Game: NieR: Automata
Playtime: 32 hours
Developer(s): Platinum Games
Publisher(s): Square Enix
System(s): PS4 and PC (PS4 version used for review)
Release Date: March 7, 2017
DLC: No DLC used for the review
Never in my many years of gaming have I had to beat a game three times to actually beat it. Also, never have I been given the option to help a random stranger in exchange for my save data. These are only a few of the crazy things you will experience when playing NieR: Automata.
The game is in the same universe of the original NieR game and there are some easter egg ties to the original game, but there is no direct narrative link. The game will take you through an emotional ride through the remnants of a broken and battered Earth taken over by aliens and their machines. Mankind escaped to the moon and set up a project of androids to return to the surface to wipe out the machines and reclaim Earth for humanity.
As you begin the game, you are in control of YoRHa android unit 2B as your squadron is launched from the Bunker on the moon to engage a Goliath-class machine on Earth. As you progress through the campaign, you are paired with a scout unit, 9S, who assists you in your mission.
On the surface, you unravel the mystery of the aliens, discover some pacifist machines, and work to secure Earth for mankind.
After completing the first playthrough of the game, you get to play through again from the perspective of 9S. He utilizes hacking and gets a glimpse into the psyche of the machines, giving a new take on the same story.
After completing 9S’s view, the story continues again. So, it is not until the third playthrough that you get to complete the main storyline.
One thing that can be said for sure is that the game is pretty.
You begin the game in an abandoned factory outside of the city ruins–a broken down, overgrown husk of a major city with skyscrapers, parks, and highways.
Throughout the game, you will experience a forest, a flooded city, desert, and more. The environments are all separated out and are varied in theme. The desert is the only one that truly changes gameplay as you slip and slide around on the sand dunes.
Here is where NieR: Automata truly shines. Within the first 30 minutes of the game, you will have played portions of the game as a) a bullet-hell shoot-em-up b) a 3D action hack-n-slash c) a top-down dual-stick shooter d) a 2d platform shooter a la Contra.
The cool part is that the game fluidly switches between the four types as you enter different parts of the stage. The controls remain the same throughout, making it easy to transition. One complaint is that sometimes the camera will transition to something and give you no control over it and makes it very easy to lose your character or not have enough on the screen to react quickly enough to incoming threats.
For 2B, you have a light attack, heavy attack, ranged attack, dodge, target lock, jump, and special POD attack. Depending on the weapon equipped (there are several weapon categories, like spears, heavy swords, and fist weapons) the light and heavy attacks will do different speeds and power of attacks. Sometimes holding the button will charge the attack.
Your ranged attacks come from your POD, a small robot that follows along with you, providing support, stupid proposals, and more. Your initial POD starts with a gatling gun regular attack and a charged laser secondary attack. As you proceed through the game, you can find other PODs with other types of attacks.
Throughout the world, you can find items (either on the ground, by fishing, or by defeating enemies) that can be used to upgrade your POD, weapons, and program chips. You are an android, after all, so if you want to learn how to attack harder or evade better, you can install a program to do so. However, you have limited memory, so can only run so many programs at once, allowing you to tailor suit your character to match your gameplay strengths or shore up weaknesses.
Combat usually revolves around hordes of enemies and/or dodging giant orbs of death. Your evade button it used to great effect, allowing you to 100% dodge attacks and launch a counter attack for large openings of unchallenged damage.
Interspersed in the open-world quests and story are boss encounters that will truly test your timing and skill. These are usually of the scale of Shadow of the Colossus-type giant enemies that will have you dodging giant weapon attacks and targeting weak points to bring the enemy down.
NieR: Automata is a game that will keep you guessing throughout the story and does some unique gameplay elements, such as the three playthroughs and 26 different endings (21 of which are ‘joke’ endings). The different modes of gameplay switching keeps things interesting.
However, the periodic camera issues, some annoying one-shot mechanics, and combat being mainly repetitive (evade, bash attack, repeat), knocks off some points from the game. It doesn’t really begin to shine until your 2nd playthrough, so keep at it after the credits roll.
I give this game 4 out of 5 machine cores.
by Rob Thayer
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