Nero Review (Xbox One)
I had finally found a puzzle in Nero that had me stumped. After about two hours of gameplay breezing through the simple trials the game presented, I found myself in front of a really tough nut to crack. After about ten minutes of trial and error I finally got it, and the gate I was trying to open did just that. Suddenly I heard an Achievement blip, and the familiar green notification appeared and said "Complete the puzzle leading to the end." What?
That's the story of Nero as a whole, a lot of promise wrapped into what is ultimately a disappointment. The story behind the game is good, but easily predictable. The world is marvelous to behold, but traveling through it is tedious and boring. Just when I think the game is going to get interesting, it ends. I wanted to like Nero, I really did, but as the credits rolled all I could do was wish I could get my two hours back.
Nero tells a story of a family devastated by tragedy; telling the story through floating paragraphs of text placed throughout the world. I control a small hooded figure with the power to conjure balls of light into his hands. Eventually this small hooded figure gains a taller hooded figure as a companion, and I am charged with leading the duo through a path of puzzles and perceived danger. There's never any real danger though, just a few moody pathways with words floating around, so don't worry about ghastly figures jumping out from the shadows.
This is a tragic and beautiful tale of grieving for loved ones and overcoming said grief, one that almost makes the game's other transgressions worth it. Don't expect any big surprises however, as the beats are all fairly familiar and don't really take any risks. The names of the Achievements (which I won't spoil here of course) give away the path the game takes from the first chapter on. Though there are no shocking twists to behold, but I can't say I hated the way the narrative played out.
What I did dislike, however, was the technical mess that awaited me when trying to see this story play out. The world of Nero is truly beautiful, alive with color and vibrancy even in the darkest areas of the game. However, navigating this marvelous world is one of the most frustrating experiences I've had on the Xbox One. The framerate is the slowest I've seen on the console yet, making me wonder if this game would have run properly on the 360, let alone the new console. My character walked at a snail's pace until the game mercifully told me about the run button, but that run button only quickened my pace to a leisurely stroll. Aiming the balls of light for solving puzzles is rarely consistent, which forced me to account for arcs in my shot that didn't exist earlier in the game. It's a technical nightmare that makes getting to the end of the game a real chore, which is a shame because the full story is worth the time.
Additionally, there were spelling errors that repeatedly cropped up, making them hard to forgive. I came across a square button on the floor during one puzzle that said, "You Know The Thruth." I gave the game the benefit of the doubt and thought maybe that last word was something unique to the world, until I saw a circular button later on that said "You Know The Truth." Nope, that was a spelling error. I then noticed that every square button in the game held this error, as if they were copied and pasted throughout the world as needed. It's forgivable to see that mistake once; it's unacceptable to see it repeated throughout the game without any fixes.
Nero holds a lot of promising ideas and a neat little story back with a smorgasbord of technical mishaps and slow, choppy gameplay. Nero felt and played like a game from a bygone era, not something developed for one of the most current consoles. Seemingly, Nero takes none of the advantages that the Xbox One allows into consideration, instead slogging along in a disappointing way. There will be no grief from me that Nero is over, and I don't think I'll be returning to it any time soon.
This review was completed with a download code of Nero provided by the publisher for Xbox One.