REVIEW: ‘Nier Re[in]carnation’ Is An Atmospheric Experience (iOS)

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Nier Reincarnation

Nier Reincarnation is a free-to-play turn-based mobile game published by Square Enix and developed by Appliebot. A young girl awakens on the cold stone floor of an immense structure known as The Cage. As she traverses through the labyrinth-like structure she will discover the stories of others and have to set them right.

Sometimes projects come along that seem tailored for you. As a huge fan of the Nier franchise, I’ve not only reviewed the recent release of Nier Replicant but I even covered the side story book Nier YoRHa Boys. Since I also have great a love for mobile gaming, Nier Reincarnation was a game I couldn’t pass up checking out.  And while the newest entry in the franchise from celebrated creative director Yoko Taro doesn’t deliver everything I was hoping for, it does deliver everything it sets out to do.

To start, let’s talk about the highlight of Nier Reincarnation: its tone, and visual presentation.

The franchise as a whole is synonymous with worlds that are stepped in sadness, and characters that struggle endlessly to make their harsh worlds brighter for themselves, and those whom they care about. This newest entry keeps the trend alive as players explore The Cage and come to learn the stories of the characters they discover there.

As the game first opens, players take control of a young girl who awakens in the middle of a huge sprawling stone structure. Who the girl is or how she came to be here is unknown. She is not alone, however. A small floating creature with a sheet over it, bearing a striking similarity to ghost disguise, that identifies itself simply as Mama is with the girl. Mama seems to know the girl and takes it upon herself to be the girl’s guide through The Cage. Even though Mama’s knowledge of the structure soon proves to be less than encyclopedic.

During these portions of the game, the player guides the girl around the impressive structure of The Cage. Everything about the environments here feels immense, majestic, and overwhelming. The game utilizes lots of great camera angles and far shots to emphasize just how small the player is as they make their way through the world.

Periodically, the young girl will come across a scarecrow that emits dark energy. These scarecrows hold stories that have been corrupted. To cleanse the corruption, the girl enters the story and fixes whatever has been altered in the narrative.

Once in the story, Nier Reincarnation changes from the sweeping 3D visuals to a sort of diorama stage where 2D characters play out a sequence of the story. These plot moments are narrated through full voice work, and each story has a unique voice to match its characters. (And all the voice work is translated to English. Rare for mobile titles, though original Japanese audio is available). While simple in design, the presentation works well to bring the hardships that are always present to the player in an effective way that works within the graphical limitations of mobile devices. Once the story reaches a critical point, generally when a confrontation would occur, the diorama presentation is replaced with a full 3D battle screen as the game’s core gameplay component takes over.

Nier Reincarnation

Combat in Nier Reincarnation is turn-based with the characters default attacks happening automatically on cool-down. Along with these basic attacks, characters have access to an innate special ability, as well as two specials connected to their equipped weapon. These special attacks take much longer to charge, but generally pack a significant punch. These attacks also have some special effects along with their damage output but these generally fall into the line of stat buffs/enemy debuffs or healing effects. Hits landing from special attacks also build a combo gauge that increases the damage dealt by subsequent attacks in the combo.

With such a narrow field of effects available to players Nier Reincarnation’s combat is simple, to say the least. Deciding when to fire off a special takes a little consideration, but not much. As long as your characters are adequately leveled and you are paying attention, the battles here shouldn’t pose too much of a problem. While this approach to combat wasn’t as complex or challenging as I wanted, it is enjoyable.

Nier Reincarnation

Breaking up the simplistic combat is the opportunity to play a variety of mini games that the player eventually unlocks. Much like the combat, these games are simple, but fun.

The only major problem I have with the gameplay is how unintuitive finding information can be. What special attacks do for example is not the easiest information to find. And the game doesn’t deliver more than a bare-bones tutorial on how to navigate things.

And of course, I couldn’t talk about a Nier game without mentioning the gorgeous soundtrack. The maestro of Nier music Keiichi Okabe returns to brings more of that signature Nier music to gamers’ ears. The melodies and tune that fill the game’s many areas are as beautiful and atmospheric as fans of the franchise have come to expect.

Before we wrap up our look at Nier Reincarnation we need to talk about the game’s monetization. Firstly, this is a loot box-style “gacha” game where new characters and weapons are often gained through purchases of randomized loot boxes. However, the system doesn’t seem to be set up to force players to purchase to enjoy the stories and gameplay the game delivers. Even the much-hyped launch crossover with Nier Automata seems to be designed to go easy on players’ wallets. Rather than requiring the iconic 2B, 9S, and A2 to be purchased, players have the option of earning them through a special, all-new side story featuring the well-known characters. While the ones attainable in the loot boxes are more powerful, the ones earned seem perfectly suitable for tackling the story.

Note: The arena mode of Nier Reincarnation was not up and running when this review was done. So how purchases impact that mode cannot be judged.

When all is said and done, Nier Reincarnation delivers a package that revels in its tone, story, and artistic presentation, while pairing all that with relaxed, easy-to-grasp gameplay. While some of its options could be explained a little clearer, the game is simple enough that the player should be able to handle the mild challenges, even if they are not clear on every detail.

Nier Re[in]carnation is available now on Android and iOS devices.

Nier Re[in]carnation
  • 8/10
    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

When all is said and done, Nier Re[in]carnation delivers a package that revels in its tone, story, and artistic presentation, while pairing all that with relaxed, easy to grasp game play. While some of its options could be explained a little clearer, the game is simple enough that the player should be able to handle the mild challenges, even if they are not clear on every detail.