NieR: Automata Review – Nierly perfect

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Back in 2010, Square Enix and Cavia released Nier onto the PS3 and Xbox 360. The game storyline featured more layers, twists and turns than a French pastry and quickly became a cult classic with its excellent story and unique soundtrack far outshining the questionable gameplay elements and substandard graphics.

Nier: Automata is the sequel to Nier and is set in a future where humanity is all but extinct and a war between Androids and Machines rages on.

The storytelling that made the first game so great is still present and correct in the sequel, which will no doubt please the Nier cult. Newcomers needn’t worry about missing out on anything though since the game’s story is set so far into the future that the first game’s lore isn’t required reading. With developers Platinum Games at the helm this time around, Nier: Automata is one of 2017’s must play titles since quite simply put, it’s nearly perfect.

Nier: Automata Review – These are the (An)droids you’re looking for

Nier: Automata presents a world that is overrun by machine monstrosities and mankind’s last ditch effort is to fight a proxy battle using specialist Android units while they take shelter on the moon.

Players take on the role of 2B, an Android female YoRHa member. Built by the last remaining human survivors, YoRHa functions as an autonomous organisation of militarised Androids. The organisation itself is composed of battle units, operators that oversee missions and scout units that provide reconnaissance data to a central hub located in Earth’s orbit. Androids each have their own personality and are modelled after their human creators.

The game follows the adventures of 2B and 9S, a scouting unit, as they explore various environments on Earth carrying out their assigned missions for YoRHa and the Earth based Android Resistance forces. Missions primarily involve the destruction of Machines but these become more varied as the game progresses. Eventually choices and moral decisions integrate themselves into missions and sidequests. However, as with the first game in the franchise, things aren’t always as they seem and there’s far deeper consequences to the player’s decisions in the game.

2B and 9S are also accompanied by a Pod system which serves as a robotic companion and communications device. The combination of dialogue between 2B, 9S and the Pod throughout missions keeps you both entertained and informed, and their unique personalities show through in a superbly written manner.

Nier: Automata Review – Gameplay

While Nier: Automata is predominantly a third-person hack ‘n slash RPG, it sometimes transitions into a side scrolling/top down shooter or a platformer. The “Bullet hell” or projectile dodging from the first game makes a return as a lot of the machine enemies fire purple-red orbs of deadly energy at you.

Using the default control scheme, 2B can attack with a light attack assigned to Square and a heavy attack assigned to Triangle. A lock-on toggle is assigned to the L2 button and R2 is used to run or evade. L

1 and R1 are buttons exclusively dedicated to the Pod and this adds some strategy to the often frantic battles in the game. L1 will trigger your Pod’s skill or special weapon program, which can be anything from a super powerful laser to a giant energy hammer or an energy shield.

Multiple pod programs exist and players can swap between them rather easily using the in-game menus. R1 triggers your Pod’s basic attack and while it may seem underwhelming, it is absolutely indispensable to your survival in the game. The Pod’s basic attack can more often than not save players from enemy projectiles by nullifying their energy with its own.

Players can equip weapons into 2 different sets, which can be swapped with the press of a button. Additionally, program chips, which provide stats bonuses or unique effects such as self-healing, can be equipped by placing them onto your character’s circuit board in the inventory menu. Chips take up storage space though, so planning your upgrades is essential to your success in combat. Alternatively, if you’re lazy, you can just use the “Optimise” feature and let the game assign chips for you.

While the first Nier suffered from a range of gameplay issues, Platinum Games has polished and refined the mechanics here until they gleam.

The star feature is the combat, which is fast paced and fluid but can be severely punishing at times. However, it never feels like a chore and the hack and slash is perfectly rounded off with a large range of weapons including spears, axes, samurai blades and heavy swords. 2B is beautifully animated and her attack repertoire is incredibly satisfying to behold.  

Nier: Automata Review – 26 Endings

Nier: Automata has 26 endings. One ending for each letter of the alphabet and upon first completing the game, players would have only experienced 25% of the title’s content. A minimum of 20 hours is required to complete the game the first time around and a 2nd and 3rd playthrough is required to get the complete picture. Thankfully, the new playthroughs make it feel as if you’re playing a different game each time so it’s repetitive in any way. Think of it as a puzzle, which slowly pieces itself together and you’ll understand why the other playthroughs are necessary.

Without spoiling the story, Nier: Automata’s is one that’s filled with enough intrigue and suspense to keep you entertained for hours. Well thought out character development and some tough moral decision making further enhances the game’s plot. The game is also quite well balanced with many humorous quests and fun side-missions to break up the seriousness of it all.

Nier: Automata Review – Presentation

Graphically, Nier: Automata primarily features a dystopian futuristic world with a lot of washed out or bland colour tones being used. This is contrasted with specific environments looking visually stunning. The forest area in the game for example looks gorgeous where as the desert or city ruins look less so. The game also features a hud and menu system that perfectly suits its aesthetic and fits in with the theme of playing an Android main character.

There are places where textures look flat and certain environmental items look as if they weren’t given any further attention once they were placed into the game. I can understand that the forest looks better than the desert because of the lighting effects through the trees but why does a specific rocky outcrop in the desert look like it’s from the PS3 era?  It’s not game-breaking but it would be great if a future patch addresses small issues like this.

The soundtrack of Nier: Automata is just as spectacular as the first game’s was. Using a fictional language, lyrics in background music make no sense but still convey a message. From the battle music to the different themes played in the different areas of the game, the soundtrack is outstanding and won’t easily be forgotten. The voice acting is also superb with 2B, 9S and the Pod truly standing out in this regard.

Nier: Automata Review – Verdict

As the sequel to a title that most people probably overlooked or never knew existed, Nier: Automata has become a must play title in 2017. The game’s perfect blend of action packed gameplay and captivating story ranks it as one of the most important games to play in the current generation of video gaming. Very rarely will a title that fuses together so many different gameplay elements succeed as well as Nier: Automata has and I take my hat off to Yoko Taro, Platinum Games and Square Enix for delivering such a fantastic end product.

  • Nier: Automata was reviewed on PS4. Htxt bought its own copy. 
Sahil Lala

Sahil Lala

Sahil is a tech and gaming enthusiast that's been a writer, reviewer, advisor and editor at multiple publications