NieR: Automata, a Spoiler Free Review


Evan Phillips, Staff Writer

NieR: Automata is an open world RPG game that takes place in a distant, post-apocalyptic future where there are no more humans on Earth. Aliens came to Earth and created a machine life form that wiped out humanity. Before it was destroyed, humanity fled to the moon and created androids designed to fight the machine life forms and take back the planet. 

The story for NieR: Automata might seem simple at first glance, but there are 26 different endings to the game. Many of them are acquired by making specific decisions, but there are 5 main endings that are acquired simply by playing the game multiple times on one save file. NieR: Automata is somewhat unique in how it uses the fact that it is a game to its advantage with how it tells the story. 

Players first play as an android, model 2B. Androids are connected to a network, and they can save their current consciousness to a network, so if their body is destroyed, that saved consciousness can be loaded onto a new body. It is a game saving mechanic that is worked into the story. If a player dies in the game, they respawn and can find their old body and recover lost equipment. However, this idea of networks and consciousness has big impacts in the story and messages the game is trying to send. 

The save function is not the only part that holds themes and messages the game is sending. The different game endings build the story in a way that would be extremely difficult to create in any other medium like books, tv shows, or movies. NieR: Automata explores several deep and potentially dark themes and ideas in ways that take advantage of a story being told through a game, and even details like costume design and characters’ names are woven into deep messages. 

Along with its many endings, NieR: Automata also has several different gameplay elements. It can’t simply be described as a hack and slash game, a sidescroller, a platformer, or an arcade game because it is all of those. The game opens in a segment where the player controls a flight unit, and the gameplay would be similar to a combination of the classic games Asteroids and Galaga. After the first section of the game, it switches to controlling the android, 2B, on foot. Then, the player has access to different melee weapons like swords and spears, as well as an AI companion with a projectile weapon that can also use several unique abilities when fighting the machine life force. 

Even when on foot, the camera angle is used to change the gameplay moment by moment depending on the area. In most places while exploring, the user has free movement of the camera, and it plays like a 3rd person hack and slash game, but in some areas, the camera is locked into a 2D view, looking on the player as if it was a game like Mega Man or Mario, giving a more limited field of view. At other points, the camera can lock into a top-down point of view, and then the gameplay becomes similar to Asteroids again while still having the character’s melee weapons and abilities available. These different camera angles change not only the form of gameplay, but they can also help control the feel of different situations with the flow of the story, like adding anxiety from a limited view 2D camera angle, giving the player a top-down angle while surrounded by enemies hurling countless projectiles, or locking a player in with a difficult boss with a 2D Street Fighter style.

NieR: Automata is a unique game with how it tells its story and uses its gameplay elements. At first glance, NieR: Automata’s story seems simple, but even that seems purposeful, because as the player plays more, more is revealed to the characters and players through the narrative, the gameplay, and character and environment design. The names, clothes, and actions many characters have give way to insights that many of the characters themselves never notice, but it can open deep themes and ideas to any players that become invested in the story. 

I have put many hours into NieR: Automata, and it is now one of my favorite games. The gameplay is fun, but I think the story is where the game really shines. I have never seen a medium tell a story in so many different ways at once. I would strongly recommend NieR: Automata to anyone that can get deeply invested into stories; it is one that would be worth the time.