Howdy hidey ho! The first thing you need to know is that NieR Replicant is a remaster of a 2010 game… Yes, this game is 12 years old, and this is a factor to consider even if I’m a little more forgiving because of it. What’s weird about this being a backlog review for me, though, is that I played NieR: Automata first. Regardless, how’s this remaster hold up in the modern day?
…saving grace in the gameplay department: creativity.
I won’t sugar coat it: its old underpinnings become relatively noticeable early on. The combat is fine, especially if you already played Automata, but the mixture of weapons, magic, and words left me finding only a handful of useful combinations and combat quickly became repetitive once I found the right weapon and move set to, well, replicate. This also factors into the feel of the platforming (which the game does also throw at you), and the rather linear “hall running” exploration outside of a few open, empty areas you’ll repeatedly backtrack through. Fortunately, the game intelligently decides it’s going to do whatever it can to keep things interesting, and it does exactly that through a surprising variety of scenarios… one of which involves just straight reading. Despite the combat repetition and unimpressively rapid movement, I didn’t find myself bored simply because I never knew what was coming next. That’s its saving grace in the gameplay department: creativity. The actions themselves are decidedly mediocre, but the application methods are rather clever. That is, until you’ve completed your first playthrough and the game indicates there are more endings to get. Your first playthrough is going to be your most enjoyable, albeit most confusing…
…in an effort to pad its length, there are five endings to see.
And that first playthrough will probably last you nearly 20 hours. Not too shabby, even if it does involve said backtracking as the game world itself is rather small. The game also has quests that are mostly done purely to amass more money because, and this isn’t much of a spoiler, you’ll want to get and buy every weapon in the game (thank me later). You see, this is where the game once again shows its age: in an effort to pad its length, there are five endings to see. For me to show you playing as Kainé, it means I played through the second half of the game THREE times, and the first half nearly TWICE on my way to over 30 hours total. I don’t need to tell you that extra 10 hours weren’t the most enjoyable, but the next section explains its purpose that is once again, mediocre in execution, but creative in application.
…no need to keep me in the dark and hold story bits behind a grind…
It’s important to once again emphasize this is a 12-year-old game. Dead enemies that simply disappear once off screen should tell you all you need to know about why you shouldn’t be trying to target 60fps on the Steam Deck. The game lacks the optimization, and this remaster relies on brute force of modern gaming hardware. Combine that with an obviously lazy PC port, and my recommendation is 900p capped at 30fps maxed out. Yes: 900p even if you’re handheld is a visual improvement because this old engine has overall poor anti-aliasing techniques. Of course, other than eyeballing Kainé, you likely care more about the story. This is, and I’m starting to sound a bit repetitive, where the execution is decidedly mediocre, but the creativity is its saving grace. Each time you replay through towards another ending, the game provides you more story and a greater understanding of everything that’s happening. However, by the time I saw the fifth and final ending, I realized that this could have all been streamlined into two play throughs with the second one adding the “fifth” and final ending. That’s where the execution is mediocre: the story bits that are added could have simply been in a singular playthrough. There was no need to keep me in the dark and hold story bits behind a grind… even if it does creatively tug at your curiosity in its eventual dystopian realization through trickle plot twists. Funnily enough, the music mirrors just about everything I’ve said so far, too: it’s creative and focuses on short, catchy vocal riffs that stick in the brain; but perhaps Genshin has spoiled me as it ends up sounding a bit repetitive as the hours roll by.
…what keeps this game’s score from dipping entirely into mediocrity is its creativity.
The truth is that many older games do not hold up to modern standards. We’ve wised up and have found far more favorable ways to handle things like backtracking and trickle storytelling. This is a game that did not need a remaster, it needed a full remake. Perhaps the budget wasn’t there (and it seems the budget really wasn’t there originally, either), but what keeps this game’s score from dipping entirely into mediocrity is its creativity in all aspects and a bit of forgiveness. It does generic things in purposely obtuse ways that instead moisten the giblets (though its cult classic status is likely due to scantily clad waifu Kainé). In fact, if it wasn’t for that fifth ending, my score would have likely been lower because curiosity really does kill the cat.