Nier: Automata

Nier: Automata
 
 

Nier: Automata (NA) is the  latest action title from Platinum Games. They have teamed up with Square Enix and the enigmatic Yoko Taro for this latest venture, meaning it isn’t simply an action title. The game folds in elements from bullet hell shooters, 2.5D platformers, and open world adventure to create a mash-up of ideas that simply shouldn’t mesh as well as they do, combined with an engaging story that asks some apt questions about the nature of violence.

NA takes place in a post-apocalyptic future where humanity has been forced to take refuge on the moon after aliens deployed an army of robots to eradicate all life on Earth. In retaliation, humankind has created their androids to fight for the right to return home. It is a simple videogame premise on paper with no shortage of wacky moments and characters that form the base for a special videogame story that delves into some deep themes as the mysteries surrounding machines unfold.

 
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It is important to point out at this juncture that NA is the sequel to 2009’s Nier, a game which I missed when it was released. There are continuing plot points and some returning characters, meaning there is definite benefit to playing Nier first. However, I found the game easy enough to follow without having all the information that I don’t believe it should be a barrier to diving right into Automata if you can’t track down a copy.

Much of this is down to the wholly new main cast. The game’s android protagonists 2B and 9S are sent on a mission to investigate and eliminate machines, and find themselves battling their way through an endlessly intriguing journey. They pair together wonderfully, providing a balance of pessimism and optimism in their respective responses to oftimes bizarre encounters with machines. They build a quick rapport with one another, and I developed an emotional attachment to them.

The game is peppered with moments where the two characters question their identities. Being aware of their existence as artificial lifeforms, 2B and 9S are under orders to remain unemotional at all times. There is an intriguing dichotomy between this order, and the full spectrum of human emotion they’re exposed to on their journey. Both characters become all the more fully realised in the moments where they abandon their mute emotionality, and slip away to experience something akin to being human in ways that explore the nature of artificial intelligence.

These ideas are furthered through the game's antagonists. The machines have a variety of interesting designs, from the adorable bullet-shaped ones that hop about, to the terrifying goliath class bosses with cranes for arms. Despite being well designed, these robots could have ended up being simple cannon fodder had the game not given them personality through some stellar voice work and animation.

The way that machines move and speak allows the game to explore philosophical themes dealing with what it means to be human. Love, fear, hate, systems of government, aristocracy, and even religion are all visited in thought-provoking ways. They present a disturbing allegorical examination not only of the weaknesses of civilisation but also what it means when consciousness is bestowed upon beings that cannot understand nuance. Throughout the story, machines flee from combat in fear or strike out with rage-fuelled vengeance in ways that add an additional layer of importance to even seemingly inconsequential battles.

To provide a balance for philosophical storytelling and great character work is an incredibly impressive combat system. At its core this is a character action game, with a number of simple hack and slash combos in full 3D space. The four different weapon types all offer different options to the player. Combat bracers are glove weapons that lack reach but are quick and nimble, small swords offer a balance of speed and damage output, large swords are slow but powerful, and spears offer great reach and ranged attacks.

2B is able to wield two weapons at once and chain attacks together into devastating combos. The advantage I found in this is that when beginning a combo with a small sword, I could chain in my large sword to swing it at a much faster pace than would normally be possible.

My favourite part of the combat system is the game’s evade mechanic. On aesthetic value alone it deserves high praise, with 2B and 9S moving gracefully in whatever direction they are facing before pivoting once the animation is complete. It lasts long enough to perform a side to side shimmy and deftly dodge multiple projectiles, or to shift behind an enemy to make a quick counterattack. Ending an evade also sets your character into a sprint, making tactical retreats a single fluid movement.

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Comments Comments (24)

 
Posted by Bank
On Monday 27 Mar 2017 3:17 PM
2
I don't own the game yet but I've done my part in emotional investment, research and dev following, long before release. It's one of the best games of the year because of design and direction -- I'm really impressed with the creator and what he stands for (interviews on games like original Nier, Drakengard etc).

Butt of the Year for sure.
Automata birthed a new culture. A new era.
 
