Review – NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139
The original NieR launched way back in 2010, and despite middling reviews at the time, it gained a cult following over the years. Like many, my introduction to the franchise was with the near (no pun intended) perfect NieR Automata: a cocktail of amazing gameplay, stunning world design, and an emotionally charged story. Whilst Automata was my introduction to the franchise I didn’t go in completely blind, researching the insane and ridiculously complicated and convoluted bit lovable and engaging lore of the NieR/Drakengard universe. Replicant V 1.22 is the chance I’ve been waiting for to experience this cult classic.
Set in the far future, the world has been ravaged by a mysterious illness known as the Black Scrawl and humanity has been basically wiped out. Cities are gone and villages take their place. You play as a young Nier, who is looking after his sister Yohna, someone who is suffering from the aforementioned illness. Nier soon stumbles on a grimoire that has the potential cure to the black scrawl so he sets out on a journey to save his sister and potentially the entire world.
Along the way, Nier is accompanied by a wonderful cast of characters. There’s Grimoire Weiss, a sassy flying book that is as powerful as he is easily annoyed by the rest of the cast. Kaine, an extremely powerful combatant that wears lingerie and likes to swear a lot. Then there’s Emil, an innocent young child who has a dark past and the curse of medusa, turning anyone he meets into stone. This is your party and each character has their own interesting personalities and motivations that you will grow to love. These characters and everyone else that you meet are at the heart of this emotionally charged story.
Yoko Taro’s storytelling is its strongest aspect, thanks to the themes it tackles and strong world building. A lot of it is confusing, convoluted, and insane, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Much of the first half is spent building up the mystery of the world, its locations and its inhabitants. Then, in Yoko Taro fashion, things take a turn. A deeply tragic and emotional second half quickly comes around with some shocking twists, and I loved every minute of it. I don’t want to say much more out of fear of spoiling something, but it is up there with or even better than Automata‘s. It truly is the kind of story that can only ever be told in a video game, taking full advantage of the medium, requiring multiple playthroughs to unlock the game’s endings as it keeps pulling the emotional punches well after the first credits roll. It’s a wild ride.
NieR Replicant V 1.22 sits somewhere between a remake and a remaster of the Japanese version of the original NieR. Keeping the game largely intact whilst making some tweaks, such as a new ending, boss fights and weapons. Then you got the combat, which is now much more in line with what we saw in Automata. Weiss has tons of attacks ranging from standard ranged to all sorts of melee and AOE attacks. Assigning them to shoulder buttons. Now you can combine Wiess’ and Nier’s attacks for deadly combo’s. The improved combat system is such a breeze and easily the best improvement in this remaster.
Unfortunately, there are tons of issues that were never really resolved here. This is mainly with the game’s side quests and structure, as forcing you to constantly run back and forth between areas does get tiresome. Not to mention the side quests that just really aren’t worth doing. Thankfully, they are pretty much completely optional.
Whilst it’s perfectly fine to do a few you can easily go through the game without interacting with them at all and I’d recommend sticking with the main path as much as possible. Furthermore, you got the whole resource gathering to upgrade your weapons: it just takes too long to upgrade multiple of them, so you will be mostly sticking with a single weapon throughout your entire playthrough. A lot of NieR can just feel grindy for no real reason as a result. That’s not even getting into farming and fishing.
Thankfully the second half picks up the slack, giving a much more satisfying gameplay experience overall: with the full combat system opened up, boss fights become much more interesting. Don’t get me wrong, the second half still has some major issues, namely with the same dull side quests and constant backtracking through exactly the same areas.
However, the pace of the story and boss fights more than make up for it. When you complete the game’s A route you will need to go through most of the second half again, which, whilst mostly the same, gives you a lot more context. Unfortunately, from a gameplay point of view, it’s very much the same game. Normally this would bother me with a gameplay loop so mediocre, but it’s much quicker and the story revelations make it worthwhile.
Replicant also has a problem with its difficulty setting. “Normal” falls on the easier side, with enemy encounters being able to be completed mostly with just button spamming, missing much of the finesse that you will find in Devil May Cry or Ninja Gaiden. Whilst there is a hard mode, I would far from recommend it. It turns almost every single enemy into a damage sponge: combat becomes as much as a chore as the quests on this difficulty. This was a problem with the base game and I’m disappointed that a more compelling hard mode couldn’t be introduced. As a result, the great combat rarely has a chance to shine.
Whilst the gameplay often leaves a lot to be desired, credit must be given for just how varied it becomes, often times shifting genres to spice things up. For the vast majority of the time you will be playing it as a traditional action game but simple camera shifts to a top-down, side scroller or even an isometric view can mix things up and make the gameplay a touch more interesting. There’s some truly memorable gameplay moments scattered throughout the make it worthwhile to revisit.
Playing on PC with an RTX 2060 and a Ryzen 5 3600X, I was able to get a solid 60FPS at 1440p for the vast majority of my gameplay. However, there are a number of issues with this port that really need fixing. First of all, the resource utilisation which never really allows your graphics card to be used to its full potential. Game speed is tied to the framerate, and with no way to cap it in-game, you will need to use your GPU drivers to force a cap.
On the plus side, if you manage to get your framerate above 60FPS, this will significantly cut down on travel time. I have also had framerate drops that are seemingly tied to the controller for some reason, but this was infrequent in my experience. The lack of ultrawide support is a bit of a shame, and barren graphics options make this a lacklustre but overall playable game on PC. A step-up from Automata‘s PC launch at least.
Graphically, Replicant V1.22 isn’t much of a looker. Textures are less than good and environments are often barren and lacking in detail. The visuals are very much carried by phenomenal art direction that gives the world an epic feeling, where the apocalypse that destroyed mankind feels like ancient history. It’s a medieval looking fantasy world with glimpses of the real world scattered throughout. Bosses whilst occasionally goofy looking are uniquely designed whilst the slick combat animations are always a joy.
Whilst the visuals aren’t quite up to scratch, the audio design is masterful, with a beautiful soundtrack that captures every moment of the game perfectly. Walking through the village for the first time listening to the Songs of the Ancients only for the vocals to kick in the closer you get to Devola is an awe-inspiring moment. For the most part, it’s been lifted from the original release, but with some new arrangements to boot. Then you have the voice cast that does an amazing job bringing these characters to life. Especially Laura Bailey who reprises her role as Kaine from the original game.
For better of for worse, NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139 is pretty much what it was so many years ago. If you didn’t like the original release, then this won’t do much to convince you otherwise, and if you are coming from Automata, this is a weaker game in a lot of ways. NieR demands patience from its players and rewards it with a phenomenal story. With this cult classic making a return maybe Drakengard could see the same treatment?
Great art direction let down by mediocre visuals that, while better looking than the original release, look extremely dated.
Dull side quests and combat that isn’t challenging can make Replicant feel weak at times.
The soundtrack is haunting, epic and beautiful, whilst the voice cast does an amazing job overall.
NieR Replicant requires patience from its players. To reach the good stuff, you’ll have to go through a lot of bad and uninteresting chores. If you have the patience, it’s a phenomenal experience. If you don’t, then it’s best to avoid it.
Final Verdict: 6.5
NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139 is available now on PC, Xbox and PlayStation
Reviewed on PC with an RTX 2060, Ryzen 5 3600X and 16GB RAM.