Nier: Automata Review

Nier: Automata PS4 Review

The year is 11945 A.D. and Earth has been in desolation after the alien invasion. The 14th Machine War still rages slowly, with little sign of the aliens revealing themselves, while the humans have their androids fight for the glory of mankind. Is there any hope of humans returning home and rebuilding their civilization?

NieR: Automata is a futuristic action role-playing game, and a sequel to Nier that was released in 2010, as a spin-off title of the Drakengard series. The game was released worldwide for PS4 and Microsoft Windows as of 17 March 2017. After the release of the first Nier, game director Yoko Taro, and Square Enix’s producer Yosuke Saito, wanted a sequel for the game. Only after the positive feedback from fans, despite the game’s initial low sales, did Square Enix and the rest of the lead staff who worked on the game agree to work on a sequel. Production then started after they contacted PlatinumGames in 2014, where PlatinumGames even wished to remain faithful to the original game. As a project completely new to PlatinumGames, they faced many challenges whilst developing NieR: Automata, in relation to the gameplay and open world environment. I had no idea, to be honest, because the gameplay felt seamless and I enjoyed traversing the open world, and whilst it may not be the most appealing open world I had ever seen, it was still a spectacle to behold.

I have not played the original Nier title, however this wasn’t a problem, as NieR: Automata is set an indefinite amount of years in the future, possibly thousands judging from the fact that the year is 11945 A.D. – quite a startling number, I say. So it’s safe to say that it’s not crucial to have played the prequel. However, for the fans, you will see a familiar face (literally), returning to the scenes. Emil, who has lost his memories makes a very comical entrance and makes for a really entertaining shopkeeper that never stays in the same location. The game shares the post-apocalyptic setting of the original game, and takes place after the 4th ending, for those of you who may have played it. The story revolves around a war taking place between the remaining humans that relocated to the Moon, and the machine armies of the invaders from another world. The humans have their own set of robots to fight in the war. Androids, collectively named “YoRHa units”, are tasked to fight the machines and destroy the aliens once their whereabouts on Earth have been found.

What’s It About?

Metal Gear my Ass!
The main protagonist is named “2B” (or more extensively, YoRHa No. 2 Model B), a female-model YoRHa Battle android who displays a serious yet composed disposition. She gets accompanied by “9S” (YoRHa No. 9 Model S), a Scouting android who displays more emotion than many other YoRHa units, which he constantly finds he needs to hide as 2B mentions in the beginning of the game that “Emotions are not allowed.” That kinda sucks, but I suppose it makes sense. Robots don’t feel emotions after all, right? … Right? Well, as it so happens, some androids have developed the ability to do this. Even the enemy machines seem to have “evolved” a semblance of being able to experience what they could perceive as emotions, and you witness this during the events of the game, and the explanation for these occurrences are also explained during a side-quest, but I think I’m getting ahead of myself. You later get introduced to “A2” (YoRHa… you get it by now), an android that went rogue for reasons revealed in a later playthrough.

The story opens with an incursion into a machine factory, of which 2B becomes the sole survivor of her battalion, and then joining up with 9S, to destroy a Goliath-class machine. This leads to them later helping out the Resistance on the surface to clear out machine threats nearby. Their missions lead them to discovering strange behaviour in the machines, some being passive and not attacking when you run by, others fearing for their lives and running away, upon which 9S comments whether or not they really can understand the concept of fear, as though he himself knows. They then happen upon a cluster of machines, each displaying emotional actions, and saying things indicating they desire to love and be loved. You can even see a few of the robots “attempting” to do the nasty with each other, which was both disturbing and funny somehow. After a fight breaks out, you witness the birth of “Adam” and “Eve”, male machine androids who are physical manifestations of the machine network as a whole, who are main antagonists in most of the game, and who later reveal a shocking truth about the aliens. You later meet a passive, sentient group of machines led by Pascal, who are all disconnected from the machine network, and desire peace, and you work alongside them and the Resistance.

More Than One?

Being true to the first Nier, this game has multiple endings, each experienced through multiple playthroughs, and it is recommended, by Square Enix themselves, to play through the game a few times to get the full experience (and true ending) to NieR: Automata. Each playthrough is a reasonable amount of time. Ending A is very rewarding in my opinion, and I loved the connection that developed between 2B and 9S throughout the story. 2B comes to care for 9S more than she intends to, and it’s clear 9S has similar feelings. The first playthrough is told from the perspective of 2B, and you get to see her struggle and reactions that 9S misses. Despite her calm demeanour, when 9S is in trouble, she becomes desperate to make sure he is okay. Already from the first playthrough, we are shown the theme of the game as a whole, which is confirmed by the game director’s very own intentions. He wanted the theme to be one of “struggling out of a bad situation”, combined with the theme of “love”.

Total Insanity!
The depth of the game’s story cannot be found in a single playthrough, which is why it is encouraged to play it multiple times. In the second playthrough, things are different, because you are playing the story from 9S’s perspective. You see what he had to deal with in situations where he was separated from 2B and how he experienced them, as well as learn another important and shocking truths regarding the humans and their struggle.

I at first thought it was only a playthrough seen from different eyes, but then this shocking twist crept up and knocked me sideways. The more you play, the more secrets to the story you uncover, and the more gameplay features you unlock as well, such as using multiple Pods during battle, hacking your enemies to detonate, subjugate, or control them. Then there is berserk mode as well, which naturally guarantees a fun time just in name!

