NieR: Automata Review (PS4)

 

Nier: Automata is the Action RPG pseudo open world sequel to 2010’s hidden gem Nier, which is a spin-off of the first game in the Drakengard/Drag-On Dragoon series also by Yoko Taro.  NO PRIOR KNOWLEDGE IS NECESSARY TO ENJOY THE GAME.

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Nier: Automata is the love child of Square-Enix’s Yoko Taro and Platinum’s stylized CUHRAYZEE action game. Along with that, there are many people involve with this game that are absolutely stellar yet overshadowed by their more noticeable counter figures.

Nier: Automata takes place on post-apocalyptic Earth thousands of years in the future where humans are using androids to fight robots sent by their alien overlords to wipe out humanity. You play as combative androids 2B and 9S. Both 2B and 9S are playable and plays differently from each other. 2B is very action oriented while 9S is less action oriented has the ability to hack into the enemy machine and deal massive damage that way.

[The original Nier will be refer to as Nier and Nier: Automata will be refer to as Automata.]

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Combat in the Nier was adequate and the weakest part of the game. For Automata, Square-Enix joined up with Platinum Games to bring their stylized over the top crazy action gameplay to the sequel. If you played any of Platinum’s previous games such as Bayonetta or Metal Gear Rising you’ll know what’s going on. If not, Platinum’s style of action is face pace in your face making you feel like a badass. You unleash flurries of light and heavy combos on your foes and dodging right before they hit you to counteract and punish their decision. Your variety of weapons consists of small swords, large swords, spears, and combat bracers. Using different weapons will provide you with different combos and different boons and banes. You’re not alone in the fight as you have floating robot pod companion that not only guide you through the world but also provide continuous range damage; they also come with a rechargeable skill to help deal massive damage or support. If all that is too much to handle, the game has an Auto-Mode that will help with those players who just want to experience the story and characters of Automata. (Note: Auto-Mode is only available on Easy difficulty.) The combat is enjoyable and engaging. Dodging is as much of the offense as is attacking. Find an opening and unleash a burst and jump back as to not get hit. Dodging and timing is very much necessary if you happen to be playing on Hard or Very Hard difficulty.

Even though Automata adopted the Platinum’s action combat, it still contains RPG elements. There are levels you have to take account for when you engage enemies. With Platinum’s action combat, you can take on just about anything at any amount of levels above you and not get hit, but your damage output won’t be as high enough to defeat your enemies quickly. Taking on enemies 5-10 level higher aren’t much of a problem but anything past that turns into chipping at the health bar of the enemies. Levels aren’t the only RPG element in the game. There’s a Chip system that you can control and adjust to your liking. Not that great at dodging? Add extra defense and healing. Want to go all out on damage? Boost your attack power. Farming EXP/Item drops? There’s a Chip for that. Just want to enjoy the game without hassling with combat? Install the Auto-Chips (Note: Auto-Mode is only available on Easy difficulty.).NieR Automata Screenshot 2017-03-15 11-15-28.png

The game right from the start let you know that there is NO AUTO-SAVE FUNCTIONALITY. So remember to save often. Death in the game follows the Souls design of death. You lose all your Chips, but you can recover them if you recover your previous body. But if you fail to recover your previous body before you die a second time, all your Chips will be lost. You’ll also respawn at the last save station you saved or access; so save yourself the trip across the desert or however far you died by saving at pretty much any available save station. (You don’t even need to access it; you can save from your Option menu when you’re in range.) If you’re playing with Network Feature on, you’ll come across android bodies on the ground. They’re the bodies of other players who have died. Approaching the body, you can choose to pray over the body, doing so fully heal you. Then you can retrieve the body to temporarily get the effect of three random Chip they have installed or repair the body to have a temporary companion. Do note that you can still get hit mid-animation so try not to retrieve a body with enemies trying to fight you.

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As with Nier, Yoko Taro likes to diverge into other genres of games. You start the game right off into a flying rail shooter section (or SHMUP, short for Shoot-Em Up). If you’re thinking bullet-hell, it’s not a bullet-hell. It’s a nice balance between not dying in one hit and easily do-able. There’s vertical mode, horizontal, omnidirectional attack mode, forward shooting mode. It hit all the major SHMUP variations. The hacking that 9S does is not the usual connect A to B, but a SHMUP mini-game. They range from easy to medium difficulty. Along with SHMUP, the game turns into a side scroller at certain points in the game.

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With the influx of open-world sandbox that have come out recently and even the ad team calling Automata an open-world game, Automata isn’t an open-world. It’s hard to even call it psudo-open world. They’re more akin to themed levels. Each area is clearly defined with a theme and boundaries. You have the base “hub level” which is the City Ruins, the city that’s been overtaken by the overgrowth of plant life in the absence of human, then you have the desert level, the forest level, the factory level, and the carnival level which are assessable through different area of the City Ruins. Think of Hyrule Field from Ocarina of Time but without loading gates as you’re going from one area to the next.  Even though it’s not open world, the levels themselves are very open with plenty to explore. Exploration is encouraged though. Through the 4 weapon types, there are many weapons in the game and half of them are hidden away throughout the world. You’ll also find resources needed to upgrade your weapons and pods.

