When you hear a discussion about legendary Japanese video game developers, you will most likely be thinking about Hideo Kojima, Keiji Inafune, and Hironobu Sakaguchi to name a few. Make sure to add Yoko Taro, the creative mind behind Nier and Nier: Automata, to that list. Somehow, Taro with the help of Square Enix and PlatinumGames, brings together light comedy in a tragic setting, flashy combat, and an open-world RPG that is known as Nier: Automata. There’s a lot that makes Nier: Automata so special and it’s all worth talking about.
Now, I know some people out there may be tired of post-apocalyptic open-world video games but hear me out on this one. Nier: Automata throws players into a bleak open-world that has a unique and refreshing sophistication. Usual games in this genre will try to sell you on the quality of life within the world to explore but Nier: Automata does quite the opposite.
You see, Earth was invaded by aliens in a distant past, forcing humans to retreat to the moon. To take back their planet, the humans created androids to fight the remaining army of machines inhabiting Earth. As the android 2B, along with your partner 9S, it is your task to gather intel and combat the machines, all the while figuring out the mystery that unfolds.
The world left behind is a strangely beautiful desolate city with crumbling buildings and spiraling vegetation. It’s both scary and mesmerizing, which is heavily complemented by the game’s music. Speaking of which, Nier: Automata has a stunning soundtrack that makes you hum along to every tune. We’re talking Xenoblade Chronicles OST kind of quality here. The vocals and melodies in each song provide multiple ranges in atmospheric tone, perfectly capturing moments and moods throughout.
When 2B performs acrobatic finishers and maneuvers with grace around the robotic opponents, there’s some sort of unsaid poetry about the combat in Nier: Automata. As stated, the game is a point of entry for all gamers which ultimately simplifies the combat. Knowing the reputation of PlatinumGames, I was expecting more meat on this bone. The only amount of depth is which weapons you choose to equip, and the basic light and heavy attack combos we all know and love… (box, box, triangle anyone?).
The same can be said for the moments Nier: Automata switches between from a third-person action game to a twin-stick shooter to a 2.5D platformer. All modes of gameplay are simple, yet accessible and never overextend. Not all games can pull off this kind of symmetry, so hat’s off to the development team. With that said, the game sacrifices depth in one portion for simplicity in all, which is a double-edged sword. I would have appreciated the complexity in action similar to Bayonetta 2 or meaningful upgrades to the twin-stick shooter bits. Also, the game’s performance varies between 40 fps and 60 fps but it doesn’t deter you from the high-octane ride.
Another aspect worth talking about is the RPG mechanic in Nier: Automata. Stat abilities are configured around a chip board in which the player chooses chips to insert into a grid-like layout. These chips can range from HP Up, Melee Defense, Ranged Defense, Attack Up and more. It’s a creative way of introducing stat manipulation as subtle story context that I fully appreciate. It’s a bit overwhelming at first but eventually becomes versatile and fun to experiment with as you are essentially shaping 2B’s fighting style to your own. If you would rather not bother with it, the game gives you preset options that tailor to an offensive, defensive, or balanced style of gameplay.
I spent around 30 hours with Nier: Automata, with a total of three playthroughs. “Why three playthroughs?” I’m so glad you asked. Well, that’s because the game’s story does not finish when the credits roll for the first time. In fact, you won’t be even close to the story’s conclusion. The first and second playthroughs can be considered extensive prologues with the second being a grind to get through. The third playthrough provides a lot more context and reveals, which I’ll avoid detailing because it’s just that good. Just know that, yes, it is worth it.
The tale likes to embrace complex topics from human culture to political ideology and their impact on machines in a fascinating way. The detail is in and around you, including your weapons, which have their own unlockable background stories as you upgrade them. For those whom are “completionists,” there are a total of 26 endings to the game; one for each letter of the alphabet and they all range from canon to extremely goofy. So, have fun!
Nier: Automata Review
Nier: Automata is an outrageous cycle of fun and intrigue. There were moments that kept me on the edge of my seat, emotional plot points that were well executed, and a seamless open world that depicts a beautiful tragedy. Nier: Automata was my first Yoko Taro game and it certainly won't be my last.