To be honest, I had given up on Square Enix - they aren't an amazing company and some of the things they've done to the Final Fantasy franchise are unforgivable (I'm look at you, shitty mobile games)! It's not that they're horrible - it's just that they've stopped worrying so much about quality and definitely started focusing on quantity. But, every so often, they release a game that manages to accomplish something really special - and I think they've done that with Nier: Automata.
Nier: Automata is a branch off of the Drakengard series and a sequel to Nier (both of which I haven't played, don't shoot me). It takes place in a world where the Earth is now a battlefield in a proxy war between an alien threat and the human race. The aliens have sent down a set of seemingly soulless machines to eradicate human life - and the humans are fighting back with their own combat androids YoRHa.
You control 2B, a female android, who is programed to calm and composed - and are 9S, a recon android - as you fight to help the remnants of humanity save the world from this robotic threat.
There's a lot of good. So much good. Too much good some would say. Right off the bat, I loved the mixture of genres present in the game's combat system. It goes from a Galaga-esque bullet hell to hack-slash seamlessly, thanks to a variety of different types of battle. For example, when you are on the ground - you can use your sword and your little robotic assistant for close range and long range attacks typical of a hack-and-slash. But, when traveling between different locations, like the Hub (the main place of YoHRa operations) and the overworld, you pilot your ship and fight enemy bots.
This variety elevates combat beyond the typical RPG fair. You aren't just wandering around a world and slashing your way with your sword - you're also piloting, and shooting your way through machines of various sizes and shapes. It's different from a game like Kingdom Hearts - where you literally just walk around and smash a button to get things done. And that matters - I love KH - but my hands need to be able to do more than just spam the X-button.
I think on a grander scale - the world is crafted in such an interesting way. Due to the lack of humanity populating the massive pre-war cities - the game evokes a kind of loneliness mixed with this crazy feeling of grandeur. The designers put a lot of work into making the world feel huge - and it is. There are human resistance camps, of course, but the world is mostly populated by wild life and machines.
Then there's the story - I can't get into it, because I don't want to spoil it - but it's one of those games that doesn't stop after you've beat it the first time. In fact, you may think that it's taken you as far as you can go, but it hasn't. It takes some turns that you won't expect - and will honestly drive you CRAZY, but you continue, because this narrative is AMAZING.
Now, as I said, the world is crafted in an interesting way, but there are some key design flaws that broke the immersion for me. There were some invisible walls in random doorways for no reason - it's not the worst thing, but it's definitely annoying. I thin invisible walls are great and are usually necessary, but this just felt kind of annoying for me. Small - but it was enough to take me out of the game for just a little bit.
Another issue I have is with the way the game utilized the camera. So, listen, something you should know about me: I hate it when games don't let you control camera angles. I understand that this was a very specific choice on the developer's end - but it is a huge pet peeve for me. It doesn't do it all the time, but when it does, I immediately dread whatever's happening. There's a certain amount of control that I think you should have when playing a large game like this - and to not have it really got on my nerves.
But again, that's purely personal opinion.
THE BOTTOM LINE
In the end, this game is such a ride and I wish I could tell you everything that happens in it - but I still feel like I've only scratched the surface. It's narrative is beautiful, and it's world has some problems, but in the end they are small compared to the emotions it elicits. It's definitely a different kind of action RPG than I've seen on the market in recent years. If you have the money, I'd say buy it. If it's available, definitely rent it - and let me know what you think!
Shann Smith is a lover of video games and has played games since he could hold a controller. He is a freelance writer, playwright, screenwriter, and also writes the Video Gay-Mer column on Popdust! If you have any games you'd like him to unpack, hit him up!
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- NieR:Automata™ on Steam ›
- NieR Automata ›
- NIER: AUTOMATA (Honest Game Trailers) - YouTube ›
- NieR:Automata (@NieRGame) | Twitter ›
- Nier: Automata – how a 'weird game for weird people' became a ... ›
- NieR: Automata™ STANDARD EDITION [PS4] | Square Enix Store ›
- Amazon.com: NieR: Automata - Playstation 4: Square Enix LLC ... ›
- NieR: Automata for PlayStation 4 | GameStop ›