Yes, I know I’m a year late, shut up. I only just finished it about a week ago. I would have gotten this review out the day after I was done, but I had already started my ‘Fixing RWBY’ project and my Hitman 2 review. But the point is, I’ve finished it.
Five times now, actually. If you count Endings A-E as separate things.
For those of you who haven’t played this game, fear not: I won’t be spoiling anything. Because who fucking boy, there is a lot to spoil. Instead, I’ll ask you a few simple questions:
Do you like robots? How about waifus? Or existentialism? How about existential robot waifus?
THEN HAVE I GOT THE GAME FOR YOU!!
Now, normally, I’d write a synopsis of the plot. But this game is a special exception. For the best possible experience, you need to go into this game completely blind. All I can do is assure you that it’s a beautifully told story with powerful emotional beats and interesting, likable characters. Anything else could sour the experience. But I will tell you what this game is heavy in:
Existential philosophy. So if you’re into that kind of thing, this is a perfect game for you to play.
What I can talk about is the presentation. This game is one of the most impressive I’ve ever played, visually speaking. The environments are beautiful, the models are all very well detailed and pretty, and while it is lacking in color in many areas, the drab and depressing air hammers home the games dour feeling magnificently.
And the music, oh my god the fucking music in this game! I thought this game winning ‘Best Soundtrack of 2017’ over Persona 5 was a crime before playing it. Now, I see the truth:
A 5000/10 vastly overshadows a 1000/10.
Every single track in this game is perfectly composed, and they each fit their respective areas perfectly. There isn’t a single one that is unpleasant to listen to. From the Amusement Park track all the way to the end credits song ‘End of the World’, each track is haunting and beautiful.
But a game isn’t good unless it’s fun to play. So how’s the gameplay? Well… bizarre. Insanely fun, but bizarre.
This game is a hybrid of an action RPG and a bullet hell arcade game. You’ve got your levels, your stats, and your different weapons, all of which comprise the RPG elements. Then you’ve got your Pod, which fires off blasts at your enemies in every moment of the game, which is the bullet hell shooter part of the equation. And finally, there are the camera angles.
There are three different angles this game takes: free control, where it lets you do what you want, 2-D plane, where the camera locks on a space like a wide camera shot (which locks your movement, making it a 2-D platformer) and the bird’s eye view camera, which puts you in the perspective of a Legend of Zelda type of game.
The camera transitions between these depending on the location. Sometimes, it makes sense, and playing with the new angle is fun. Others, it doesn’t, and the transition is so awkward that it takes you a moment to adjust, which quickly ruins the fun.
And this happens just enough to be annoying.
There are also two different styles of gameplay: free roaming and bullet hell. Free roaming is exactly what it sounds like. You’re set in a big open world which is filled with NPCs and different side quests, and told to go. Explore. Have fun.
I only have one issue with this: invisible walls.
There are a ton of invisible walls in this game. Some make sense: you can’t have your player running a million miles off of the game map, after all. Others, however, make absolutely no sense at all. There are tons of invisible walls that block off areas that should be accessible to the players. This restricts your problem solving abilities a great deal.
Take, for example, a simple puzzle. You need to find an NPC, but that NPC is standing behind a rock formation that blocks your path. There are plenty of rocks around it that, should you do a little jumping and air dashing, you could use to get over the obstacle. That, or you could use an underground network to move around to a high location and leap over it.
Guess which one the game forces you to take.
Puzzles in this game only have one solution. If you want to solve it your way, too bad. See a solution that should be easily taken? Nope. You need to go do this other elaborate solution. This restriction of freedom is painful, and it makes you feel creatively stunted.
This came out the same year as Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild, by the way. Sorry NieR, but the bar was raised a couple miles upwards while you were in development.
The other mode of gameplay is the bullet hell shooter. If you’ve played a Japanese arcade game, you know what to expect. Waves and waves of enemies, all shooting massive waves of bullets and lasers at you while you shoot right back at them. It’s simple, yes, but it’s extremely fun to play. Sometimes, it lets you free roam while in this mode, but that only really happens once in the whole game.
But the game get’s really fun when the two styles of gameplay merge.
Now, earlier, I mentioned that I had to beat the game five times. What did I mean by that? Well, this game has three playable characters, each with their own respective campaigns and endings. You get four endings, then you can unlock the secret fifth true ending, and bang, you have the complete NieR Automata experience. So are those endings worth it?
Yes. Yes they are. Get all five. They’re all fucking gorgeous, and well worth the effort to get them.
But those five endings aren’t the only ones. There are actually more than that. One for each letter of the English alphabet, actually. Equating to a total of twenty fucking six endings. And a huge number of them are really fucking funny.
Which is good, because the others are really fucking depressing.
Yeah, this isn’t a game to play if you want to feel good.
All in all, this is a fantastic game that I’m very happy to have gotten around to playing. It’s fun to play, extremely beautiful, and the story is dripping with powerful themes and philosophy that are both thought provoking and engaging. This is a wonderful time.
Even if it makes you contemplate your existence and wonder why the hell you’re even trying.