Endings C through H

So yeah, it seems there are about eight different endings, but the ones you need to worry about are the first five. From what I can gather, all the endings after E are failure endings. I stumbled upon Ending H by accident when leaving to go face two Goliath-class machines, and I happened to go through the wrong exit. My pod hardly got to halfway in finishing it’s sentence telling me that I will be abandoning my mission if I continue on this route, when a black screen appeared telling me that 2B and 9S abandoned their mission, resulting in the destruction of the Resistance and overall failure. Needless to say, I was quite upset, but fortunately I could just continue from my last save, but now I permanently have an H under my Save file, along with the other endings preceding it. And I do not intend on finding out what the requirements are to gain more failed endings! (Though I hear saving and then eating a Mackerel is fun!)

When you start with the third playthrough, you take control of 2B again, and the story continues after ending B. The entirety of YoRHa is launching a final assault on the remnants of the machines who are still part of the network. Not long after 2B launches from the Bunker, you take control of 9S who gives support on the ground by hacking into enemy units controlling air defenses. From here on the story continues to get more and more dramatic, and things go more haywire. Devola and Popola, characters who were also from the first Nier, have a more important role during this part of the story. You find out more about A2’s backstory as well. Eventually once you reach the final ending, there is a choice you have to make, which will allow you to get Ending E, the true ending.

Gripping Mechanics!

Flight Suit Air Battles
The gameplay is a lot of fun. This is the first time I’ve had to keep my index fingers on L1 and R1, and my middle fingers on L2 and R2 to be able to keep up with the combat. When you first start, the game doesn’t waste time in making you panic; You’re thrown right into combat from the start in your flight suit, shooting enemies in a Galaga-styled shooter, and later do you run around with 2B, taking on a few machines, and then what I at first thought was a Goliath-class boss battle, ends up being just the arm of the true Goliath-class machine that you face off with at the end of the Chapter. Your hand-eye coordination gets tested to the limits, having to know when to use your light and heavy attacks, keeping an eye out to dodge in time, and at the same time keeping your Pod’s bullets on target, using your Pod’s skill whenever the cooldown has reset, etc. That being said – the controls are actually quite simple, you just need to stay focused and get the hang of it as you go. The gameplay borrows many aspects from older games, which will give a sense of nostalgia to many long-time gamers. The camera angle changes every now and then from third-person to top-down camera angle, or horizontal left-right platformer type camera angles. These changes are quite well timed, and are even helpful when multiple enemies come barrelling from both sides.

If you so happen to die, 2B’s memory gets uploaded to a new body, and you are able to retrieve your body at the spot that you died to regain the plug-in chips you used, and retrieve your previous shell, or to “repair” it, which will allow the shell to awaken and join you as an ally in battle. However, the shell can get corrupt during the process, and become hostile towards you, so be careful of that. You can also choose to play in “Online Mode” through the Bunker. You’ll then be able to see and retrieve bodies of other fallen players. I enjoyed running around the open world. The androids have an awesome ability called “Dash” which once used, the android breaks into an insanely fast sprint until you stop moving. Traversing the environments didn’t take long most of the time, but can get tedious if needing to go back to an area you previously visited. Thankfully, a “fast travel” system has been implemented and becomes available about halfway through the first playthrough, before that, you can only Transport between the Bunker and the Resistance Base. Although, do try and mount up on a moose and sprint through the world. It’s pretty entertaining. If you want to take it easy, go fishing! Literally… You have the option to fish, and it becomes necessary for items later on, as well as a side-quest.

Leveling up in NieR: Automata has also been majorly thought out. It has a very deep system where everything works together. As usual, you level up by gaining EXP through killing enemies and completing quests, and using plug-in chips. The plug-in chips are used to upgrade your abilities and stats, even to increase EXP gain, however I would recommend you stick to more pressing stats such as Weapon and Ranged attack, and Dodging for 2B. You unfortunately start out with limited plug-in chip space, but you are able to unlock more plug-in chip space through buying storage enhancing chips from the Maintenance Shop. You can even Fuse matching chips to increase the rank of a plug-in chip, making it more powerful and granting you greater bonuses. Increasing their rank also increases the amount of space that the chips take unfortunately, and depending on the drop, the same chip type can have less than others. The game is able to choose the optimal types of chips and to sort them automatically according to what you want to focus on, namely Balanced, Attack, or Defense.

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Conclusion

Once again, Square Enix has done a great job at giving us a game that feels new and different, and a big thanks to PlatinumGames too for their hard work. The environments, as I said before, may not be the most impressive I have seen, but were still intriguing and fun to explore. The feeling of land struggling to come back to life after many years of war is heavily felt throughout the game. The soundtrack is stunning, and recalls elements used for Nier, except the score was shifted to portray a more mechanical and brutal theme. The music transitions seamlessly into the next depending on the scenarios and environments, and the sense of nostalgia from different games was refreshing. There were times I likened the game to the very first Metal Gear Solid, and even Megaman X, two game series very near to my heart.

The multiple ending mechanic is very interesting and keeps the game fresh throughout every playthrough. I truly enjoyed my experience(s) playing NieR: Automata. You can get your own copy from BTGames for R915.00 on PS4 and R555.00 for PC. I would rate this a PG18 game however, because the amount of times 2B’s underwear is seen is staggering. Not only that though, the themes are aimed for a slightly more mature audience that can understand and appreciate it’s significance. Be sure to keep an eye out for the ghost girl(s)!

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