 
 
Posted by SpawnSeekSlay
On Monday 27 Mar 2017 3:19 PM
1
Enjoyed the demo but too many games and so little time meant I just added it to the wishlist , but a wee way down it. Might have to bump it right up the wishlist now, didn't think it would score soo high.
 
 
 
Posted by czk51
On Monday 27 Mar 2017 3:27 PM
1
27 March 2017, 03:19 PM Reply to SpawnSeekSlay
Enjoyed the demo but too many games and so little time meant I just added it to the wishlist , but a wee way down it. Might have to bump it right up the wishlist now, didn't think it would score soo high.
Also 'wishlist' material for me however the more I read from players the better it sounds. I don't know why but something about it just hasn't clicked for me yet enough to purchase regardless of the high scores. Maybe after Mass Effect.
 
 
 
Posted by Coddfish
On Monday 27 Mar 2017 3:36 PM
3
Whatever else is on your wishlist can move down a spot to make way for Nier Automata. It's one of the best games ever made, so good that I wonder if even Persona 5 can dethrone it.

Honestly, I can't recommend it enough.
 
 
 
Posted by Outlaw213
On Monday 27 Mar 2017 3:54 PM
1
9.5 wow!

Loved the demo and it's definitely on my play list
 
 
 
Posted by Unfathomable-Ruination
On Monday 27 Mar 2017 4:12 PM
1
Will be grabbing this in the next week or so.
 
 
 
Posted by guido
On Monday 27 Mar 2017 4:14 PM
2
2017 is already one for the record books and it's only March?! RE7, NieR, HZD, Zelda BotW, Nioh with more on the way like Persona 5, Ni no Kuni II, Red Dead Redemption 2 and Super Mario Odyssey ?!
 
 
 
Posted by Tin-Automaton
On Monday 27 Mar 2017 4:22 PM
3
27 March 2017, 04:14 PM Reply to guido
2017 is already one for the record books and it's only March?! RE7, NieR, HZD, Zelda BotW, Nioh with more on the way like Persona 5, Ni no Kuni II, Red Dead Redemption 2 and Super Mario Odyssey ?!
I am /so so tired/

but for good reasons

(but still so tired)
 
 
 
Posted by ThatUndeadLegacy
On Monday 27 Mar 2017 9:44 PM
1
I guess il pick it up, there was some rumored pc performance issues, but they were easily fixed, i bought Mass Effect instead, im enjoying it,
 
 
 
Posted by ThatUndeadLegacy
On Monday 27 Mar 2017 9:45 PM
1
27 March 2017, 04:14 PM Reply to guido
2017 is already one for the record books and it's only March?! RE7, NieR, HZD, Zelda BotW, Nioh with more on the way like Persona 5, Ni no Kuni II, Red Dead Redemption 2 and Super Mario Odyssey ?!
Mount and Blade Bannerlord, Finally.
 
 
 
Posted by Blackfox
On Tuesday 28 Mar 2017 11:59 AM
1
the demo was very slick, certainly looks like a great game to let off some steam, I'm heard there are a multitude of endings that require many playthoughs, how does it hold up?
 
 
 
Posted by dsinnz
On Tuesday 28 Mar 2017 4:31 PM
1
Another big game for 2017, looks really unique. Great review Mark!
 
 
 
Posted by Coddfish
On Tuesday 28 Mar 2017 4:39 PM
2
28 March 2017, 11:59 AM Reply to Blackfox
the demo was very slick, certainly looks like a great game to let off some steam, I'm heard there are a multitude of endings that require many playthoughs, how does it hold up?
TLDR: Yes, there are lots of endings - 5 main endings, 26 endings in total - but they're not what you think of when you think of "endings" in a typical video game sense. The 5 main endings are all continuations of the same story, rather than different outcomes. Also, suffice to say that the ending structure works best when you have no idea what to expect, so consider the following breakdown a spoiler even though I'm not talking about specific plot details.

