+ Multiple endings that build on each other
+ Three different gameplay styles combine perfectly
- Weak storytelling considering the interesting plot
- Gameplay styles may not appeal to everyone
Nier: Automata Information
Release Date: March 7th, 2017
Developer/Publisher: PlatinumGames/Square Enix
Seemingly coming out of nowhere with very little connection to the original Nier. Nier: Automata excels at combining genres, in more than just a mini game. A great plot with some melodramatic storytelling brings the game down slightly, but the moment to moment gameplay of hacking and slashing, twin-stick shooting and side-scrolling action all create a game that makes it feel like every section is an homage to a bygone era.
Nier: Automata Story Review
In short, Nier Automata has a very interesting story, but the storytelling is poor. Nier: Automata requires multiple playthroughs to get the entire context, but there is enough in the first run through the game that the world is set and understood. Despite the many endings, there are three main endings that satisfies your understanding. To be fair, each playthrough is different enough (and not as long) that they are not a chore to complete.
It’s a difficult story to provide a synopsis without spoiling its many revelations and twists so its setup is the best way to explain what’s at stake: The two primary protagonists are 2B and 9S, both androids sent from a space station above Earth. Earth is inhabited by machines which serve the enemies. Among the machine network two adversaries are created to help shift the balance, Adam and Eve. There is really not much more than can be said that doesn’t ruin the experience, but essentially, it’s not as straightforward as you’re a led to believe. Automata explores the ghost in the machine, but what makes it different, is that both the antagonists, protagonists and pacifists are all machines. Because of the different perspectives in the separate playthroughs, these avenues are all explored. As mentioned earlier, the actual story is told in a very melodramatic fashion, in the stereotypical Anime-esque style. This was a turn off to me, and while the voice acting isn’t bad when this style is accepted, it can be slightly embarrassing.
Nier: Automata doesn’t push the technical limits of the PS4 at all, but graphically speaking it’s not poor. Automata’s art style is original enough that it stands out, but that only applies to the character models. Environments are fairly simple. However, everything is very clean. More graphical power is spent on the animations that remain consistent among the three primary game styles. Because the perspective changes on the fly so often, the graphical fidelity is so that it never falters and works whether it's in full 3D or 2D (which is still actually rendering in 3D, yet is played side-scrolling style). Animations are quite fast and frenetic but framerate remains smooth and the visuals clear. While not actually happening, this clarity gives the appearance of a higher resolution which makes the game look better than it is.
There are several standout tracks that harken back to the classic JRPG days of which the game's tone emulates. Even though the core gameplay is around action there is still a large portion that is spent traversing Nier's landscapes. It's an open world but almost closer to the world map from those PS1 era RPGs. The music isn't dynamic, it doesn't change during an enemy encounter during these open sections. This makes it even more important to have a solid, albeit repetitive tune.
Music does change during specific fights however, namely with the bosses you'll encounter. These themes go counter to the lovely world traversing melodies and add in a hard rock motif that is both generic and unmemorable. Frankly, the music you remember is great, and the rest is not worth remembering.
The seamless variation in gameplay types is the true accomplishment of Nier: Automata. While the gameplay of each style is solid, it would become monotonous if the entire game was within that one gameplay loop. There are three different gameplay types: third person hack and slashing with shooting elements, 2D platforming action and a shmup (shoot 'em up) portion. Most of your time is spent in the 3D action world. The hack and slashing style combat is reminiscent of Devil May Cry, it's fast, fluid and most enemies can be cut down easily. Assisting you is a small "floating gun" called a Pod that you control that fires projectiles, most notably a rapid fire machine gun esque attack that does far less damage than your melee attacks but is useful nonetheless. This is controlled just as a third person shooter would be, and because of the ability to lock-on to enemies for melee, it becomes easy to use during the same time.
These shooting and attacking mechanics make a natural shift to the 2D perspective. Perhaps the biggest difference besides the narrow plane is the heavier inclusion of platforming and problem solving in terms of enemy hoards. Because there are only two directions to go (left or right) how to fight and with what become more important. The 2D combat actually requires more strategy and caution that many of the 3D sections (albeit ultimately easier). While combat transitions smoothly between perspectives the biggest differentiator otherwise is the platforming. When in 2D there is the more traditional jumping onto ledges and following a specific path to reach the end. This is counter to the 3D portions where, while it has all that to some extent, the climbing and path discovery isn't nearly as necessary or even available. It a minor thing that breaks up the monotony of just running from point A to point B.
The “shoot ‘em up” part of the game is plays our as characters load up into a flying mech. Sections are played from both a top-down and side-to-side perspective. If Nier was only a shoot ‘em up, it’d only be average in the grand scheme of things, but it’s a perfect auxiliary piece of gameplay when matched with the other two types. Because of the multiple playthroughs, there are definitely characters that focus more heavily on one or the other types, but you’ll also be exposed to all three in the first and longest playthrough.
Besides the myriad of gameplay styles, Nier: Automata does have a progression system. When enemies are defeated, “chips” are gained, these chips can be exchanged to increase character attributes. It’s a simple system but provides at least a little customization.
Nier: Automata Review Roundup
Nier: Automata was a pleasant surprise, and at the time. Overall, there is nothing elite about it, but does a lot of things very well and that combine even better to make a game that is greater than the sum of its many parts. With 26 different endings, completing all of them can become a chore, but the three primary endings all enlighten the overall story that asks some interesting questions and then answers them with aplomb. It’s a game that is simply fun because of its variation and updated take on older genres all wrapped in a nice package.