NieR:Automata
Gameplay 9
Graphics 8
Sound 10

Nier: Automata allows you to fight for the glory of mankind as an android locked into a war with the alien created machine lifeforms that have driven humanity to the moon. It’s a stylish 3rd person action game with a semi-open world and fluid combat, but the story is really what makes the game so memorable. It’s full of surprises and plenty of heart-wrenching moments that make it easier to look past some of the shaky technical aspects of the game. It’s also undoubtedly a very quirky game, so it might not appeal to everyone, but if you are a fan of the genre then it is a must.

Gameplay: Action-packed, entertaining, engrossing, and over the top.

Graphics: Great designs for everything, from the environments to the characters and enemies.

Sound: The voice acting is really good and the soundtrack is amongst the best in the business

Summary 9.0 Outstanding
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NieR:Automata

Developer: Square Enix, PlatinumGames Inc. | Publisher: Square Enix | Release Date: 2017 | Genre: Action / Adventure / RPG | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

There are not many games out there that see the protagonists sacrificing their own lives within the opening moments, but then again Nier: Automata is not an ordinary game. Neither are its protagonists’ ordinary people, thankfully, but androids with memories that can be restored to new bodies if backed up in time. However, their choice to self-destruct when faced with overwhelming opposition is no less emotional and perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the game.

Nier: Automata is set in the far future, where the planet has been ravaged by a war with alien invaders and what is left of humanity taking refuge on the moon. The aliens have created machine life forms to wreak havoc, and humans have retaliated by creating androids to continue the war. The game opens with players given control of 2B, an android who is part of the special YoRHa unit, an elite group of androids operating from an orbital base known as the Bunker. Early in the game, 2B, a combat model, partners up with 9S, a scanner model, and the two form a bond as they combat the machine menace on the planet’s surface.

Throughout the story, 2B and 9S not only learn more about the endless war with the machines but about themselves and other androids. There is obviously much, much more to the story than this, but it’s impossible to explain just how in-depth things get without delving into spoilers. Suffice it to say you can expect to experience almost every emotion as you watch events unfold from not just the perspective of 2B, and 9S but also a third protagonist called A2. Don’t even think that you are done with the game after the credits role either as you’ll need to experience at least the first five letters out of the entire alphabet of endings to appreciate Nier: Automata fully. The game is a sequel to the original Nier and part of the Drakengard series, but don’t let this deter you, as no prior knowledge of those games is really required.

Although Nier: Automata delves into a lot of philosophical questions about what it means to be alive and have a purpose, it is also a PlatinumGames title, which means plenty of hacking and slashing. They are amongst the best in the business when it comes to characters swinging swords, and Nier: Automata is no exception. 2B is quite proficient in using long and short swords, but nothing prevents you from kitting her out with gauntlets and a spear either. Whichever weapons you prefer, you can expect fast, fluid, and combo-laden combat. The combat is not quite as in-depth as titles such as Bayonetta, but with heavy and light attacks, as well as ranged attacks courtesy of special pods, there’s never a dull moment.

While playing as 2B, your partner 9S also helps out in battle, but his specialty lies more in hacking, as players will discover when taking control of him. Hacking enemies take the form of a special mini-game where players take down enemy defenses in the form of a top-down shooter. A successful hack allows you to detonate the machine life-form for major damage or, provided the hack was performed without them noticing, either subjugate your foe or take direct control of their body. Combat does come with the threat of failure, and while the protagonists are androids, they can still be killed. Should the worst happen, your characters will be restored in new bodies nearby but lose all of the experience points and plug-in chips they had on them. This can be a rather large setback depending on when you last saved, so it is highly advisable that you seek out your former body and retrieve everything. There’s even the option to restore your old body, making it fight alongside you for a while as you (hopefully) take revenge on whatever killed you. Take care, though, as failure to retrieve your body means losing everything permanently.

One of the reasons why you’ll want to get back to your lost body post haste is plug-in chips, as these are not only incredibly useful but also quite expensive, depending on your loadout. These plug-in chips function as upgrades for your android and allow for everything from faster speed and more health to life regeneration, stronger attacks, and much more. You only have a limited amount of “memory” to work with, and more advanced chips take up more space, so choosing what to slot in is almost a game in itself. The chips, which are split into categories like Attack, Defense, Support, and Hacking, are all incredibly useful and well worth seeking out or purchasing. You have three different “sets” that you can switch between, which means you could have a dedicated set for exploring with speed and automatic item collection and one for combat or hacking, and so on. There are even special “HUD” chips that are used for things like displaying your HP gauge, enemy data, the mini-map, objectives, and so on. If you are really tight on memory space, you could even remove some of these, but use common sense and don’t touch your OS chip unless you want to see one of the many sudden and humorous endings in the game.

It’s not just your own style that can be customized through plug-in chips, but also the little pods that hover around with you lending assistance. You can acquire up to three of them throughout the game, and while you can hot-swap between them on the fly, only one can be active at a time. Pods are generally used for projectile attacks, but nothing is preventing you from slotting a repair program in one for healing during combat or a hammer so that you can dish out devastating blows with a mass of summoned energy. However, our favorite use for the pods is grabbing onto them when jumping off high ledges and then safely floating down to the ground. We’ve already mentioned the different types of weapons, but all of them can also be upgraded using components scavenged from defeated foes or by raiding the many containers found throughout the game world.

