NieR Automata Review

Y’know, sometimes things don’t need to be so complicated. Bagels. Pizza. The instruction manual for your new TV. It’s something I thought about as I struggled my way through NieR Automata (PlayStation 4, PC), a third-person, action-oriented, cyberpunk adventure game that was a lot more fun before it got so complicated.

NieR Automata

In NieR Automata, it’s 5024, and you’re cast as YoRHa No. 2 Model B, a.k.a 2B, an android who, oddly, looks and acts like a fierce but nihilistic teenage goth girl. Which is scary given that she’s armed with a sword and is accompanied by a floating robot called Pod that has a machine gun, a rechargeable laser cannon, and an endless supply of ammo. But it’s also helpful because the Earth is now infested with killer robots who were sent by aliens to destroy all humans and it’s your job to clean up the planet…or die trying.

NieR Automata starts off promisingly enough as a first-rate action game in the vein of Devil May Cry, Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow, and especially Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (which, like NieR Automata, was made by PlatinumGames). Running and jumping around a long-abandoned robot factory, you get into skirmishes with some enemy ‘bots, including one that used to work construction.

It is during these parts that you experience the best part of NieR Automata: the combat. As a sword wielder, 2B is on par with the heroes of those aforementioned games. Besides light and heavy attacks, she can also double jump up and either smack things in mid-flight like she’s Kratos from God Of War, or she can do a devastating downward strike.

While 2B’s sword skills make her a formidable opponent, it’s Pod and its ranged attacks that make NieR Automata stand out. That’s because you can do both at the same time. While Pod automatically follows you around like a puppy, you control when and at what it fires at. Which means you can either concentrate your ranged and melee attacks on the same target, or you can also attack two enemies at the same time. You can even grab supplies dropped by destroyed enemies while Pod keeps attacking, which is rather convenient.

Not surprisingly, NieR Automata sometimes mixes things up. Not only do you occasionally face robots who are bulletproof, but there are also times when its more prudent to keep your distance and just shoot your enemies from afar.

NieR Automata

There are even times when NieR Automata switches up the perspective, which impacts the gameplay in interesting ways. Most of the time, this employs a player-controlled third-person camera. But there are times when it shifts to a fixed perspective. It’s during these moments, especially when the camera employs an aerial or side view, that this feels more like a Galaga-esque arcade game, an Alienation-esque twin-stick shooter, or a Shovel Knight-ish side-scrolling hack & slash game.

NieR Automata even pulls an interesting trick from the playbook of Zombi. When you die, you start back where you last saved. But if you can make it back to where you died without dying again, you can grab your old stuff. Or, if you prefer, you can try and fix your old self. Do so, and your former body will follow you around for a while, smacking enemies with its sword. Screw it up, though, and it will smack you instead.

While the above may make NieR Automata sound like an engaging hack & slash shooter, the game sadly becomes more like a rote role-playing game once you get past the opening level.

After fighting your way through the robot factory, followed by some informative meetings in a space station, you head back to Earth, only to find that without people mowing the grass, nature has overtaken what’s left of the cities. Oh, and if you go even further out, you’ll end up in a desert. It is here, on the remnants of our civilization, that you spend the bulk of the game exploring an open world while completing story quests and running errands for your compatriots.

The problem being that while the combat is still engaging, whether it happens during a mission or just a random run-in, your other objectives aren’t that interesting. The errands are rather pedestrian, lots of “go there and get this” kind of stuff, while the story quests are a bit more involved but are again, in many cases, nothing you haven’t done before in other role-playing games.

NieR Automata

There are also problems with the basic RPG mechanics of NieR Automata. Take character customization, which takes the form of chips you can install. While most are helpful, a bunch just add functions that would normally be standard equipment you activate or deactivate in the game’s option menu, like whether to display the level and heath of your enemies. Though it also doesn’t help that the menu you use to install and uninstall these chips doesn’t make it clear if you’ve actually installed the one you want to install.

Similarly, getting around NieR Automata can be frustrating. Doubly so if you’re the exploring type. The map is often inexact, while there a number of spots where you think you can jump up onto something or go somewhere, only to run smack into an invisible wall.

