NieR: Automata is a game to be experienced personally.
Perhaps this is where it would be worthwhile to end the review, because almost everything that makes sense to tell about the game, one way or another, goes into the territory of spoilers. One could talk about the great final battle and its handling of the game style, forcing the gamer to think of their fingertips. But these are spoilers. One could talk about the end credits, which, due to their emotionality, easily make many dramatic moments of other games, and about the choice that they involuntarily forced to make. But these are also spoilers. Even the gameplay of Automata is so tied to the story and emotions that telling people who have not completed the game about it is almost a crime. And if you want to experience the Automata in all its glory, we recommend that you don’t read the review any further, even though it avoids spoilers as much as possible.
Yes, of course, we could talk about abstract topics or focus on the first playthrough, on which, for a fair part of the audience, the new NieR will end. But that’s not even a third of the whole game. Many have probably already heard that in order to understand the plot, you need to go through the game several times, but this is not entirely true. The game only needs to be completed once. From the beginning to the end. It’s just that credits are not always a signal of the finale. Director Yoko Taro demonstrates this fact to especially negligent players in the very first minutes, when, after death, the ending W comes off in the prologue with high-speed credits at hand.
Actually, people who are familiar with the past games of Tarot sensei are already aware that this strange Japanese has a very peculiar approach to storytelling. In the original NieR, Tarot revealed new plot elements with each playthrough that had previously been hidden for some reason. But in the case of Automata, the situation is somewhat different: through all the formal passages there is a through history. Yes, it can be repeated, but this is exactly what a gradually unfolding storyline. They just show it from several different points, and even with dramatic changes in the style and dynamics of the gameplay. And each time the plot becomes more intense, more emotional. And within the framework of this concept of storytelling, Automata works just fine, with each circle more and more tying us to androids YoRHa 2B and 9S.
The plot of the first circle can not be called particularly entertaining. This is a short story about a doll that just follows orders. Yes, here and there she has questions, but each time they are postponed until later. The motivation of the antagonists is not revealed, and the final battle is simply there. Yes, in terms of gameplay, it’s cool, but not that special. And not to say that the plot causes a downright unbearable desire to replay the game. Square Enix clearly understood this, so they added a plaintive letter after the first credits asking them to try to play the game again. And one has only to listen to the authors, as we are presented with a completely different beast, complementing the first circle of history. After that, you will unwittingly go to the very end to find out how else you can uncover the story of the YoRHa project.
True, if you focus only on the central plot, then a fair amount of emotions will pass by. Because many, many details and personalities are hidden in additional quests. Yes, they often work on the principle of “Go fetch, hitting a ton of cars along the way” (fortunately, the statuses of a fair amount of quests are transferred between passages). But at the beginning and end points, we learn a lot of details about the existence of the world, about the personalities of the machines, about the android models and the meaning of the abbreviated names of the models (besides the obvious B-Battle, S-Scanner, O-Operator), which ultimately impose an additional meaning and create a very strange, incredibly atmospheric post-apocalyptic world.
Actually, “weird” is the most exhaustive word to describe NieR: Automata. Because the game more than once or twice makes the player wonder: “What the hell is this?” In their compact open world, the developers have invested an abyss of frankly insane content. What is an amusement park that can only evoke associations with a horror movie, what a village of pacifist cars, what a shop on wheels (especially a shop on wheels) and most of the local mechanical animals, stubbornly trying to imitate people, from time to time running into the same and the same problems and making the same decisions. The feeling of madness of the local world does not leave for a minute. And all this is framed by a magnificent soundtrack that creates a fair share of the atmosphere.
Actually, the composers Keichi Okabe and Keigo Hoashi deserve a separate and deep bow. Because the musical accompaniment in the game, for lack of a better word, is mesmerizing. Transitions from melancholic sounding to energetic combat themes and songs with great vocals by Amy Evans are immensely pleasing to the ear. And even when the game suddenly turns on eight-bit versions of songs, the transition is so natural that the brain does not immediately fix it.
Visual design, like a musical score, creates an amazing picture, even though it cannot be called any particularly coolly drawn or detailed. But the world looks just beautiful. The android designs (yes, we all blew up 2B to watch her beautifully animated ass), mechanical lifeforms, local ruins, forests and deserts create an enchanting picture of a dying world ravaged by war with a long lost meaning.
But these are all nice bonuses. Most importantly, NieR: Automata is fun to play. Yoko Taro tried to cram as many gameplay elements into his creation as possible, borrowed from a dozen other games. And as a result, Automata jumps from a peppy slasher to a 2D platformer, from it to a classic linear airplane shooter and back to a slasher. And all this within just five minutes. Yes, there are a lot of borrowings from both classic games (up to a simplified sokoban with warehouse logistics puzzles) and from the popular Souls series (hello, lack of autosave and the need to run after your corpse to return belongings). But here’s the most amazing thing: each of the mini-games could well take off on their own, but they work well as a team, creating a fun and truly diverse gameplay.
Of course, you can not call Automata just too perfect. Here and there there are bugs, most often associated with the failure of pointers on the map when finding the items needed for the quest ahead of time. There are some problems with the balance of difficulty: the game clearly lacks an intermediate level between Normal and Hard. And the pumping system, tied to plugins and weapon upgrades, allows plugins to restore health to create an almost indestructible creature on difficulties below Hard. This does not mean that the game has a completely fierce imbalance (in any case, you will have to suffer pretty much, especially at the E ending), you just need to correctly assess your strengths and understand what you want more from the game: a challenge or a plot.
In general, NieR: Automata more than deserves attention and high ratings. This is an interesting story with a very unusual plot and incredibly entertaining, varied gameplay. In the local world, it’s easy to get lost for 30 or 40 hours and not even notice. This is a game that will make you fall in love with yourself, crush your feelings and force you to personally put the final point, after which there is no return. And you will do it out of a sense of recognition for people you have never met. The world needs more games like this out of the ordinary, so we can only hope that valiant freelancer Yoko Taro is allowed to continue to delight us with his creative frenzy.