It’s virtually impossible to get a PlayStation 5 here in the Philippines. I’ve looked all around the major electronic stores and they’re just not in stock. Maybe they’re all sold out or maybe that’s just how incredibly rare they are that even retail stores can’t get them! Whatever the case, it looks like I’m going to be stuck on my PlayStation 4 for a while.
Oh, not that I mind, though. I still have a lot of games I need to play that are available on this current console generation. I still have to play games like The Last of Us Part II and Ghost of Tsushima, to name just a couple. I did recently pick up a rather old game because of some good word of mouth. The game is Square Enix and PlatinumGames’s Nier: Automata and it’s kind of become my latest video game obsession recently.
The world of Nier: Automata takes place tens of thousands of years in the future. We’re told aliens have used machines to invade the planet and the last remnants of humanity have taken refuge on the moon. In an attempt to reclaim the planet, the humans develop the YoRHa project, wherein they develop androids with superior fighting capabilities to destroy the machines. We’re plunged right into the middle of this proxy war as you take control of 2B, a combat android model, as well as 9S, a “scanner” android unit.
Nailing what genre Nier: Automata is exactly is actually difficult. Most of the time, gameplay follows the standard 3rd person action-RPG tropes as you control 2B and, eventually, 9S in a decent sized open world. Things can change based on the setting, however, as it can seamlessly switch over to something like a sidescrolling beat ’em up or even an bullet-hell overhead shooter. Sometimes, the game can even go really wonky and just change into something like a Choose Your Own Adventure game. It’s mostly a 3rd person action-RPG but those little variations of gameplay are a welcome break because they are a fun distraction.
The combat is actually really good and responsive in general, which is something you would expect from PlatinumGames. After all, they’re the geniuses behind the Bayonetta series. There are some times when my button presses would seem to overlap, leading to my intended attack not coming out but it’s something you can easily adapt to. The problem is the game doesn’t really tell you everything you can do. For the longest time, throughout 2B’s playthrough, to be exact, I just relied on double jumping, dashing and air dashing to get around. The only attacks I performed were normal attacks, jumping horizontal attacks and using Pod to take down fast moving targets. Little did I know there was so much more, like using Pod to slowly descend, using Pod to perform a second air dash and an uppercut slash! I only found out these moves by watching other, more experienced, players perform them! I didn’t even know you could pet Pod until I did some research for this post! It makes me feel like I only scratched the surface of what I could do in Nier: Automata.
As good as the gameplay variety is, Nier: Automata isn’t that much of a looker but it does have a very distinct art style which helps it stand out. The world is rather drab and everything looks washed out. Most of the environments have this dirty brown but it does make sense as this is supposed to be a post-apocalyptic world. Most of the NPCs come off as rather generic looking. However, if you really take a few minutes to look at all the details, that’s when you’ll be impressed with the actual designs of the main characters and the worlds.
Regarding the worlds you do explore, none of them are actually all that large but they are a appropriately chunky. The main city is rather blocky and rather uninspired on the surface but that’s only until you delve deeper into the story and the layout changes significantly. The forest zone is a twisty maze of smaller paths and I had so much fun trying to explore every nook and cranny of the area. My favorite zone is hands down the amusement park. While small when compared to the other areas, I just liked how the place looked. Sadly, not all worlds do work. The desert zone is, well, mostly desert so exploring it just felt tedious and the sunken city is super tiny and boring.
As imaginative as some of the locations are, I do have an issue with the overall layouts of the areas since they do come off as rather restrictive. There are some areas or outcroppings where you would think you can simply dash or jump to get to, only to realize you’re not supposed to. There are also some areas which feel like they’re impossible to reach as you have to be rather precise. Couple that with my previously mentioned issue about how the game doesn’t teach you all the movement options you can do, some areas can come off like they’re just there for atmosphere and ambiance.
I do love all of the main characters of Nier: Automata as well as most of the supporting cast. Okay, none of them are particularly groundbreaking as we’ve seen these archetypes in other media but it is enjoyable to see them interact with each other. 2B is the more stoic and no-nonsense combat unit so she’s not all that used to expressing her emotions. 9S is more curious and open to exploring the world and getting to know people as, well, it’s his job as a scanner. You do eventually run across a rogue android A2 who generally hates company and would prefer to work alone. Additionally, you also encounter Pascal, a machine who broke free from his original programming and has embraced pacifism. Even the Pods, who are basically emotionless robots who accompany the androids offer some well-timed quips while guiding you.
The main antagonists of Nier: Automata, unfortunately, leave much to be desired. Adam and Eve are basically a new breed of machines who are obsessed with learning about human nature, both their good and bad sides. You would think this would make them interesting characters but… no. They behave like edgelords with a superiority complex. Not all that endearing.
One thing that is consistently good all throughout Nier: Automata is the music. My god is the music good here! The really weird thing is most of them have vocals. Okay, the lyrics are in some language I can’t identify so the vocals actually come off like a separate instrument. However, they are such gorgeous compositions! Each music track generally fits the mood of the area. Pascal’s village’s theme has a lot of kids singing to solidify the idea it’s a pacifist location. The amusement park is playful and haunting at the same time. I guess I was really struck with how good the music was when I first arrived at the resistance camp and Peaceful Sleep played. It just felt so right as the camp was supposed to be this place away from all of the strife and fighting just outside. It just felt perfect! Peaceful Sleep is one of the best songs, both inside and outside of a video game, I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to.
Nier: Automata’s story campaign is rather trippy as you do have to play the game at least 3 times to get the real endings. Yes, there are several endings to the game. The first few do relate to what happens canonically but there are also a lot more “joke” endings. You can encounter them by not following the story quest, like running away from a fight, or doing something stupid, like removing your OS chip. It’s kind of fun trying to get every ending but some of them are rather outlandish so you will need some kind of guide to get them all.
Anyway, there is a genius to having to play the game several times to get the ending. The first couple of times you basically play the same story but through the perspectives of either 2B or 9S. It does feel kind of repetitive as the stories is almost identical and only branch out near the end of the campaign. However, it does feel somewhat fresh as 9S can hack machines so the game does feel a little different, kind of like playing some kind of DLC. It’s in the 3rd playthrough where things really change as it tells a totally different story. In fact, the 3rd time around actually feels like a mini-sequel to the event of the other 2 playthroughs! That’s absolutely brilliant!
You may have noticed I haven’t given too many details on the story. That’s because I have been purposefully vague about it. While it seems like a very straightforward story about androids fighting machines, it’s not. There are so many twists and turns in the narrative that even revealing one of them will ruin how smartly written the overall story is. Oh, it can be a little heady at times and maybe downright confusing if you’re not paying attention and just blasting through the dialogue and cutscenes. This is why I feel the story can be rather divisive depending on your expectations. Just know it’s much deeper than you think and it might even have you questioning your own morality at times.
Even with that caveat, I do strongly recommend Nier: Automata. Like I said at the start, this game has become my obsession as of late. I’ve played through the game and got all of the endings and I’ve actually started a second game… from scratch! That’s how much I’ve enjoyed this! I’ve gushed about this game enough. So, if you’ll excuse me, I do have to boot up this new Square Enix treasure once again.
Have you played Nier: Automata? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!