Humanity has been expelled from mother Earth and retreated to the moon. It’s up to the android warriors of YoRHa to reclaim the planet from the robots that now inhabit it.
A true philosophical journey
Yoko Taro helms this smash hit that takes place thousands of years in the future. If you’re looking for the true test of how impactful a video game can be, NieR: Automata is the perfect example.
You might want to have some tissues prepared for this one. N:A brings a load of emotions and existentialism right into the faces of the audience that avoids the topic the most: gamers. There’s no escaping it here; Yoko Taro has found an amazing way to deal with the most terrifying concept of life and death and make it something wonderful and beautiful.
The game’s story is one for the ages. You take the role of 2B, a female android warrior sent on missions by YoRHa. Your objective is to take back the Earth from the machines and give it back to humanity.
The construction of the narrative is fairly unconventional. You’ll need to play through multiple “endings” in order to get to the real end of the game. However, the final moments of the story are more of a meta statement on the players and video games, and the story itself doesn’t wrap up as nicely as it could.
However, the game ending and the narrative ending all serve the same purpose for Yoko Taro; they’re intended to make the player think. The game satisfies without a proper “ending” because that’s not the point. The idea is to drill into the heart of the player and, in essence, turn their view towards themselves.
An open world
There are several areas to travel through. An old city presents a lot of history, overgrown by vegetation to show its age. This is the last sign of humanity’s existence, and yet it still feels strangely alive with human-like quality. There’s also an amusement park, a desert and deserted section, and a space station.
Each area is detailed and layered with character. There are plenty of quests and setpieces that set the stage for the existential inquiry the game takes the player on, and they all work seamlessly with one another.
It’s also incredible to see how these areas react to story points as the game moves along. Even more interesting is how the factions in the game have fit into the world in question. The machines have taken over residential areas, and witnessing their attempt to “become human” and live in these areas is part of what makes it all feel so alive.
A perfect soundtrack
If you’ve never heard of Keiichi Okabe, write the name down. He’s responsible for what can only be described as a perfect original soundtrack for NieR. Each piece of music is so exquisitely crafted that “masterpiece” feels like an undersell for how incredible the music is.
The depth and content of each musical track can change based on your circumstances in the narrative. In more dramatic moments, the vocal chorus comes out a bit more. In more serene instances, the more subdued elements are on display. This reactivity gives passion and depth to the music just as much as the story that it plays alongside of.
The sound design in general is well done. When you play as 9S and switch between normal combat and the hacking mini-game, everything switches to bit-crushed or 8-bit sound. It’s a nice detail, and additions like these are peppered all over the game.
The upgrade system is similar to that of Paper Mario or Hollow Knight. You have a limited amount of “storage space”, and you’ll find upgrade chips that you can slot in and out as you’d like. You can also merge chips of the same type to improve their power and slot efficiency.
The system works well until you level up all of your healing chips, at which point you can slot them all in and never die again. There are various other power-ups like those that boost offense or increase loot drops, but they’re rendered useless if you can just slap on the “heal-so-fast-I-can’t-die” chip.
You’ll find swords out in the world as well. You’re equipped with a primary blade (and a secondary while playing as 2B) that you can exchange for those you purchase from vendors or find lying around.
They each have their own stats, but there isn’t much reason to vary from those you get in the main questline. The balance of the blades depends on how you level them up, which you do by finding materials throughout the world.
If there’s a weak point in the game, it’s here. The sword options feel superfluous. The best route here would have been to keep the leveling system for the swords and extend it rather than placing swords throughout the world to be picked up. However, those randomly strewn-about blades may serve a deeper narrative purpose; nearly everything else does.
Where can you run this program?
The game requires Windows 7 64-bit and later.
Is there a better alternative?
No. There isn’t a game that explores this subject as densely and emotionally as NieR: Automata does. If you’re a fan of the PlatinumGames titles, however, be sure to check out Drakengard and the first NieR game.
NieR: Automata is a fantastic experience. It’s visually attractive, has satisfying combat, and leaves the player deep in thought and possibly tears.
Should you download it?
Yes. If you enjoy PlatinumGames or bullet-hell shooters, NieR: Automata is for you.