Spoilers for NieR: Automata ahead. Proceed with caution.
I will continue to profess how profound 2017’s year in gaming was for the industry. A litany of game of the year worthy contenders releasing days, weeks and months from eachother. Persona 5, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Horizon Zero Dawn, Super Mario Odyssey, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Nioh, Divinity: Original Sin II, Dragon Quest XI, the list goes and on, but one title remains a black sheep to this enigmatic lot; one that continues to be overlooked and underrated. NieR: Automata carries a legacy for being one of gaming’s greatest achievements in Narrative, score and aesthetic, not to mention a gameplay loop marked as innovative for the Role-playing genre. But why does its illustrious history get ignored? Well it’s actually more complicated than you think. With a complex plot structure that leads to 26 true endings, the obvious outlier is three key factors.
A somewhat convoluted plot casts a confounding shadow over the entire premise; a concern in character development for our heroine, 2B and her sidekick 9S. The RPG mechanics come second to the forced hack-and-slash nature with item collecting, XP grinding, and other hallmarks that are imperative to the respected genre, inadvertently neglected. Then we have the core gameplay loop that is controversial in its own right. The dodge function is overbearing without a cool-down period to break the monotonous “invincibility” misstructure, a docile template that is implemented to hold the player’s hand throughout enemy encounters, while melee combat comes with the sacrifice of swarms imposing their powerful ranged attacks. Nier: Automata is unequivocally polarising, with mistakes made in integral framework, but is made up for its compelling story, and aesthetically harmonious composition in both sound and design.
Not everything that’s perfect in gaming, is perfect. Masterpieces exist that pertain a plethora of problems and concerns which are swept under the rug for their impact their respective title has garnered. I would attribute this description to NieR: Automata; the perfect action-RPG, carrying issues no-one will even bat an eye-lid to upon completion. A cause for concern in NieR Replicant? Possibly, but I highly doubt it. Regardless, 2B and 9S’ expedition should not be taken lightly as their respective chapter within Drakengard lore, may actually be its magnum opus. However, as we return to NieR’s initial tale, there are a plentiful number of PlayStation, XBOX and PC owners that have passed up the opportunity to play this essential. Is there a need to play this title before Replicant? Not necessarily, but it serves as a great entry point to the franchise for those unacquainted.
Automata is a proposal, a fascinating introductory into the NieR universe that departs from anything NIER 2010, fans may have familiarised themselves with. A completely overhaul in design and aesthetic suggested a reborn world kept within the confines of its established continuity. The westernised release was adjusted to suit the differentiating audience that was not refined in Japanese-Anime trope culture, having NIER Gestalt replace Replicant’s younger protagonist in favour for an older male warrior-type. While it may have had regional impact within Japan, it garnered little to no acclaim outside the east. NieR: Automata’s western translation was a crapshoot. Many promotional materials were suggesting its original design and tale were being included, bringing a sigh of relief to many that had clamoured to see Replicant localised in other territories.
Without doubt, one of gaming's greatest achievements in worldly and environmental design has be sanctioned to this title. Absorbing a mixture of emotions through an awe inspiring pallet, an overture accompanies this expeditious, yet solemn creation that could only be carved out by a visionary.
A canonical aftermath taking place exactly four years after one of NIER’s multiple endings, Automata continues the parallel drawn in its prequel set in an alternate timeline from Drakengard. While there were clear disparities made in NIER’s western release, with its lush greenery and mountainous environments, Automata applies Drakengard’s post-apocalyptic aesthetic and is implied that its prequel, nor Drakengard have any connection to 2B’s adventure, only in existent lore. Set in a dystopian future with humanity on the brink of extinction, a war has broken out between man-made androids and alien machinery that look to overrule Earth. The YoRHa forces keep shelter from the mainland, in a bunker that acts as a base which orbits the planet. After an internal glitch sync’s 9S to YoHRa’s internal servers, the android discovers a dark secret that had been hidden from both he and 2B.
The pair had been lead to believe that they were fighting for an angelic figure, that was perpetuated by YoHRa to manipulate the machine’s in becoming their assailants to reclaim power. Betrayed and angered, the duo ultimately assassinate their commander after they are informed of an existing base on the moon holding what remains of humanity’s genome DNA. In an attempt to escape, 9S is infected with a virus that erratically changes his personality, making him completely irrational attacking 2B. With no choice, the leading heroine kills her apprentice, only for 9S to survive with his memory resetting thanks to the ship’s infrastructure having a local backup. 9S uses some reverse engineering to corrupt YoRHa, including its soldiers defending the floating bunker. 2B and 9S are separated in leading events after this tumultuous showdown.
The antithesis of 2B’s resolve leads to her rejecting a former lifestyle of devout protection to a divine idol that is non-existent. Instead, she tasks herself in protecting Earth, and what remains of humanity, eradicating the proxy-invasion of infesting maniacal machinery. After its opening, the story itself starts to proliferate events further with each arc displaying uniqueness, congregating a set path to 2B and 9S’ multiple outcomes. It’s not so much a choose your path tale, more that each decision will determine the narrative’s final chapter. Touching upon the title’s incredible design, the architecture in NieR: Automata is astounding. Without doubt, one of gaming’s greatest achievements in worldly and environmental design has be sanctioned to this title. Absorbing a mixture of emotions through an awe inspiring pallet, an overture accompanies this expeditious, yet solemn creation that could only be carved out by a visionary.
I cannot begin to describe the tranquillity through traversing a war-torn, desolate world. A weird contrast that should heighten anxiety, but its juxtapose leaves a complacency devoid of such panic. A calm before the storm allure that’s far-fetched but could very well happen in ten, twenty, thirty-thousand years, who knows? A slow, contemporary tune keeps a sense of contemplation at hand with every twist and turn in each magnanimous decision. Every cross-road in this title has profound impact in the way you perceive its legacy. It’s an escapade that you may return to once or twice, but its resolve remains outstanding due to its enormity in closure. A defining moment in complexity that can only be justified by the player engaging with our fearless protagonist wielding her weaponry, and having her young, confident associate by her side. If you have yet to experience this insanely epic adventure, then before you consider NieR Replicant, I’d say jump into NieR: Automata. You won’t regret it.
NieR: Automata™ Game of the YoRHa Edition, is available on PlayStation 4 (compatible with PlayStation 5), XBOX One and Windows PC.
NieR Replicant™ releases for PlayStation 4, XBOX One and Windows PC on April 23, 2021.
Nier: Automata is a 2017 action role-playing game developed by PlatinumGames and published by Square Enix. It is a sequel to the 2010 video game Nier, itself a spin-off and sequel of the Drakengard series.