The visuals are pretty standard for a major publisher non-AAA game. Textures are not Horizon or FFXV level detailed and there are textures popping into view as you run closer toward buildings and large structure. The presentation and design of the world shows signs of wear as nature took its toll on the world and how the robots have taken over. From giant trees that’ve grown around and through skyscrapers to entire cities reduced to a desert. Even though human life is no longer on the planet there are still plenty of wildlife, and by wildlife I mean moose and boars have made the City Ruins their home. With Animal Bait, you can get either animal to come to you so you can mount and ride them through the City Ruins and into the Desert. So for those of you who played Nier, yes. You can go boar drifting.NieR Automata Screenshot 2017-03-15 11-43-24.png

When talking about some of the most amazing soundtrack in videogame, the usual talking points are Koji Kondo for Zelda and Mario, Nobuo Uematsu for Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts, and a couple other. Keiichi Okabe, the composer for Nier and Automata, is someone who I truly believe deserve to be on the list of greats. The soundtrack for Nier is one of the best, if not the best, soundtrack of the last generation. Okabe outdid himself for Automata. The theme song of the game, “Weight of the World” is absolutely beautiful. The music for every level complement the design of each level exquisitely. For each level, there are 7 different iteration of theme accommodating the zone. There’s a vocal and instrumental version of each level song. A standard medium variation that generally plays, then it adjusts accordingly to the flow of the situations that happens. If combat breaks out, the music smoothly shifts to a more dynamic variation to accompany your battle. If you complete a quest that ends with a heavy ending, it’ll switch to a quieter variation of accommodate that heaviness. So there’s the quiet, medium and dynamic variation of both vocal and instrumental versions of each song, but what about the 7th variation? When you engage in the hacking mini-game that 9S does, you get an 8-bit (16-bit?) variation of the song. The song would transition and back without any cut as to not throw off your flow in battle.

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As stated above, no prior knowledge is needed to enjoy Automata. The story of Automata is self-contained as it tells you the premise right at the beginning of the game. Aliens. Robots. Fight to save humanity. But if you have played Drakengard and/or Nier, there are some throwbacks and references to those games. You play as either 2B or 9S, who were designed by Akihiko Yoshida (famed for his work with Hideo Minaba as main character designer on many Ivalice Alliance based Final Fantasy games and reviving/rebuilding Final Fantasy XIV from grounds up). 2B is a battle model android and 9S is a reconnaissance/scouting model android. While 2B is calm, composed, and straight forward focus on the task at hand, 9S is more open and the more emotionally diverse of the two. As you follow this pair on their mission, you’ll come across several characters from other androids with unknown motives, a pacifist robot who dislike fighting and wishes for peace, the leader of a resistance fighting to win Earth back from the robots. References to Nier and Drakengard characters are made for those of you who’ve played.

Where the game really shine is how the world built. How you interact with characters in the world and how they interact back and to each other. There are many side quests to do, but unlike most big open world games I never felt like it was a chore to do them. The side quests are enjoyable and diverse. That’s where most with characters in the world come from. They range anywhere from goofy and silly to heavy hearted to find X item. Even the “Find X item” side quests have world building to them and aren’t just there to pad the game with “content.” There are maybe 3 escort mission but at the end of those I can’t even roll my eyes as I would with most escort mission just because how entertaining the interactions are. Even every weapon you receive comes with a story of their own.

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9 times out of 10, I’ll always go for the original audio if given the option. In the case of most games that comes out of Japan, I rather play in Japanese over English. Nier was one of those games where I absolutely thought the English voice actor outdid their Japanese counterpart. Automata is no different. Having played the game in both English and Japanese, the voice acting, directed by Wendee Lee (voice director for Nier and Xenoblade Chronicles X but better known for her voice acting work in just about anything coming from Japan), is absolutely top notch! The delivery and chemistry between Kira Buckland (2B), Kyle McCarley (9S), and the rest of the cast is completely captivating.

If there’s a single word that describe what makes Nier: Automata great, it is “Presentation.” Yoko Taro knew exactly what he wanted and how he wanted to present it. From the usage of colors, to camera placement, to big stupid crazy set pieces, Automata always made sure to present itself as a game. Then add on top of that a compelling mind-bending story and an amazing score, you get a phenomenal experience!

There are 5 different main story ending, and unlike Nier it doesn’t require you to obtain all the weapons to get the true ending. There are also 21 joke endings. You’ll probably get a few throughout your play through.

Five Stars

Play time: Total ~40 hours, Ending A ~14 hours (with side quests), Ending E (True Ending) ~32 hours

Copy was bought through PSN

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