At one point in Nier Automata, I found myself ushered into a room where I was surrounded by a host of fanatically religious robots praising God. The camera cuts to the head of their ostentatiously dressed leader as it dramatically falls and rolls to a stop at my characters feet. The robots then begin disturbingly chanting in one voice, “Become as Gods, Become as Gods”.
If the idea of robots that believe in God, family or love strikes you as ridiculous, then you are in for a hell of a ride with Nier Automata.
It’s like nothing I’ve ever played while simultaneously being like everything I’ve ever played. Nier combines a rich, layered story and intense action that shifts wildly between third-person hack and slash to top-down bullet hell to side scrolling beat-em-up; all in the space of 5mins.
Nier Automata Become as Gods Review
Created by the eccentrically masked Yoko Taro and published by Platinum Games— the makers of the critically acclaimed Bayonetta games — Nier Automata Become as Gods is a wildly entertaining and thought-provoking story. Nier Automata is told from the perspective of a sexy android soldier 2B and her companion 9S.
They fight in a millennial war between mankind who’ve been exiled to the Moon by an invading Alien force who use robots to wage war.
2B is an elite soldier of the YohRa forces who frequently chant shady slogans like “Glory to Mankind”. Throughout Nier Automata, you as the player are confronted with oddities like these.
Do machines have a conscious? Are they capable of love, fear, loss or hope? Can they have familial relations or tribes? In the beginning 2B, 9S and you the player, blindly believe that robots are mindless killing machines. But as you play, you are made to question this belief and whether you are the hero or the villain of the story.
The game forces our heroes to rethink what they believe(or rather have been programmed to know) as the truth of their existence, purpose and humanity. And just like the gameplay style, Nier’s story has so many unexpected twists and turns that leave you more breathless than fighting a factory-sized robot. And yes, you do fight some ridiculously colossal foes that make 2B look like a gnat.
Nier Automata likes to show you, both visually and narratively, that you are just a tiny cog in a much grander tale. And you will only get the whole of this deliciously layered story by playing through the game multiple times.
Once the credits roll on your first playthrough, you’ve peeled the first of many layers of the juicy onion. A second playthrough tells the story from 9S’s perspective and the third playthrough with a mysterious character.
The revelations are shocking and would make M. Night Shyalaman proud. At the risk of spoilers, I’ll speak no more of the story. I urge you to just play it through at least three times.
The desolation of Mordor
Nier Automata was released as an Xbox One X Enhanced game, running at full 4K HDR. I was sceptical of its performance on my less powerful Xbox One S and while I could see some less smooth aliasing and some pop–in, it runs exceptionally well.
Even with hundreds of moving objects, effects and explosions happening, the game run with a consistent framerate with no slowdown during the frenetic action.
That said, the game’s art style lends itself to large open vista’s that aren’t densely populated with complex structures, foliage or textures. In fact, most of the game is sparse and depressing which fits perfectly in the narrative of a world ravaged by centuries of war.
Large desert wastelands, abandoned factories and ruined cities that are being reclaimed by nature are just a few.
The colour palette gives the game an almost bland and industrial look throughout most of the locales with rare standouts. In certain instances, the game will shift to a film noir, black and white aesthetic. HDR lovers shouldn’t look for AC Origins levels of shine.
The robots all exhibit millennia of rust and wear and tear. These are contrasted by our pristine protagonists who regularly undergo maintenance at their space bunker. 2B, a cosplayer’s dream with her BDSM inspired outfit — has the best, most authentic catwalk I’ve ever seen in an animated character.
But the most striking thing about Nier Automata is the way it shifts to multiple game styles. You will often be yanked out of the traditional third-person view into top down or side scrolling views at a moments notice, forcing you to change the way you control your character to compensate.
The game will also get you airborne often, in a very cool Gundam style exo flight suit that you can control from three different camera perspectives as you shoot and dodge a storm of enemy bullets.
Nier Automata revels in shifting your perspectives to give you an appreciation of how huge some of the bosses and battles really are.
