When you first set your eyes on the PC version of Nier Automata, what’s immediately obvious is that no, it’s not terribly beautiful.
The open map shows the frailty of a sub-middling presentation. A lot of textures are low-quality – low-resolution – which is something your visual faculties might try to forgive during playing sessions once you’ve gotten used to the game and are familiar with the world.
The single issue that ruins this port is an evident Level of Detail pop-in phenomenon that plagues the experience, and it’s worsened by having both Anti-Aliasing and Ambient Occlusion activated.
The most practical solution is to disable Anti-Aliasing. The version implemented in Nier Automata is Multi Sample AA, which is quite demanding and not really that necessary with higher resolutions.
It’s a less vital feature and nixing it still has a satisfactory post-process effect in the Subpixel Morphological AA included with Ambient Occlusion.
With AA off and AO on, you’re definitely gonna save yourself some headaches, but it won’t be enough. To have a remotely satisfactory experience, the FAR mod is a mandatory gameplay panacea. You’ll still have to put some extra effort into getting rid of 30-FPS cutscenes, avoiding tearing, and coaxing the variable refresh rate to work properly, but the added dedication is 100% worth it.
These days, it’s a fact of life that Platinum Games will provide underwhelming PC adaptations. The Wonderful 101: Remastered is the latest addition to this list, and it doesn’t help their popularity. This is what SquareEnix has approved, so this is the footage you’re gonna get in this video, without significant tinkering.
The world map where 2B carries out her mission to preserve humanity is desolate and correctly sets the tone for the situation you’re entering into. It develops in many unique dimensions while maintaining a coherent palette of colors – though this is not as gratifying if you prefer more colorful environments.
The only real defect in all of this is having invisible walls in what are, nowadays, unexpected places: the probable result of a mixture of laziness and a lack of time and money in development.
The shortage in points of interest and activities may prove annoying to gamers looking for distractions, but the good news is there’s a fishing mini game, and as we all know, when there’s fishing, it’s always a game-changer.
The developers at Platinum Games are masters of action combat. This game is the literal definition of a hack-and-slash: when you’re not slashing enemies, you’re hacking away at them in a mini game. Two standard attacks, an evade button to dash away and a pod supporting you with long-range attacks are the ingredients of some wonderful gameplay.
At the outset, you may have the immediate tendency to tap dance across the controller, trying to fire bullets at a target-locked enemy, all while evading and slashing. But don’t worry: the game’s combat affords you the opportunity to learn and improve by making mistakes.
That said, no matter how easy it is in comparison to other Platinum releases, it’s just a matter of time before somebody trounces you. When this happens, the game implements the extremely popular mechanic of dropping all your items and skills where you died, forcing you to retrieve them by reaching your body within a limited timeframe. And, when playing online, you have the ability to find someone else’s body, which you can scavenge for parts or revive as a non-player ally to support you in battle for several minutes.
To avoid this inconvenience, you have to learn your enemies’ routines and move sets. In more frantic fights, you’ll benefit from little tips, like a glowing red light that comes from your enemy, helping you to anticipate their attacks. As a small critique, the lock-on command can fail to lock onto your intended target, but you’ll hardly get in trouble for that. Who knows?
You might just want to skip the lock all together, wildly smashing your sword into the crowd to make those inconsiderate machines respect social distancing. The pod fires in whatever direction the camera is pointing, rather than where your character is facing – another little thing that can make fighting more versatile.
The mixture of different genres within this game is astoundingly smooth – a lesson in game design, to be sure. It’s a 3D hack-and-slash, and a role-playing game, and a shoot ‘em up. One minute, it’s a vertical shooter where you fire ahead arcade-style, the next it’s a shoot ‘em up where you fire around on a 360-degree axis, aiming with your joystick.
But wait! Now it’s a 2D side scroller. Now the camera is behind your back. Now it rotates to the side as you take the stairs. Now you have a bird-eye view. Now it switches to a lateral view…is this a visual novel? This design is unprecedented and undisputed in terms of the quality it provides in every session. The camera and controls transition naturally, inviting you to discover the level at hand from a surprisingly different perspective.
Aside from some easily fixed graphical deficiencies, the game puts forth a poetical and bewitching aesthetic, with charismatic characters living in a bullet hell Weltschmerz where projectiles are 2D assets without any illumination, which blend surprisingly well and generate a unique sense of personality.
Once you get a taste of the game’s combat in action and discover its progression system, you’ll definitely want to spend more time gathering items to upgrade your weapons, which, by the way, is mandatory if you want to fight an optional boss.
2B is an android, and in light of this fact, Yoko Taro decides to connect her directly with the player. While the game is not in first person, what you see on screen is a link to the Nier Automata world. You won’t be able to switch the various UI elements on or off from the option menu like in every other game. Given that she’s robotic, 2B has a limited amount of memory available for all her functions.
From the most basic ones that keep her operational to the UI interface itself (which can be tweaked with additional chips available in shops), not to mention 2B’s various offensive and defensive skills, the requirements all stack up. And available memory must be allocated just like in your everyday electronic devices: they comprise and define your android’s configuration. If you want to know where to go for some prime fishing, you can simply add the dedicated chip.
Usually, in a game review or critique, the generic and superficial comment that the music is “good” is overly abused. Keiichi Okabe and Keigo Hoashi, both featured in Yoko Taro’s previous projects, manage to elevate Nier Automata by making the music department an integral part of the game.
