NieR: Automata tells the story of androids 2B, 9S and A2 and their battle to reclaim the machine-driven dystopia overrun by powerful machines.
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The day after Christmas 2016, I got my PS4. A couple months prior, I finally got back into Playstation gaming after strictly being a Nintendo Fanboy for years. With my PS4, I got the Uncharted Collection, Uncharted 4, Skyrim, Little Big Planet 3 and Final Fantasy XV. I couldn't wait to dive into all these games I wouldn't have even given a chance years before. Fast forward to early April, I decided on a whim to pick up Persona 5 only a day after it came out. I knew almost nothing about Persona besides my one friend always recommending the series so I took a chance, and ended up loving it. Fast forward to May 2017, I pick up NieR Automata. That one friend who recommended the Persona series, would also show me gameplay of the original NieR. At this time I was still in the middle of playing Persona 5, but knowing I took a chance on that and was loving it, I took a chance on Automata as well. I didn't start it until June and didn't beat it until August of that year, but from my memories of 6 years ago I remember absolutely loving it. Fast forward to today and I decided I wanted to replay this game finally. I was wondering all this time if I'd love this game as much as I did back then, because 2017 was my absolute favorite year ever...at least that timespan of like April-August and it could have clouded my judgement. Well my thoughts are complicated but as you can see by my score, I do indeed still love this game overall.
When I first started this, I decided to replay it on hard. It had been 6 years since I played it but I figured I could do it. After dying 10 times in the super long intro, I decided to bump it down to normal. It might be a skill issue but I didn't find it fun to die in 2 or sometimes even 1 hit. I played the entire game on normal and I don't feel bad, I just wanted to have fun. Though tbh, on my first playthrough through Route A...halfway into it I kinda wasn't having much fun. My main issue was, I kept comparing every little thing to Gestalt which is the consequence of playing this immediately after that. I kept missing the main cast of that game and just wasn't digging Automata's cast much. By the end of route A, I was disappointed in the game...and disappointed in myself for feeling this way. I absolutely adored this back in 2017...did I change? Was I too cynical now or something?
My main reason for being disappointed was because my favorite aspect of Gestalt, the cast, was not even comparable in this game I felt. My favorite character was 9S and his best scenes don't even happen until the later routes. The cast of this game is solid I'd say but doesn't come close at all to Gestalt's main cast, at least for me. That was my main hangup during route A, and is still even now the biggest downgrade this game has compared to Gestalt.
During route A, even though I was disappointed by the end of it, there were still plenty of things I liked about the game and several improvements compared to Gestalt. The combat for one is definitely improved overall. Yes the combat is not on par with something like Bayonetta or DMC, but it's still flashy enough so that it feels good. You have two weapons at once and it feels good to switch between both. You also have these Pods that act as the Weiss of this game. You can switch abilities with them, and some of the abilities are straight up ones from Gestalt which was cool. Same with the weapons, some of them were ones from Gestalt so you know I had to use my beloved Beastbain. I also really loved the movement in this game compared to Gestalt, dashing around this post-apocalyptic world...especially in mid-air on top of buildings, god it feels good.
Speaking of the post-apocalyptic world..this a bit of a running gag in my discord server that I have a major hard on for it. And that's correct, I still absolutely adore the world in Automata. The world is not as fleshed out as actual open worlds, but that's partly why I love it. I think the world is the absolutely perfect size for a gaming world. It's small enough where I don't find getting around to be a chore, even if you can fast travel...and big enough where it's fun to actually explore and take in the amazing locales. Goddamn I love the aesthetic this world provides. The starting area is a ruined city overgrown with plant life and that aesthetic is like my #1 aesthetic now thanks to this game. You also have a massive desert with a whole city half buried in the sand at the end of it. You have an abandoned amusement park full celebrating machines. There's more ruined buildings on the coastline. There's a forest area that leads to a grassy castle. Right before that area, you go through a little shopping center that's full of overgrowth. There is no area I dislike going to because every single one has such a cool aesthetic which really does it for me. The world/setting of the game was my absolute favorite aspect when I first played (besides the OST) and even now it's still probably my favorite aspect. If there's any single one thing that this game destroys Gestalt on, it's definitely its world.
Speaking of the OST, it is still fantastic 6 years later. While personally, I do prefer Gestalt's OST by a fair margin...Automata's is still awesome. Back then my favorite themes were all the area themes and while they're still great, I really like a lot of the battle themes now. Grandma Destruction and Emil Despair, obviously because they're remixes of Gestalt songs but A Beautiful Song may be my favorite totally originally Automata song now, it's fantastic. The OST is indeed objectively amazing but I think the reason why I don't like it as much as Gestalt's now is because the songs have way more going on in them while Gestalt's are more simple. Automata's songs are also generally more epic and fast paced vs Gestalt's more elegant sounding songs. I still do love Automata's OST tho and it's definitely one of my favorites ever. Honestly tho I think Gestalt might have my favorite OST ever in any game, at least as of now so ofc that would be hard to top but Automata certainly isn't that far off.
