Nier: Automata ReviewAmy Hazel
Glory to mankind.
These words resonate throughout the command center of a space station as the clandestine view of the earth shines just beyond the surrounding windows. A room filled with the most elite combat and support model androids receive their orders and are then deployed to their respective missions. This is a time when humanity has been all but wiped out by a race of aliens that no one could have properly prepared for. As the last remnant of humans fled to the moon they enlisted the technology of highly intelligent androids to fight and reclaim what has been lost. All that is left of their once home is but a few resistance camps and members and a nation of malicious robots who know nothing, feel nothing and understand nothing. The fight for earth - and for humanity - continues to rage on in PlatinumGames' newest action-intense title: Nier: Automata.
Years have come and gone since the original landscape and story of Nier took place and there is little hope to be found anywhere. While players who experienced the original will certainly find plenty of references alluding to the previous story and will surely be overcome with nostalgia a-plenty, any knowledge of the previous game is not necessary at all to fully enjoy all that Automata has to offer - so fear not!
One thing that truly was a wonderful surprise was the depth and emotion the story brought out. First off, and those who played the first Nier will probably already know this, but to fully grasp every part of the story in all its glory it will take at minimum 3 full playthroughs of the game. This may sound tedious but players will be grateful to grasp that each playthrough is enchantingly unique. The first playthrough is really only an introduction to the game, the mechanics and a general gist of the story. The second playthrough shows the player the same events of the first but from a different character's perspective giving an even deeper acknowledgement and enlightenment to the story that was already set into place; and the third carries on after where the first two playthroughs "end". There are also 26 endings in which to find and view, however only 5 of them are truly necessary to getting the full experience - the others are merely "joke" endings where characters may divert their attention in a strange moment of seeing something shiny or take out their OS chip just for laughs and an ending will trigger with sped up credits and everything. One of the main endings in particular will truly stay with you - partially because the entire credit sequence turns into one of the most difficult hacking mini-games that will likely take multiple attempts to finish and also because at its very end it poses a question to the player that has severe impact and consequence. It is absolutely wonderful - highly frustrating, but mostly wonderful!
The actual story starts out with a simple premise of fighting the evil robots on Earth so humanity has a home to return to; but a different angle starts to emerge shortly into playing through the first time. When 2B and 9S discover a small village of robots waving white flags that have disconnected themselves from the network, they begin to see a world where not all robots are truly evil, uncaring hunks of metal. The robots in Pascal's village have families, personalities, enjoy reading philosophical books and travelling the world learning about the old ways of humans. They are peaceful and hold no malevolence towards anyone: humans, androids, animals or other robots. Players come across other robots throughout the small yet significant world both individually and in groups that also follow their own desires: one robot takes care of injured forest creatures, others only wish to protect their young king that cannot defend itself and the list goes on. Of course, they are certainly in the minority and most of the robots wish only for the death of those that come against them. It is one of the easier conflicts to grasp and yet as players get further into the game that concept grows into something much deeper. Even 2B, 9S and A2 battle with their own issues of what having emotions truly constitutes. It is a plethora of smaller things that all build up into a finale where every detail suddenly means the world and strikes directly into the heart.
Gameplay wise it is broken up into chapters (which becomes more evident once the chapter select is available - making things much easier to go back and accomplish after all is said and done). However, chapters are usually marked by completion of main story quests and those are notated differently than the slew of quests that can be undertaken throughout the adventure. Some warning, completion of certain chapters will make certain quests become unavailable - so if you are someone that plans to complete as much as you can on each playthrough, try to tackle as many quests as possible before continuing the main story (you can always go back later to finish quests but you will have to start a majority of them over from the start, only a couple select quests carry their progress over between playthroughs). Although most of the quests given by resistance members or robots are simple fetch or escort quests, they are truly worth the time to do. Not only will players be rewarded with rare materials, money and accessories but it also gives some background and personality to the characters that inhabit the world. I won't lie, some of them are tedious and/or annoying but looking back, I don't regret a moment of it. Theres even a "secret" level 99 boss that can be unlocked after certain questlines and requirements are met - and as if the slew of bodies littering the ground where you fight it isn't enough warning, it is probably the most difficult fight in the game and the most rewarding in knowing you mastered it!
