N.E.R.O.: Nothing Ever Remains Obscure is out now for PC and PS4. This review was conducted with a PS4 copy of the game. N.E.R.O. is a first person game which can be termed a visual novel, a puzzle game, or a “walking simulator”. The game is story-focused, using puzzles as a way to progress through environments.
The story is presented to you in three ways: through narration; floating text scattered throughout the environment; and a handful of cutscenes. The main way you learn about the tale that is being told is through the floating text. This is a mixture of description, given in third person, and quotes from the main characters in the story. These lines aren’t voiced, but the speakers are each denoted by a symbol. After a while you work out who each symbol represents, as the story progressively makes more sense as you go along.
The narrator does a good job, and his voice suits the tone of the game. Unfortunately, some of the lines are pretty nonsensical, even with context, and often hyperbolic. The game tries just a bit too hard to be dramatic, which is probably part of the reason the story doesn’t quite hit you as hard as it could.
The visuals are good, and very atmospheric throughout most of the game. The outdoor sections in particular can be quite lovely, though some of the indoor areas are lacking. The style they’re trying for is very nice, and the graphics are decent, but there are significant lighting issues, which makes the text hard to read sometimes.
As you navigate through the environments, you collect pieces of pictures, and each main area of the game has a picture to complete. The pictures don’t add all too much to the game though; they just seem to be there to give you something to do. They serve to give you something to work towards and a give exploration a purpose, though the reward for doing so isn’t especially great unless you want the trophies.
The game is mostly linear, with a few large open spaces to navigate. These open areas don’t inspire much exploration though, as the surroundings can feel quite samey, and with no indication of direction it can be difficult to find anything. For example, after a while of walking through similar scenery in a large area, it’s hard to tell which direction you came from and where you’ve already explored. As there’s very little benefit to exploring, unless you want to collect all the picture pieces, you’ll probably just move on quickly.
The controls are simple, but can be quite clumsy for the puzzle solving purposes. You may end up doing the same thing a few times before it sticks, as when you have to hit objects with what looks like a plasma ball you can generate (a power that is given to you early on, but never really explained), there’s no indication of exactly where you should be aiming for. You end up making plasma balls, shooting them, then just moving a few millimetres and repeating over again until it magically registers that you have done the right thing.
The puzzles, even without this issue, are pretty repetitive and boring, and mostly just require you to press buttons and hit things enough times or with the right timing for what you want to happen. They are mostly unnecessary, and there to give you something to interact with, as there’s very little in terms of gameplay beyond walking around and reading.
The story is the main focus of the game though. It is about love, loss and death, and it tries very hard to be moving, but doesn’t quite succeed. Of course, this is a personal experience; for some individuals it may be very emotive. The story itself isn’t especially original. The setting is fantastical, but the core story is very human and not especially unique. The game is reminiscent of games such as Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, but the story isn’t nearly as unique as the one presented in Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture.
The title of the game is “Nothing Ever Remains Obscure”, but the game itself remains pretty obscure throughout. You do work out what is happening in the story quite quickly, but if you’re waiting for some big revelation at the end that puts all the pieces together to make sense, you’ll be disappointed. The ending is quite lacklustre and doesn’t really explain anything.
The story is the main point of the game, so it’s a shame it never really fully delivers. Because the story is told in such an obscure way, and unfolds so slowly, it never fully grips you. I kept expecting a very big emotional moment to come, but one never appeared. It remained just a sad tale throughout, without one of those “oh!” moments. Unfortunately, this, coupled with the tedious puzzles, means the game doesn’t live up to what it could have been. Mostly, the game suffers from being quite boring. There is very little actual gameplay, and it’s very slow-paced.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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