After playing and being thoroughly wrecked by Nier: Automata, I was curious if Nier: Replicant ver.1.22474487139… the “version up” (since according to the developers it’s not a remake or a remaster) of the original Nier would inspire similar emotional devastation. I have dim memories of the first game. I remember the gruff dad and the quiet sadness of the sick little girl. But the only moment that I remember being compelling was the opening credits in which a lady employs a litany of colourful curses to threaten what is apparently a sentient book.
This brilliant bit of dialogue thankfully returns in Nier: Replicant ver.1.22474487139… (yes, the ellipsis are part of the name) performed by the prolific Laura Bailey, who also voiced the 2010 version. And so far, learning the context of those opening words remains the only thing keeping me invested in this game.
Out on April 23 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, Replicant’s combat is similar to Automata, containing the same combo and dodge mechanics but with far fewer options to customise your loadout. Grimoire Weiss, the previously mentioned sentient book, is your snarky battle companion who hovers near your head, similar to the Pods of Automata, and can deploy any number of magical attacks from bullets, to lances, to big-arse magical fists. You can upgrade your weapons at a special shop and augment them and Grimoire Weiss’ magic using “words” obtained from defeated enemies called shades.
I imagine there will be many people who, like me, either skipped or barely remember OG Nier, played and loved Automata and are looking to try Replicant to see if they missed out on anything. Honestly, I don’t know yet. Nine hours in, and the story is still very generic. JRPG action-boy seeks to protect/save sickly little sister — no molds are being broken here. I have met Kainé, the foul-mouthed woman responsible for the polemic in the opening credits. She’s refreshing to the point that I wish she was the main protagonist instead of the boy, even if I am slightly confused by her choice in attire. Open-backed panties? Girl, you want dirt in the crack of your arse? Because that’s how you get dirt in the crack of your arse.
The protagonist isn’t wholly boring. I do enjoy his earnestness, cliche as it is, which didn’t quite come through when he was retooled to be the dad instead of the brother in OG Nier. Grimoire Weiss’ bombastic self-importance is a delight, and I’ll never get tired of hearing that voice.
But I can’t help but feel like I’m still waiting for Replicant’s story to truly begin. I’m well into the story, and nothing significant has happened yet. There have been small, touching moments that do their damnedest kept me interested, but had I not played Automata, I don’t know if what I’ve seen so far in Replicant would be enough to keep me going.
Nier: Automata beat my arse every day for a week, and I loved it. After nine hours, two bosses, and dozens of sidequests, I’m still waiting for Nier: Replicant to become a predecessor worthy of Automata’s brilliance, but it’s because of that brilliance I’m willing to continue waiting.