NieR: Automata Review (PS4)

Story

Experience the androids's journey to destroy the machine lifeforms.

This game takes place a distant future after the events of NieR. Humans have escaped and resided on the moon, tasking the androids to fight off the alien invaders and the machine lifeforms on Earth. It is up to the special android squad, YorHa to achieve this task.

The game's story is interesting, dealing with themes such as existence. The plot is well-done, where each playthrough actually gives better story exposure to the player. The main characters have good personalities, such as 2B is a serious and calm android who gets the job done. A lot of the NPCs are memorable as well, such as androids having weird to disturbing personalities, as well as machines acting like humans in the game. Lots of good plot twists are used in the game, which I am incredibly surprised and pleased to see.

Gameplay

1) Exploration and Progression Section

Explore the desolate areas infested by machine lifeforms.

This game uses open-world exploration, where you can move from one area to another seamlessly either by running or using the fast travel feature. Areas are interconnected, and some can only be unlocked once you have progressed enough in the story. Hidden areas are also present in the game, where you can explore for hidden items and enemies.

You may also choose to do fishing at certain areas, which you can sell the caught fishes for lucrative money. While exploring many of the game's areas, you may also pick up items from certain harvest points for materials, or open chests to get treasure such as rare chips and weapons.

The story progression is simple. You must complete the main story quests, which are marked in your minimap. Various objectives include you finding items, clearing dungeons from enemies, fighting a boss, and fighting enemies. You may also clear side quests in the game to obtain rewards, such as crafting materials, money, and experience points. Not only clearing the quests are rewarding for your characters, they also add depth to the game's lore in many ways.

2) Leveling and Customisation Section

Learn new Pod skills and upgrade your chips set.

The leveling system is simple, as you gain experience points by defeating your enemies or clearing side quests in the game. Leveling up increases your character's attack power, defence power, and your pod's attack power.

This game uses also allows you to set chips set with different categories of chips such as attack, defence, and support chips that can enhance your character's attributes or imbue passive effects. However, each chip has it's own chip cost, where each chips set can only accommodate a certain amount of chip cost. For example, you can only equip chips with a total amount of 100 cost for each chips set.

You may also purchase items, crafting materials, or even weapons from different vendors in the game. Different weapons have different base and maximum attack power, and they can be upgraded by spending crafting materials and money. Each weapon may also have different passive effects that may be beneficial in battles. For example, one of the sword has the passive ability of increased attack speed, and one of the combat bracers has the ability to turn enemies into temporary allies.

3) Combat Section

Fight your enemies with four different weapon types.

The combat system is more polished than Nier's battle system, where you can attack enemies using quick and heavy attacks seamlessly. You can equip two weapons for each weapon set, one for quick attacks and another for heavy attacks. You may also use charged attacks using the second weapon to deal larger damage on enemies, at the expense of speed. You may also dodge enemy attacks by using the dodge junction or the jump function. Executing a perfectly-timed dodge will allow you to deal a powerful counterattack on one or more enemies.

Each weapon class has it's own pros and cons, such as heavy swords can deal heavy yet slow attacks, and combat bracers have quick attack speed at the expense of attack power. Choosing the right weapons is crucial with your playstyle. You may also use your pod to attack enemies from a distance, or use pod skills such as laser attacks to defeat enemies.

Each enemy has it's own level, attack patterns, stats, and behaviour. Different zones host different type of enemies, such as the desert zone hosts masked machine enemies and the amusement park hosts clown-themed machine enemies. Bosses are also the obstacle you must fight against to proceed the story, and a number of them can be difficult to fight without sufficient character level.

Defeating a regular machine enemy will reward you experience points, money, chips, and rarely crafting materials. Each enemy has specific dropped items, so you must fight a certain enemy multiple times just to get a certain crafting material.

Not only you will be engaged in melee combat multiple times in this game, this game also mixes bullet-hell shooter sections in many gameplay sections, where they are incredibly fun to play with. You may use also regular gunfire, melee attack, or special attack on enemies.

4) Gameplay Conclusion

Overall great gameplay.

The gameplay is good, and it has an overall better quality compared to previous game NieR. Meaningful side quests, addicting bullet hell sections of flight unit and hacking, good mix of 3D and 2D exploration sections, good stats customisation using chips, clever use of New Game Plus, multiple endings and intense combat. This game also has the neat transition from 3D stages to 2D stages, and vice versa. However, this game still has issues.

