NieR Automata is an unpredictable action-RPG. One minute, it’s a 2D shooter where you maneuver a mecha in a fight against wave after wave of machines. The next minute, you’re engaging in a well-designed linear mission where you hack-and-slash your foes. After that, you’ll find yourself playing a 2D platformer where you jump around like Mario. What’s great about NieR Automata is how it manages to keep all of its gameplay systems feel like a cohesive experience.
Satisfying Hack-And-Slash Combat
NieR Automata is developed by Platinum Games, the makers of known action titles such as Bayonetta and Metal Gear Rising. Like the aforementioned games, NieR Automata’s hack-and-slash gameplay is solid. Each blow dealt with close-range weapons feels satisfying and stylish.
The gameplay is also accessible. Players take control of 2B, a combat type android that can wield various close-range weapons. 2B can wield two weapons at a time, one for quick attacks and another for heavy attacks. She can infinitely chain her attacks by alternating between her two weapons.
2B also comes equipped with a small mechanical talking robot called a Pod. Not only does it shoot bullets, it can also be outfitted with various chips in order to use various active abilities. The Pod can use its abilities to perform high-damaging attacks such as a charged laser shot, a strong close-range hammer strike, and more neat moves. Unlike most hack-and-slash games, bullets and other long range attacks in NieR Automata does an adequate job in disposing foes from afar.
Players can also tailor their gameplay styles by equipping 2B with chips. Almost every stat of 2B can be improved, from increasing her weapon attacks to increasing her movement speed. There’s only a limited space for chips on 2B’s circuits, and the better ones usually take up more space on the circuit. Thankfully, a total of three chip sets can be customized to help 2B easily adapt to any situation.
Considering this is an action-RPG, the game also features a standard level-up progression. Grinding isn’t necessary to strengthen 2B as the game is generous in giving experience points. On the normal difficulty setting, it’s also manageable to defeat machines over ten levels above 2B as long as players take enough caution in engaging against foes.
A Lengthy Game
While NieR Automata is neither too easy nor too difficult, it’s inevitable for players to see 2B die on their playthrough. In fact, the game encourages players to witness the game’s multiple endings. There are over 20 endings in the game, and it tallies all the outcomes players have witnessed. The game alphabetically categorizes each ending from A to Z, but only five of those are considered major endings. The rest are considered as ‘joke endings’ where the player character must die in certain points of the game.
What’s interesting in NieR Automata is that multiple playthroughs are necessary to acquire all five major endings. Without spoiling things, each subsequent playthrough actually provides new scenarios, cutscenes, as well as different perspectives of the game’s story.
Considering NieR Automata is an open world game with plenty of side missions as well as multiple endings, it’ll take a long time to exhaust all the content. Players can expect over 40 hours of total game time, with all endings and missions and side quests taken into consideration.
While a long game time is admirable, exploring NieR’s open world doesn’t feel too rewarding. The game’s open world is mostly empty and lacks life. The open world was seemingly created with the random encounters in mind, but thankfully, the game’s combat system is great. The soundtrack is also superb and it alone is enough to excite you into exploring the game’s areas.
A couple of side missions are also scattered in the open world. However, the they are mainly basic fetch quests or escort missions. Thankfully, side quests have memorable dialogue between the protagonists and the NPCs. The quests mostly delves into the minds of the machines who have seemingly developed humanistic traits. This is actually one of the key themes of the game and it is definitely interesting to see more of it fleshed out in the side quests.
We Didn’t Ask For Online Features, But It’s Good
Getting one of the joke endings will lead players to a game over screen, and considering there’s no auto save feature, players will have to load their latest save file. However, dying outside of the game’s main missions and side quests will not lead to a game over. 2B will resurrect at the nearest save point, but without the chips they have equipped. Players will have to return to their corpse in order to retrieve the chips they have dropped.
NieR Automata also features an online functionality that is similar to Dark Souls. Players can stumble upon other player’s corpse and they can read a vague text message created by the real-life player upon approaching the body. Unlike Dark Souls however, players can choose to either repair the corpse or retrieve it for loot. Repairing the body will revive the android and it will help 2B in her battles for a limited time. Repairing it will recover 2B’s health and grant her some loot. While the online features are definitely interesting, it’s not heavily felt and necessary to use considering NieR Automata doesn’t have a fixed hard difficulty setting.
NieR Automata’s graphics looks nowhere near the likes of Uncharted 4, Battlefield 1, and other stunning looking games. However, it looks phenomenal once 10 to 15 enemies fill up the screen, along with plenty of purple-colored bullets shooting across multiple directions. The game looks great in motion once things get hectic, especially as it manages to hold 60 frames per second most of the time.
NieR Automata is a great hack-and-slash that manages to stuff so much content and gameplay styles in one package. Open world exploration isn’t the best, but the whole experience makes up for the sum of its parts. NieR Automata gets a 8.8 out of 10.
- Accessible gameplay
- Interesting story
- Mixes multiple genres seamlessly
- Well-placed humor
- Decent boss battles that ends before the fight feels mundane
- Equal amount of large-scale and human-sized bosses
- Stellar soundtrack
- Manages to hold 60fps most of the time on the standard PS4
- Multiple endings
- Over 40 hours of gameplay
- Generic side missions
- Bland open world
- No auto save
- Dull locations
Final Score: 8.8/10
Note: This reviewer purchased the Asian physical copy of the game, and it comes with English text and voices from the get-go. The game was reviewed on the standard PS4.