Nier: Automata review (2024)

Nier: Automata review (1)

Yoko Taro's eccentric action RPG gets a follow-up that's every bit as surprising as its predecessor with a little help from Platinum Games.

If there was ever a game that didn't need a sequel it's Nier. The cult classic sci-fi fantasy fever dream by masked madman Yoko Taro did a lot to endear its niche but dedicated audience. Its peculiar blend of open-world adventure, hack-and-slash combat, and bullet hell shmups supplanted into a strange and harrowing world that refused to conform to usual sci-fi fantasy tropes was among the most audacious and surprising retail releases in ages. Yet as much as I adored Nier, it felt like a complete story. It had a beginning, middle and end. Then another end. And another.

It wasn't the most technically accomplished game, but its hodgepodge of influences blended together to make something wholly original. There's never been anything like it since. Until now.

The question, of course, is whether Taro would be able to make lighting strike twice. His follow-up to Nier, Drakengard 3, was a fascinating failure; a game with tremendous ideas and abysmal execution. With Bayonetta and Vanquish studio Platinum Games certainly there's promise of a more polished product (or at least a more refined combat system), but the concern remained that it might come at a cost. Would this big(ish) budget sequel to an aggressively off-kilter curio be too dumbed down? Too safe?

Long story short, it's not, though it may feel that way initially. Where Nier kicked off with the heartfelt story of a grizzled older man caring for his sick daughter (which, before The Last of Us, felt kind of novel), Nier: Automata's leads are harder to identify with. Set tens of thousands of years into the future, long past when Nier took place, Automata stars two stylish gothic androids, 2B (as in "or not to be") and 9S, who are just a couple of pawns in an endless war between man-made androids and alien-crafted machines. (Indeed, the fact that androids are machines does not go unnoticed.) 2B may be wearing a frilly getup, but her outlook initially comes across as distant and dull, while 9S's wide-eyed optimism seems a little hackneyed.

Nier: Automata review (2)

The early hours also dip heavily into Nier's well of motifs, which inherently feel less fresh a second time around. We've got another abandoned factory, another field grazed by boars, another desert wasteland, and a multitude of fun camera tricks that transform this open-world third-person adventure into a series of arcade mini-games. It's all well and good - and will certainly seem inventive for those who never played Nier - but these opening hours suggest a dispiriting return to Nier: it's bigger and smoother, but lacking the soul.

Stick with it, though, as what may initially seem like a return to the well gradually expands into something bold, ambitious, and surprising - even by the standards of its bonkers predecessor.

For the uninitiated, Nier and this sequel's biggest charms are predicated on a sense of surprise. The aesthetic style, mechanics, structure, and even UI are carefully crafted to ensure that the player is always engaging in something new. Where too many open world games start off strong but quickly peter out once the player has a handle on its core loop, Nier: Automata negates the whole idea of a loop entirely, ensuring that players don't become too complacent with its systems.

Even the most basic missions mix things up at an alarming rate. Ploughing through a factory overrun by renegade robots, you're sometimes hacking and slashing your way through a third-person action game, then you're engaged in a 2D side-on platformer, and suddenly you're thrust into a minimalist arcade twin-stick shooter for a dozen seconds. Even after 40 hours Nier: Automata is constantly throwing in quirky new surprises and secrets.

And that's just the mechanics! The real showstopper with Nier: Automata is its setting. An extraordinary ghost world where androids enact the will of humans while machines seemingly try to emulate them is filled to the brim with stories both big and small. There's the inhabitants of an abandoned amusem*nt park who endlessly patrol its main avenue, adorned with enigmatic names like "Machine with a Dream"; a twisted cult of wayward robots panicking over a crisis of faith; and my favourite, the sand-swallowed derelict apartment dwellings now occupied by droids pantomiming cunniling*s, endlessly repeating "Love. Love. Love."

Nier: Automata review (3)

The art direction is every bit as inspired as these scenarios suggest, with truly wondrous vistas conveying a sense of ruined beauty. Factories are oppressive monuments to the industrial era, all rusted copper pipes and hazy grey skies. The machines offer an impressive range of form that all center around the same moonlike spherical noggins. The bosses too are memorable, offering a range of foes that vary from colossal metal monstrosities to androgynous human dopplegangers with a nihilistic sense of what makes one human.

Like the first Nier, the graphics can be a little lacking on a technical level with some muddy textures and craggy landscapes, but the sheer variety and scope of Nier: Automata's adventure more than makes up for its less stellar production values. Plus whatever detail is lacking in the scenery is more than made up for by composer Keiichi Okabe's marvelous soundtrack.

Taro and company wisely understand that the key to crafting such evocative worlds isn't in fleshing out the details, but rather in what it doesn't explain. Aside from a few clumsy pieces of dialogue here and there, Nier: Automata shapes its world through cryptic clues that only hint at cohesion. Taro is more interested in creating a sense of awe and intrigue rather than demystifying this convoluted tale of a world gone mad. This deliberate lack of exposition can make the plot hard to follow by the end, but this matters surprisingly little. You don't need to understand the specifics of how Nier: Automata's eclectic world hangs together to feel the crushing weight of its deranged AI denizens spiralling out of control.

When it comes to surprises, Nier: Automata simply never lets up. Taro has already stated in interviews that upon rolling credits in Nier: Automata, you've "not even seen half of the story." He's not wrong. Not since Castlevania: Symphony of the Night has a game so audaciously hidden away nearly half of its content behind a false ending. I'll try to stay spoiler-free here, suffice to say that Nier: Automata's New Game Plus offers a lot more changes than you'd expect, and - wink, wink - there's even more new content beyond that! A lot more. And it lays claim to some of the best moments in the entire series. In fact, I'd argue that the game only gets weirder and more interesting after the credits roll, though it's certainly no slouch before that.

