In a strange and certainly debilitating course of events, the surviving humans on Earth are forced to flee to the moon after a machine army from another world invades. From my understanding, although it is set in the post-apocalyptic world established in the original Nier and it carries the essence of the Drakengard series’ dark atmosphere, there isn’t a direct narrative connection with Automata and the rest of the series. As the humans have fled, the story follows the story of a combat android named 2B and a reconnaissance android named 9S as they work on the human’s side amidst a war against machines.
The enticing visuals and atmosphere itself certainly stood out as distinctive to me. I would regard the characters as coming off with Gothic anime vibes, whereas the world itself depicts areas where the former presence of humans can be seen in what's left of the buildings being slowly but surely engulfed by the blooming agriculture. All in all, although I will admit that, at times, it does feel like many of the enemies you come across can will repetitive or familiar, I would say Nier: Automata brings the goods very well from a graphical front. Although it isn't a hugely robust world, the locations we see all feel inspired, unique, and enjoyable, and there's a handful of enemies you'll come across as well that leave an impression.
Honestly, in-retrospect, what I would single-out most about Nier: Automata is the music and composition created for Nier: Automata's benefit. The way that it helps set the mood is difficult to describe with words and it legitimately might stand as the best use of music I've ever seen in a video-game. It carries a robust sophistication without ever seeming like it doesn't belong, changing during situation and environment, providing an orchestral sound that lead composer Keiichi Okabe accomplishes in fantastic fashion.
The story-line and its characters intrigue with their eccentricities, and while I think it is passable overall, I don't think it elevates or reaches the pinnacle of what I believe it had the potential for. It definitely has its moments but the story itself and the actual elements as they unfold can often feel a little played out, like we've asked ourselves these questions before. In Nier: Automata, while some machines remain aggressive, others display a lighter-side, displaying a more compassionate or caring side to them, a more "human" side, so to speak, and while it's a provocative thought, I don't know how many times we can ask ourselves if robots dream of electric sheep before we've run our course. The characters of 2B and 9S are competent as well, but I don't think their dynamic between one another felt as fleshed out or as earned as what it could have been, a smidgen less than being forced, but not necessarily organic. Nier: Automata encourages multiple completions of the campaign in-order to achieve a definitive experience, a prospect I initially thought sounded inviting, but later had reservations toward (that I'll discuss later with the game-play). Looking back, I feel like I have to say I thought it concluded in an anticlimactic light where I didn't realize tonally I was even at the end or approaching it. I believe it had a certain pacing disconnect which goes to its detriment.
The game-play is simple, but enjoyable.
Most of the game carries a straightforward attack approach, a cross between a hack-and-slash and a shoot 'em up, as I found myself opting to evade from enemies and wail on them from afar more often than I attacked them with weapons provided. One of the first boss-battles I encountered in Nier: Automata felt adrenaline-fueled and truly unique, and I remember the sheer excitement I felt afterward.
Unfortunately, I never felt anywhere near that level of immersion again, and I found that most encounters were very straightforward and repetitive. This is compounded in-part because certain side-quests and missions can sometimes feel like busywork more intended to pad the play-time than anything else.
There's definitely a certain charm and enjoyment, similar to Chaos Legion or the PS2-era Castlevania video-games, and in this one, that central game-play is just passable enough to be overlooked and even appreciated. It helps matters that Nier: Automata also blends elements through having stretches where it feels more like a stick-shooter, switching from how it normally is to a 2D or 2.5D side-scroller. It also, of course,Everything would be well-and-good with Nier's game-play for a single play-through, but the way it encourages multiple play-through's to achieve a full-experience makes for a plodding, repetitive one.
In the end, while it may not seem like it: I dug Nier: Automata. I liked the setting and the overall presentation. I loved the musical score. I liked the story for what it was, but I recognize it's tonal inconsistencies, I see where things could've potentially been done better, and I think it could have used some tightening overall. And, while the game-play itself won't blow your hair-back, it is solid fun and has certain moments in-particular that are very memorable. I'd recommend Nier: Automata as a good video-game that's worth your time!