Unlike the original NIER, Nier: Automata comes with a significantly higher profile and awareness. People actually know that this game is coming out. And the post-release reception has been incredibly positive, with the game inspiring positive discussion and think pieces from all corners of the internet, becoming something of a phenomenon in the process.
Nier:Automata is an open-world action role-playing video game developed by Platinum Games and published by Square Enix for PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Windows. The game was released worldwide on 23 February 2017.
With all that steam behind it, we got 2 of our best staff members on the job. While Karan played the game on the PS4, Pratyush played the game on PC. Once both of them were done, they sat down to compare notes. Excerpts
The original NIER wasn’t the most polished product that was put out last generation but it gained a slow but steady cult following due it positively being to convey its’ creators unique (and bleak) artistic vision to a niche, more adventurous group of gamers. It may not have sold many copies but it never dropped out of conversation, either. People who got it, remained committed to its idiosyncratic, world-weary aesthetic.
Clearly though, it was noticed far beyond initially thought so. In a move that most people weren’t expecting, it got revived in form of an official sequel and from Platinum Games, no less. Officially announced in E3 , It came across as a surprisingly unexpected move by a mainstream developer. Signifying that not only was Yoko Taro’s unique voice heard far and beyond what was initially expected but the potential was also seen to bring it to a wider audience.
Anyone who has been following me in the past couple of weeks knows that I have pretty much gushed about it on every media/informative platform around the internet including the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Reddit and of course Steam. Heck, whenever I see any livestream, I just say “Do a live stream of Nier Automata. That is one game that deserves all the attention it can get”
Let me be clear, I am not a really big fan of hack n slash games, so getting into Nier:Automata, I was expecting to not like the game all that much. When a game isn’t in your preferred genre and you still end up enjoying it to the point of gushing about it, I think that says a lot about the quality of the game. As for how it resonated with me, I guess it was the contrasting aspects of various elements in the game that blended in so smoothly that made me love this game so much.
JAPANESE WEIRDNESS/ IDIOSYNCRASIES
For the record, I really love the game as well. And I think it’s admirable that it is every bit an Idiosyncratic game as the original NIER. Calling it just ‘weird’ would be selling it short. It’s a game that has a certain artistic vision and various methods to communicate that said vision to the audience. A LOT of people I know were going into this expecting a regular platinum hack and slash and were pleasantly surprised.
As far as weird goes, I think it’s just Japanese nature, I am an avid anime watcher and am consistently surprised at how the Japanese are able to take concepts that most others wouldn’t be able to think about and make it into an interesting tale filled with emotions and still adhere to some sort of logical semblance. As a person who has not played any of the previous Nier/Drakengard games, I would call Nier: Automata one of the most undiluted pieces of art in modern-day gaming.
This is a game that has been made without the fear of SJWs and the likes, which I wholeheartedly appreciate. The various aspects of the game such as semi-nudity have been handled with utmost maturity and the character design simply reflects Yoko Taro’s love for women.
Game-play & Mechanics
It does buck quite a few trends that are prevalent to the industry right now as far as gameplay goes, and not surprisingly enough (For it’s case), you can’t really put it in a particular genre. It is a hack n slash game which has a considerable amount of twin stick shooting, some arcade mini games and 2D side scrolling segments.
The aspect of switching gameplay styles effectively without breaking the immersion of the player is something that really made me want to keep going. At least we can conclude that Yoko Taro wants to have variety in the game, and in my opinion, that is a great design decision. Very few developers dare to change the game extensively, and Yoko Taro is one of them.
Beautifully put. I feel much the same way. I love that it keeps on switching gameplay styles and refuses to be pigeonholed. It feels like an incredibly personal game made with an intense amount of passion by Yoko Taro and crew. It’s often touching, beautiful and heartbreaking like the original NIER and tackles genuine themes like AI, Singularity, love and a LOT of existentialism and philosophy.
In it’s own slapdash (And often charming ) way, it genuinely make some sweeping statements about mankind and humanity. Probably the only major release to dare to do so since DEUS EX got cancelled. All in all, it has a pretty fantastic narrative that is told in fascinating ways (that we can’t risk spoiling) which are unique to the video game medium.
Also, sometimes I feel checkpoints/save points are deliberately kept far apart to troll the player. Especially during the ‘bullet hell’ sections, which I might add are incredibly challenging and as impressive as fully featured games of those types.
And thanks to platinum’s combat design, it plays fun too. (Which was something that couldn’t be said about the original NIER). The easiest way I can describe it to a newcomer to NIER/DRAKENGARD is: Imagine a cross between an Indie ‘art game, Anime and a hack and slash. Though there is still room for improvement and can be made deeper. As I mentioned, It’s a video game. Not a movie.
While we are on the topic of movies. I would like to mention how well the set pieces are done. Basically the twin stick shooter and 2D side scrolling parts are just set pieces. Now generally, in all other games, set pieces leave little control in the players’ hands which becomes immersion breaking, but effectively changing the gameplay genre during set pieces and implementing gameplay from a different genre is an effective way to not break the immersion and still keep the player in full control.