Nier: Automata review (4)

While Nier: Automata is filled to the brim with variety, it does come at a cost. The combat mechanics are definitely an improvement from its predecessor, but not up to Platinum's usual standards. Part of this is due to ambition - as noted above, Nier: Automata is a whole lot of genres rather than the more focused action affairs the Revengence studio typically pumps out - but the end result is feels looser and lacking in the precision we're used to from the studio behind Bayonetta.

Nier: Automata isn't the most elegant title on the market, but it's the most captivating game I've played in ages. You don't need to look far to find its glaring flaws, but those searching for an endlessly imaginative dreamlike journey will find Nier: Automata too mesmerising to look away from. There's nothing else quite like it - and that includes the original Nier.

Nier: Automata review (2024)


Is Nier Automata as good as people say? ›

— Nier:Automata hits a home run across almost all of them. It is a true accomplishment to nail one of the above categories, but Nier:Automata does a great job across the board, and succeeds making each aforementioned factor memorable with the level of polish and care dedicated to them.

How many times do you have to play Nier automata to get all endings? ›

Nier: Automata has a total of 26 endings that require at least three playthroughs to unlock.

How long does Nier automata take to 100%? ›

If you're a gamer that strives to see all aspects of the game, you are likely to spend around 61½ Hours to obtain 100% completion.

Why do people love Nier so much? ›

It's a heavy and violent game, but it's also heart-rendingly gentle and contemplative. People love Nier because there is nothing else like Nier. It's a kaleidoscope of always-shifting ideas set in a world that is tortured, satirical, wistful, and tender.

Is NieR: Automata a heavy game? ›

NieR:Automata is taxing on GPU, but a GTX 1060 3 GB should just do the job. "High" graphics preset adds 8x MSAA, though, so remember to disable MSAA at all - game's ambient occlusion setting also adds SMAA which works fine, too, and is less demanding.

Who is the true villain in NieR: Automata? ›

The Machines, also known as Machine Lifeforms, are a fictional race of sentient robots and the main antagonists of the 2017 role-playing video game Nier: Automata and its accompanying anime, Nier: Automata Ver1. 1a.

How many times should you play NieR:Automata? ›

While NieR: Automata is a game that takes a couple of playthroughs to beat the main story, is not the longest game out there. NieR: Automata is not known to be a very short game, as players must beat the main story at least three times to beat the entire game.

What does YoRHa stand for? ›

The wiki says the following: The kanji used to write "YoRHa" in Japanese (寄葉) means "passing leaf." According to Yoko Taro, the unusual capitalization in "YoRHa" is meaningful, unlike the capitalization of NieR which was done simply to make the logo look more interesting.

Do you play as 2B again? ›

and could i keep play for 2b after story end ? After you complete the 3rd route for the first time, you'll unlock chapter select, with which you'll be able to to any chapter with any chracter, so yes.

Should I play NieR, Replicant or Automata first? ›

You dont need to know Replicant's story to understand Automata, but Automata contains plenty of spoilers for Replicant. So if you want to play both its better to start with Replicant.

What is the max level in NieR? ›

WHY WOULD YOU EVER NEED THAT MUCH HP? It doesn't; Nier's maxes out at a little over 640,000 at Level 99.

Is the DLC for NieR: Automata worth it? ›

If you really like the fighting then sure, it can be fun. Otherwise you can easily skip it. All achievements ingame can be done without the DLC if that is a issue. The content is a little weak for the full price, but if you want good challenges throughout the game and post game it's a good dlc.

Is NieR: Automata inappropriate? ›

Parents need to know that Nier: Automata is an action role-playing game with significant violence. Combat -- involving swords and guns -- is generally between androids and robots, but both sides appear sentient. Some fights involve very human-like characters, as well as animals that bleed.

Was Emil in love with Nier? ›

In both Gestalt and RepliCant, Emil is implied to have a crush on main protagonist Nier. This was outright confirmed by game director Yoko Taro in a 2011 interview and in the book Grimoire Nier, saying that Emil was gay and did have feelings for Nier. NieR RepliCant ver. 1.22474487139...

What is the saddest moment in Nier? ›

1 Endings C & D — Kainé's Fate

Both endings are bittersweet in that in ending C, Nier kisses Kainé before killing her, spending the rest of his and Yonah's remaining life together. In ending D, Nier gives up his entire existence, making it so no one remembers him.

What is so good about NieR: Automata? ›

Varied Gameplay

Automata's combat is simple: Vanquish the robot horde with well-placed, devastating jabs or full-auto laser beams. But what makes the game so captivating is its wacky mix of genres. Automata is part RPG, part side-scroller, part hack 'n' slash, part bullet-hell – the list goes on and on.

Is NieR: Automata one of the best games ever made? ›

Put simply, NieR: Automata is the greatest game ever made. It's not just that it is the deepest and most narratively potent game ever developed - and it is a truly deep narrative experience - but more than that, Yoko Taro has finally found perhaps the developer on the planet capable of doing his visionary work justice.

What the heck is NieR: Automata? ›

Nier: Automata is an action role-playing game (ARPG) in which players explore an open world. In addition to standard navigation on foot, the game features scenarios with flying mech battles, as well as a special item that can summon wild animals to ride.

Is it okay to play NieR: Automata without playing NieR? ›

However, the stories of both games are incredibly self-contained, thanks in no small part to the thousands of years separating each one. Thus, it's not necessary for newcomers to play the first Nier in order to appreciate what Automata has to offer.

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