There are few games out there that manage to tie together the smallest of details throughout a thirty-hour story in a way that leaves the player with a grand sense of conclusion, yet at the same time leaves them desiring so much more from the world they have become so ingrained in.
I’m no veteran in the hack’n’slash genre but I’ve played my fair share of titles and can happily say that if you enjoy the type of combat you’d expect from a Platinum game, you will not be disappointed with NieR Automata. Easy to learn, difficult to master. During my first few hours of playtime I was satisfied waving my weapons around like an idiot without a care in the world, what did it matter? It looked cool and got the job done. However as the game progresses you will reap the benefits from taking the time to master the intricacies of each weapon, as the challenge ramps up at a steady pace (not to mention the multiple difficulties).
Your Pod companion will become one of your greatest allies. The deep customisation system will allow you to create your own fighting style using the various Pod programs & abilities. How you decide to incorporate them into your battles is up to you. However, I can confirm that after 35 hours of gameplay there are still more things for me to learn, which I found out thanks to various ‘NieR Automata | Combo Movies’ on YouTube. Although fair warning, a surprising amount of them contain some sort of spoiler.
If you make it past the prologue without dying free-roaming becomes available, although the accessible area isn’t very large in comparison to other open world games, there is a lot to do so you won’t fall under the impression of being trapped in a confined space. You can practice your combat, complete some side-quests or experience intense fishing sessions in which your Pod does all the work.
The designs for the bosses aren’t anything unique, each one has various patterns they follow at each stage of their remaining HP, as the saying goes ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.’ However, with this games’ stunning accompanying soundtrack and the incredible story alongside it, each battle can only be described as exhilarating. (Apart from one particular boss, seriously fuck that guy). NieR doesn’t try to be something revolutionary in the gameplay department, it doesn’t need to.
Unfortunately, there are also issues with the game that irked me slightly while playing. Some gaps look like you can run through them but you can’t. The design of that one boss, yes I’m still tilted. Another playable character, 9S, has hacking as his main weapon. It’s super powerful, but retracts away from the enjoyment I had on my 2nd run as it becomes tedious very quickly. As well as other small bugs, here and there.
I’m one of those elitists who think they are above using the English voices in Japanese games but to be honest the English voice actors did a stellar job at portraying their characters prohibited emotions and the overwhelming emotions. The good voice acting and sound direction went hand in hand with the story telling.
Moving onto that soundtrack. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say this is one of the best produced soundtracks from recent years. With the previous instalment in the franchise also having an incredible OST this game had big shoes to fill and man, those are some extremely tightly fitting shoes right now. The scenic tracks that play while you explore certain areas are suitably themed, the intense tracks that accompany your battles raise your heart rate and the emotional tracks that play during some of the game’s best scenes pull on the heartstrings. What more could you ask for?
The quality of the story in NieR: Automata hits you in waves. With each ending and playthrough furthering the experience and making you appreciate the tiniest of details you may have overlooked initially. The story is nothing short of a wild-ride, as well as one of its best aspects.
Seeing all the points of view from characters throughout your playthroughs enables you to appreciate their interactions and the motives behind their actions. The twists and turns along with how involved you become with the characters is an amazing experience and only builds upon what is already an incredible story. It’s a one of a kind journey that could only be experienced as a video-game. It’s difficult to further explain why the story is so good without spoiling anything and I’m not going to go ahead and do that. It has its faults of course, but it is easy to cast your eyes aside when there is so much quality to be seen elsewhere.
This is probably the best single player experience I’ve ever had beating out my previous favourite Halo 3, which reigned strong for 10 years. NieR Automata is also available on PS4.