybe my expectation that Replicant ver 1.22 (hereby shortened) would be equal to (or even surpass) Automata would be its downfall.
A slow start
The prologue of Nier Replicant takes place in a post apocalyptic world familiar to us, where a brother is trying to save his sister. It then jumps 5000-odd years into the future, where civilization has collapsed and re-risen into a feudal society, and another similarly named brother is protecting his similarly named sister. While the plot did give me Nier: Automata vibes, the gameplay for the first few hours sadly did not. After the time jump to the future, I was stuck in fetch quests, running around, and doubling back. It was a slog.
Combat starts out similarly slow. The combat gets better after a while, but being stuck with the basic attacks slowed the momentum of the game. The characters and the story are what I’m here for though, and I’m happy to say that the game does pick up after inclusions to the story like Grimoire Weiss and Kainé. They do definitely save the game, it’s just that it takes a bit of time to get there.
Suffering from success
I can’t compare Nier Replicant 1.22 to its original because I never played it back in the day. So I can’t attest to how the new combat system makes gameplay smoother, or how the improved textures and graphics make it significantly prettier compared to when it was released in 2010. All I can compare it to is with Nier Automata, and that sets a significantly higher bar for Nier Replicant 1.22 to clear. Yes it’s got an upgraded combat and graphics system, but compared to games in 2021, nothing in replicant is really noteworthy.
Similarly, a new coat of textural paint over the level design bones of 2010 isn’t enough to hide how empty and static the environment feels sometimes.
That’s not to say there isn’t a good game in there though. While some aspects of Nier Replicant ver 1.22 didn’t age well (quests, level design, etc), other aspects are timeless. The same things that save Replicant are what made Automata such a great game: Yoko Taro’s insistence on switching up genres, Keichii Okabe’s musical brilliance, and the twists and turns in the story along the way.
Ultimately, there still is a worthwhile story under there – it just takes some time for the player to uncover. If you loved Nier Automata, I do think you should give the game a decent chance. Just bear in mind that it is slow-going at first.
I am looking forward to see what the second and third play through a will bring though.