Nier: Automata Review – Do Machines Dream of Electric Sheep?
Developer: Platinum Games
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: PlayStation 4/PC
Release Date PS4: March 7th, PC: March 17th
“Nier: Automata,” a game announced out of left field by Square Enix with series director and scenario writer Yoko Taro doing his usual duties with Platinum Games. The dream has finally been realized: a game created with the level of polish Yoko Taro deserves.
Nier: Automata takes place thousands of years after the original Nier. Humanity now lives on the moon and send androids to fight in their place to wipe out the machines that walk the Earth that were created by aliens. You don’t have to play through the original Nier to understand the story of this one, as it covers all of its bases pretty well. In Automata, you play as combat android 2B, her assistant scanner android 9S and another combat android A2. You don’t get to decide who you play as or when, as he character you play as changes as the story moves along.
Speaking of story, the Drakengard series is known for making players feel uncomfortable and this is no different. Without saying too much (due to spoilers) there were entire story beats where I just didn’t want to play anymore because of how drab and bleak things became. That said, the story told is sort of boring and almost incomprehensible at first, but the further the story goes, the more it begins to make sense and becomes an absolute rollercoaster of emotions. Unfortunately, to fully encompass this, you’ll have to play through the game quite a few times to see everything as the game expands with each play-through.
As far as open worlds go, the world’s not exactly small, but how big it is almost goes against it as it’s pretty bare. In a way, this works for it, because humanity has lived on the moon for thousands of years. Of course, this isn’t to say that nothing is truly there; the reason you’re on Earth to begin with is to help out the Resistance in their endeavors to wipe out the machines. In this very small area is where you’ll be upgrading weapons, buying items etc. There’s also absolutely wonderful side-quests sprinkled across the world; from fetching items to looking for someone to hunting an enemy, some of the stories told across them are well done with a beautiful reward waiting at the end of them.
Gameplay wise, Yoko Taro plus Platinum is a match made in heaven. As a Platinum title, this isn’t necessarily their deepest combat system, given that you can easily just mash your way through or, if you know what to do, you can combo your way through opponents with light and heavy attacks. On the other hand, with five different weapon types, with one weapon set for light attacks and the other for heavy attacks to form a set, and to be able to change between two sets on the fly, one can certainly make the combos in this game much deeper. It doesn’t stop there though as 2B, 9S and A2 have different combat styles, so nothing gets too stale. All three of them even have access to pods, which can continuously fire at enemies. If you’d like you can either aim manually at an enemy or lock-on. Funnily enough, if you can handle it, I suggest just controlling the pod manually instead of just locking on, as manual shots don’t spread.
To spice things up even more gameplay wise outside of equipping and upgrading weapons, the game also allows you to customize yourself a bit through chips. These chips can be something as simple as raising a stat, to adding an entire mechanic such as slowing down time when nailing a perfectly timed dodge, or turning invincible for a second after getting hit. Chips like those aren’t necessary until later in the game if you’re playing on normal, but can mean the difference between life and death on a higher difficulty. If you die it’s no big deal. The game gives you a second chance, but at the cost of your equipped chips. When you revive at the last checkpoint or savepoint your body will be where you last died. If you recover it, you regain all of them as well as experience points. But if you fail to do so, then you lose them. If your connected online, the game will show you the bodies of other players as well and if you recover them, you gain back some health, experience points, and some chips. Alternatively, you can have the body become a friendly AI and fight with you
A2 and 2B are pretty balanced in terms of combat. Both are very melee-centric and combo heavy combatants, albeit, A2 a bit faster. 9S is different however. He has only a light attack without a heavy option, so he can actually only equip one weapon per set at a time. Instead of a heavy, it’s replaced with an ability to hack into other things; be it opposing enemies so they will take damage, or things like locked doors and treasure chests.
As a.Yoko Taro title, this is easily the best played one. Like with the original Nier, Automata is mostly a RPG. However, it has no problem mixing up genres on the player. One moment it’s an action-RPG, the next you’re playing a side-scroller, next it’ll be a twin-stick shooter and that’s only the half of it. With his other games either displaying poor performance or being clunky to play, the mechanics in this game are tight, fast and responsive, which makes all the difference, given that frame rate remains stable during battles.
Another thing that Nier: Automata nails is the sound. If you were to just go through the main game, it won’t feel like there’s a lot of music in the game. In reality, there’s much more than most would realize. For instance: when hacking, whatever theme is current playing in the outside world, a chiptune of that song would play right where it left off without a missed note and vice versa. Some side-quests actually have their own music pieces just for them and you’ll only hear them during that quest. Outside of the layered music, the most interesting thing that could be pointed out that the game actually takes advantage of is the fact that they’re androids. Throughout the world, you might find another pod or two that can actually be found due to the (annoyingly) high pitched noises they make.
Unfortunately, Automata does ineed have its fair share of issues. As pointed out earlier, the main area of the game has some performance issues when traversing through it. Thankfully, combat stabilizes the framerate a bit so things aren’t as bad as it truly could be. But when it does happen, it is noticeable. There is another huge issue though. At some point during the game, once again while in the city area, the mini-map wouldn’t load anything outside of some icons; traversing the city was a nightmare itself because of the fact that the game would constantly flicker every few seconds as if it were trying to load in something that’s not supposed to be there.
Issues don’t stop at just performance though. As far as the game itself goes, the first hour or so is more or less unfair to inexperienced players unless they play the game on easy. The first hour of the game has no checkpoints, so if one were to die anywhere between the start of the game to the very end of the first boss, they’d have to do it all over again from the very beginning, The demo for the game brings a false sense of security, as the items are automatically used if one were to die from a hit; whereas in the final game, that’s no longer the case. Enemies themselves also hit harder. Sadly, another thing holding the game down, is that Route [B] goes on for too long. The game would’ve flowed better if they just merged the two parts into a single route, so that more people would finally get to see the actual meat of the game instead of essentially recycling the same content twice.
Nier: Automata is nothing short of marvelous game. The game’s characters and developments that some go through are breathtaking. This is a game where the more you put into it the more you will get out of it as some side-stories will give more context to some parts of the main one. On top of that, you’ll hear some of the best music this generation. The final boss music is some of the best created to date. Combine with a completely customizable control scheme to boot. The good is phenomenal with the bad being negligible to almost pretty distracting at time. It’s an absolute miracle that this game came to be, and what was delivered is Platinum’s return to form and another chance for the world to experience a game helmed by Yoko Taro.
+Absolutely gorgeous music
+Gameplay never get stale
-Performance gets freaky at times