Exclusivity will never die. I mean, why would it? It’s largely what helps to shift the hardware. I’m not a big fan of the concept but I, at the very least, can appreciate its necessity. One such exclusive is NieR: Automata. This game originally released for the PlayStation 4 to a very impressive reception, and now, it’s arrived on Xbox One. Let me start out by assuring you that you do not need to play Nier to enjoy NieR: Automata. There’s a very minimal connection between the two, so if you’re concerned that you wont understand NieR: Automata without playing the predecessor, worry not. So, how does the game shape up?
I’m going to dance around the plot as much as I can to refrain from posting anything that’s spoiler specific. The game is based several centuries in the future, to a time in which aliens have taken over the Earth using machine lifeforms and have wiped out most of civilization as a result. The majority of the survivors have since moved to the moon and for years, they’ve been planning a counter strike. These survivors have created a super-group known as the YoRHa; elite android soldiers that are swift, smart and agile. Their ultimate goal? To take to the Earth’s surface and first back against the evil mech to regain some control.
The story is very well written, excellently paced and most of all, it’s surprisingly deep. I’ve never played this game before and have only ever heard of PlayStation owners singing its praises. Now that I’ve sunk some considerable time into the game, I can fully back-up this level of acclaim. NieR: Automata is everything that I look for in a JRPG; heaps of quests, lots of hidden locations to uncover on top of the vast areas within, and finally, gameplay that feels every bit as invigorating as it is enticing. The game starts out by slowly feeding you into the basics of play via some fairly short segments that serve as the game’s tutorials.
Players take on the role of 2B, a female android that’s sole purpose is to wipe out the threat of the aforementioned machine lifeforms. With the help of your companion, 9S, you set off to learn more about what’s become of the Earth. Beginning in a very clearly worn and torn location, NieR: Automata wastes no time at getting you into the heat of its fluid and very accessible combat mechanics. I use the word accessible because that’s what NieR: Automata is. That’s not to say that this game poses little of a challenge, on the contrary it’s quite tough once the difficulty climbs in complexity, but it doesn’t at all alienate genre newcomers.
There’s no shortage of interesting ways to dispose of your enemies and the game doesn’t allow you to aimlessly button mash your way through. NieR: Automata will throw several variations of foes at you in one go; ground and air opponents. The ground units can be overcome with some powerful combos but for the air units, you’ll need to utilize your POD to shoot at them. There’s a fair bit of grinding involved throughout the entirety of play, but thanks to how well structured the whole experience is, as well as how action-packed and empowering the combat is, this never feels like a chore. It really is very well paced.
I have to say that my only gripe with the game is that of its chaotic camera behavior. It took me a good while to get to grips with the wild camera movements, which can be a bit nauseating, but before long it became second nature. This does add a bit of distinction to NieR: Automata, though I would be lying if I didn’t say that it felt (ironically) alien for the first few segments of play. There’s also quite a wide variety of different gameplay mechanics to contend with too, ranging from spur of the moment combat, 2D platforming, top-down bullet shooting and more. This only further sits well with the game’s excellent pacing.
As you would expect from any given JRPG, there’s heaps of loot to pick up from fallen enemies, as well as loot that’s situated throughout the environments that you’ll explore. This loot is used to purchase new weaponry or upgrade the ones that you already own. This is largely achieved via visiting the vendors that are dotted around the game. There’s absolutely no shortage of things to do in NieR: Automata. This much is made apparent by the countless quests that are accessible throughout the world. I dare say that there’s easily north of forty hours worth of gameplay altogether, with added replay value thrown on top.
Unlocking portions of the map is achieved via utilizing access points. This will also grant you a new save point, which is mandatory because NieR: Automata doesn’t feature an auto-save function. This alone makes for some very tense encounters as you’ll need to manage your saves manually, but you don’t lose everything if you do bite the proverbial dust. When you die, simply make your way to your dead body and pick up your gear and equipment, simple. 2B can be upgraded with the use of chips. These can be found at many points in the game or purchased through the vendors. These influence speed, attack and so on and so forth.
This system allows for players to find a balance that’s comfortable for them and although it’s not massively in-depth, it’s a feature that certainly makes the world of difference. Moving to the game’s visuals and design, this gets another huge thumbs up from me. Those of you that game on the Xbox One X will be glad to know that NieR: Automata supports the hardware. Though, even on the base Xbox One, NieR: Automata looks gorgeous. Each and every distinct location stands out in its own way, constantly enticing you to explore its beauty and secrets. I extend that same level of respect to the wonderful soundtrack too.
Seriously, whether you’re a JRPG fan or someone that’s always wondered what one plays like, NieR: Automata offers a stunning and fantastic adventure that you wont want to overlook. The trailers have done no justice whatsoever, so pay no attention to them and be sure to seek out some early-on gameplay footage instead. Though, even then, it will be hard to cast light on just how ambitious and deep this game is. The mechanics, the atmosphere, the visuals, the story, the writing and everything else in between, is nothing short of outstanding. Furthermore, this edition of the game packs in additional DLC. It’s a no brainer.
NieR: Automata is nothing short of outstanding. Its storytelling is deep and engaging, its gameplay is in-depth and remarkably fluid, its design remains innovative throughout and its pacing is second to none. Rarely do we see such a high level of attention to detail in games of this type. Simply put, this is a near masterpiece that more than deserves your time and attention. It’s a truly sensational experience.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.