It has been a long time since we last saw the Drakenguard series on Playstation 2. Equally, it feels like a long time since we played Nier on last-gen consoles. Well, its time to dust off some of that JRPG knowledge and get yourself ready and excited for Nier: Automata.
This entry takes place following the events of Drakenguard and Nier (depending on which ending you got) and puts you into the android heels of 2B. This is long after humans were exiled from earth by a hostile alien species and forced to live (and ready for battle) on the moon. The aliens stay just outside of Earth’s orbit and reportedly still send in machines to continue reeking havoc on Earth surface.
Humans have sent their own forces down to Earth in an attempt to force the enemy off out. The tides are changing. Resistance forces have set up camp, plus animals and plant life have began sporadically popping up again. Some of the alien’s machines have started acting strangely and in some cases don’t attack unless attacked.
The RPG hack and slash, allows you to customize weaponry and attacks by trading out chips that give you abilities that include, stronger attacks, health regeneration among others, while different two handed weapon combos lead to varied attack speeds and strengths. Pairing different weapons together gives the game a longevity in terms of reinvigorated interest in gameplay.
The overall design of the post apocalyptic world is very pretty. Lush hyper colors paint the landscape from deserts to empty cityscapes. Most games of the post apolalyptic nature tend to go for the heavy blue and purple doom and gloom pallet, this one sticks to some eye popping colors that sets it apart.
2B is constantly faced with existential elements throughout the story. The machines that remain on earth have long since been left behind by their alien creators, leaving them to wander aimlessly and without purpose. The tone of those story beats, hit have a lot of weight with social commentary and speak greatly about the human condition and our current social climate. I love when games and films do this kind of thing. I like all the action and RPG stuff but added details like this really put the icing on the cake. 2B’s mission and straight faced machine certainty start to come unraveled as she uncovers the truth.
The open world is vast and ever-changing. The world is set up in different arenas each with their own look and enemies. The vastness isn’t without monotony. After a while of exploring the world begins to look very much the same for long periods of time. You aren’t able to fast-travel on the map right away either. The game forces you to become familiar with its world before granting you the fast-travel option, which you will find yourself using a lot.
2B and her sidekick are androids fitted with black box recorders that allow them to transfer consciousness and memory upon death. This opens the game up for a permadeath scenario that borrows from the Dark Souls series. Following your death, you only have a limited amount of time to find your corpse and recover your gear. Along the way you will also see other fallen androids from online players. Encountering those corpses gives you the option of praying for them and recovering all their equipment to keep for yourself or to bring them back to life and let them fight along side you for a short while. It’s a strange system that I didn’t explore very much, but I do like them trying to expand on the Dead Souls system.
Central story missions are fantastic, they propel the plot forward with big reveals and intrigue, while also offering cool boss fights against equally cool character designs. It’s sad that the side missions become a nuisance so early in the game. The monotony of the side missions are obviously there to help you farm for XP, but almost entirely ruin the experience in the process. The game is aware of its crappy side missions too. 2B’s sidekick is constantly telling 2B how ridiculous it is that they have to do certain mundane tasks, and mentions how these silly missions get in the way of the bigger picture. 2B plays the voice of the XP farmer by reminding him that these missions are terrible but that they are necessary. I do enjoy that this game pokes fun of itself but I would have rather just have had them make the side missions interesting instead.
Controls are exactly what you would expect from a hack and slash JRPG game. Response is satisfying enough to perform combos and new weapons keep you learning different combat methods as you go.
Nier : Automata is a cool game, the aesthetics of the world go a long way to keep you involved, even through the before mentioned, painful side-missions. The greatest thing –and the thing that will keep you coming back- is how the main story is constantly expanding and changing the motive and landscape. I am a fan of big boss battles and Nier has plenty of satisfying ones. At a time that I was bored of games looking the same Nier went a long way to keep things fresh and interesting in both design, creativity and execution.