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NieR: Automata Review

A Cinematic Masterpiece that will Touch You

By Adrianna MartinPublished 7 years ago 4 min read

NieR: Automata, released February 2017, is a Japanese RPG emotional roller coaster. While it might draw you in with sex appeal, it will keep you with a gripping storyline (which consists of three unique, linear routes and a total of 26 endings), enchanting soundtrack, and existential commentary.

It is important to note that NieR: Automata is a squeal to Nier and spin-off of the Drakengard series. Automata is the only one of these games I am familiar with so far, so I will sadly not be able to compare them or tie in themes or world details. As a new player, Automata’s story was understandable but left me reaching for more information.

Story

The game takes place in a post-apocalypse world where humans have been forced to flee to the moon after aliens invaded. The aliens created machines to fight for them, and the humans created androids to fight those machines. One of the first intriguing things about the game is that you never meet a human or alien, only androids and machines. The beginning premise is straightforward: you are an android fighting against machines. However, the story builds slowly into more. The machines as not as emotionless and violent as they seem, and soon two humanoid machines appear going by the names Adam and Eve. Yes, the Biblical reference is intentional.

The first route is a fairly simple plot about interacting with the machines and fighting against Adam and Eve which leaves you wondering about certain plot points. The second route is a replay of the same plotline from the perspective of 2B’s partner 9S. As well as featuring a new battle mode, his route also includes additional cutscenes which provide further detail on some of those plot points. These routes must be played in sequential order, which leads you into the third route, the true meat of the game.

This final route takes place after the first two and takes a quick depressive turn. Unlike the previous two, you alternate play between two characters and suffer a few gameplay limitations for plot reasons. While there is only one good ending for each of the first two routes, this one has three, one of which adds yet another new battle mode.

As a story, it brings up a lot of questions about humanity, religion, and obsession. While the exact message in regards to these themes is muddled, the one message the game seems to want you to take away is that you are not alone in the world. For spoiler's sake, I will leave you to ponder on this.

Characters

Image courtesy of Novacrystallis

As characters are concerned, they are likable but a little lacking in dimension. Of the three protagonists, A2 is the shallowest. She is an angry deserter of the human’s organization. During her screen time, she shows a caring nature and we learn hints of a tragic past. 2B initially comes off as nothing more than an indifferent warrior. Though she shows compassion and real emotion later (and we learn some of her backstory in route c), this is all we learn. As the iconic protagonist of the game, you would think that she would be the most developed of the characters yet this is actually 9S. Granted, 2B has reason to be emotionally constipated, 9S’s expressiveness is leagues above any other character. As a scanner, 9S is programmed to be curious, and he talks a lot about his questions and discoveries to a mostly silent 2B. His affection toward 2B is apparent without being overdone. Then during route c, 9S’s characterization comes to its climax as his mental state is thoroughly shaken. As painful as route c is, I honestly enjoyed Kyle McCarley’s voice acting here more than anything else in the game besides the soundtrack.

Gameplay

Image courtesy of Novacrystallis

As for gameplay, it has a hack-and-slash format with enemies abounding in a semi-open world. This could easily become overwhelming to inexperienced gamers. Therefore, easy mode offers you the ability to tell the game to help you fight and heal through plug-in chips. You are granted so much storage space to place plug-in chips to fit your playstyle, be it offensive or defensive. On higher difficulties, certain plug-in chips are not available.

Various gameplay modes keep the game interesting. Normally, you use weak and strong attacks as well as pod firing and pod programs to attack, however, as 9S you are also able to enter hacking mini arcade shooting games. There are also aerial shooting segments. During small portions of the game, you are forced to traverse a short distance while avoiding enemy attacks altogether or fight in machines.

Downsides

As much as I loved the game, I must point out shortcomings. Most of my plot questions would give away spoilers, but here are some I can share:

  • Why did the aliens invade?
  • Are there more android battle units aside from YoRHa?
  • What is the resistance? Why are they separate from YoRHa?
  • How has A2 hidden from YoRHa all this time?
  • Why specifically did A2 leave YoRHa?
  • What happened in A2’s past?
  • How exactly were Adam and Eve created?
  • Were Adam and Eve created during their first cutscene or before? And if they were created then, did they do what they said immediately after?

The game is also heartbreaking and aggravating at times. I played on easy mode, but on higher difficulties, the body retrieval mechanic would become unforgiving. This mechanic forces you to find your dead body near where you died in order to retrieve your items. If you die again before reaching it or fail to within a certain amount of time, then you will lose the items permanently. There is also a timed sequence and potentially overwhelming hacking battles on higher difficulties. Not to mention the true ending's final segment which intentionally beats you down into hopelessness.

Verdict

NieR: Automata is a cinematic masterpiece which will ultimately touch your heart at one point or another. It speaks beyond words, instead reaching you on a subconscious level. Its focus is the feeling you gain from playing it, yet you will also leave it pondering life.

Story: 9/10

Depth: 10/10

Characters: 8/10

Gameplay: 8/10

Soundtrack: 10/10

Overall: 9/10

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About the Creator

Adrianna Martin

I am a geek all the way through. I am a fan of anime, manga, video games, movies, shows, books, and just stories in general. I am also interested in spiritualism, social activism, and the supernatural.

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    Adrianna MartinWritten by Adrianna Martin

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