Then there’s the added irritation that quest items and supplies are all colored light yellow, which makes them hard to see from a distance when they’re amid some yellowy-green grass or light tan desert sand. And no, the white arrow that appears when you get close doesn’t help much.

But then, the world you explore in NieR Automata isn’t that interesting to begin with. Especially since we’ve seen more vivid and varied depictions of deserts and over-grown cities in such vastly better games as The Last Of Us and Horizon Zero Dawn. And sure, the story may have promise, but not enough of one to hold my interest among such rote settings and scenarios.

NieR Automata even has parts that make it feel dated (which is ironic given that the aforementioned old school gaming bits rank among the best parts of this game). While most conversations are voiced, some errands are oddly given to you by people who only speak in text. Similarly, the Pod’s targeting reticule so resembles an 8-bit version of parenthesis that it looks like it’s just a placeholder graphic someone forgot to replace.

NieR Automata

As a result of these less-than-stellar mechanics, the rote missions, and the far-too-familiar world it all takes place in, I found myself slowly but steadily losing interest in NieR Automata as my adventure continued. And doubly so whenever I thought back to how it all began. Yes, I know you should judge a game on what it’s trying to be, not what you want it to be, and I do: it wants to be a great cyberpunk action-RPG, but it’s not. But, ultimately, seeing what it could’ve been — y’know, if the bulk of the game was an uncomplicated as the beginning — just makes the end result look worse.

SCORE: 5.0/10

 


9 thoughts on “NieR Automata Review

  1. It honestly sounds like you didn’t play or understand the game all that well at all, at least when it comes to the chips. Yes, some of them are used to display the minimap, hp, exp, etc but that’s suppose to be an immersion thing. You’re playing as an android so rather than just do standard equipment they wanted to try and set it up so you’re like a computer. Hell, you even have an OS chip that when removed kills you because you no longer have an operating system to run yourself in.

    Traveling also is not an issue once you get fast travel and the only invisible wall I encountered was in the desert via sandstorm. You also get a chip that shows you the location of all items and chests via minimap to help with finding these “hard to see” yellow orbs. Also I’m sad to hear you didn’t like the story so far though, just like the first Nier before it, this game’s first part of the plot (Routes A/B) are all set up for the rest of the story (Routes C/D/E). The moment you beat B and start C things start off in a whole different direction with shit hitting the fan very fast.

  2. While I agree the review is not exactly a good one, I also think people are overreacting. At least give logical arguments as to why the review is ‘garbage’. I’ve occasionally seen more insubstantial buzzword-filled reviews than this one from websites like Gamespot and IGN before. So frankly, this isn’t the worst.

    Me, I disliked it because the reviewer only finally starts reviewing it around half-way through. In addition, large parts of the review focus on small annoyances such as quest items and supplies being colored yellow, which some people honestly might not even have issues with.

    Keep in mind, though, that the reviewer isn’t saying the game is bad – 50/100 is average. I can understand his view that the quests just aren’t interesting – many RPGs nowadays suffer from fetch/kill-quests, and it’s quite sad that people are beginning to treat that like it’s ”standard”. The story quests being uninspired is a pretty big flaw, IMO. But this is why different reviewers give different scores – they all have different ideas of what’s good and bad, and what’s important.

    And let’s be honest, the environments are often lacking in personality. That much became clear from the demo alone.

    • Fetch/kill-quests ARE pretty standard. And It’s not exactly something new so I don’t know why you say “nowadays”. They can be mundane yeah, but what’s important is the story around them IMO. Go here, kill/fetch this, collect reward, the end. That sounds uninspired ’cause it’s a reductionist description isolated from the context of the narrative and gameplay, and that’s what reviewers tend to do when they try to critique. Sure, if it’s actually as simple as it sounds and those are the only types of quests, then it may deserve criticism. But that’s not really the case in this game anyway.

      The tone of the game, the characters involved and as I said the overall narrative should be considered, and IMO, if I fear seeing the character that I’m escorting die because of my ineptitude, then that’s a side quest done right. Don’t just write it off because “oh it’s an ‘X’ type mission”.

      I disagree that the story missions are uninspired, but then again the reviewer didn’t really describe them that way either. They’re just too RPG-like i guess.

