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  • Niether here nor there

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  • Nierly perfect

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  1. #1

    Nier Automata (PS4, Xbox1, PC)

    I've been hammering this for a couple of weeks, the 'latest' from Yoko Taro and Platinum Games courtesy of Square-Enix. Quite surprised not to find a First Play - you should all go hang your heads in shame.

    On surface level it's a stylish yet also slightly scruffy-looking 3rd person android-on-robot beat-em-up/shoot-em-up, but the game is deliriously rich and strange and lifted to another level by the excellent combat mechanics of Platinum and the innovative storytelling and looping structure.

    You play (initially) as 2B, a combat android in a Goth Lolita and stockings maid outfit whose bottom flashes under her skirt when you set her running. You are sent to eliminate robots on earth, who in turn have been sent by aliens to exterminate humanity, who in turn are cowering on the moon somewhere. And so you set to beating things up. The combat begins simply but soon you are juggling two weapon loadouts as well as 'pod' loadouts (floating robot helpers that offer numerous offensive and defensive capabilities). It's all highly customizable and the extraordinary thing is the seamlessness of how you can juggle your options in the heat of battle with the d-pad. It feels like classic Platinum. The shooting isn't as precise and rich as Vanquish and the beating isn't as good as Bayonetta, but even so they're combined here together into something that looks and feels stunning in motion.

    You can customize many other variables through 'plug-in chips' that you find and fashion and need to insert into a limited set of slots, and the freedom offered through this is taken to some interesting extremes, e.g.: if you need an attack boost chip and are stuck for space on your chip-board, you can unplug the mini-map or EXP or other UI functions like sound. You can even unplug 2Bs main CPU chip, thereby committing suicide and getting one of the game's many endings.

    The real stars of the game are the cute enemy robots, reminiscent in the way they bumble around and blow up to the excellent low-tech jobbies in Metal Arms: Glitch in the System on PS2. They are adorable and animated beautifully and keep coming in ever more inventive shapes, sizes and attack patterns. While the character design is consistently excellent, though, the environmental design is frequently disappointing. Object and texture pop in is utterly chronic, and sometimes you may find yourself wishing they hadn't bothered to pop in at all. It looks really quite good at times, but at others it just looks unfinished and falls way short of the washed out and mysterious Team Ico/That Game Company aesthetic the devs were clearly aiming for. Companion pathfinding AI is laughably poor. Performance in the heat of action is slick and solid, though - I've no interest in counting the framerate but it feels really good. The music is fantastic: a combination of ballads, electronica, metal, robot-tribal chants, children's songs, all in a nonsensical, pieced-together language that fits the context perfectly. Predictably, given the theme, there is some dissonant chanting a la Ghost in the Shell.

    The thing that sets the game apart - which has been written about quite a lot - is (1) the
    storytelling, with the different robot factions and personalities being really well developed and quite moving, and (2) the absolute requirement of multiple playthroughs. There are 26 endings, one for each letter of the alphabet. This kind of thing is a big turn off for me as I'm a bit time-poor for games these days. So I did a bit of spoiler-free research to see if I could get on with such a ludicrous structure. Turns out the 26 endings thing is nonsense. The vast majority of them are the comedy insta-deaths such as I mentioned above and not really worth pursuing:

    another involves a researcher who wants to find out if eating mackerel is fatal to androids, which it turns out it is, gaining you the death-by-mackerel ending

    In real terms, you need to reach the end 4 times to see it all, with each playthrough becoming drastically shorter. The first playthrough is from B2's viewpoint (route A), the second is from her companion 9S's viewpoint (route B). After this you move into the second half of the game proper, which is meant to be massively different and new (route C). And finally you do an alternative boss fight taking about 15 minutes (route D). Route A took me about 20 hours, and this involved a lot of mooching about. A competent player could do it in half the time. I'm doing route B at the moment and it is going much quicker as completed side-quests do not reset. I'm enjoying it massively: there are lots of new storytelling elements and fresh perspectives to take in, there are new enemy types, and indeed a whole new combat mechanic that started off disappointingly but is already building into something complex and satisfying:

    it's based off hacking, done as a twin-stick shooter/puzzle system, and soon you can hack and control various robots, etc.

    The game feels like a bit of a mish-mash at times, not only in its gameplay systems (RPG, bullet-hell shooter, 3rd person brawler, puzzler, etc.) but also in its aesthetics. There is even some Soulsborne chucked in there, wherein if you die you get your AI downloaded into a new body but have to go retrieve the plug-in chips from your old body, and if you die again you lose them forever. Thankfully the game is tough but not that tough, so that tired old mechanic doesn't get the chance to become irritating all over again. Overall, though, the excellent Platinum combat, the engaging and animelodramatic JRPG story and scripting, and the novel play-structure pull together to give the game a strong identity of its own.

    I'd be interested to hear what others might think of it, and I'll update when I've finished playthrough 2/route B.
    Last edited by Golgo; 27-09-2018 at 02:17 PM.

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by Golgo View Post
    Quite surprised not to find a First Play - you should all go hang your heads in shame.
    I'm sure there was one ... could it have been purged when the site lost a full year of threads?

    Amazing game.

  3. #3
    ^ Very good point...could be! Or did it launch after the Blackout? Anyhoo, it's got another thread now...

  4. #4
    I really want to play it but I just don't have the time. To be fair I didn't have a platform for it until a few months back.

    I should probably buy it if only to support the genre and developer.

  5. #5
    I have fond memories of complaining at how quiet the pre-wipe thread was on this, so there's something quite meta about it happening all over again.

    One of the best games I've played for years. It's wonderful.

  6. #6
    Oddly I picked this up recently for about 18.

    Nearly at the end of Route A but I'm really struggling to complete sidequests. The objectives seem harder to locate than they should be..

  7. #7
    Don't spend too much time on sidequests, at least in route A. A lot of sidequests will continue in other routes and will actually be easier to complete later on.

  8. #8
    I finished this with 5 or 6 endings now on the One X. It's an amazing game and one that can even be accused of a tear jerker in areas ( well, it is when played with the Japanese voices). The game play is tight and precise. It comes off as being an eveloution of Bayonetta which is no bad thing.
    Graphically it's stunning, especially on the One X. I must get a HDR 4K TV to see this is all its glory. I've been put off by a few of platinum's games as of late. I didn't really enjoy any of their Activision collaborations including Transformers but NieR Automata to me is right up there with Vanquish and Bayonetta. Game of the year? Possibly but we've also got Forza Horizon 4 in 4K or 60fps coming soon as well as Reddead Redemption 2. And I'm still waiting on the new Tomb Raider to arrive. Whatever they're like, NieR Automata will be amongst them for sure.

  9. #9
    Easily one of the best games of last year, glad it did well and we'll get a third

  10. #10
    i did all the side quests on my first playthrough as i didnt want to miss anything not done all the endings but i feel like i should, awesome game that i really need to go back to.


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