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Nier: Automata Review

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Nier: Automata (Japanese: ニーア オートマタ Hepburn: Nīa Ōtomata, stylized as NieR: Automata) is an action role-playing hack and slash game developed by PlatinumGames and published by Square Enix for PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Windows. Nier: Automata is a sequel to the 2010 video game Nier, which is set in the world of the Drakengard series. The narrative of Nier: Automata is set during a war that is raging between machines created by alien visitors and what remains of humanity, which is told from the perspective of a combat android (2B), her companion (9S), and a fugitive prototype (A2).

With a post-apocalyptic open world setting, we are delivered this great tale of partnered up androids that are ordered to go to Earth and work alongside what remains of humanity in their fight against an alien created robotic race. 2B is a combat android who is accompanied by her reconnaissance android partner 9S and they fight on behalf of YoRHa. YoRHa are like a defence force made up of androids and governed by humans and their base is off planet and away from the poverty stricken Earth. Intertwined story telling with multiple off shooting narrative arcs and a variety of life like characters each with their own motives all collide together to deliver a heartwarming/pounding experience.
Nier: Automata blends multiple gaming genres wonderfully but primarily it is a 3rd person hack and slash role playing adventure game. The 3rd person combat lends itself very respectfully to the likes of a DMC (Devil May Cry) title, given subtle changes and holds of buttons within any given sequence can drastically affect the outcome of the combination performed on screen. There are two main variations of attack and they are heavy and light (Strange concept I know) with these two different attacks are two different weapons associated to each attack. This being said there is not really a “heavy” or “light” weapon type class but more to the point, a lighter weapon type still can be slotted in the heavy weapon slot and be swung in a manner that will provided more damage as opposed to its counterpart.
The amount of variation that is offered in just how the weapons are slotted in your inventory gives a greater appreciation as to how the game is crafted and just how vast almost every aspect is. This level of freedom tends to lead to a conclusive setup that is individualised not only to the players' play style, but to what is required in the game. The brilliance of Nier: Automata then starts to shine through, when a boss fight or a new enemy rolls on in that does not seem to be overly phased by your primary play style, you are easily swayed to change things up. It is not until now that the multiple set up slots not only make sense, but become very convenient. The developers have already made it clear that you cannot complete this game with a singular approach.  

The visually stunning animations of battle coupled with a musical score that could rival any Final Fantasy title make for one of the most excitement filled exhilarating experiences of this genre. The camera is very intuitive but also has the capacity to change from open world to a 2D platformer style and even top down bird’s eye view without any heads up or hesitation. This not only enhances your current situation, it also does it so flawlessly that it is welcomed and not an off putting experience.
Not only can your perspective change on a dime, but also the main mechanics of the game do. For instance you can be battling away in your 3rd person perspective where a situation will arise that requires you to take to the air, so this is when command sends on down a high tech expensive flying apparatus. This, just for future reference is one of the most exciting things to do in the game and there it is not over saturated, so when the chance arises it is so appealing and so much fun. As I was alluding to before, when in one of these flying machines the main combat mechanics are flipped on their head. It is now a top down “plane shooter” like the arcade classic 1942, where progress is now on rails and you are navigating the skies shooting down aerial targets. If that wasn’t enough there is another variation of combat gameplay that takes place after your flight suit transforms you into a flying mech. You can now engage enemies around you in a twin stick shooter fashion.
I made reference to the musical composition and just how powerful it is and in saying this I am trying to stray away from overused words like "epic" but would be more comfortable with adjectives like "bold" and "pronounced". The music is brought to us by composer Keiichi Okabe, who worked on both Nier and Drakengard 3. He returned as the composer with his studio band Monaca, creating the music alongside fellow member Keigo Hoashi. The height of the music composition for me was a boss battle in an Opera type hall, the way the intense action married up with the strength of the music was truly euphoric, both on a sophisticated level but also primordial.

There is a lot of story to be told in Nier: Automata and for a majority of the time it is delivered conclusively well during missions and with the interactions between the main characters, but sometimes it can be long winded and drawn out hidden within “fetch quest” side missions that at the time feel to serve very little purpose. The sometimes odd nature of a character or their demands when partaking in a side mission will take a long time to come full circle… if it ever does. There is a lot of decision based interactions within the main quests of this title and each answer can ultimately help alter the outcome of the game, given that I know there is at least three different endings. When surmising though I feel there is a very large story here which gives validity to life like feel of the environment, you actually feel like you are making a difference.
As far as an RPG (role playing game) goes Nier: Automata is as unique and complex as all its other glowing features. It lives by all of the rules that govern an RPG title like experience, levelling up, looting, crafting, questing and consumerism to name a few but then it does have few other aspects that help raise it above your average RPG title. There are few titles in modern gaming that concentrate on such an intricate level of character composition and if I had to pluck one from my head I would quote Final Fantasy again. One of the mechanics that relies a lot on observation and a little grey matter is setting up your performance chip with different mods that are scavenged, bought and crafted. To try and explain I’ll use the crudest examples of upgrades available to aid understanding. So to start off we have, say twenty slots available to us in order to upgrade and a Level 1 upgrade to speed consumes five slots and Level 2 upgrade to strength consumes ten slots, we then have five remaining. As far as I can gather this represents a circuit board within your android and by applying upgrades to it you use up a certain amount of space. With further levelling, more slots become available but this is not where it is more interesting or intricate. Your complete HUD (heads up display) is governed and controlled by certain mods within this circuit board, Your HUD is completely controlled by what aspects you want on there. It is rather mind blowing when you break it down and definitely something you need to experience if you are an avid RPG player.   

I have raved about how this game is brilliant and quite unique but it is not without a couple of flaws also and I wouldn't be completely neutral if I didn’t present these to you also. Sometimes and not even in graphically intense areas, the game has suffered from some pretty damning frame rate drops, causing the spelunking to feel cumbersome and more like a chore. I also have to note the amount of fetch style quests for side characters that sometimes lack the spark of the main roster, these fetch quest also highlighted how much expansive area there is to cover with very little to do in between.
Given the abundant amount of time that can be spent playing this game and uncovering hidden secrets along the way, it is not hard to recommend on just a value for money stand point but there are so many more reasons to give this the good old thumbs up approval. It is truly a Japanese inspired RPG but does not lack the quirks of western society. The single best element of this game was the gigantic boss battles. These were not only harder and stronger opponents but often used a lot of varying combat mechanics. These battles were also much more than a “fight”, they were a cinematic masterstroke, I can recommend this game for these battles alone. So I am guessing it is with no surprise I am giving this game a 9/10.

Aussie Gamers Express

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