N.E.R.O.: Nothing Ever Remains Obscure Review
Tragedy hangs in the air
N.E.R.O.: Nothing Ever Remains Obscure is an emotional journey through a magical, world. This story-driven first-person game follows two stories, connected by a child named David. As you wander around in this strange environment, you will begin to learn about a race known as the ‘Brigands’, who once roamed the seas before descending deep underground.
Upon starting the game, you are given your first piece of information about the history of the Brigands. From this point onwards, it’s up to you to uncover more of the story by locating and reading glowing excerpts of the story, that hover in the air. These excerpts are split into two different colours: pink for stories about the Brigands, and blue for what appears to be a story set in the human world, surrounding David and his parents.
Moreover, on your journey, you will encounter a number of puzzles that will help you to unlock more of the story. You will soon realise that David is at the centre of a tragic turn of events in each world and you will uncover what becomes of him. Here you will also witness how puzzles can be integrated into a beautiful visual novel, whilst experiencing emotions that you may not be prepared for.
From the moment that you step into the world of N.E.R.O., you will feel curious. Left alone at a deserted harbour, you will (literally) have to follow the story as it unfolds along the paths ahead. As I mentioned earlier, two intertwining stories have been split into small sections and these are scattered throughout the game for you to find. From early on, it’s very apparent that this game embodies a number of hidden meanings behind its cryptic text. The narrator will often refer to a “beautiful hypocrite” and many of his lines will come across as poetic riddles, rather than fundamental information about the characters.
Furthermore, puzzles are an integral feature in the gameplay. Most of the puzzles in N.E.R.O. are very straightforward and will only rely on a few clicks of your mouse. The first puzzle requires you to place your character’s hands on a stone slab in order to open a ‘contraption’ (or as we would call it: a door). Later on in the game, you will have to incorporate this with other actions, such as activating pressure pads on the floor in order to complete puzzles. Soon after finishing the first puzzle, you will be introduced to magic and how to utilise it. By clicking on the right mouse button, you will be able to charge your ‘cast’ (a blue orb), using the left mouse button to aim. Both of these mechanics are essential for solving puzzles for the entirety of the game. What’s more, every time you solve a puzzle, more of the story will be revealed.
The game is split into four main areas: the harbour, which quickly leads to the caves; the forest; the hospital and the desert. In the caves, you will be greeted by gigantic glowing caterpillars and luminous vegetation. Whilst in the caves, you will primarily follow a single path that winds its way deeper and deeper, until you reach the Brigand’s settlement. There will not be many opportunities to wander off the path in this area however, at one point, you will encounter a fork in the path which will force you to go either left or right. The forest and hospital give you more freedom to roam, whereas the final area is structured more similarly to the caves, following a predetermined route.
Whilst you explore your surroundings, you may also stumble upon torn pieces of a photograph. There is one of these photographs per section and the pieces are dispersed off-road, so you will have to go out of your way to look for them. In addition, quite early on in the game you will also meet your companion: a silent, hooded figure with glowing, tearstained eyes. The companion will always walk just behind you and will also prove to be useful in some puzzles. By using the spacebar, you can leave a symbol on the floor and the companion will proceed to stand on that exact spot.
Performance & Graphics
Minimum System Requirements:
OS: Windows 7, 32-bit
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Graphics: GTX 745
DirectX: Version 11
Storage: 11 GB available space
Recommended System Requirements:
OS: Windows 7, 32-bit
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Graphics: GTX 750 Ti
DirectX: Version 11
Storage: 11 GB available space
The game ran very well on my PC (GTX 980; 8GB RAM; i5 4460 @ 3.2GHz). However, at a few points, N.E.R.O. struggled when I tried to walk up stairs and across bridges, causing the camera to roll backwards slightly. There are not many options for configuration in the menu, with the only visible options being the resolution, gamma correction and the option to turn on/off full screen mode and v-sync. I also encountered a problem with the main menu, where the ‘play’ option would change to ‘extra’ when I hovered over it with my cursor and loading my save file felt unnecessarily complicated. When reloading your save you will first have to click on an unlabelled symbol that resembles a jellyfish, which will ask you whether you would like to lose your current progress and start a new game. After clicking cancel here, you can then reload your save and continue. It’s worth mentioning here that most of these issues are quite minor and may be fixed in the final build of the game.
