Mankind is the real danger of our planet, the real virus. Not a select group but mankind entirely. What happens when we are forced to leave our planet? Will we go peacefully and accept our defeat? Of course not, we are humans, so we take revenge. If robots take over our world, we create stronger ones to kill our enemies. Mankind must always conquer, mankind must always win, even in defeat.
NieR never fails to surprise
Discussing a game like NieR: Automata isn’t an easy task, especially since it released just a couple of days after the incredible Horizon: Zero Dawn and the amazing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Those two games are considered as the best two games currently on the market but to my own surprise, I must disagree. None of those games did what NieR: Automata managed to do. NieR made me forget about time, NieR forced me to think outside of the box and gave me something that’s extremely hard to describe on paper. It’s not just the incredible gameplay or breathtaking soundtrack, it’s everything about the game, every small piece of the puzzle that fits perfectly. NieR: Automata is the product of director Taro Yoko, developed thanks to a unique collaboration between Square Enix and Platinum Games. Those are big names in the industry, big shoes to fill but Yoko never failed to surprise.
From the moment you start the game to the moment you reach one of the different endings, you’ll feel satisfied. Satisfied with what you achieved and grateful for the experience Yoko created. You won’t feel happy the entire time but that’s not because the game doesn’t function, it’s because it offers new insights into our future. A future where the selfishness of humans could lead to the destruction of beautiful creations. NieR leaves you behind confused, broken, sad but satisfied and amazed at the end of the ride.
Take back what’s yours
NieR: Automata takes places years after the original NieR, you can perfectly enjoy it without having played its predecessor. Automata is meant as a new starting point for a lot of gamers and looking at the hype, it might become a success. If you have played the predecessor or even the Drakengard Series, you’ll discover some familiar faces and other Easter Eggs, but again, it’s not necessary to enjoy the game and its interesting story.
Perfection found in chaos
You play in a dark post-apocalyptic world where Earth got invaded by alien forces. These aliens dropped an army of destructive machines upon arriving on Earth. Mankind never had a change and the handful of survivors were forced to flee to the Moon. Here, the survivors created an operation base where they assembled the YoRHa army, an army of incredibly smart androids, forced to take back Earth. Instead of fighting themselves, humans are deploying machines to fight machines. The lives of the androids don’t matter that much since they’re just bodies combined with a cloud-based ‘soul’. This soul is the AI of your character and once you die, you’ll simply come back with a new, identical body.
You’ll follow the story of androids 2B and 9S, an attack-type android and a scanner-type android. Combined, the two are forced to do whatever mankind orders them to do. At first, it’s an easy task since you never think twice before you destroy an enemy. The more you advance, however, the deeper and more complex everything gets. This isn’t just another typical third person action RPG. The story goes way deeper and isn’t always that easy to understand. It’s worth investing your time in, since Yoko and his team managed to create one of the most unforgettable virtual stories I’ve ever witnessed. The team managed to bring life into androids and robots in a way you’ll never forget ever again.
A combination of games
What makes NieR: Automata such a unique game is that it combines different genres into one, showcasing the love for the industry the creators share. Most of the time, you’ll play NieR as a typical action RPG, comparable to Final Fantasy XV. Meaning you’ll run from place to place, accept quests and side-quests and complete them to advance. NieR: Automata has a lot of those moments. Moments where you’re discovering the gorgeous post-apocalyptic world that’s been overtaken by nature. Not the most innovating setting but done to perfection thanks to the alien robots. It’s your task to do whatever mankind asks of you and you do so by defeating enemies and incredible bosses. Again, this is something you’ve done in multiple other games already, but then the camera kicks in.
Depending on how the camera is used, you’ll play a third person action RPG, top-down shooter or sidescrolling 2D slasher. It’s amazing to see how the developers implemented their creativity by adding several game types into one game. If it’s done too often, it would break the atmosphere but NieR: Automata found the right balance. The camera changes just at the right time to offer you some variation of the typical RPG elements. There are even moments that you’ll think you’re playing a classic twin-stick shooter instead of a modern RPG. Thanks to this, the game remains interesting and full of surprises until the very end. And it doesn’t stop there. NieR: Automata comes with different endings and different playthroughs. You’ll meet other characters and discover new places when you’re going for your second run, increasing the replay value immensely.
Play it your way
NieR: Automata really is designed to offer a different kind of experience, an experience everybody should enjoy and nobody should ever forget. In order to achieve that, the creators made sure you could change the level of difficulty at any given time. Keep in mind that the game is never that easy and doesn’t save automatically. In order to help you out, you can equip your android with useful chips. Don’t want to heal yourself time after time? Install the auto-healing chip. Don’t want to pick up the loot? Install a chip that will do this for you. Every small piece of RPG element can be switched to automatic so you can enjoy the fighting and story without having to worry about the stats and upgrades. If those are your cup of tea, the developers made sure there are plenty of upgrades and new weapons to mess around with. All of those in order to deliver even more fun in combat.
I haven’t talked about combat until the very end of this review and the reason for this is simple. Platinum Games created it, so it’s great. If you’ve played other Platinum Games before (Bayonetta, Vanquish) you’ll know what to expect. If you haven’t, expect the most fluent combat you’ve ever seen. NieR: Automata will have you in that sweet ‘killing zone’ in no time. It’s fast, it’s fluent and thanks to the many options, you can enjoy it just the way you want it.
NieR: Automata did something I never thought was possible, it surprised me and showed me things I haven’t seen before. The combination of the strong story, variation in gameplay and incredible music result in a perfect score. A perfect score as a sign of my appreciation for this innovating masterpiece. It’s not a game everybody is talking about, mostly because of two other big games, but it’s a game everybody should at least try once. A game like NieR: Automata is very rare and only comes once in a couple of years. Don’t miss out on this opportunity and play one of the best, if not the best, games this year will have to offer.
But… It’s not perfect?!
If you just scrolled down to see the score (not blaming you), you might wonder why I gave this one a perfect score, especially since you might have noticed the game isn’t perfect. It’s true. The frame rate isn’t perfect and often drops while running. The design of the robots is often the same if you ignore their personalities and the mini-map isn’t as convenient as it should. But let’s be honest. Those aren’t errors or flaws that break the game. NieR: Automata doesn’t get a perfect score due to its technical performance but thanks to everything it’s doing right and that’s simply a lot. It’s a game you’ll never forget and a game you must simply play to understand.