      As for the review itself: I’m still waiting for him to tell me what was so complicated. I don’t know why he spent so much time on inconsequential details; Almost like an attempt to pad the review with criticisms to justify the score. He calls it “rote role-playing game” which is not only contrary to my (and many’s) experience(s) but is only justified by his dislike of a some of the types of side quests. What about the story? The characters? The music? He’s too busy lamenting the fact that the game wasn’t limited to the linear, simple nature of the demo, and that it’s not as pretty as AAA games like TLoU and HZD.

      Even if I agree with the criticism, I don’t see how they bring the game to a five. This review gave me the impression that the reviewer just doesn’t like JRPGs and wanted this game to be something else.

      • ”Fetch/kill-quests ARE pretty standard.”

        So just because they’ve become the standard, that somehow justifies them existing in place of quests that could actually have very interesting gameplay and storylines? Come on, just because it’s become standard practice to put shallow questlines into your games, that doesn’t mean those uninspired quests don’t drag the game’s overall quality and replayability down. The stories around them may be fine, but please, don’t tell me you think fetch-quests with relatively bland storylines should be the norm. Quests that aren’t fetch-quests will almost always have better storylines anyway.

        As for it ”deserving criticism”, you are not the one to decide what deserves criticism and what doesn’t. Even small flaws can add up to make a game disappointing. Let others have their opinions.

        And no, I never said fetch quests are ‘something new’, I said they’ve become very commonplace, especially in the last few years. Fetch quests used to mainly be the domain of MMOs.

        ”if I fear seeing the character that I’m escorting die because of my ineptitude, then that’s a side quest done right.”

        That’s about the most uncreative thing I could see a side-quest doing, especially if (since it’s a side-quest), the only result would be a death animation or something. That’s not character development, that’s just throwing a character in the trash bin and playing a ‘sad violin’.

        ”I disagree that the story missions are uninspired, but then again the reviewer didn’t really describe them that way”

        I quote: the story quests are a bit more involved but are again, in many cases, *nothing you haven’t done before in other role-playing games*. That’s what uninspired is… doing quests that you’ve done to death in other games.

        ”He calls it “rote role-playing game” which is not only contrary to my (and many’s) experience(s) but is only justified by his dislike of a some of the types of side quests.

        First off, nobody cares if it’s contrary to your experience, this is why reviewers exist: to give you their opinion. If their job were only to assess quality, there would be no need for the profession of reviewer in the first place. Secondly, the reviewer never said anything about his dislike of ”some of the types of side-quests”. I agree with you about the story and characters.

        Lastly, nowhere in the review does he lament the fact that the game isn’t limited to the linear nature of the demo… he’s lamenting the fact that the open-world isn’t implemented as well as he would like. Quote: ”Similarly, getting around NieR Automata can be frustrating. Doubly so if you’re the exploring type. The map is often inexact, while there a number of spots where you think you can jump up onto something or go somewhere, only to run smack into an invisible wall.”

        He also did not lament that Nier isn’t as ”pretty” as AAA games, he said the environments aren’t varied enough (and vivid enough) for his tastes. He did NOT say anything about simple graphics quality. Quote: ”But then, the world you explore in NieR Automata isn’t that interesting to begin with. Especially since we’ve seen more vivid and varied depictions of deserts and over-grown cities in such vastly better games”.

    • But fetch/kill-quests ARE a standard; it’s not something games suffer from, but something that literally IS standard in the genre. I don’t see that being a black mark on bigger franchises, like The Witcher.

      People don’t read reviews to see if the reviewer enjoyed the game: it’s not his job to enjoy them. They read reviews to see if THEY will enjoy the game. But when it’s so full of a reviewer’s likes and dislikes, it’s hard to tell if that’ll be the case. Unless you go read a bunch of their other reviews and figure out what their tastes are, which ultimately turns into more money for that reviewer through clicks(which is why many people think games get such scores as this one).

      A 5/10 IS a bad score, by the way, and that’s due to how reviewers treat games. You can say it’s average on a 1-10 scale, but games given things in the 5-6 range(and especially below) are treated like titles you should avoid. Couple that with metacritic’s rise to importance in various ways in the industry, and you can see why people would get upset when a game with otherwise stellar reviews gets a 5.