The game displays the “dreamlike visuals with high-resolution textures” and delivers its promised AAA-like visual quality most of the time. However, the cut scenes in which you are transported to a new area were not as easy on the eye. These generally looked quite grainy and seemed to be a bit out of place against the vibrant colours and fluidity in the rest of the gameplay. I’m unsure whether this decision was intentional, nonetheless, it had a negative impact with regards to how immersive the game felt and definitely affected the overall polish of the game.
Audio / Voice Acting
The music in N.E.R.O is most definitely one of the game’s best features. As you wander through the caves that lead to the Brigand settlement, audible drips of water and occasional scratches create a truly immersive atmosphere. At points, the music will swell, creating beautiful spikes of intricate harmony across the overall soundtrack. These moments often occur after you have completed a puzzle or when a you discover something significant. However, as you progress through the game, the music gains more of an edge.
N.E.R.O.’s soundtrack gives a mysterious air to the game and this gets progressively stronger as you follow the story. In the caves, library and hospital, you will hear jagged high notes played on the piano and the unsettling sound of a string instrument being over-tightened. N.E.R.O. has a few chilling moments that will make you feel nervous, but this is balanced by reveals of sad and uplifting information. In addition, the calm voice of the narrator will reaffirm that you are safe whenever you finish a puzzle and uncover more of the story.
When I first started playing N.E.R.O. I wasn’t really sure what to expect. When I embarked on my journey I was excited about what I would uncover, and I was particularly interested in what kind of puzzles I would be confronted with along the way. After finishing the game three hours later, I’m sad to say that I feel slightly underwhelmed. The puzzles were quite boring and repetitive. Furthermore, some of the puzzles didn’t even seem that important with regards to the story.
Overall, the story seemed too fragmented which made it difficult to piece together and easy to forget. Parts of the story didn’t really make sense either. This may have been due to an error in translation or possibly just a lack of proof reading. For example, this excerpt: “the path to the ancient god was dangerous, the Brigands decided to put it into safety with some nets”. These types of errors occurred a few times and made me lose interest in the story.
Casting my blue orb in order to solve puzzles was also problematic. When casting and releasing the orb, it would travel quite slowly at a downward tangent. This means that when you cast your spell, you will have to aim way above the target for it to actually hit. This was quite irritating during one particular puzzle, where you have to hit a target, through an iron fence from an awkward angle.
Nevertheless, there are a few things about N.E.R.O that make it an interesting experience. The fact that you have a companion with you for most of the game makes you feel quite safe. It’s comforting to know that you are never really alone. The game really does look beautiful (particularly in the caves) and the different environments will make you feel a variety of things without even bringing the story into play. In the hospital I was constantly on my guard, whereas in the caves I felt quite relaxed and curious. I really liked the fact that in some of the areas, you could wander quite far and discover new things that you definitely would not have seen otherwise. Although this came with its own downside, too. The game limits you to an incredibly slow walking speed and not much faster ‘sprint’ and my desire to explore soon dwindled because of this – it just took far too long.
N.E.R.O.: NOTHING EVER REMAINS OBSCURE VERDICT
Should you play N.E.R.O. Nothing Ever Remains Obscure? In short, yes. Although I don’t feel as though I connected with the game on the deep emotional level that the developer intended, you might and that could potentially provide you with a fantastic experience. It seems as though this game will affect each player in quite a unique way and that’s one of the main features that makes it worth playing. Due to the fact that the game has some many hidden meanings, I feel as though it depends on its community to figure out what’s going on and share it with others. N.E.R.O. has the potential to be very deep if you can connect with it and fully understand it.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Walking into the library and seeing a glimpse of something in the corner of the room. Blink and you’ll miss it!
Good vs Bad
- Music perfectly suits every situation, making the game more immersive.
- Visually, the game looks fantastic and the environments and characters are really interesting to explore.
- Unpredictable and mysterious.
- Story is arguably too fragmented and difficult to follow.
- Puzzles were underwhelming.
- Slow walk and running speed made me feel impatient and slightly irritated.