Needs a New Life
I went into Nier: Reincarnation with pretty high expectations. While I never quite got around to playing any of the other Nier games, I don’t doubt the praise is justified. This gave me high hopes for Applibot’s mobile spinoff of Square Enix’s action RPG franchise. And in many ways, it lives up to those high expectations. But unfortunately, technical issues rendered the game nearly unplayable.
Allow me to set the scene. I had just installed the game on my brand-new LG Velvet smartphone. I pressed start, watched the loading bar progress to precisely 60%, then the game immediately crashed to the home screen. This event set the tone for the rest of my experience with Nier: Reincarnation. I started counting on my second day with the game and had a total of 15 additional crashes. Most but not all of them were either when launching the game or loading a level. Once, Reincarnation crashed while saving, corrupting the file and forcing me to reinstall the game and start over from square one.
Crashes turned out to be a common issue on many Android devices. Lowering the graphics settings helps but doesn’t remotely solve the problem. The developers claim to be working on it, but that’s not an excuse for releasing a broken game. This kind of thing would never have flown on the Game Boy Advance, so I’m not going to let it slide here. I understand that Applibot can’t test its game on every phone on the market, but there’s no way such a common, game-breaking problem flew under the radar. It’s a good thing Square Enix released Reincarnation for free because most Alphas are more stable than this.
What Could Have Been, and Can Be
But the only thing worse than a broken, unplayable JRPG is a broken, unplayable JRPG that’s good. And that’s the exact situation Nier: Reincarnation finds itself in. The story follows an unnamed mute girl –known as “the Girl”– lost in a vast complex called the Cage. Guiding her through the Cage is a strange but seemingly benevolent creature known as Mama. To regain her lost voice and memories, the Girl needs to restore the Stories tied to weapons scattered around the many levels of the Cage. Reincarnation tells these stories through a series of interactive storybook-inspired cutscenes. Each follows a different character, who often plays a secondary role in other Stories. How the different Stories relate to each other and to the Girl are among the many mysteries the game presents.
Graphically, the game is also quite impressive. At its highest settings, Nier: Reincarnation could easily compete with many console titles. Unfortunately, though, that has the side effect of tanking the game’s already non-existent stability. The environments of the Cage are also spectacular; the enormous maze of impossibly high towers really makes you feel lost in a labyrinth of unknown and possibly unknowable size and purpose. Players will spot gargantuan creatures moving in the distance, adding further mystery to the strange towers. Unfortunately, it’s hard to solve mysteries when plagued with crashes and lost data.
A Good Incarnation
Combat in Nier: Reincarnation is somewhat underwhelming compared to what the developers attempted in terms of environment and storytelling. It’s basically Raid: Shadow Legends designed by someone who cares about the game they’re making. Players form a three-person party made of characters from the Stories the Girl unlocked. Combat is semi-turn based with battles playing out in real-time but with a mostly fixed attack order. Basic attacks are automatic, though each character has various active abilities that override their usual spot in the attack order. Each character has two Skills that charge up over time. They also have a more powerful Character Ability that builds charge whenever the character deals or receives damage. Abilities all have unique names and animations, though they pretty much either deal more damage or damage to multiple targets. Later, players can unlock and assign Companions to each party member, adding a powerful single-use attack.
The game also features a weapon and character upgrade system. Players spend upgrade items to boost stats in a way that’s standard for mobile RPG’s. Players can buy the items with real money, but I never felt it was necessary. Optional Stories and Events also give players a way to farm resources without it feeling like a repetitive grind.
A Great Game If You Can Play It
If it functioned as intended, I could easily imagine Nier: Reincarnation walking away with five stars. The combat mechanics aren’t unique, but near enough the definitive version of what they are. The graphics and the environment of the Cage are amazing. The developers packed the story with emotion and intrigue. I haven’t even touched on the music, which is among the best I’ve heard in any game, period.
Yet, I literally can’t get past the frequent crashes. There is just no excuse for releasing a game in this state, especially from a AAA publisher. I refuse to believe Square Enix lacks the money to throw at proper playtesting. If you can get it to work, Nier: Reincarnation is absolutely worth your time. Right now, though, that’s a huge “if.”
Is It Hardcore?
Only when it works.
Nier: Reincarnation could have been perfect but suffers from frequent crashes and corrupted saves on many Android devices.