Nier Automata is a philosophical journey that keeps you glued to your screen just to see what it will throw at you next. With plenty of religious symbolism and existential questions raised throughout the story, one might think Automata is an overly-complicated and boring game. However, beneath all this philosophizing lies a really, truly great game.

The game is both a sequel to the original Nier, which came out in 2010, and a spin-off to the Drakengard series set in an alternate universe (explaining the connections between them will require a whole different article). While you don’t have to have played any of the games in the series to enjoy Automata, those of you that did will find plenty of remainders and callbacks to it, including one particularly heartwarming cameo. The story itself takes place thousands of years in the future, after several apocalyptic events. The last one, an alien invasion of Earth, sent humanity looking for shelter on the moon. The only thing standing between the last of the humans and total annihilation are human-like androids stationed on the now abandoned Earth.

Nier Automata review

We are playing one such android, of the YoRHa line. These are the androids that fight the alien invaders and their robot army. The two main characters are YoRHa No.2 Type B, or 2B, and YoRHa No.9 Type S, or 9S – two androids on a mission to reclaim the Earth from the aliens. Like many other stories of the same nature, there’s a lot to uncover beneath the surface, and talking about it any further will just spoil the surprise and speculation. I’ll just say that  the plot itself is fascinating, with the single caveat of it being a little too forced at times, like when the aliens appear out of nowhere when it serves the story without any logical explanation of why there are actually there. The game has a story it wants to tell, and it tell it even if it has to break your suspension of disbelief.

The main conflict in this story is an inner one. The androids are practically human, with loves, hopes and even dark desires they are forced to suppress in order to blindly serve humanity. On the other  hand you have the robots that cannot pass for human by any means, but try their hardest to act like ones. The question of “what makes us human” is at the center of the plot. As players are exposed to different sides of the androids and robots, they will start to wonder which side is “more human”, and what role do memories and consciousness play in the grand scheme of things.

Nier Automata review

The gameplay is pretty much what you’d expect from a good PlatinumGames title. The combat is fast and relays heavily and dodging at the last possible second just to deliver a devastating counterattack. 2B is accompanied by a small floating drone that serves as a floating machine gun that can chip away at far away enemies’ health. But be warned – most enemies will fire back, so you’ll have to evade both their bullets and the melee attacks from those nearby. The combat is almost like a dance of melee, bullets and evading both. From time to time the camera will shift to a 2D perspective that make the game feel like an old-school action platformer, and there even segments where you’ll control a small aircraft which play out like top-down space shooter.

Combine that with a deep RPG system that lets you switch your equipment and upgrades to suit the mission or situation you’re currently in, and you’ll find it very hard to be bored by Nier. The normal difficultly level offers quite the challenge, and I wouldn’t recommend trying for the higher ones until you have a few hours of gameplay under your belt, especially if you which to keep both your screen and controller intact. The game doesn’t offer an auto-save mode, and if you’re not careful it will remind you that fact plenty of times. The reason is actually story-related, which is a cool example of how story and gameplay work hand-in-hand in Automata.

Nier Automata review

Visually, the game is quite stunning, with beautifully-rendered characters, and environments that often tell a story. However, the music is the real star here. Like in the previous game, the music is epic and absorbing, and you’ll often find yourself staying in a particular area just to listen to the track playing all the way through. The English voice over is surprising good, and you’ll find yourself bonding with the two androids fairly quickly because of it.

It will take you around 40 hours to finish the game, and a few more hours to see the 26 available endings. Don’t worry those, as most of them are there as a joke and won’t take too much of your time. Nier Automata is an excellent game that might not appeal to everyone, but everyone should at least give it a chance. The plot takes center stage here, but the gameplay is addictive enough to get you all the way to the end even if you don’t really care about what’s going one.

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