Speaking of death - you'll come across the broken corpses of other players as you explore. You will also leave a similar body behind when you die and have to get back to it to reclaim any specialist chips you were using. Reclaiming your own body restores items to you, retrieving the body of another player will give you some buffs and items and possibly has a hidden effect on the absolute final credits, but that is a mystery you'll have to solve on your own.
There are moments when the camera smoothly swings in to a top down perspective transforming the gameplay from a third-person action game in to a bullet hell mini-game, or it pulls to the side to create a 2.5D platformer, it does this seamlessly in an echo of the original NieR
and then goes on to add to the genre-mashing formula that keeps Automata feeling fresh in a few other ways I'll let you find on your own.
Visually the game borrows from the original's sparse style and maintains the washed-out environments, but builds on it by adding detail and set dressing to create something distinctly modern without separating it entirely from its heritage. Character design is sharp and stylish with a doll-like appearance for the main characters, with 2B being deliberately sexualised in a way that isn't distasteful and has a deep-seated purpose in the story.
When we meet 2B she is stern, cold and focused on her mission. She has very little interest in forming attachments to other androids and even less sympathy for an enemy she was literally built to destroy. As the story progresses her sharp corners are worn smooth and it is all thanks to the relentless effort of 9S whose purpose is to scout. That implies curiosity as part of his programming, but he is also deeply lonely and it shows with the speed he becomes attached to 2B.
There is a core theme of belonging in NieR: Automata
seen in both the Machines and the Androids. Neither are flesh and blood in the same sense we Humans are, but both groups strive for a life with purpose beyond constant war. These characters are flawed and through their flaws they become more human.
"Emotions are prohibited," 2B states coldly early on in the game, but that feels more like a personal rule as she surrounds herself with androids less strict with their personal rules. The blindfold she wears blinds and deafens her to the world she had only experienced through the blade of her sword. Maybe that is necessary for the purpose she was truly built for.
There are a few technical issues where frames are dropped causing the game to feel like it is stuttering, but these moments are incredibly rare (on a PS4 Pro) and never impacted gameplay for me.
Voice acting is superb in both English and Japanese with the writing being solid throughout the whole experience.
There are two people I haven't mentioned yet, Keiichi Okabe and Keigo Hoashi, because I could write a whole dissertation on the music threaded throughout the fabric of both the original and NieR: Automata
The music flows from electronic to a full orchestral swell effortlessly and without completely taking over any particular portion of the game. There is an art to composing music for games that support and uphold whole segments, becoming so intertwined with what you're playing that just hearing a few bars of that song will years later bring up the emotions meant to be felt. The songs sung throughout the game are a mix of English, Japanese, French and Celtic, with some of them being mixed in to a nonsense language that is still hauntingly beautiful. The main theme - Weight of The World - is a standout in all languages.
Like I said at the beginning of this review; there are few games that truly leave lasting impressions, especially not impressions that are this overwhelmingly positive.
Because of how hectic this part of the year has been with outstanding titles there is a chance that NieR: Automata
will be overlooked as a niche title and at this moment in time I cannot think of a bigger possible crime in gaming industry. Even if you have only a passing interest in this title you owe it to yourself to play it and play it all the way to the final credits because not only do the developers deserve it, you do too.
+ The full story will stick with you for a long time
+ Platinum's best gameplay since Bayonetta 2
, possible better
+ Beautifully-realised characters with flaws like cracks in fine porcelain dolls
+ Pascal; flesh of rusted iron, heart of gold
+ The music, just go listen to the main theme 'Weight of The World'
+ Customised gameplay through clever 'chip' system
SPOnG Score: 10/10