Something I definitely loved this time around was the Gestalt connections I wouldn't have ever gotten when I first played. Like certain lines reminiscent of Gestalt, or really obvious things nowadays like how the desert machines all wear Facade-like clothing. There's a quest in the desert that even has you finding hidden items that were all connected to Facade which was amazing to discover. Speaking of quests, I honestly think they were a lot better in this game compared to Gestalt. Sure, you don't have the amazing banter between NieR and Weiss. However as a whole, I found there to be less fetch quests and more memorable quests that felt somewhat impactful towards the worldbuilding. Obviously, the single best quests are the Emil ones for me just cuz they connect to Gestalt so heavily but that was gonna be a given. Oh yeah, Emil is back...his side quests were awesome as stated before but besides that he's only really here as a shopkeeper which is okay I guess. If he didn't have either of the side quests, he would have been a big disappointment but those salvage his appearance I'd say. Also up to the end of Route A, I'd say the bosses were solid overall but none of them really wowed me besides Simone who was amazing. That's partly because A Beautiful Song plays during it but still. Also Also, I forgot to mention I did do every side quest and of course upgraded all weapons to max. For what you get from doing that, which is some of the best content in the game imo, I think it's worth it.
Anyways, a lot of things have been improved from Gestalt but the big downgrade being the cast hampered my enjoyment of the 2nd half of Route A cuz I kept comparing the two games the entire time. I established this before, so you'd think Route B would be even worse because it's pretty much a retread of Route A except with small changes here and there, kinda like Route B in Gestalt except not nearly as good. Well here's the weird thing, I honestly enjoyed myself more with Route B than A. That's weird because usually people hate Route B from what I've seen but idk I digged it. Maybe it's because I was playing as 9S who I enjoyed a lot more than 2B. Or maybe it was the addition of hacking which I honestly quite enjoy even tho I know many others don't. Idk but once I beat route B, I was definitely enjoying myself more than I did at the end of route A. So I don't get when people say Route B is bad, it's different enough that it's fun to play through again. Then Route C is next and that's where the story has it's peaks...and where the game definitely won me over again.
Route C is totally different from A and B and that's a huge change from route C in Gestalt. There it was the exact same as Route B except with two new endings so Route C in Automata is definitely a big improvement. There's tons of twists, reveals and heartbreak and it's 100% the best route no question. I still don't think the story elements or character interactions come close to gestalt in its ending, but they're definitely very good. I think story-wise, I like it less overall then Gestalt's just because of the inferior cast but it has some really emotional singular moments and so I like to think I love the moments in this game more than the entirety of its story which is opposite of Gestalt. Going into those moments though, and they both happened in Route C, they were the final super boss that you access by getting every weapon to max...and ending E.
The final super boss I knew would get me because of its connection to Gestalt, and they are huge connections, but I didn't think the waterworks would flow as hard as they did. Even more surprising was ending E. I still remembered what happened but idk man it really got me. When that certain part happens and you hear the choir, I broke down. This is THE moment I'm giving this game a 10 for now. I was contemplating whether to actually drop it to a 9, and I still might eventually who knows, but the fact I cried to something that had no connection to Gestalt really...that made me realize I do still love this game even without the Gestalt shit.
I may not be in love with the game's story or cast, and I think the OST is somewhat of a downgrade..however. The combat being improved, the still wonderful OST, my favorite world in any game and the worldbuilding and connections to Gestalt I do love. And so as of now I'm going to keep this at a 10, again I might drop it down eventually but Ending E won me over for now. I do definitely love Gestalt more now as you already know, which is so weird because I once had this at a 10 and Gestalt at an 8 lol. Funny how things change.
I love every weird and experimental thing the game does but a lot of things also just didn't quite land for me. Overall I think it's a great game with lot's of iconic and memorable moments but I can also nitpick this game a lot more than other so called "flawed masterpieces".
Despite my love for this game, I think that its really hard to recommend it to people, including myself when I first played it. Its like saying "trust me bro this show gets pretty fire after the first 5 seasons". Playthrough A and B were pretty meh. There were aspects to appreciate, but it just felt like kind of a nothing burger. It felt like nothing significant or captivating ever happened up until the tail end of B. I don't care if you can write a 12 hour essay on all the meta symbolism during those parts: its not interesting enough for me to care and I don't treat videogames like English homework.
The combat is shockingly dull, especially for Platinum Games' standards. Its serviceable enough, but largely feels like a button masher more than anything. 2B's moveset is extremely simplistic and basic, which I don't think works for a spectacle fighter like this. 9S is even more basic with the hacking minigame. That is unless you turn to Hard mode, where the game then jumps from piss easy to frustrating as hell. There was a certain point where I began to enjoy Hard mode, until the final boss would one shot me unless I was constantly force feeding myself items. Granted, I was also a bit of a dumbass on my first playthrough since I never realized that I could get more chip slots and upgrade weapons, but even by the time I began to actually use chips properly I was still getting one shot.
If there's one thing you need to know about me, its how I despise when a game attempts to ignore clever design just because "its about da story bro!" So why does this game get a pass from me? Well, because ironically Nier Automata would make for a perfect walking simulator, with how rich its atmosphere and music are. Every location and song gives off this heavenly feel, like its lifting you off of your body. Its ironic how it feels oddly hopeful and soothing when you are at the end of the Earth. As a bonus, I was pleasantly surprised at how this game handles fan service. This is a game by a porn addict for porn addicts, but it never has to interrupt the story for an unfunny "blushy crushy UwU" moment which is wild for a game like this.
And when I got to route C, the story really grabbed me by the balls. Not only is there actually something happening, but the characters finally undergo some good ass development. Good job you dickheads, it only took 20 hours to get here. Sure, there are some cringy moments here and there. There are certain sequences that are really edgy and cliché, but I kind of don't care because at least the game is saying something meaningful that speaks to me in some way. And holy fuck, ending E was something else.
Anyways I don't recommend this game unless you can stand boring shit for 20 hours or if you are a disgusting coomer.