Can you imagine how strange it must be for someone who is completely unfamiliar with the series to the see the name NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139…? What sort of video game follows its title with a string of seemingly random numbers, never mind an ellipsis?
A brilliant one, that’s what. Series creator Yoko Taro proved that he was no stranger to embracing oddities and unconventional video game design in NieR Automata, and that trend continues in NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… – a remake of the 2010 original that has seen a surge of interest following the critical and commercial success of its follow-up.
NieR Replicant’s tale tells of a world that has been struck by a strange disease known as the Black Scrawl, with the protagonist’s own sister falling under its deadly grip. Taking on the role of a young man (you get to name him yourself), you venture across the world to try and find a cure to the illness. However, with vicious beings known as the Shades lurking through the wild and the world itself suffering, it won’t be an easy journey.
Fortunately, you’re not alone, with the protagonist joined by a powerful floating book known as Grimwoire Weiss, a mask-wearing boy named Emil (fans of Yoko Taro might recognise that mask), and the snappy yet powerful warrior Kaine. They’re a peculiar quartet of heroes (even by JRPG standards), yet there’s something so endearing about them. Each has their own tale to tell, their own struggles, and their own reasons for being, with the unfolding of their stories proving gripping until the end. Whilst saving your sister drives NieR Replicant’s narrative forward, it’s hard not to find yourself more invested in the woes of your allies.
“There’s a deeper purpose (and often a powerful and relatable message) to every aspect of NieR Replicant, and honestly, it’s a joy to discover it all.”
The same love and care has gone into crafting the world around you. Whilst I won’t go into too much detail here, the many twists-and-turns of NieR Replicant’s tale kept me utterly engrossed in the adventure; I was always eager to find out what would happen next (and that’s coming from someone who has played the original). It’s all thanks to the attention to detail found in the game, with every aspect of the world and its characters having a purpose. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of NPCs that are just there to flesh out the world, but there’s so much underlying depth to be found across everything else that it’s hard not to find yourself completely enthralled in what’s going on. There’s just a deeper purpose (and often a powerful and relatable message) to every aspect of NieR Replicant, and honestly, it’s a joy to discover it all.
Be warned, though: much like NieR Automata, you’re going to really have to invest yourself in the game to see everything the plot has to offer. Multiple playthroughs and different actions are required to see all of the game’s endings, whilst there’s even an all-new ‘Ending E’ for returning players to witness. It’ll take a good few hours to see it all, but believe me, it’s worth it…
Gameplay-wise, NieR Replicant adopts an action-RPG approach, with players exploring the wide-open world and its many landmarks, all whilst slaying an onslaught of enemies along the way. Whilst the original game was action-heavy, this remake feels a lot more fluid in design; it’s more akin to NieR Automata thinks to its fast-paced combos that players can string together with standard attacks, spells and ranged attacks.
“Whilst saving your sister drives NieR Replicant’s narrative forward, it’s hard not to find yourself more invested in the woes of your allies.”
Whilst it’s possible to button-mash your way to glory (and it’ll look stylish too), there’s also an air of precision to everything you do in combat. There’s plenty of depth to how you piece together your combos of attacks, whilst the mix of directly attacking magic and area-of-effect based spells allows you to really take control of the battlefield. Your allies will also help you out in combat and will follow your commands, whilst those who prefer a bit more fine-tuning of their capabilities can even replace things like their evasive manoeuvres to give more attacking options. It’s unconventional in design, but it works – what else would you expect from the NieR series?
Another thing players expect from the NieR series is some peculiar gameplay shifts, and yep, they certainly occur in NieR Replicant. I don’t want to spoil things too much here, but you know how NieR Automata would suddenly change the perspective of the camera or seemingly change the genre of game mid-flow? There’s more of that here. Whilst NieR Replicant’s gameplay is strong enough that it doesn’t need to diversify, these surprising moments always added a welcome twist to the formula and helped cement the unusual but brilliant game design.
Add to all of that the fantastic boss battles, the weapon customisation that allows you to fine-tune your arsenal, and the simply outstanding soundtrack, and it becomes clear that NieR Replicant is a very special game. It’s hard to go into depth about some of the *other* things that make it so good because it’s better for the player to discover themselves, but believe me, it’s an unforgettable experience that will certainly prove alluring to gamers thanks to its unconventional yet ingenious design.
“Add to that all of the new gameplay innovations, some additional scenes (including the extra ending), and a fully-voiced script, and it all shapes up into a remarkable RPG experience.”
That’s not to say that it’s completely perfect, though. NieR Replicant has some side quests that just feel like boring trudges that lack any real investment from the player, whilst uncovering the endings can take a lot of repetitive grinding. The latter could feel like an unnecessarily time-consuming task that didn’t feel all that impactful on the endings themselves – it’s almost like padding things out for the sake of it. And don’t get me started on grinding the items required for weapon upgrades…
Still, even with these shortcomings, NieR Replicant manages to hit action-RPG brilliance. Best of all, this version of the game with the ‘Brother’ protagonist never hit Western shores, so it’s a unique experience for those who played the original back in 2010. Add to that all of the new gameplay innovations, some additional scenes (including the extra ending), and a fully-voiced script, and it all shapes up into a remarkable RPG experience.
NieR Replicant is another brilliant remake to add to the ever-growing collection, with its touching narrative and fantastic combat making it a true RPG gem.
Where it really shines though is in the way that it does *unexpected* things. NieR Replicant is constantly changing things up, whether that’s through the gameplay or with a twist in the plot that changes your understanding of the events that are playing out. It’s full to the brim with surprises and they’re all so magnificently presented – it’s what helps make the game feel so special and memorable to play.
It’s not completely flawless and seeing everything it has to offer can feel a little bit repetitive, but it’s worth it. NieR Automata might have brought the series into the limelight, but NieR Replicant proves that it was already special to begin with.
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Click here to visit the official website.