***

There are lots of different endings in the sense of a story coming to a conclusion and the credits rolling, but this isn't a traditional game with a traditional view of endings.. Endings aren't different outcomes of the same events; each playthrough (for the first three, at least) is a continuation of the same story.

The first time you play, you get to what seems like the end of the story, witness Ending A, then the credits roll and you're prompted to save a game complete file for New Game Plus.

Then you start the next playthrough, but now you're playing as a different character, and you get to see that story from a different perspective. The events of this playthrough happen alongside that of the first playthrough, but there's a lot of new stuff that you couldn't see the first time around because of characters getting separated, etc. At the end of that you get Ending B, and the credits roll, and you get to start another New Game Plus.

This time, you play a third character - and the story picks up right from where Endings A and B left off. When you get to the end of this playthrough, there's a decision you have to make, which determines which ending you get out of C and D.

This is point, you unlock Chapter Select, so you can easily revisit any part of the game from the first three playthroughs, which also makes it easy to quickly get Ending D by replaying that section and making a different choice. Once you've seen all of A, B, C, and D endings, you get a prompt during the credits to trigger Ending E, which is an epilogue of sorts to those previous four endings.

So, yes, technically you need play through the game a minimum of three times to see all endings and get the full story. But it's more practical to think of this as one big 30-hour game, divided into three acts, rather than a 10-hour game that you need to play 3 times. Each of those first three playthroughs is too different, and continues/expands on the previous stories too much to be considered a "repeat" playthrough.

There are also a lot of joke/bad endings that can pop up as you play the game, but they're more like Game Overs with a narrative component. For example, you can eject your character's OS chip, killing them, and that prompts an ending about the character's suicide, but then you just load your last save as though you got game over in battle. These are Endings F - Z.
 
 
 
Posted by emetic
On Tuesday 28 Mar 2017 11:15 PM
1
I was expecting a 10.0 after reading all the text!
 
 
 
Posted by emetic
On Tuesday 28 Mar 2017 11:21 PM
1
28 March 2017, 11:15 PM Reply to emetic
I was expecting a 10.0 after reading all the text!
*waits for a Steam sale* Orz
 
 
 
Posted by captain X nz
On Wednesday 29 Mar 2017 12:08 AM
1
This could be my Too Human for this generation.

Just need to clear up that pile o'shame first.
 
 
 
Posted by kiwiatlarge
On Friday 31 Mar 2017 10:26 AM
-
Ok, you've got me downloading the demo now. With my gaming being locked into quality over quantity these days, I'm just totally focused on Horizon Zero Dawn at the moment. Telltale Games like Batman, TWD3 and soon to be GOTG are acting as nice inbetweeners for me at the moment, but this could be a possible candidate for the next big time killer if it is that good..
 
 
 
Posted by Maoriboy
On Friday 31 Mar 2017 1:49 PM
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Too many games, not enough time :-(
Anyone had any experience on the PC version? Tossing up between that and the PS4 version...
 
 
 
Posted by Relmed
On Saturday 1 Apr 2017 9:16 AM
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Solid review, Wish I nabbed this instead of Andromeda. Definitely my next pickup though.
 
 
 
Posted by emetic
On Saturday 1 Apr 2017 3:29 PM
-
29 March 2017, 12:08 AM Reply to captain X nz
This could be my Too Human for this generation.

Just need to clear up that pile o'shame first.
Good luck with the pile...
 
 
 
Posted by boybomber12
On Saturday 1 Apr 2017 6:22 PM
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Well I have to get it now. Hope it lives up to the rating : )
 
 
 
Posted by NetPirate68
On Saturday 1 Apr 2017 11:35 PM
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This game looks visually fantastic with a game play to wet my appetite for destruction and mayhem.
Can't wait to give it a run!
 
 
 
Posted by emetic
On Monday 3 Apr 2017 9:51 PM
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I've got this on the steam wishlist but there's no sign of a sale and still two weeks until Easter............. I wonder if it'll still hold my interest by then.
 
 
 
Posted by Unfathomable-Ruination
On Thursday 20 Apr 2017 2:14 AM
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Just bought this from NZGameshop, now the wait begins!