My love for NieR is something that shouldn’t be underestimated for I could talk about it all day! Never in my wildest dreams did I think that another NieR game would grace us but Director Yoko Taro, Composer Keiichi Okaba, and Square Enix have teamed up once more to deliver an outstanding game that shouldn’t be missed.
NieR: Automata follows the adventures of 2B and 9S, androids who are sent to Earth to fight back against the machine threat that drove humanity to reside on the moon. Armed with the knowledge that all machines are to be destroyed, the pair get to work on what should be a simple task (well, simple for them) but all isn’t as it seems. A story with enough twists and turns to make you dizzy soon gets underway, and it isn’t long until you’re telling yourself ‘oh, one more mission’ when the sun is already rising.
An outstanding game that shouldn’t be missed.
One thing NieR did extremely well was that its atmosphere was overwhelmingly bleak, but the characters fought on with hope that one day things would become better. That oppressing, crushing atmosphere is still present with the odds stacked up against both humanity and the androids, and watching the characters grow into their own is mesmerising – Yoko Taro has a way with characters, and it’s absolutely wonderful. You’ll grow to love the cast and sympathise with their plight, rooting for them every second of the way. Just be prepared for an emotional journey which rarely lets up!
There are several routes to complete with 26 endings in all but there are only 5 endings that you need to achieve the true ending. These are done by simply playing through the game with the same load save, and there’s nothing quite as tricky as the original NieR’s “collect all weapons” quest to get one of the main endings. I’ll admit that route 2 was rather dull as it retreads most of the content of route 1, but route 3 is an incredibly engaging experience which I struggled to tear myself away from. I enjoyed my 30+ hours with it and already have plans to return to it, and knowing how it all plays out will make the entire journey that much more fun.
An incredibly engaging experience which I struggled to tear myself away from.
One of the complaints people had about the original NieR was its combat but, personally, I loved it and found it to be fine. Platinum Games were brought on-board for Automata, perhaps best known for their work on the Bayonetta series and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, to deliver us some more hack and slash goodness. Worry not, Platinum Games have had a bit of a troubled track record recently (Star Fox Zero and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan‘s negative critical reception, and Scalebound’s cancellation) but NieR: Automata will go down as one of their greatest titles, and is much more in-line with their finest, definitive works.
First up is the frame rate. NieR: Automata has a pretty awful frame rate that rears its ugly face sometimes in combat or when simply running around the open-world. It doesn’t usually affect the ability to perform combos, it’s mainly just a visual detriment, but it’s something that happened frequently with drops that were severe enough to warrant noting. It’s a great shame considering Platinum Games’ combat is as its best when the frame rate is smooth.
The second route is great for giving us new information, but it isn’t anything that couldn’t have been shared in the first route, especially as the third route spectacularly switches between characters quite often. Playing as 9S isn’t quite as fun as 2B as he has a hacking ability instead of a heavy slash, meaning that you’re mostly mashing square or taking part in a hacking mini-game which varies from being fun to being frustrating.
I’m very happy and thankful that Square Enix greenlit a sequel.
There’s plenty of depth to the combos you can pull off and a variety of different weapons to equip and upgrade, and changing between sets of weapons on the fly is seamless. You can even change and upgrade the “Pod” that’s with you, and have several of those on stand by for any situation.
Boss fights in particular are intense and had my full attention, and some of the non-boss frays I found myself in tested my reactions, whether it be using the magnificently responsive dodge mechanic in time, or using items as I’m mashing out a combo so I don’t fall in battle. If you do fail, you can go back and pick up your body to collect your chips (which upgrade your stats), but if you don’t make it then they’re gone — a little bit Dark Souls. Hack and slash action blends well with NieR’s bullet hell elements which make for some exciting battles — the ones that take place in the air are phenomenal too!
Traversal is fun with the androids’ abilities to double jump quite high, and then slowly descend whilse your Pod safely brings you to the ground is both adorable and enjoyable. There are a few areas where it felt like they should have been able climb up or jump over which ended up being blocked walls, which could sometimes be a bit frustrating when it looks like you should be able to progress. Thankfully, it doesn’t take too long to get to a fast travel point.
You can rarely fast-travel to a story destination and, while it may seem irritating at first, there’s always a good reason for it. Overall there are many thrilling moments and amazing set-pieces that do feel like they may be held back by a tight budget. Yoko Taro and Platinum Games deserve far more resources, but on the other hand, I’m very happy and thankful that Square Enix greenlit a sequel to one of my favourite games that didn’t originally sell well and didn’t set ratings on fire, either.
Trust me when I say that Automata has one of the best soundtracks that exists.
Automata’s atmosphere is aided by its visuals, cities are suitably demolished and overrun by nature. You can ride some of the resident animals! Character and enemy design is brimming with detail and I’m sure that many, many more people will cosplay them and create fan-art for years to come, and deservedly so. There are a few areas that stand out — but it’s the amusement park where I stopped to actually take it all in, especially as the robots are all wearing appropriate attire and, well, they’re super cute.
The way the camera switches so make Automata a 2.5 hack and slash to a fully 3D one is masterful — stylish and slick. Automata uses full colour and tones it down to monochrome sometimes, putting emphasis on how dire humanity’s situation really is. In spite of that crushing feeling, these moments are breathtaking.
It’s no exaggeration to say that Automata has one of the best English voice-overs in gaming, with Kira Buckland, Kyle McCarley and Cherami Leigh providing fantastic performances as 2B, 9S and A2. Their emotion-driven, raw performances are nothing less than some of the best around, and I could happily listen to them for many more hours than I already have done. The music is amongst gaming’s best soundtracks too, undeniably so!
Keiichi Okabe composes another masterpiece with a soundtrack that’s reminiscent of the first game(s) with its orchestral focus and haunting, soothing piano tunes. This is a soundtrack I’ll always be returning to for sure and it features more than a couple memorable compositions. The credits song, “Redemption Song”, is stunning. I could try and write about its soundtrack all day but please trust me when I say that Automata has one of the best soundtracks that exists, and I can’t wait to buy a copy of it.
NieR: Automata is a special game and one that will stick with you long after the credits roll.
NieR: Automata deserves the praise it’s received and I’m still in awe that NieR, a niche, flawed gem of a game actually managed to get a sequel. It’s still a very different beast in comparison to the first game but its presented in the same, thoughtful way that really makes you think, a way that makes you feel. If you decide to skip on Automata then that’s completely your loss and I hope that with its newfound success we can maybe get a NieR remaster and that Yoko Taro receives a bigger budget for his next title — the NieR universe isn’t done with yet!
NieR: Automata is a special game and one that will stick with you long after the credits roll (the true end credits, not the first set of credits!) and even with what seems to be a tighter budget, it has managed to deliver an incredible gaming experience that maybe only Yoko Taro and his team can deliver. Thank you Square Enix for believing in Yoko Taro, Keiichi Okabe and the rest of the team, and thanks to the team itself for delivering one of the most memorable games that I’ll ever play.
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