Nier:Automata‘s story hits hard coming straight out of the gate. The player is thrust into a high stakes battle situation, and the action is immediate. Only after the first hour of the game, which works as a a tutorial to the combat mechanics, does the game finally take a breath and let the player know a little more about the plot. The basic summary of the plot is that the game centers around a group of android units that are fighting a war against machines on behalf of the human race, who fled the planet long before the events of this game due to a hostile takeover by aliens. If this sounds crazy, this is truly only the beginning of the wild ride that is Nier:Automata.
Ultimately, this is a game that works best if the player goes in blind, so there isn’t a ton that can be said about the plot in order to avoid spoilers. The only comment here for the overall story is that it brings up moral complexities and touching moments numerous times, and the points this game sets out to make are going to resonate with the player long after the credits have rolled.
The main story element that needs to be addressed is perhaps the game’s most notorious feature: the multiple playthroughs. In order to experience the entirety of Nier:Automata‘s story, the player must go through the game three times. While that may certainly scare some players off, the three playthroughs differ enough that it rarely feels repetitive. Each playthrough uses a different character, and they all have varying personalities and a unique take on the events occurring throughout the world.
With that said, however, it would have been nice to see a few more environments in the game. The game’s open world has a multitude of vast environments that are a delight to explore on a first playthrough, but by the third time the player is traipsing through the desert environment or abandoned factory looking for another rogue robot to defeat, some tedium starts to seep into the task.
Gameplay is the star of the show in Nier:Automata, with its distinctly Platinum Games blend of action RPG combat with light shoot-em-up elements. The end result is a hectic and highly satisfying combat system that can be tailored to the individual player through a variety of different weapons and upgrades. In true RPG style, there is also a means of augmenting stats that must be navigated, which takes the form of both a traditional leveling system that affects the amount of health the player has, as well as a stick of computer memory that must be decked out with computer chips that give boosts in combat. To add to this, as the game progresses and the player gets to experience the story as other characters, each character has unique mechanics, which means that there is always something new to do and learn in Nier:Automata.
Since this is an open-world RPG, there are numerous side quests to be completed as the game progresses. The best aspect of these side quests is that none of them are frivolous or padding out the game unnecessarily. Every side quest adds to the lore of the world, giving insight into side characters or fills in what might otherwise be considered a plot hole. The main problem with the side quests is that they may be well-written, but the quests themselves are primarily fetch quests that involve defeating a few dozen machines and then reporting back for a prize. They are formulaic in nature, to the point where they are often boring, but the rewards for completing them are worth the grind in most cases.
The score of this game is among the best in gaming. There is a wide variety of music that beautifully resonates with the emotions the player is experiencing at a given time. In some cases, the same song is slowed down or the instrumentation is changed after a somber moment in order to give a different feel to the same moment or location. Even if the game ultimately isn’t to a player’s taste, the music is a must-listen.
The graphics are serviceable, but varying. Character models are beautifully rendered and show emotions well, and the environments are fully-realized and well-done. That said, certain areas are stronger than others. The city ruins is probably the area the player spends the most time in, and it is one of the most detailed areas in the game. On the other hand, the abandoned factory feels as if they had one part of the factory built and then did a copy-paste job to populate the rest of the area. It doesn’t detract greatly from the overall quality of the game, but it would have been nice to see a more consistent level of detail.
Nier:Automata is a difficult game to review, both because giving away much from the main plot-line hurts the experience of playing the game, and because the game has some great strengths and fatal weaknesses. The story is phenomenally clever and interesting in a way that other games will assuredly try to copy in the years to come. At the same time, however, the side quests can get repetitive, the environments are a little uneven, and playing through the game three times does have its moments of tedium. Overall, however, it’s a great game and everyone owes it to themselves to at least give it a try.
Personal Enjoyment: 7.5/10
Technical Review: 9/10