First of all, the lack of learnable weapon moves. This game seriously lacks of learnable moves like other action RPGs such as Kingdom Hearts games. Secondly, the lack of enemy variety. There are not enough enemy variety to be fought in this game, despite some areas have exclusive enemies that can be fought. Thirdly, the unbalanced difficulty options. I was actually hoping that Hard Mode has lock-on, since I have issues on fighting enemies and bosses in Hard Mode without using lock-on. Fourth, the lack of bosses in bullet hell shooter sections. The bullet hell shooter sections are incredibly fun to play, but the lack of bosses to be fought in these sections should be noted. Finally, repetitive progression. A standard issue in many RPG games.

This game does have more polished combat system and customisation compared to NieR, but some of the aesthetics in the first game may leave you wanting, such as more variety of bosses. The combat and boss fights may not be up to other Platinum Games' works standard, especially compared to Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and Bayonetta. Regardless of these game issues, they do not deter this game's gameplay from being good, and this game subjectively improved in many areas from the first game.

Graphics

Excellent visuals with some minor technical issues.

The visuals of this game look incredible, such as amazing looking environments, enemies, and character designs. All of the areas look really great, such as the flooded city zone, city zone, and others. The characters are well-designed and look pleasant to look at, especially 2B, 9S, A2, and the machine enemies.

This game does suffer from some technical issues, such as minor framerate drops and incomplete zone renderings when travelling from one area to another. It is highly recommended to install the latest update before playing the game.

Sound

Good English voice acting and excellent soundtrack.

This game has excellent English voice cast, with great performances by all English voice actors. The ones that actually come across my mind to be extremely great are Kira Buckland (2B), Kyle McCarley (9S), Pascal (Alexis Tipton), Julie Ann Taylor (Emil), and Cherami Leight (A2). If you dislike to listen to the English voice acting, you may switch to the Japanese voice acting.

Like the first game NieR, this game has an excellent soundtrack, with many great themes such as the prologue theme, all variations of the main theme song, the singing robot theme, area themes, and many more. My only nitpicking issue with the soundtrack is that there are no specific character themes for the main characters, which I think would have made the soundtrack to be a masterpiece soundtrack.

Replay Value

Good replay value. Multiple endings.

This game has good replay value. You can play the game in New Game Plus mode, where you can play as different character in the second playthrough for different story experience. You may also choose to complete all side Quests available in the game, or unlock all of the endings in the game. There are more than 20 endings in the game that you can unlock, with different requirements and ways to achieve them. It is best to get the alternative endings once you have finished the game thrice, as it unlocks the Chapter Select feature for you.

Conclusion

An excellent game that will be remembered for a long-time due to the story and effective gameplay.

This game is excellent, despite some issues that may prevent this game from being a masterpiece. This game is worth playing, especially for fans who have played the first NieR. This is an actually a great collaboration game between Yoko Taro, Platinum Games, and Square Enix, and I am really looking forward to another collaboration game between them again in the future. While the gameplay aesthetics of this game is generally improved over the first game, I actually felt that those two games play and feel differently as both games have different clear emphasis on different aspects, especially the gameplay sections and story tone. Regardless, this is a fantastic game, and I highly recommend to players who like to storyemphasised action RPG games as this game's story is well-written in many ways.

Score

Story: 9/10
Gameplay: 7/10
Graphics: 9/10
Sound: 10/10

Final Score: 8.75/10 or 35/40

Pros and Cons

Pros

- Great story.
- Good story themes.
- Many disturbing and emotional scenes.
- Improved combat.
- Great integration of different gameplay styles, such as melee combat and bullet hell sections.
- Great and clever use of New Game Plus mode.
- Multiple endings.
- Meaningful, interesting, and dark side quests.
- Great English voice acting.
- Dual audio.
- Great soundtrack.
- Good replay value.

Cons

- Repetitive progression route.
- Lack of learnable weapon moves.
- Lack of more 2B gameplay sections.
- Many of the game's bosses require the same strategy to defeat them.
- Lack of variety of bullet hell shooter section bosses.
- Poor game difficulty balancing.
- Minor technical issues.

**Images are from official Square Enix press centre site.