The sweet sounds of melancholy
Nier Automata has an incredible soundtrack that mixes haunting vocals, heart-pumping battle tunes and tear-jerking music. There are a dozen or so main chords composed by Keiichi Okabe that the game wonderfully remixes depending on the need.
This makes every scene ooze a Japanese Anime/ Manga style.
The music will often change from a full-blown orchestral piece to a midi 8-bit version as you move into a hacking section, reflecting the change in the games visual style. And when the game requires you to fight a Godzilla sized foe, the music will be appropriately grand to match the scale of the battle.
It’s amazing the way the audio engine seamlessly switches tracks as you move from one section of the map to another. I’ve been playing this soundtrack on repeat for the last week. It’s worth the admission alone.
Combat, weapons and chips oh my
Nier’s combat is as rich and frenetic as you can expect from the makers of Bayonetta. It’s primarily a hack and slash but will mix this up with shooting sections. You have two weapons for light and heavy attacks. These weapons can be upgraded using various materials collected throughout the game world.
Combos are fast and furious on or off the ground and evasion is critical — you will quickly and repeatedly die if you don’t master this. If you do die, you will restart without all your gear and have to retrieve it by finding your fallen body. If you play too long, your body will disappear and you will lose all that gear.
On top of your weapons, your character has a floating robotic companion called Pods. These give you ranged projectile attacks and can also be upgraded. Having your Pod fire at distant enemies while you hack at others close range is an essential part of surviving the robot hordes.
But where Nier’s combat sets itself apart is the use of Chips. As androids, 2B and 9S have computer chips which control different capabilities such as the Operating system, HUD, minimap, HP and so on. You could actually remove your android’s OS if you want. More potent chips give you improved attack, defence, support and hacking.
You can use whatever combination of chips to match your play style and like the weapons, you can have different sets of chips. The caveat is that you have limited slots per set. Even though you can increase them via purchases, different chips take up varying number of slots giving you pause as to what you can equip.
Chips can also be fused together, making them more powerful but they will require more slots. Having multiple chipsets is handy then. You could have a set for heightened combat and another for exploration.
Charming quests and awkward robot crushes
Nier Automata has traditional side quests to build up your characters experience and get useful upgrades. These quests will come from your commanding officer, other androids and even robots. Most of the quests are familiar fetch quests but some require more work requiring some tedious traversal of the games semi-open world.
Thankfully, there are server terminals located in the main hubs of the world. Once activated, these allow for game saves, checking our heroes email and most importantly, instantly warping to other terminals. You can also ride some of the animals loitering around the world for faster traversal.
Also located in each main hub of the world, you will find handy traders from whom you can trade and upgrade your gear and chips. The currency of the game is collected by destroying robots for parts as well as completing quests. The quests can be quite interesting with one quest requiring you to help a robot debug a game it’s developing.
Talk about Inception. Another quest will have you rescuing a lost robot girl who chats you up asking uncomfortable questions like “How are human children made?”
These quests can be mundane or outright hilarious but aren’t mandatory and as far as I can tell, don’t impact the main story.
Nier Automata is an incredible game that pays homage to so many styles that have defined the gaming industry in an eclectic mix of storytelling, combat, quests and panache that will leave you literally and figuratively breathless.
While the story necessitates multiple playthroughs to get the true ending, it’s never a grind to replay with enough variances between the characters play styles to entertain you. 2B is a great fighter but 9S is more of hacker which really changes the way you play and what you can access.
Nier is an affecting game that entertains you but also makes you question your beliefs about who is the hero and the villain. It draws you to find out more about the world and the characters in the story.
I seriously can’t wait to get back to it for another playthrough.
Nier Automata Become as Gods was reviewed on Xbox One using a digital code provided by the publisher.
Game Title: Nier Automata Become as Gods
- Intriguing Storytelling - 10/1010/10
- Fast Combat that never tires - 9/109/10
- Hilarious side-quests - 8/108/10
- Amazing Soundtrack - 10/1010/10
- RPG, Shooter, Slasher or Space Invaders? - 10/1010/10