I never spent a lot of time playing the first Nier from Square Enix back in 2010, but I’ve really enjoyed playing the second game of the series, Nier: Automata. The game is developed by PlatinumGames, known for many popular fast-paced action series, and published by Square Enix. You don’t need to have played or know anything about the first game to enjoy Nier: Automata, which is great for those who may have missed out beforehand. Unlike most action games that have a similar gameplay style, Nier: Automata opens up a wide environment for players to explore that compliments the post-apocalyptic setting of its story. Combined with its high-octane battles and constantly changing scenarios, Nier: Automata offers a very fun experience that will have you replaying through its story again and again.
The story is one of the weaker aspects of Nier: Automata, but it’s far from being terrible or incoherent. You begin playing as 2B, a YoRHa android that fights for an organization working to reclaim Earth after the human race was driven out to the Moon centuries beforehand by a hostile alien force. The main story takes place years after the first Nier game, but almost never references it at all. As events unfold through its narrative, some pieces of information can get loss on along the way, but only because the game lends itself to multiple playthroughs to fill in the gaps. There are multiple playable characters that open up with each successive playthough, offering new insight and details into the events that occur during the story.
There are 26 different endings and epilogues to the main story, most of which as comedic and a harsh end to the game depending on what happens during a key mission. Funny enough, you can actually end the game very early by either failing to complete the first few missions or by removing a key item in your inventory. Doing so causes the game to end abruptly and the written post-level dialogue to poke fun at you for doing so. It’s a very small detail that rewards (or scolds) players for giving into their curiosity or playfulness with some portions of the game.
Combat in Nier: Automata is still stylish and hectic as you might expect from any PlatinumGames developed title. Fast-paced action, fearsome boss fights, and a never-hesitating sense of urgency are what keep eventful moments special. One moment you’ll be in a massive battle against a group of angry robots on the ground, while the next will have you take to the skies battling enemies in a side-scrolling shooter. The controls are well designed and fit great with any scenario you find yourself in during the game’s many different missions.
Each gameplay style transition in Nier: Automata’s missions never feel out of place, but instead blend well together to keep the momentum running. Every enemy you defeat or objective completed rewards EXP for your character to level up, which increases HP, Attack, and Defense stats. There are lots of different weapons and items to find and use in battle differently, making the combat at times feel more complex than just pure button mashing. This is made even more so as you play with different characters in subsequent playthroughs, where even more options open up to you during combat.
There are moments where the game allows you to take a second to breathe in what has happened, right before thrusting you into another crazy battle. And yet Nier: Automata isn’t afraid to have more tranquil moments when it can. Exploring the wide area of a post-apocalyptic city revealed some beautiful scenery that is both colorful and calming, despite the grim nature of the story. I frequently found quiet open areas, sometimes with animals I can ride, that slowed everything down and made the action heavy moments afterwards even more special.
Moving between areas feels unrestrictive and encouraging for players to complete side-quests far off the straight path towards mission objectives. I never once felt like the stages in Nier: Automata were too claustrophobic, unlike most other games in the genre that offer a more linear approach to their gameplay. You still have main missions related to the story to complete, but most of the time you aren’t made to reach them right away.
After completing the main story over a period of more than ten hours, I can still find myself coming back Nier: Automata. The 26 different endings aren’t as overbearing to discover as one may think and offer a humorous addition to an otherwise dark tale about the end of humanity on Earth. It may not have the most interesting story, but Nier: Automata offers a solid gameplay experience that will keep many players coming back for more.
This review is based on a digital copy of Nier: Automata for the PlayStation 4, provided by Square Enix.