Rating : 10/10
When I was 30 hours into Nier: Automata I mistakenly thought I was nearing the end of the game. I’ve since played over 60 hours and I still haven’t experienced everything the game has to offer.
Nier: Automata’s extensive offering isn’t marred by redundant collectibles or quests that seem to be intended to simply add playtime to the game. Everything, or at least almost everything I’ve witnessed in Nier: Automata has been designed with purpose and conviction. I say this because the game has surpassed my expectations time and time again, resulting in one of the finest titles I’ve played in recent times.
Nier: Automata is a sequel to the 2010 title Nier but no knowledge of that game is required for players to be able to understand Automata’s story. Without giving too much away, Nier: Automata is set on a post-apocalyptic Earth where dangerous machines dominate the landscape. What little of humanity is left has escaped to the moon, hoping that one day the machines will be defeated by the android unit known as YoRHa – who fight for the glory of mankind.
You play as the android 2B, who alongside her companion 9S are sent down to Earth to gather intel on the machine lifeforms. These two characters are at the heart of Nier: Automata’s story and they keep help keep what could be a ridiculous tale grounded and enjoyable. The game explores many themes such as humanity, religion, consciousness and love, doing so in often spectacular and shocking ways.
The enemies, or rather inhabitants of Earth range from small drone-like machines to towering goliaths who fire barrages of missiles and laser beams. Upon first seeing the machines in Nier: Automata you may assume they are expressionless cannon fodder. Make no mistake though, the machines have a wide range of personalities that make it impossible not to question killing them at certain points.
When combat does occur developer Platinum Games show once again why they’re at the top of the class in the industry. Nier: Automata’s combat uses a combination of close fought melee and ranged weaponry to provide some truly excessive and dramatic battles. The range of weaponry on offer is staggering, and 2B’s dual-wielding means that players can equip different combinations to match their fighting style.
Combat isn’t as intimidating or as complex as say Bayonetta but its accessibility is testament to the game’s strengths. Whilst players familiar with Platinum’s penchant for brutal fights will have no problem on Automata’s normal difficulty, unfamiliar players should find the intense fights satisfyingly challenging.
More impressive is how the game manages to successfully and seamlessly blend genres. The core of the game is set in third-person but it often uses top-down and side-scrolling perspectives to offer enjoyable gameplay variations. More so, the game is committed to having players really feel like their controlling an android. You can install plug-in chips to give you a variety of bonuses which alter how you approach combat. These can be upgraded but the higher the level, the more space the plug-in chip takes meaning you have to think carefully about how you want your loadout. Even the HUD is determined by the plug-in chips so if you don’t want to see the mini-map, or your health bar, you can remove these. Just be careful not to remove the OS chip as its pretty much akin to android suicide.
Another strength of Nier: Automata is the world it is set in. The areas you explore – which are laid out in ways similar to that of a pre-Breath of the Wild Zelda – are full of character and personality, despite being devoid of any large amount of significant life. Nature has taken over the world, showing its presence in dilapidated buildings, drowned cities and barren expanses of desert. My biggest gripe with the world is the amount of invisible walls. These frustrating gates are often placed in seemingly accessible areas and are a hindrance to the immersive world that the game offers. Despite these though, the world is brilliantly constructed and players shouldn’t get tired of returning to its various locations.
This as a bonus as Nier: Automata is packed with content. Besides the main story there is a wealth of side missions. You’ll help both machines and resistance fighters with a variety of tasks, some deadly and some quite arbitrary. Whilst there is the occasional fetch quest, most side missions are enjoyable and give players a glimpse into the daily lives and struggles of the world’s inhabitants.
Nier: Automata’s biggest achievement though comes from how it approaches replayability. There’s a revolving way in which the story is revealed through multiple playthroughs that feels fresh and innovative. There’s every chance Automata will be regarded as important due to the way it updates standardised concepts in videogames. Automata could have simply been an enjoyable action title but its ground-breaking delivery makes it one this year’s top titles to play.
Nier: Automata is an absolute masterclass in game design. It surpasses expectations time and time again resulting in an experience not to be missed by fans of action titles.
Just a musician and geek all rolled into one who spends his days watching sandcastles melt into the sea