NieR Automata was a dream game for me when it was announced. Yoko Taro is a director who tells great stories in a really interesting way, with the downside that gameplay would be average at best. The original NieR was pretty average, but the story was mad, full of twists, and bloody interesting.
But I’m not here to tell you that Automata is another one of these because this time Taro has PlatinumGames behind him. This combination is why Automata sounded like a dream, a director who makes brilliant stories and a developer who excels in making incredible action games.
So the gameplay is a bit like you’d expect if you played Metal Gear Rising a few years ago, mixed with a little bit of Bayonetta in places. You play as the android 2B and you’re fighting to destroy a race of machines. Machines that were created by invading aliens, who drove humanity to retreat to a base on the moon.
I did say Taro made games that were mad, you had a warning. Framing the main character as an android opens up a nice upgrade system. You use special plug in chips that you slot into your own pool of available memory to improve yourself. Some of these are simple number increases that make your attacks do a bit more damage, but others are rather powerful. Overclock, for example, is Witch Time from Bayonetta. When you execute a perfect dodge it slows down time, which in an action game is bloody nice. There are a bunch of others but I don’t want to spoil them as finding special chips can be a great feeling.
Of course, this isn’t just a PlatinumGames action game, there’s more than a little NieR in this package. The original NieR was part bullet hell shooter, and Automata continues this. With the help of your pod, a small flying robot, you can launch out a continuous hail of bullets at enemies. Enemies are not shy at firing at you either, the number of bullets on the screen at once can reach some ridiculous levels.
In short, for the gameplay side, it’s very solid and fun. You run around a very interestingly assembled world and smash a bunch of robots to bits with swords, spears and big fists. The main draw of this game though will be its enigmatic director.
So you know the general story idea, humanity has hidden on the moon while leaving behind these androids. Along this path, various twists and turns come along. I’m not going to elaborate much more on it because that would just be unfair to the game. It’s a game that really deserves to be experienced. It also ticks one of my favourite boxes, scenarios in the game are reflected by other aspects. Have you been infected by a virus? Well that’s going to mess with your perception and certain parts of your HUD will start messing up.
Speaking of the HUD, it’s all controlled by those plug in chips I mentioned. Say you really want to put in another combat plug in, but you don’t have any room to spare. If you fancy playing it dangerously you can disable your minimap, enemies health bars, hell even your own health bar. Oh, and you can also remove your OS chip causing you to instantly die.
Taro games always have multiple endings and Automata is no different. You play the game and see Ending A then you play the game again with things happening slightly different and get Ending B, then you play a few new missions and get Ending C. The number of endings obviously changes game to game, but each ending fleshes out the plot a bit more.
The plot of Automata is told across five endings, though I feel calling them endings is a bit unfair. Routes would be a better term to me but the game calls them endings. I did have to chuckle, as a big Taro fan, when I reached the end of the game and there was a message from Square Enix PR explaining the multiple endings idea. If you play to Ending A and stop, you have ‘finished’ it but it’s really doing a disservice to the game, and to yourself. You really need to play through these five endings to get the full picture of Automata.
The game is far from entirely serious, though its humour also comes in an unusual form. One of the first things I remember making me laugh was doing a series of combat side quests for a character named Jackass. All to help her develop a combat drug for androids. Once the drug is finished she gives you it, take it and it causes a bunch of graphical glitches in your vision.
Beyond the main five endings there is a bunch more but one of them stood out to me. It’s the hardest ending to get and it’s quite interesting to anyone who played the original NieR. Although again, this is a Yoko Taro game so the way you get this ending is an old Taro staple. You need to collect every weapon in the game and upgrade them all fully.
Summing up all this I can’t say NieR Automata exceeded my expectations, but only because I had incredibly high expectations. I’d like to recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone, but there’s one thing that stops me. You need to know what you’re getting into in some degree with Taro games. For Automata, you have to be okay with repetition. Especially as Route B of the game is basically the same as Route A, with some new mechanics. It’s still something I could see putting some people off the game.
However, for me, I don’t think I could name one serious flaw with the game. Meaning, after all of its endings I can give the game this one.