I’m not really sure what made me buy the original Nier for PS3. I made very little research on it honestly and the reviews on it weren’t very favorable. I do remember reading at a gaming forum that the story of the game was really special and I guess that was enough to spark my interest.
What made me buy Nier Automata then? The original game. I fell in love with Nier, its story, its music, its characters, its tragic world and all of the japanese quirkyness sprinkled all over it. It wasn’t a perfect game and I’d be very selective on the kind of player I would recommend that game for but I love that game.
When a sequel to Nier was announced at the 2015’s E3 I squealed like a little girl and I knew that no matter what I would end up playing that game. I purchased it, played it, got all of its “main” endings and now I’ll review it.
Nier Automata is an action RPG developed by Platinum games and you can clearly notice their stamp on the way the combat is handled. Your character feels very agile and responsive to your imputs and the movesets with the different weapon types (swords, spears, cestuses…) are as flashy as they can get.
This is no Bayonetta clone though, Nier has its own legacy to it. In the original you had Grimoire Weiss by your side to provide magic attacks. This time around you have a flying robot thing (a pod) to provide you with range attacks that work in a similar way.
Obviously, this game is not just a hack n’ Slash though. There’s experience points to earn to make your character level up, weapons to upgrade, lots of side missions (way more than in the original) and a very interesting ability system in which you collect and apply chips to your pod to add health regeneration, increase the damage you deal, improve your speed… it’s a very deep system.
Nier Automata’s premise starts by telling you there’s a war between humans and aliens for the control of the earth. Aliens have built machines and have forced humans to retreat and hide on the moon. Humans then have built androids and they’re sending them to the earth to fight those machines and take the earth back. You are one of those androids sent to earth on a mission for the glory of mankind.
You must be thinking that premise is pretty straightforward and doesn’t sound that special for a game that has been praised so much for its story but, the thing is, there’s so much than that.
Of course I wouldn’t dare and spoil the game’s story for you but there’s so many plot twists and perspective shifts during the different playthroughs of the game that by the end of the game, that premise will barely be relevant at all.
Without getting into too much detail, themes you can expect in this game include religion, mortality, enviromental messages, love, there’s even political commentary if you read between the lines. If I had to summarize all into one subject though, I’d say the game is about humanity and what it means to be human which is pretty ironic considering that you’re in the shoes of an android.
The game graphics aren’t the hottest. Well, the game does have superb designs for the characters and the enemies but on a technical level the game isn’t a breakthrough of any kind. The environment, a post-apocalyptic setting, isn’t that interesting and it leaves a lot to be desired in multiple aspects. Low poligonal count pretty much everywhere and flat-looking textures that remind you of a different generation of consoles. The game environment can look pretty ugly. At least, unlike a game like Drakengard 3, the framerate is pretty smooth so I guess that less than impressive world probably has been a concession to achieve that.
On the other hand, the sound department is great. Very good english voice actors which isn’t that common for these kinds of niche japanese games and more importantly, an amazing soundtrack. The first Nier’s OST is one of my favourite video game soundtracks of all time and for this sequel, we have another winner. It has many songs extracted and remixed from the original Nier (for legitimate reasons, I should say) and the new songs in here are all great.
Things I liked
- Story: Nier Automata could rival the new testament for the title of “the greatest story ever told”. It’s a very complex story with many characters all with their own different backgrounds and arches and the game has more plot twists than M. Night Shyamalan’s entire fimography.
- Combat: Fast and responsive the biggest achievement in this game I think would be the fact that they knew how to keep it fresh by constantly pushing new enemy types or variants to avoid ever getting stale. Also, the shoot ’em up sections also help keeping things interesting.
- Music: Keiichi Okabe returns to the series as the composer and his job is as good as ever if not even better. Something I have to applaud is how well integrated are the different versions of each theme with the gameplay. You can see the same songs varying as you change from exploration to full on combat or even getting 8 bit versions of the songs within the hacking minigame.
- Replayable: If you played the original Nier you should know that a single playthrough of the game just isn’t enough. You won’t see the full story unless you do subsequent playthroughs as more secrets will be unveiled in the new game +. For Nier Automata it’s the same deal or even more exaggerated. Playing after having watched the credits roll two times already and you’ll feel that anything you’ve done so far was just a very meaty prologue. The game just keeps throwing new events, secrets and perspectives that will blow your mind.
- Smart: This is regarding some very smart details the designers implemented in the game. Genius ideas you’ll be surprised nobody ever come up with like the fact that your android characters are always changing their physical bodies when they fast travel. They just boot up their conscience into a different mechanical body built somewhere else and that also works for whenever you die and have to respawn again. The game is full of quirky details like these but most of them would require spoilers so I’ll maybe explain them in a future article but not here.
Things I didn’t
- Environments: Your main character looks pretty good, specially because of her design but everything in the environments is pretty blocky and the textures are pretty poor by PS4 standards.
Things that eh…
- Exploitable: I mentioned how you can get upgrades by adding chips to your pod that will grant you more strength, vitality or even different abilities. The thing is, you can exploit that system a lot and make the game be way too easy. You could always select a different difficulty setting or force yourself not to abuse of that system so the game becomes more challenging but still…
Who’d like this?
As a fan of the original Nier I can very much recommend Automata to any who also enjoyed the first one. It’s a different game with different characters but everything that made the original so special is here in one way or another. There’s a lot of references and the game feels way more polished this time around.
If you never played the first Nier but you’re a fan of action RPGs I can also recommend this game to you. It plays very good, it’s a good bang for your buck and it has the most unique story you’ll have ever witnessed in a video game.
If I had to choose a certain demographic who might not enjoy this game as much, those would be the people who are alien regarding some science fiction themes as they’ll probably get lost within Nier Automata’s complex lore.