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Nier Automata Review

There comes a time, where you need to be honest with yourself. You can try and paint the world with positivity, you can try to see the best in everything and everyone. But eventually, you will find yourself at the doorstep of a mess. It could be an attractive mess, hidden behind a mask of beauty, but that is rarely the case. This mess could be popular, it could gain mass acclaim, and though this doesn’t change your feelings of it, all it does it put you into a sense of fear.
Is it really ok to feel this way?

I have pondered this question for a while now. I even considered not writing this review.  

After much consideration, I have decided that if I can’t write this, then I have no business writing anything else.

And that brings me to the trainwreck known as Nier Automata, as I played it on a PS4 Pro.

 

Story

In The distant future, Earth was invaded by an alien robot army. The robots proved powerful and what was left of humanity was forced to flee to the moon for safety. One hundred years later, the humans have build their own androids through the organization YorHA in order to take back Earth. The plot follows Android 2-B as she is sent on a surveying mission along side support unit 9-S.

For the sake of spoilers, I won’t delve too much into the main narrative. However, I will say that nothing in it hasn’t been seen before. There isn’t a single point where it tries to tackle anything that could possibly make the player feel surprised. It has a big theme of “who is the real enemy?” as you slowly learn that not all robots are necessarily hostile, and that they are far more complex than they originally seem.

What’s worse is how you experience the story. Voice acting in Automata, whether it be English or Japanese, is just plain awful. Both casts seem generally uninterested in the roles and neither will leave an impression on you. When not in cutscenes, you occasionally receive emails, but this  attempt at creating depth does little to inspire desire to explore this universe.

This is a story that I feel a lot of people will believe was really deep and profound, but it’s definitely anything but that. And I can only hope that more people realize this as time goes on.

Oh and the game forces multiple playthroughs to get the full amount of content. This would be fine if it was just story based, but there are full areas blocked off to specific playthroughs.

Gameplay

Gameplay is definitely the most disappointing aspect of Nier Automata. With Platinum games and the man behind the Drakengard series at the helm, you should be able to assume that it consists of high paced action that rewards practice and persistence, but you would be wrong. You are given a load out of two weapons from swords, great swords, and lances. One weapon for light attacks and one for heavy. On top of this you have a small robot helper that acts as a gun for ranged attacks. The basic combat is mixing the two types of attacks to chain combos while dodging to avoid damage. Each weapon has it’s own unique combo and as you gain money, you can buy new technique chips to upgrade your combat ability. While this seems like a great way to expand the combat as you go along, all this really does by late game is remind you how slow the progression actually was for relatively little pay out. Not once in my four playthroughs of this game did I feel like I was being rewarded for  getting these new techniques.

No matter the combo, no matter the load out, the game just lacks depth normally found in a Platinum game. It feels bare bones. There isn’t any engagement, and the only time the game truly gives a challenge is on the hardest mode, which makes any hit an insta-kill. A mode that is almost the literal definition of artificial difficulty.

Frequently, control will be switched over to other characters. One I will leave out to avoid spoilers, but the other is 9-S.This involves a hacking mini-game that plays like a twin stick shooter similar to Robotron or Geometry Wars. These switches can offer an amusing change of pace, but they do run the risk of getting annoying.

The game is also peppered in with several moments where the game is completely different. Shooter sections, mech sections etc.

The main bulk of the game will be spent exploring the desolate Earth and the various environments in them in a mostly open world setting. Though open, the game progresses at an almost entirely linear pace with few side quests taking place at once. This makes the game feel forced and you never feel in control of the experience, which is puzzling for a game this open.
Though animal riding and fishing as well as hidden items do exist to reward you for your exploration.

The biggest and most fatal issues with this game come in the form of the camera and the frame rate.
For stylistic reasons, the game has several locked frame rates to change the look of things. Isometric, behind the back, top down, side scroller, these are among the few that are present.This is almost always annoying and in several instances, completely detrimental to the player experience. Depth perception is a constant problem because of the camera and combat become a bigger chore than necessary, especially during boss battles.

The frame rate is a much bigger issue. There was not a single instance in this game where the frame rate stayed consistent. Even standing still in an area with no enemies caused it to slow down. I played on PS4 pro, so I cannot speak for the PC version, but this game’s frame rate is  a mess. In an action game of this nature, frame rate should be the biggest priority. And I think it was simply because-

 

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Graphics

There is no beating around the bush here. This game is absolutely ugly. The graphics come across as PS3 circa 2008. Rough textures as far as the eye can see, jagged character models, bad anti-aliasing, fuzzy shadows, and an overall dull and unflattering color pallet. If there were awards for how grey a game can look, this would be tied with Call of Duty.

There are certain levels one can take to make a world look rundown and lifeless, but this goes to a completely different degree, especially because nothing in the world looks natural. No city streets look accurate, rock formations seem off, and even the desert didn’t appear like one on earth. It is incredibly hard to believe that a game that looks this ugly can run so badly, but it does.

The principal cast has some nice designs, but that only can go so far, and it does little outside of publicity pictures. And don’t get any of the character models wet, not unless you want to see them degrade to late original Xbox quality.

Sound

Now if there was one thing I wish I could praise about Nier, it would be the sound. But unfortunately, even that can’t be so.

Besides the aforementioned voice acting, none of the ambient sounds in the game really work. Sound effects often get delayed or muted, and the ones that do work seem muffled in a weird way.

Music is truly abysmal. It has a very pretentious and uninspired chanting to almost every track that makes you feel that you’re listening to a trailer for a garbage indie-festival film. There was never a moment where i could stop and think “wow, this is a really good song.”

The only reason I did not mute my tv was because I was waiting to see if there was a moment when the game could surprise me, but it didn’t and I highly recommend you play your own music if you attempt to play this game.

 

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Summary

It might be easy to look at the environment in which Nier Automata was released and say it is a product of it’s time, but that would be wrong. This game wouldn’t even qualify as a product of it’s time ten years ago. It feels like a lost budget title that was trying to knock off Devil May Cry in 2006. They even got the white hair correctly.

There are some things it does nicely, the lack of autosave is a fun idea, and the art that isn’t in-game is nice. But I can’t think of a single reason for this game to even exist, nor can I think of a reason to recommend it to anyone. The biggest sin this game is guilty of is being completely unamusing on either spectrum.

Nier Automata isn’t a catastrophe, but it isn’t a masterpiece. It is in reality, the very finest example of a game with so little ambition that it just sits there. Sex appeal towards some of the characters is potentially the only selling point I can think of.

Just ignore this slightly below average game, you won’t feel anything after playing it other than a sense of wasted time. But hey, at least you won’t be angry right?

Either way I cannot give this game a score, in either direction.