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Nier miss?

Posted by joeabbott on July 13, 2014

imageI recently completed playing a video game called Nier … I’m not sure how the publisher intended on saying that word, but, in my head, it always sounds like “near”. This will be a post on the video game Nier.

Why I played the game

Like many games I play, Nier is quite old by video game standards, releasing in 2010 and nearly anyone who was going to say something about it already has. And what they’ve said is, meh.

The game Nierly nearly unanimously received mediocre ratings, with only a few outlets scoring it above the equivalent of a C grade. Many of the reviews I’d read contained some complimentary comments on one or more aspects but, as a whole, they felt the offering foundered. And this was how the game found it’s way into my collection.

As a coworker was moving offices, he found an old copy that he’d never opened, tossed it on my desk, and didn’t look back. I asked around to a few people about it and only found folks who proclaimed it to be a “crap game” that “no one liked”. I couldn’t, however, find anyone who’d actually played the game!

imageMy interest wasn’t really piqued until I saw the game referenced in a couple of magazines. I get both Official Xbox Magazine and Game Informer, so I’m not sure which one(s?) the articles appeared in but two articles showed up this year, one claiming it was an underrated “gem” and the other stated it would be a reasonable game for a “part 2”, if the creator would be interested and a suitable publisher found.

After that, I poked about online (avoiding spoilers) and saw enough merit that I popped it in. And then played it for over 80 cumulative hours.

The game

The game is too complex to give a reasonable synopsis; you can find a passable article here. What I will touch on are those things that pop for me.

First, the game was most loudly panned for its graphics and, yes, they are very primitive by any modern video game standard. Murky backdrops, low-res textures and rendering, and fairly bland visuals with lots of painted doors\windows or other details that just weren’t accessible. As I’ve enjoyed a lot of open-world, sandbox games lately, these limitations were disappointing.

Additionally, I’m an RPG nerd, enjoying that genre the most. While Nier is billed as an RPG game, however, it’s just not. Yes, your character levels, but there are no development trees or new skills (I’m not counting the two-handed sword or spear skills, as you get those through game-progression, not leveling). And, you can level your weapons but, again, while they pack more punch at higher levels, there’s nothing new about them other than the heavier hit. So, without customization of skill, and an RPG I’m finding Nier to be wanting.

The music and voice acting in the game were both rated highly and while I agree that the voice acting was very nice, I did find the music to be a bit repetitive for given areas and it seemed to swell dramatically just a bit more than I like. I turned it way down in the options menu.

And then there are the two biggest elements to the game: it has four different endings and the collectibles are a grinding mess. Let me say, “ouchie”.

And so, with those (mostly negative) notes, how did I find the game?

Not bad.

I think, in part, my “not bad” review is a reaction to the many negative reviews and comments: they set the bar low and I didn’t find it that bad. Also, I can say the challenge factor of the game was high enough to offset some of the long grind. A person should enter the game with their heads up and understand what they’re in for, but they could come out pleased.

Four endings

OK … I read a study a while back saying only 10% of people finish the campaign on a video game. TEN PERCENT! That’s incredibly small and so it’s odd that a manufacturer would sink the time and effort into creating four unique endings. Even moreso when you consider now people will have to play them!

While it’s a lot of time, I did find that you don’t really have to play Nier completely four times through.

imageIn a “speed run” of the game, I finished in about 8 hours. The average for folks who have tried to speed through it was something like 6.5 hours. You’d need that sort of time on the first play-through.

For your second play-through, you start about half-way through the game and can complete the second part in ~4 hours. You’ll need to do the same for your third play-through.

For the last play-through, the only thing that’s different is the choice you make after the final battle. So, if you saved prior to that fight, you could be done with your fourth play-through in less than 10 minutes.

That’s about 16.5 hours but only if you blow through all dialog and skip the cut scenes … which are the parts that make second and third plays-through interesting! By playing through a bit more leisurely and paying attention to the dialog, you do get a story that’s full, interesting, and challenges you to piece through what you’d seen in an earlier play-through. It’s neat.

imageThe achievements

I completed Nier mainly as a challenge.

The achievements are a grinding mess. They test your tolerance to pain and boredom. They challenge your will to complete it, But in only a couple of cases test your skill … you just need dogged perseverance and you’ll get the cheevos.