Ueda Masami is also no stranger in the industry, already having been credited in works such as the original Resident Evil trilogy, Bayonetta and Devil May Cry. This time, he’s in charge of mixing in-game events and making the background music switch seamlessly throughout the game, with different arrangements fading in and out according to your position and the activation and deactivation of individual stems as the game progresses.
When songs are reprised, you won’t necessarily hear them with the exact same melodic progressions. Committed to an astonishing level of detail, the music department even goes so far as to use different vocals depending on the situation you’re facing. Technically speaking, it may not be the greatest innovation on Earth – this feature being more commonly implemented in rhythm-based games – but for this genre and with this quality, it’s a highlight.
2B and 9S must face their own purpose in a world that poses existential questions. NPCs are named after real philosophers whose ideologies pulse through their actions. Interacting with them opens up doors to side quests. Not simply fillers, these provide meaningful information about the premise and provide adequate motivation to dig deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole.
The plot develops sagaciously, following the cycle of life and death whilst also filling the need for adventure and discovery as you set out to understand more about these machines, which are emulating human mannerisms, mimicking social behaviors and attempting to replicate society.
Nier Automata puts you in a position to consider immense topics such as varying forms of consciousness, self-determination, evolution, and religion, all before holding up a mirror in front of you and forcing you to reflect on your role in the plot. At times, its dialogue feels like a gut-punch, making you hesitate in what you’re doing.
Choices are provided to you naturally. When it seems there are only two options available, in truth, the game offers you more than that. You’ll question yourself, worrying whether your actions loom over the future and whether, for instance, the killings you’ve committed in such satisfying gameplay amount to a moral trap. Or are you lending too much importance and authority to a video game?
The player never knows when or how this game is communicating with them. The game likes to mess with you by parading itself as “just a video game,” all the while leaving something behind that will hit you with a delay as well as a need for some time to ruminate.
As a comparison, it’s reminiscent of Metal Gear Solid 2 in the way the experience transcends the fourth wall separating the player from the media. And it’s not just an extra, a fun fact to write in a blog article. It’s an integral part of Nier Automata, its very soul, where its identity comes from, the way it defines itself as a video game.
This game short circuits your brain. You’ll start questioning what happened the first time you booted the game, why you couldn’t change any options back then. “Was it a bug or was it on purpose? And what’s with the statement about the game not having autosave like every other game? Why give it so much importance? Why do I have to play for 40 minutes before being able to save? Why do I have to start from the beginning if I die in the meantime? Where can I go fishing?”.
On and on, it will just keep on flooding your mind and you’ll forget the fourth wall ever existed, until finally you stand up from your chair muttering, “Wait, yeah he said that line… I remember… Hold on… That’s exactly what I did… How…? When…? It can’t be! It’s showing up now?!?!?!?!”
This project was born under the lucky star of a commingling of talent, redeeming Platinum Games’ prior reputation of “good but could be better” as well as Yoko Taro’s vision, which didn’t get the execution and recognition it deserved with his previous titles. There are some features seen in the original Nier that, sown and revisited here, find fertile ground to flourish. Everybody’s finally found how to express their true value.
The real finale is one of the most impactful and memorable experiences of you’ll ever have – even more so than the birth of your first child. Not to mention the best climax you could ever imagine to this elegant effort. It’s an epiphany you can’t un-have. There’s no point of return.
Nier Automata is the best in its class because it’s a video game first. In an era where everyone’s rushing to milk worn-out loops and clichés; pretending to offer art in the form of pretentious cinematic experiences; brute-forcing the same safe, generic gameplay under the umbrella of AAA productions; aiming for the most realistic details and lifelike emotions… In this era, Nier Automata distinguishes itself as a video game. It doesn’t tie its hands with the limits of a so-called Hollywood production.
This game is storytelling at its finest, without the need for 11 hours of cutscenes. Here, we have a character setting up a snack machine – operating as a save point and a fast travel point – within but a few minutes. And you’ll accept this, just like you’ll accept 2B going inside of it and coming out at her destination with 9S already there for reasons unknown. The developers don’t have to explain it. They don’t put themselves in a position where they have to meet a standard for real-life coherency.
Meanwhile, other game developers are busy reworking and exhausting 1% of the pie, leaving the remaining 99% of this medium’s potential on the table. And the facts are out there: there’s a glut of self-proclaimed masterpieces that, within just few years if not months, are miraculously surpassed by something with the same title followed by a “2”.
Their aesthetics are just a veneer that vanishes with time, obsolete the moment it’s masked by another layer. Just like it’s convenient believing in God in case one exists, it’s convenient to believe in and worship the consummate work of the year, which is pronounced as such way before it’s even released.
Nier Automata is beautiful. To rephrase a thought experiment posed by an NPC early on in-game, it leaves so much for you to consider that while writing a review or opinion on it, one might think, “Is the game that I’ve modded with LOD fixes and high-resolution textures the same game I started reviewing without any patches?”
When you’re asked about a game and you feel the absolute need to avoid spoiling literally anything for others, even to the point where you think videos on it shouldn’t exist, the best response to give is “Don’t ask. Don’t research anything. Just play it.” When it comes to video games as a medium, there can be no higher praise. Nier Automata is nothing less than the best game of this generation.