Nier Automata is one of those games that if you haven’t played, you’ve more than likely heard of. From the same person that brought us the feels-fest that was Drakengard, we get the sequel to Nier: Gestalt/Replicant.
Nier: Automata takes place in a post-apocalyptic style world, where aliens have invaded using machines as an army force, and all the humans have fled to the moon. You take up the role of 2B, and 9S, two androids in the service of YorHa, the militant group dedicated to wiping out the alien threat. The plotline, while interesting, isn’t exactly going to be giving you any surprises, or at least I don’t expect it to. Almost every “plot twist” you can probably see coming a mile away. What the story lacks in surprises, it definitely gets you on many of the smaller aspects: the interactions between characters, the extra conversations from the side quests, and the general lore you pick up about the world are what really draw you in.
Gameplay is a weird mash-up of top down hack-and-slash, 3-D action, top-down shooter, and scrolling top-down shooter. While I know that other people really disliked having all these different aspects mashed into one game, I really appreciated the variety it gives in gameplay. The 3-D action is where most of the game will take place in, and is how you roam the world, accept and complete side-quests, and progress in your YorHa mission to defend the Earth. 2B is attack based, having a main attack and a secondary attack, while 9S is a whiny tag-along who can hack enemies and locked chests. As you hack and slash your way through enemies, you can pick up chips and programs that you can equip for various effects, such as increasing attack or defense, or increasing movement speed. The shooter sections are fairly straightforward, usually being either an auto-scroller or having a single route to follow.
Where would we be if we didn’t talk about the soundtrack? Nier: Automata has a seriously wonderful soundtrack, and also has an in-game jukebox with various remixes in the main camp you’ll be visiting. Be careful though, one of the song titles is a spoiler if you recognize where it’s played in-game. The music was always great, regardless of whether it was a boss fight, a background tune for the area you’re in, or the event music.
Nier: Automata is a really weird game for me to give a solid score to, because there was a lot I thought could have been done better. I would have liked to see more ship/mech battles, the combat can be trivialized with the right program loadout, 9S is one of the most annoying main characters I’ve had to suffer through for quite some time, and the third character you can play as gets way too little screen time.
The areas may be big and pretty, but it takes you a long time walking back and forth through a lot of them before you get the fast travel option, which became available right as I was on the verge of getting fed up, so whether that’s a happy coincidence or good planning I’m not certain, but the fast travel would have been handier earlier. Some of your mission directives can be rather vague at times, and you can get a ridiculously huge zone displaying for where you’re supposed to be to fulfill your directives. While the variety of different weapons is nice, and it’s great to be able to upgrade them, some of the items needed to upgrade either your ranged firing pod assistant or the weapons themselves are downright infuriatingly annoying to get cough purewater cough.