Nier Automata Review: Rise And Fall Of The Automatons

Credit: Square Enix, Platinum Games
Credit: Square Enix, Platinum Games /

Nier Automata from story to gameplay flips your expectations on their head and subverts a genre into an artful theater.

Developer: Platinum Games

Publisher: Square Enix:

Platforms: PlayStation 4 (Version reviewed), PC

Release Date: March 7, 2017

Nier Automata takes place 11,000 years in the future, yet feels as if it will be a relevant title forever. Is Nier Automata good? No. Nier Automata is impeccable as a whole. Where the details can seem fuzzy, much like landscapes within the game as you peer into the foggy distance, the totality of the offering on display from Yoko Taro, Platinum Games, and Square Enix is a package meant to stand with titles such as Horizon Zero Dawn or Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild released in this first quarter of 2017.

I enjoyed playing as 2B as a character and protagonist. I watched as she attempted to lead a final battle to end the Machines, a sentient life force sent by aliens to invade Earth. 2B, her sidekick 9S, and other androids are the forces created by humans, now exiled to the Moon, to win back Earth. Centuries beyond the initial Earth takeover this is where we are.

There is a bittersweet nature to this tale. For one, much of the delusions of war humans have come from the many atrocities suffered in 20th-century global engagements. We are 100 years outside of the end of the world’s first modern global engagement, which changed the world view of war and began more fundamental efforts towards maintaining peace. The knowledge of what we are truly capable of paralyzes states into a state of fear of the known, casting those who would promote war as a solution to problems into an entirely different light.

Nier Automata Crumbling Skyscraper
Credit: Square Enix, Platinum Games /

2B as a YorHa soldier takes orders from the space station, which takes orders from the Moon. The descriptions of the enemy you are facing come from many miles away, but as a soldier, you live in a different reality from them. The facts 2B experiences with machines differ greatly from the fears on high. Are all machines emotionless? Are they barbaric? Do they have no feeling? Are androids themselves meant to be soldiers in the emulation of robotic humans? None of these are as they were expressed to 2B, highlighting the separation between perception and reality trumpeted by those without real knowledge of their enemy.

It is here where the game’s writers clearly want you to ask questions of your enemies. Are they so fanatical as to be unhinged? Are they irredeemable? Can you see them in any other light? You see androids vs. machines, but these are two sides of the same coin: two programmable beings meant to do the bidding of their masters. Once she does away with notions of higher intelligence, it is then that 2B and by extension, the player, can see Machines for what they really are. As the ideas implanted in her mind and 9S’ mind wilt away, you get to see their growth and their change in their outlooks and, in turn, the larger conflict is revealed.

Within the first 30 minutes of the game, you experience an exceptional variety of gameplay moments and emotional investment. The stoic 2B is broken before you even break the hour mark. By the end of the game, 2B drops all illusion of being emotionless and is revealed to be more than the callous battle soldier she attempts to show herself as. It is here where you may ask yourself, am I who I present myself as to others?

Nier Automata Amusement Park
Credit: Square Enix, Platinum Games /

This is the power of the story of Nier Automata. It is a rather simple game with engrossing narrative themes of human nature, war, and the exploration of self. If androids are made in our likeness, would they not also stumble into our pitfalls? They wear stylish clothing despite being a machine and it is explained as a function of their ties to humanity. Even our robots cannot help but want to be distinct.

Nier Automata Auditorium
Credit: Square Enix, Platinum Games /

The soundtrack to Nier Automata takes elements of sounds being used within an area and mixes them into the tracks you hear throughout the game. The relative calm of an area picks up with tension and a roaring score within a moments notice.

Early on in Nier Automata,  I encountered an amusement park and the ensuing battle in the area sounded like a score of children’s laughter, wonder, and awe as you ride around on a roller coaster. It is magnificently enthralling. My only complaint of this moment was it felt so short. I could have ridden that ride for at least 3-5 minutes longer without complaint. The nature of Nier Automata, however, is how quickly the next stylized battle may come.

The art composition and visual performance are not overwhelming, but what is there is specifically chosen to great effect. A game does not need to look as good as Horizon Zero Dawn to convey a sense of weight with its design. Nier Automata puts their more limited efforts to good use. The fog meant to obscure the lack of detail in the distance does nothing to take away from the destruction of the city in which the game takes place.

Nier Automata Flooded City
Credit: Square Enix, Platinum Games /

Areas such as the Flooded City and the Forest are ripe with secrets for you to discover even if the game maintains a mostly Sepia tone throughout. There are no colors which pop beyond the black and white of the maid-like outfit of 2B and the other Androids within the game. This makes the noted elements that are given more personality stand out more, such as the red eyes of the robots, the pools of water, or the broken skyscrapers in this vacant landscape.

The more toned-down nature of the game is not expressed in the actual performance of the game itself. Playing on a PlayStation 4 Pro, I was able to play the game with rarely a dropped frame or significant slowdown during gameplay moments. There are occasions where the cutscenes do stutter pretty harshly in contrast to this, but not so much as to take you out of a moment.

In its moment to moment gameplay, Nier Automata grants the player two weapons, a light and heavy option, and a “Pod,” which can shoot lighter shots continuously and a heavy shot or special guard on an interval basis. Making use of these, players are granted simplistic combos and an evade and counter mechanism.

Nier Automata City Destruction
Credit: Square Enix, Platinum Games /

While it may seem simple, it is also rather liberating. Your enemies, the Machines, are rarely more complex than 2B in their attack. This grants the player freedom to experiment with stringing together different combo sets with evasion tactics and a mixture of the pod’s light and heavy attacks in larger crowds. You feel powerful; better yet, you can also feel unstoppable.

The only shame within the gameplay are the side quests, which are notably less over the top than the main quest line and can feel quite bogged down until you finally unlock the ability to fast travel. Traversing back and forth, while fun, can be a bit arduous.

The main battle lines are so unique though. The adventures make you twist and turn as you fight in 3D action followed by 2D bullet hell style gameplay. This whirling is only made even more sweeping as the score swells and the visuals scroll right or left as you make your way through the game. Each mission seems like it will take you to that next mountaintop. Through this passage may just be your next thrill.

Nier Automata Large Machine
Credit: Square Enix, Platinum Games /

Nier Automata gets so many aspects of what can be done in games right. Making use of multiple playthroughs, the player can experience something only video games can really do with the patience of their audience. Seen from multiple angles, you get to participate in a fun, thought-provoking action adventure. The bleak outlook on humanity is also a reminder to celebrate our differences and not to war over them.

After you finish your first run through of Nier Automata, it asks you to play again. How can you do anything but give an emphatic “Yes!” You start from the beginning and the story starts over again. Like a great roller coaster, this time you strap in prepared for the curves. Get ready for another wild ride.

Nier: Automata is a thrilling adventure to save a world turned on its head with themes surrounding human nature, civilians in war, and the soldier’s journey. Surrounded by an impeccable soundtrack and pointed visuals, there is not another game which so gracefully pulls this off. The multiple endings are another thing to keep players coming back and are just as thrilling as the first playthrough. There are some issues with cutscenes and sidequests hardly live up to the main questline battles, however.. Platinum Games. . Nier Automata. 9

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.