I find it strange that there isn't much talk about the game here...
I just finished the game yesterday, it took me 41 hours and a Quest completion percentage of 81%. First thing I thought the second I finished the game was buying the beautiful OST!!
The game isn't hard at all, especially when you take your time and do side quests. FF XIII for example is a much harder game, Resonance of Fate incomparably harder!! I have somethings to say that I don't think other FF fans will agree with, but know in advance that I used to be a huge FF fan, my favourites being FFIV, FFVI, FFVII and FFX...
First of all, the story is better than FF13! It wasn't the best story I've ever experienced, but I couldn't stop playing until I knew what the hell was going on. In FF13, the characters constantly forced their trivial emotions on you through cutscenes that felt stretched and sometimes unreasonable, and the plot was just all "sugar and rainbows" from my point of view. Nier however, never over stayed its welcome and kept the element of intrigue intact at all times. The story is mostly dark, sad and melancholic and the soundtrack definitely complements that approach. The main character is a father struggling to provide food and medicine to his sick daughter. I will not spoil anything, so in short, it's a good story with a subtle build that is more mature than any JRPG of late, but only doesn't reach perfect condition because of the quality control that keeps fluctuating, somehow making it feel rushed. I think the ending I got was "Ending B", and I was completely satisfied by that ending. While the credits kept rolling and the amazing main theme kept on playing, I started thinking about Nier 2's potential to be the perfect action RPG, only if Cavia got a fraction of the support and budget FF13 had, if ever there was a Nier 2 that is. btw, prepare for some surprises that catch you off guard!
The gameplay, while not completely polished, is fun in the purist fashion. The variety of gameplay mechanics kept things interesting, I've seen the game go from dungeon crawling to a 2D style platformer and then to a pure-text adventure accompanied with appropriate tunes all the way. This is definitely not a typical RPG, and it borrows ideas from other famous franchises while offering references that you can't miss. The battle system is a mixture of hack n' slash with magic use, both intertwining seamlessly. There is no targeting system (except for some magic spells), so everything depends on your control of the camera and direction. One thing I've noticed is that gamers from everywhere say that this game has a strange draw to it, once you start playing, it's hard to let go.
Graphically, FF13 is obviously a trillion times better than Nier. I started Nier the second I finished FF13 and it felt like going back to the PS2!! Visually, this game is a mixed bag, with 60% bland textures. But there are some areas and bosses that are brilliantly designed, and the game never falls apart because of this aspect.
Characters are excellent, and interactions between them are always fun! Even Kaine, the obvious fan-service character, surprised me with her unexpected back story. By now, you all know that she is a hermaphrodite, I don't want to spoil anything, but the story will elaborate on her struggles with different issues -like the aforementioned one- starting from her childhood. Voice acting is mostly on the money! Nier's voice is deep and fitting, Grimoire Weiss's is definitely a favourite with his witty remarks flying all around, and Kaine's is perfect for her role, even with that level of vulgarism.
Now lets talk about the soundtrack! It's an excellent blend of the industrial and the orchestral! You will have goosebumps listening to these tracks! Many if not most of them were infused with a choir performance that will simply blow away any of your expectations, let alone the unsuspecting such as my self. I was expecting something between mediocre and decent. What I ended up listening to elevated every scene and boss fight to a level of enjoyment and involvement I rarely feel these days. There are tracks that are just decent, but there is not a single bad one! FF 13 had my fav OST of the year, well, until this game came out. A certain song called "Song of The Ancients: Devola" is the main village theme in the game, and -get a load of this- it has no vocals unless you walk up to a fountain in the middle of the village and see the character named Devola sitting there singing, the closer you get to her the clearer you can hear the vocals. I spent a lot of time just standing there to listen to her. That was the first time it got to me that this game might actually have an awesome OST! That particular song has some significance you'll discover later. Overall, the OST is magnificent! I listen to a lot of music, and this OST definitely lacks complexity, to some it might even sound a little pretentious. But for some reason that simplicity is the backbone to the greatness of this soundtrack, it offers a genuine musical experience like no other.
Now you might ask, why do I compare this game to FF13 all the time? FF13 is a good game! A great OST, excellent battle system and a decent story, but to put it simply, I finished FFXIII 5 days ago, after a month of on and off gaming, I just never felt the urge to keep on going, battle after battle with no variation at all, and then came the ending like that... I felt nothing watching the ending, not satisfied, not dissatisfied, just looked at the clock to see if I still had time to try out Nier, I never slept that night...