There are few games that truly stick with me after I've finished playing them, games that I know I'll revisit years later or occasionally just get choked up by hearing a piece of music from its soundtrack. NieR: Automata is going to be one of those rare games.
The original NieR
is a cult classic. It had a multitude of problems that prevented it from entering the mainstream gaming scene, but everyone who played it or has seen let's plays all agree that the storytelling was incredible. Yoko Taro, the mad genius and humble oddball game director returns with the aid of Platinum Games and Square-Enix to deliver a game that should finally bring the NieR
franchise crashing in to the mainstream collective conscious.
A combination of Platinum's excellent gameplay design and Taro's outstanding direction make this one of the many top class games being released so early in 2017. If all you wanted to know is if you should immediately go out and buy this game then, yes, you should.
Okay, still with me? I'm going to keep spoilers to an absolute minimum because there is an unrivalled joy in discovering some of the surprises this game has in store. You begin the game as Number Two; Battle-Type or 2B, a female android tasked with the destruction of a massive machine life form. Your squad is obliterated on approach and your only support is your Pod and a Scout android called 9S who becomes your faithful and fateful partner through the ruins of mankind.
Early on you learn that Humanity was forced to flee to the moon when an Alien race unleashed weaponised Machine Life forms upon the Earth. In response, Androids are deployed from a series of space stations to fight the war for our home planet by proxy.
This is the 14th Machine War and it has ground down to a stalemate. The behaviour of the machines is changing, and 2B and 9S are tasked with assisting the Resistance Androids on the surface and then things get weird. You'll fight a machine that uses parts of other machines to make itself more "beautiful", make unexpected friends with an entity called Pascal (who, if you get towards the true ending of the game, will break your heart). You'll encounter remnants from the original game that are fully contextualised for those who haven't played the original.
Let me spell this out loud and clear - you do not need to play the original to fully understand NieR: Automata
. There are easter eggs and nods to NieR
that will get massive reactions from fans, but those same bits are still cool even if you don't get their significance.
Yoko Taro games have a reputation to uphold in regards to multiple endings. Just because you've seen a rather satisfying cutscene followed by the credits does not mean you have finished the game. For Automata
, seeing the credits for the first time means you're maybe a third of the way to completion. There are five major endings to the game; the first two are rather similar, but wholly worthwhile. All side quest progression carries over into subsequent playthroughs. However, the game doesn't truly kick off until you begin your third playthrough.
That is all I'll say on the story, except that it is extremely well-executed and will reward you for your patience.
Platinum Games has had a few rough patches recently but I can safely say that this is its return to form. The combat is as finely tuned as it can get. Movement is snappy and elegant, it rewards fast fingers with gorgeous character animations, explosions and the sound of ripping metal. You have long-range combat abilities in the form of your Pod's gatling gun, and the Pod also comes with a variety of programs that come in a variety of flavours from laser and bombs to shields and item scanning.
There are dozens of weapons with which to arm 2B. Short swords are fast with medium damage, Greatswords/axes are slower but with great damage, spears have single target high damage potential and finally gauntlet weapons that allow 2B to punch everything in to scrap metal. There is something for every taste and play style.
Because you are playing as an artificial being there is one more way to augment your experience - chips. You have a limited upgrade space to install chips into your android, each chip has a numerical cost so you have to balance which chips you choose to install. The chips have a variety of effects from increased weapon damage, automatic healing item use, defence buffs and a dozen or so others. My personal choice was to use chips that converted damage dealt in to health restoration so that I could wade into battle without worrying about dying too much.