As with all video games, there are some that come from progression of the story. These are typically easy but, in the case of Nier, they tossed in the “four endings” bit, and so you needed to have some staying power.

Next, there are the “kill X number of beasties” … of which Nier has very few! And here’s where Nier falls back on their special skill of testing a player’s resolve: there is a “you killed 100 sheep” achievement. Yes, 100 sheep. You’re not so much given a reward for skill or rooting out an enemy … you are once again tested for running out into the pasture and beating some bleating sheep to death.

Then there are the standard RPG trope achievements: do some quests, collect some stuff. Nier has both of these and, thankfully, they’re smaller.

The biggest class of achievement Nier recognizes is the “killed boss <blah> in X minutes”. While these can be a nice challenge, setting the game to Easy is a quick way to get the achievement nearly every time. And, when you need a second try, Nier always has a save point just prior to a boss fight … just reload and try again.

The final achievement that is the source of pain for nearly every achievement hunter is their Forging Master: You upgraded 30 weapons to their maximum level. If you look on the graph to the right, Forging Master is the high point at the far right on the graph. The way you interpret the graph is: nearly all players have the first couple achievements, most of the rest of the folks continue on with people either quitting out around 13 achievements or they continue until the end … where only about 700 people (who are on the TrueAchievements site) have the last achievement. That’s this one: Forging Master.

What makes upgrading 30 weapons hard, is that you need a variety of different collectible components (there are 44 different types in all) to upgrade each one. And each weapon has three levels up upgrade.

A typical weapon would look like this:

Weapon How Obtained Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4
Moonrise Southern Plains by saving a guard Comes as level 1 Titanium Alloy
Broken Saw
Titanium Alloy
Broken Saw
Broken Lens
Titanium Alloy
Rusty Kitchen Knife (2)


So, for this weapon, I’d need a total of three titanium alloys, two broken saws, two rusty kitchen knives, one broken lens, and one pyrite. Most are only available through random encounters in specific places, but a few can be purchased from vendors you come across.

When I approached the farming portion of going for this achievement (meaning, when I started just playing the game purely to find the materials needed to upgrade my weapons), I just kept fighting monsters, digging up buried items, and searching through rubble for the components. It made the game hard and tedious and ate up a lot of time. And then I built a spreadsheet.

imageI listed all the materials I had to find, how many of each I needed, and which weapons, when upgraded, required what stuff. I was a bit annoying but, in the end, I had a great tool that allowed me to look for one thing in the most likely spots to find them, using the least amount of time. And, in a few hours, I had the items I needed.

There are some stories on the Internet of folks trying and trying to get a particular item … in one case, a flying shade randomly (like once every 100 encounters) drops an item called a subdued bracelet; you need three total but they are only available after a certain point in the story and there are only three of them that appear in one area; you have to grind on that … and not getting them. I did find some items were hard to get but, overall, it’s just doing the same thing enough times that random chance favors you with the item.

Let’s be clear, completing this achievement was the main reason I played the game for 83 hours and didn’t make it fun, but in my True Achievement Trophy Case, I proudly display my Forging Master achievement … it’s the icon on the right in the bottom row. I worked for that one!

In summary

And so, I started playing the game because it was a castoff that no one seemed particular affinity for, I found many of their complaints to be substantiated, but there was enough of a draw here to pull me in for 83 hours of gameplay. Give me a challenge and I’ll rise to it, but I’m happy I don’t have too many games like this on my shelf. Oh, and to those people who had been asking for a “part 2” to Nier: what are you thinking?

Thanks for reading!


2 Responses to “Nier miss?”

  1. momma said

    Good grief – the inside of your head must be – well, words fail me. And I’m your mother! What is RPG (the kind of nerd you are – your words)? I can’t imagine spending 83 hours on just about anything, especially something about which many people’s opinion was “meh”. I’m glad you dummy down for me when you come home, Joe, as I just love your company then. (I also am always amused and interested at your love of these complex games you enjoy so much.) Momma

  2. joeabbott said

    Well, it’s hard to know what will grab you! I admit, most of the attention to this game was two-fold: getting all the achievements and getting all the achievements in a game that caused others despair. 🙂

    That said, it became more interesting (and easier!) after I built my spreadsheet.

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