ICYMI, this game indeed has FOUR campaigns and 25 multiple endings. The experience isn’t complete until they’re all done.
It’s a game that’ll definitely inspire a LOT of thesis and critical analysis. The fact that there are 25 endings and a lot of hidden content means that it devotes itself to complexity in design as well as story and theme. And there are plenty of eccentric touches, such as when the game ‘ends’ during certain specific circumstances (which still counts as an ending in a save file) that keep the player intrigued and curious throughout. In short, there will be a lot of people wondering and even overthinking about what it all means.
I would like to shed light on the multiple endings a bit more. One aspect that made it rise above any other game that I have ever played, was the fact that there was no dialogue wheel for most of the endings. It’s all up to the player’s actions rather than some well placed dialogue sections and you could say that I was impressed at the fact that it was almost a perfect implementation of what gaming is supposed to stand for- Interactive medium. I loved the fact that my actions had consequences rather than selecting options on a dialogue wheel.
2B, 9S and others
Coming to the protagonists, I am not really sure 2B and 9S are the protagonists; they are the main characters of Nier Automata for sure, but once I had played the game and had given it some thought, the question of who was the protagonist kept bugging me. We play as 2B, 9S and A2, yet the world seems to revolve around us in some ways that feel uncontrollable. It feels similar to how Gordon Freeman in Half Life was, we are not the central character of the story, we are just a passerby making small changes which are resulting in bigger impacts.
As for the characters 2B, 9S and A2, I feel that they are very well realized characters, and their complexity can only be known once someone has played the game through to the actual ending. The first two playthroughs shed a lot of light on the personality of the characters in the current time-vicinity (According to the game), but only when the player has completed the third play through will he/she understand the true depths of all three playable characters and I would highly recommend completing side quests and reading archives, because that is how I fell in love with 2B. After truly completing the game, I can certainly say that 2B is the most beautiful (Not just physically) playable female character I have ever played as.
After the third ending I was blown away at the depth 2B had, as a character. The reason was that, any particular character in any game I have played till date starts off as an unknown character and then we see them develop (Or maybe not)/ react to situations which move the story forward, and as we go forward, we get to know what the character is like. In Nier Automata, it was different, not quite the opposite, but different. I had an image formed about 2B’s character after a few hours, but after 2/3rds of the game, her character seemed like a jigsaw puzzle constantly changing it’s arrangement and it wasn’t until the end of the game that I realized what kind of character she was.
I also feel that she will truly become the next great role model for young girls. Without getting into politics too much, I love that Platinum realises that the way to making great female characters is to just make great characters, instead of force-feeding narrative (*cough *Tomb Raider reboot*cough*). Strong, smart, headstrong and reliable. 2B is a great role model for females, despite their being a trophy for looking under her underpants ( yup). As I said, this game is weird. I liked 9S and A2 just as much though but I can’t say much about them here without spoiling.
I also liked Adam and Eve, and liked how you gain more insight into their perspective as you play through multiple campaigns. As well as the other bosses as well.
As far as Adam and Eve are concerned, I loved their overall design and characterization, but I would have liked to have seen their characters explored considerably more than they were in the game, especially Adam.
GRAPHICS, SOUND & PERFORMANCE
NIER has an incredible soundtrack and features some of the best video game music you’ll hear all year. A great score that just like the original NIER, keeps it patched together even during it’s rough portions. I strongly urge EVERYONE to buy the OST as soon as possible. You won’t regret it.
Yeah, the game definitely has one of the best soundtracks ever, and has become my personal favorite. I am not an audiophile, but the multilayered music really fleshes out each and every accessible area of the game, IE, the music perfectly complements each and every location. This is some of the best sound design I have ever experienced in games.
Personally, some of my issues with the game were the typical RPG fetch quests, which, while they were emotionally engaging didn’t change the missions structure all that much.
Apart from that, I also found the map to be a bit problematic. While the game does not have much in the sense of verticality, there are a few missions where the map doesn’t indicate that your objective is above or below you.
While I was able to figure out the position within a few minutes, I would have liked to know when my objective was below or above ground level. Last but not the least, my complaint would have to be the invisible walls in the open world.
While the areas have been masterfully crafted, I can’t help but feel limited when I can’t jump above a high grill near the stairs of a tall building, and have to traverse the stairs when I could just glide towards the bottom.
A few problems as a PC player that I faced were 2 crashes during my 54 hours play through, and the fact that I had to download extra mods to play the game in full screen. Apart from that I didn’t have any problems.
So wrapping up, I think you and I are both agreed on our love for this game and agree that it’s special. My final score for this game is a 4.5/ 5. It’s another great game that is yet more proof that 2017 will go down as a landmark year for Japanese games. My only gripes are regarding some strange design decisions regarding check-pointing, some tedious boss fights and perhaps the combat system could have been deeper.
My final score will be a 5/5, because even with it’s flaws, it is a piece of art that can neither be imitated by any developer nor experienced in any other video game till date.