      It’s not a perfect game. There are still flaws to be noted, and plenty of things to improve upon. But there really is no justification for “reviews” like this.

      • Like I said before, just because fetch-quests have become the standard, that somehow justifies them existing in place of quests that could actually have very interesting gameplay and storylines? Just because it’s now standard practice to put shallow questlines into your games, that doesn’t mean those uninspired quests don’t drag the game’s overall quality and replayability down. So much wasted potential.

        The stories around them may be fine, but I certainly think that they don’t have the narrative potential that story-focused quests do or character-oriented ones. Even if a fetch quest were focused on characters and/or story, it would still be a rather diluted experience. Quests that aren’t fetch-quests will almost always have better storylines anyway.

        ”They read reviews to see if THEY will enjoy the game.”

        Nobody can tell anyone if they will enjoy the game – whether they do or not depends on their personal opinion. A simple assessment of quality without any input from the reviewer in terms of likes and dislikes is not helpful. Of course quality assessment is part of any review, but it’s not everything. They are, in the end, mostly opinion pieces.

        The whole point of the existence of multiple reviewers rather than just a few objective, quality-assessing publications, is to inform readers that are similar to that reviewer in interests and likes. The whole point is to find a reviewer who likes the same kinds of games you do, and who likes and dislikes elements that you do too. But that’s the problem with today’s culture – nobody has any interest or time to find the right reviewer(s) for them. Everything has to be now, everything has to be fast/cursory… when somebody writes a comment on YouTube that’s longer than three or four lines, it gets ignored because ”TL;DR”. It’s such a shame.

        ”A 5/10 IS a bad score, by the way, and that’s due to how reviewers treat games. You can say it’s average on a 1-10 scale, but games given things in the 5-6 range(and especially below) are treated like titles you should avoid.”

        Just because the culture right now is to be very positive about games that are good but not exceptionally awesome, unique, or inventive (see games like Fable III getting 9/10s), that doesn’t mean the meaning of a scale has suddenly changed. You can’t alter reality with your world-bending superpowers like that. The world doesn’t care about how you ‘feel’ about a 5/10 – the fact is that a 5/10 is literally the medium point in a 0-10 scale, therefore it’s a ‘mediocre’ (or average) score. I know many people in 2017 are so scared to be negative they just want to retreat into their safe spaces, but man. Just because you think an average game should be well over the medium point of a scale, that doesn’t mean the meaning of ‘average’ has changed.

        I mean, what’s even the point of having scores of 1 to 4 if every game that got a 5/10 or lower should be avoided/is shit? Might as well revert to caveman status and go ”GAME GOOD/BAD”.

        • “Like I said before, just because fetch-quests have become the standard, that somehow justifies them existing in place of quests that could actually have very interesting gameplay and storylines?”

          I haven’t played the game yet, myself, but given the tone of the review, you can’t even say that’s the truth. Overall, it’s a reductive experience, if you can call it that, reading through this review.

          “but I certainly think that they don’t have the narrative potential”

          Then that’s a personal gripe that doesn’t help readers who don’t have that issue, if you’re writing a review. While YOU might have a problem with it, I accept it as part and parcel of the genre; that doesn’t mean I won’t give higher praise if it’s done well, but I’m also not going to be overly negative if a game just checks off the list. It’s not as if the quests were broken, is it?

          “They are, in the end, mostly opinion pieces.”

          They most certainly are not. They’re meant to be buying guides. They’re not meant to stroke the ego of the writer, to see how many agree or disagree with him. Yes, there is an inherent subjectivity to them, but the nature of a review has always been informative in nature, first and foremost.

          ” that doesn’t mean the meaning of a scale has suddenly changed. You can’t alter reality with your world-bending superpowers like that.”

          That’s exactly what it means. Our understanding of what a 5/10 means is directly affected by what it’s believed to mean. It’s been years since a 5 meant an average game, much like it’s been centuries since “aweful” had a positive connotation. Things change, even if we think they shouldn’t. Complaining that they shouldn’t won’t stop a change that’s already taking place.

          You might want to learn to deal with that.

Please Leave A Reply