Set on post-apocalyptic Earth, the world lies in ruins. Overrun by machines, the human race has escaped to the stars. In a bid to take back the planet the council of humans uses androids, which form an elite YoRHa unit, to explore the surface and rid the planet of the machine menace but the true beauty behind the narrative of the game is one that explores the emotions of both human, android and machine…
Seamlessly mixing SHUMP, action and platforming elements, NieR: Automata is indeed an incredible game but its success isn’t just the seamless blending of multiple genres but the way the story is handled. What seems like a simple ‘save the world’ adventure unravels to be so much more once you have begun to scratch away at the surface and play through the game multiple times.
After completing the game with the android 2B, you are able to experience the story from another’s perspective, which unveils a different perspective to the narrative. While some story events crossover, the multiple endings are well worth experiencing. Stats, XP and items carry over so you won’t be starting from scratch each time and new mechanics add an additional positive point if battling new enemies and uncovering additional plot narrative isn’t enough for you.
To experience the bare minimum that the story has to offer, you need to play the game three times to get endings A, B and C but instead of looking at it like you are playing the game three times, look at as playing it once but through the eyes of three different characters. Stick to one playthrough and you won’t get to experience the true beauty of NieR: Automata.
While there are five ‘true’ endings to the game – another 21 can be triggered by mission actions, which often occur by executing a ‘game ending’ choice like eating a fish, which inadvertently terminates 2B’s life permanently and rewards the K ending. Meanwhile, others are in-jokes from the developers that will give you plenty to do should you want to find all 26.
Rather than opt for adding buffs through levelling and progressing your skills through a skill tree, as an android you install chips into your mainframe – each chip acting as a power-up that enhances your body with various abilities, changes to the HUD or increasing your attributes. Even better is that you can load up to three skill trees so you can set up chipsets for particular situations – health buff, close combat, ranged etc. – working out how to manipulate them is essential if you take on hard mode.
Taking cues from Dark Souls, die and your mechanical body remains on the battlefield with your currently equipped chipset still installed, die again before recovering it and all is lost. Meanwhile, other player bodies are also left lying around – repairing them adds an AI version to your team, while retrieving them temporarily adds three random buffs that are relative to the chips that the fallen player had equipped.
In true PlatinumGames style, the combat is excellent. A flurry of moves not only looks badass, but it carries a great sense of weight to the blows. Never did I feel that enemies were cheap in their moves, if I died it was because of my own stupid mistake. But therein lies the biggest issue. If you create your chipset to complement your playstyle and have some skills with hack n slash button mashing, the combat is a breeze. Dead android bodies of other gamers littered areas where I barely broke a sweat.
If you fancy yourself as a hack n slash master then don’t dilly-dally, go in hard otherwise like me, you may find the game a little too easy. Flight unit sections add a slight reprieve to the combat, flipping the genre into a SHMUP with very light bullet hell sequences – I say light because while impressive on screen, they are super easy to negotiate, something that the bullet hell genre is not known for.
Visually the game looks great and while some of the buildings date the game, the vegetation and water effects looked wonderful. An amusement park area was a particular highlight, but there weren’t enough of these locations to explore and enjoy. Other locations barely held a light to its radiance and this is really my only gripe with an otherwise perfect world.
I’ve tried to stick with games that offer multiple endings, but I have often lost interest well before I had experienced all of them. While I doubt I will uncover all 26 endings, I did pursue A, B and C and I am sorely tempted to play the game again to find D and E.
Despite some obvious similarities, NieR: Automata gave me some serious FFVII vibes too, from location and gameplay styles to characters and the awesome soundtrack. Few games can boast being able to mix gaming genres well, but NieR: Automata manages this feat and is partly responsible for making the game a worthy entry onto my list of all time favourite games.
NieR: Automata is a fantastic RPG that will have you pining for more when ending A’s credits roll. Diving in again, you will find another layer of love for the characters and the many charms of the world, not to mention the exquisite combat that only PlatinumGames can deliver.