Reviewing Nier: Automata in 2020

This game is nothing if not a storytelling experience, and thus the review remains spoiler-free

Pregame

I discovered this game through the must play lists you find on YouTube. I loved the hack and slash combat glimpses I’d seen and some random visuals from the amusement park area that caught my eye. I also read that this game has multiple endings. My girlfriend wanted to gift me a video game so I asked her for this one. Here I am, playing my third RPG (and first JRPG) and I decided it should be Nier Automata. What could possibly go wrong?

While playing

This game seems like it’s building up to something big. After the opening boss fight, things were a little quiet, like the calm before the storm kind of way. Running around and gliding were fun but there was just too much of it. I just found it impossible to trust anyone in this game. I was skittish about every NPC interaction I had. I was also a little concerned about this game turning into a romance of sorts between the lead characters. The opening promo when you start the game gives you this feeling. But boy was I wrong. The ending of the game was a bit chaotic and I couldn’t focus on the dialogue towards the end. I pretty much missed the last cut scene when my girlfriend and cats caught my sudden attention. I let the credits roll and I’m prompted to start the game again for a better experience. Which I did. And oh my god.

The perspective changed and now I had an added challenge to focus on which parts of the story changed due to the shift in perspective. A lot of the dialogue in my first playthrough made sense in the second one. Upon reaching what I thought was the ending to my second playthrough, I realised that these SOBs are continuing the story. Everything beyond that was magical. The uncovering of one fact after the other, every character arc, every gauntlet thrown at you, just beautiful.

Post-game

It was a very good call to power through the entire game instead of playing it in pieces. All the guilt that I had for rushing through the first playthrough was wiped away in the second. The story stuck with me, the music was something I started humming despite not knowing the (japanese) lyrics. It made me look up so many things and watch so many videos describing the game. Even now I find myself listening to the live orchestra playing its soundtrack.

Overall

Nier Automata is vast and while being open-world, it gives you a pretty linear vibe but in a good way. The creator of the game Yoko Taro clearly wanted to mess around with our heads. The game has a lot of swerves. My only gripe would be the late introduction of fast travel, and the fact that it felt intentional. Don’t get me wrong, the traversal is a lot of fun and I could slide for days, but sometimes you find yourself running around back and forth on vast, taxing stretches of sceneries.

The combat is smooth but can feel a bit button-smashy at times. There’s not much to master in it, if the combat overwhelms you, switching to easy doesn’t impact the story.

The music in my opinion is one of the best soundtracks in all of consumable content. It adds emotions to what otherwise would’ve been a “hit and miss” plot. The character design is somewhat questionable and feels like it’s playing more into the creators’ fetishes than to establish any personality. The action set-pieces and boss battles however, are amazing.

It’s a slow-burner action adventure title with more self-discovery than in-game discovery. It’s one of those games where you need to put up your tinfoil hat and find meaning in everything.

I worry about the people who must’ve stopped playing after the first playthrough thinking that they finished the game when they were less than halfway there. This lack of pretext probably held the game back but also made it special for those who pushed to see what’s more to it. And trust me there’s a lot more. Doing stupid stuff in the game can bring you joke endings. You want to try to get each ending, even when some of them are designed to put you in moral dilemmas. You somehow feel part of a community once you’re done playing this game, and that’s special. It’s a game you can brag about to your friends.

If you like to lose yourself in a game to the level of obsession, this is the game for you. You may be playing as androids, but you’re about to feel quite emotional. Rest assured, you’ll finish the game enlightened.

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