Feel free to watch the review above or to read it below, the old fashioned way.
Well what to say about this one? It’s one strange game that’s for sure. Nier: Automata is an action RPG but one with a lot of other styles of gameplay mixed in, from hack and slash to old style arcade shooters. It’s a weird combination, but it generally works and there was no point at which the game failed to feel cohesive. In fact, the changes often felt quite refreshing.
The storyline is also equally unusual. The first set of credits, while seemingly at the end, are actually an illusion and half of the story is still to come, hiding behind a subsequent play through with an entirely new campaign to complete, but there is a drawback. In order to reach that second campaign you first have to complete the main campaign again through the second of the main characters. Now, there are significant differences in this play through from the first one but at least half of it is the same. As it is, the game is very slow to start in the half and while it does pick up in the second half, the prospect of hauling myself through the first six hours or so again isn’t appealing even if there is a brand new campaign lurking over the horizon.
Unfortunately, throughout the first play through, I struggled to bond with the main characters and so felt little investment in the trials and challenges that faced them. 2B seriously lacks personality, even if by design, it makes it very hard to invest in her. 9S, admittedly, is a lot more likable but even then it feels sort of stinted and forced a lot of the time. Neither of the characters felt convincingly alive, to me, and to be fair neither of them are, they’re androids. Still there are machine NPCs that felt more alive to me than the protagonists. In fact, I cared more for one of those NPC’s villages that I did for the protagonists near the end. Considering the plot and main theme, this might be by design. However, there are parts of the storyline that clearly would have had a lot more emotional impact if I’d been made to care about the main characters. Instead, a lot of the emotion just felt out of place and even out of character.
Now, I’ll admit after the above it doesn’t sound like such a great game, but it is for those willing to give it a chance to establish itself. The game has a great soundtrack. Not only are they great tracks on their own, but they have such synergy with the locations and scenes in which they play that they really enhance the experience, in a way I’ve not come across in a game for a long time. Particularly, the amusement park track and the machine zealots in the factory track are exceptional and really made those sections of the game some of my favourites. The locations in the game are also extraordinary, from the large scale city ruins with towering skyscrapers, entwined by trees and encroaching nature, to a wide, barren but no less beautiful desert, with many more environments in between. I wouldn’t say that the sense of time and ruination is a match for Horizon Zero Dawn’s post apocalyptic masterpiece, but Nier: Automata has a style all of its own, and plays more with its sense of scale than sense of time. There’s certainly beauty in Nier: Automata’s vistas to rival that of Horizon’s, if you’re willing to look for it.
So long as you’re willing to give this game a chance, you’ll easily get your money’s worth, as there’s at least 40 hours of gameplay on offer here. However, it is slow to start, so if you want an instantly absorbing game then this one is unlikely to be for you. Nevertheless, the game grew on me a lot throughout the first playthrough and promises very different perspectives and all new content for a number of playthroughs to come. I, personally, didn’t enjoy it as much as the hype suggested I would, but it came through in the end and was an overall enjoyable experience. However, I feel the enforced replay of the main campaign in order to reach the all new second half is a mistake and will put a lot of gamers off reaching the true ending.