Speaking of the game world, Nier: Automata features several different locations that are linked together to give it a sort of open-world feel. The differences between these areas are quite drastic, though, so one moment, you could be in a ruined cityscape and then stumble into a scorching desert or lush green forest. There’s even a fairground area, complete with fireworks, roller coasters, and confetti-shooting robots. The map is not quite as large as other open-world titles, but still expansive enough that you’ll appreciate the ability to fast travel between them later in the game. Unfortunately, you’ll also quickly learn that finding your way around is rather tricky, thanks to the map, which is not exactly the most user-friendly we’ve ever seen. The inclusion of lots of invisible walls and plenty of backtracking if you plan on completing the fetch-quest-laden side-missions can be a little trying at times but usually worth the effort. Besides, you can always hitch a ride on one of the wild boars or moose that roam the post-apocalyptic landscapes.

Visually Nier: Automata is a good-looking game, although it has to be said that this PC version is a little shaky when it comes to the technical side of things. Bumping up the resolution to 4K and maxing out all the settings makes some areas look gorgeous, but then you get to a cut scene and find that it is locked to 30 fps. We also had to resort to an external program to ensure the game behaves properly when played in full-screen and fix issues that should have been addressed via an official patch. In fact, despite releasing DLC and a “Game of the YoRHa edition,” which features additional costumes as well as fighting arenas, these technical issues were never fixed. Still, by using the “Far” mod, we were able to complete the entire game multiple times without any crashes or serious issues.

Nier: Automata is not exactly a cutting-edge-looking game, but some areas, such as the desert, are still amazing. Seeing endless expanses of dunes that you can surf down is incredible, and the same can be said for stumbling across the fairground the first time and seeing all the fireworks. Enemy designs are certainly very unique, and there are also a couple of towering bosses, although nothing on the scale of Bayonetta. The game uses a different color tone for each area, so the sterile and monochromatic Bunker looks vastly different from the lush green forest, for example. It’s also great how the game makes clever use of the camera to change the genre entirely. You might happily be running around in open 3D environments one moment before the camera fixes itself to a side-on or top-down perspective the next, and you are in a platform game or twin-stick shooter. These areas are generally brief but make for a nice change of pace. There are even a couple of text adventure style sections, and whenever you find a body of water, you can stop to relax with a spot of fishing using your handy pod. The fact that you can only save in certain areas is a little annoying, but the game has enough difficulty settings and even chips for automating a lot of actions that most players should be able to finish it.

An incredible game deserves an incredible soundtrack, and once again Nier: Automata does not disappoint in this regard. Each area has its unique music tracks, and all of them are so good that we found ourselves listening to the soundtrack outside the game. It’s not often that we can spend hours inside a game listening to the music and then still play the soundtrack outside of it without getting tired of it. We also love the way how all of the tracks have chip-tune versions that kick in when using the hacking skill. The voice acting is equally impressive and features a talented cast that includes Kira Buckland, Kyle McCarley, and Cherami Leigh. All of them are consummate professionals in their field, and they do a good job in Nier: Automata. Since the game was originally released for consoles, we heartily recommend using a controller to play. A keyboard and mouse are usable, but double-jumping, dodging, slashing, and activating pod attacks simultaneously is just more manageable with a controller. An analog stick also just works much better for the top-down shooting sections as well as the platformer areas.

Overall, Nier: Automata is an incredible game and easily one of the best titles that we have ever played. Part of the reason for this is just how unpredictable the game is and how it can keep the shocking revelations coming even when you think you’ve seen everything that it had up its sleeve. The Gothic Lolita outfit of 2B and the fan service elements might make the game look like just another 3rd person hack and slash, but nothing could be further from the truth. It’s a pity that the PC version requires external mods just to work correctly for some players, but don’t let this stop you from playing this masterpiece. It’s not perfect and not a game that is going to appeal to everyone, but if you are a fan of the genre, then your library is simply not complete without Nier: Automata.

*Review originally published in 2020. 

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows 7 /8.1 /10 64bit
  • Processor: Intel Core i3 2100 or AMD A8-6500
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770 VRAM 2GB or AMD Radeon R9 270X VRAM 2GB
  • DirectX: Version 11
  • Network: Broadband Internet connection
  • Storage: 50 GB available space
  • Sound Card: DirectX® 11 supported
  • Additional Notes: Mouse, keyboard and game pad (XInput only). Screen resolution: 1280×720. This product only supports MS-IME keyboard input. There is a possibility that other IME will not function correctly with it.
  • OS: Windows 8.1 /10 64bit
  • Processor: Intel Core i5 4670 or AMD A10-7850K
  • Memory: 8 GB RAM
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 VRAM 4GB or AMD Radeon R9 380X VRAM 4GB
  • DirectX: Version 11
  • Network: Broadband Internet connection
  • Storage: 50 GB available space
  • Sound Card: DirectX® 11 supported
  • Additional Notes: Mouse, keyboard and game pad (XInput only). Screen resolution: 1920×1080. Depending on the monitor and PC graphics card environment and setup used, this title can expand its display resolution to 4K. However, please be aware that 4K resolutions are not officially supported. This product only supports MS-IME keyboard input. There is a possibility that other IME will not function correctly with it.

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