The latest in a long running tradition of PC ports to the Nintendo Switch is the pixelated survival simulator, Nira. This game is an ambitious indie title that is seemingly trying to follow in the footsteps of genre giants like Minecraft and Terraria while trying its hardest to stand out amongst the rest. Unfortunately, while it does find an acceptable balance of influence and innovation, Nira tends to fall short of what makes the genre so engaging.

The Good

The world of Nira looks absolutely spectacular. The pixelated art style feels so alive and vibrant that I often found myself just watching the trees sway intoxicatingly in the breeze or various fauna grazing in the brush. All of the colours and the fluid nature of how the sprites move is like nothing I've ever seen before.

The crafting system is seemingly heavily influenced by the rest of the survival sim genre, but that isn’t a bad thing; it simply works and is easily accessible right away. The variety of craftables is also remarkable for a game like this and makes for an incredible sense of choice in how you navigate your playthrough.

Building on the importance of choice is a divergence from the Minecraft shadow: RPG skill set leveling. Nira allows players to specialise in what aspect of their survival is most important. Want to build better weapons/tools or discover more recipes? Invest experience points as you please and tackle the challenge in a very satisfying “choose-your-own-adventure” way. This role-playing element was such a breath of fresh air for a game like this and is probably one of the more promising things about it.

TL;DR

  • Mesmerising pixelated visuals
  • Reliable crafting system
  • Diverse leveling system

The Bad

Nira is a game that tries to break into the survival sim genre by piecing together bits of the giants that have come before it. The combat simply doesn’t work well on the Switch; it really feels like something was lost in translation from mouse and keys to a gamepad. Aiming weapons, projectiles or melee is done with the right joystick and feels like taking a guess at where your blow will land. Melee is particularly bothersome, especially early in the game, due to the disproportionate speed of your attacks compared to the foes’. Most importantly, enemy encounters just aren’t fun. You die fast and lose everything when you do. You can recollect your loot (much like in Minecraft) but knowing how quickly a battle can turn against your favor is still disheartening when you’re trying to build your nest egg.

This game has a weird perspective choice. Instead of first-person or a more traditional over the shoulder third-person perspective, Nira is shown from a classic Zelda-reminiscent overhead angle. While this does show off more of the game’s breathtaking art style and graphics, it feels like an odd choice to make for such a combat heavy game of this ilk, especially since you can’t see how the terrain changes; you will fall in holes you couldn’t see because of this weird perspective choice.

The way Nira is structured in terms of quests also feels like more of a chore than an adventure. There are traders and animals scattered throughout that can help you gather the materials you need to survive (or are arbitrarily asked to gather) but the merchants are often useless and the drop rates from looting some items are so low that grinding for materials takes much longer than it should. This does encourage exploration but then, you’re more likely to be overrun by the annoying mobs of enemies, die farther away from your respawn point and start the grinding process all over again.

TL;DR

  • Clunky combat
  • Weird perspective
  • Grinding/Fetch Quests

Final Score: 6/10

While I didn’t find Nira all that enjoyable as a whole in the time I spent playing it for this review, I must qualify it as inconclusive due to the nature of the game; this feels to me like a game that you have to spend an immense amount of time with before it clicks and you finally start having proper fun. This is another way it’s similar to Minecraft and Slime Rancher; the first time you play it, it’s all confusing and you spend a few weeks playing it sporadically, watching Youtube videos and reading wikis to understand all of the nuances of how it all works before you start making leaps and bounds. Even though I did play this game a fair bit, I don’t think any reasonable review turnaround would be enough time to appreciate a game like this fully. So even though I found the combat tiresome and the grinding to be disheartening, I feel like this game gets just enough of that tried and true formula right that it’s going to be fun for many people. Nira might be more enjoyable on a PC where the controls make a lot more sense but overall, if you’re looking for something to scratch that survival itch and can appreciate the more Spartan aspects of Nira, it’s worth a purchase. It’s cheap enough that if you’re like me and it falls short, the buyer’s remorse will be manageable.

Thank you for checking out our Nira switch review, thank you to Graffiti Games for providing the review code and thank you to our $5 and up Patreon Backers for their ongoing support:

For more reading, check out our review of Henchman Story.