Now that that is out of the way, onto the core component of the game: the combat! Showcasing some of Platinum's true strength, the combat style of the game is fast, smooth and an absolute blast to play. Each android has a pod that can be customized with various attachments altering its firing type and special attacks. This is the long range weapon that tends to do less damage per strike but offers a constant barrage onto the enemy that truly adds up. On top of that the Androids can all be equipped with two weapons (or weapon sets in some cases) that can be switched between on the fly. There are 40 different weapons in the game ranging from heavy swords, smaller swords and daggers, spears and hand-to-hand which each have their own speeds, strength, upgrades and artistic flair when used both solo or in combination. Quick evasive maneuvers should become your first task of mastery and the rest will follow regardless if striking from the ground or the air. To enhance this solid aspect of gameplay is how players customize their character using plug-in chips. Much like any computer, there is only so much room to place chips within each set (there are 3 that can be set up and switched between) and almost every chip can be upgraded to a more powerful version - but of course the more powerful the chip the more space it will take up so choose wisely as to what is most important for each mission or quest.
It should also be a reminder that PlatinumGames does not tend to stick to purely one style of gameplay. While a majority of the game is in 3rd person and 3D, it is far from simply running up to enemies and unleashing ferocious combos to annihilate them. Enemies will give all they have in close quarters with weapons, shields and robot fists as well as long range gunfire and bullet hell type projectiles. The actual gameplay style will also alter drastically as players will be seamlessly taken from 3rd person to top down combat or side scroller combat. There are also mobile suit units that have both a flight mode and a mech style mode with weapons and maneuvers. The action style changes just enough without being too jarring or annoying at any point. Usually certain areas will exhibit a particular style so if top down or flight combat is not your thing, it wont be too long before things change up again.
The actual design, look and sound of Automata is simply exquisite and that word barely comes close to doing it justice. Every area you traverse will simply place you in awe the first time you experience it and then again when you return at a later point and see how things change and devolve. The game also harbors probably one of the best soundtracks that I have experienced in quite some time. There are multiple tracks for each song usually including an instrumental version as well as multiple languages (English, Japanese and a unique Chaos language). The music fits the game so well that even the most normal of background tracks would have me stopping completely in an area simply to enjoy it for a moment. It is a soundtrack that I have gone back to time and again even after completing the game and putting quite a number of hours into it. The individual tracks are something that can be fully enjoyed by someone who has never even heard of the game and the impact only strengthens from there once those same tracks can be associated with particular areas and story elements.
Without having played the original Nier, I had no idea what to expect going in and was left in complete awe upon achieving my Platinum trophy. I would definitely recommend playing this one with a controller for those who may choose the PC version instead of PS4, but feel free to show your keyboard prowess if you wish, I'll be cheering for you! Additionally, there are multiple difficulties to choose from whether you would prefer the game to take over certain controls for you to earning a game over for getting hit once. There were certainly some frustrations throughout the game in traversing across long expanses of terrain to get where I needed to go (even with the quirky ability to ride moose and boar) and repeatedly going back to areas so many times that they almost lose the enchantment that they once exuded so beautifully. But overall, the entire experience of Nier: Automata was one that will be remembered and gone back to. A mix of all the hack-n-slash fast paced action anyone could dream of blended perfectly with a story that pulls you deep into its world and leaves you wondering if the end truly made it all worth it. The answer to that is simple: yes.
"Why does it always have to end like this!?"
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.
Just a happy-go-lucky girl working in the gaming industry and spending nearly all her spare time writing, recording music, working on cosplay, watching anime and horror movies, and trying not to obsess over getting that 100% completion rating on every game she touches.
About the Author: Amy Hazel
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