||Nier, it turns out, couldn't have positioned itself further from expectations of a Square-Enix console release if it tried. Sure enough, the convoluted plotline, colourful fantasy setting and stereotypical character design may pledge themselves to deceive in pre-release screenshots, but everything changes once you see this thing move - and more importantly, talk...Initially set in the year 2049, our titular hero opens his quest as a bedraggled survivor of a near-future plague, holed up in a partially-destroyed shop with nothing but his weapon, a mysterious book and a terminally ill daughter to protect. These opening sections introduce basic combat and movement tutorials, before transitioning to a fantasy village some 1300 years into the future. Yonah - Nier's daughter - is still afflicted by a creeping dark illness, and with nary a mention of the previous section, we're off to find a cure...Nier's playground is, essentially, Zelda in all but name. Various towns and dungeons are connected by fields and deserts full of items to dig up, monsters to hunt and fish to catch, whilst exploration away from the beaten path affords access to unique and rare items. Lying somewhere in-between Shadow of the Colossus and Twilight Princess aesthetically, this is a land that begs to be explored in spite of low-rent texturing and occasionally shoddy animation. NPC characters are plentiful and engaging, towns are alive with quests and distractions, changes in scenery frequent and welcome...As a primary attraction of titles in the genre, each of Nier's dungeon sequences is designed with atmosphere and beautification first, gameplay and puzzle design second. But that isn't to say they don't work, quite the contrary in fact. The fast pace of combat and simple navigation distil these set-pieces into manageable chunks, whilst brain benders are kept to a consistently average skill level. Even those fortresses that seem incredibly complex during an initial fly-by often prove themselves to be linear, and those that offer separate paths usually cut one short to limit frustration and backtracking...As an action-RPG, perhaps there is a better option available if you've yet to play through Darksiders, but Nier still manages to stand on its own accomplishments ? as varied in mechanics and quality as they may be. For that reason alone, I'd suggest giving it a try.