Sometimes sequels come out of nowhere. For instance, I don’t think anyone expected Knack to come back, yet that seems to be happening. The same holds true for Nier, the weird spin-off of Drakengard. While the sequel is as much a reboot or re-imagining as a continuation, it takes the series in an interesting direction. With Platinum Games turning it into a fast paced hack and slash game, fans quickly grew excited thinking it might be the next Bayonetta or Vanquish. With a dark story, fast paced combat and plenty of flash, is NieR: Automata a must or is it better left forgotten like Anarchy Reigns.
Nier: Automata is a dark story set in a desolate future. Humanity has been pushed back and alien invaders threaten to destroy everything we’ve worked for. In an effort to stop them, emotionless combat androids were created to join the fight and push back the invaders.
Despite the bland premise, the story goes in some interesting places. As you learn more about the world around you, certain mysteries present themselves, with some unexpected answers. The branching paths also explain more about the enemy, what lead to this outcome and other such things. Just don’t expect a happy outcome, as NieR: Automata is quite grim.
In addition to the exciting story, the combat system has all the flash you would expect from a Platinum Games title. Combos include spinning swords, uppercuts and fancy side steps, with a little robot that can also shoot enemies. The only downside is that it isn’t the deepest system out there.
Contrary to Bayonetta or Metal Gear Rising, NieR: Automata isn’t quite as flashy. Dodging at the right time does a nice mutli-directional teleportation looking move, but attacks simply destroy enemies. The closest it comes to this are finishing attacks, which are things like kicking an exploding enemy or a crazy attack. They’re interesting to watch, but nowhere near the same level of previous efforts.
The combat also doesn’t feel as rewarding as other titles. Rising had a nice parry system that made battles, especially with bosses, feel all the more satisfying, where as the dodging system doesn’t feel as punishing, nor as useful. It’s the type of tool that is better for avoiding damage than a high risk, high reward system that Rising and Bayonetta employ. It also doesn’t help that you can defeat a lot of the weaker enemies by just shooting them to death.
From there, enemy attacks also don’t feel as well thought out. Outside of larger enemies with more telegraphed moves, a lot of the smaller enemies’ rush with multiple quick hits you can easily dodge or rain bullets on you. All this just makes for an annoying combat system and one that discourages the use of melee attacks, at least in certain situations.
Thankfully, there are high points too. The ruins of the world around you can be interesting to explore. There tends to be hidden treasure, optional missions and more you can do. The average mission is the standard kill or collect things, but doing so will open more doors for you. You can also get multiple weapons that change how you play or give you distinct advantages, in addition to changing your character mods.
This can be quite interesting, as you can disable things like the experience bar in favor of more attack or defense. Better skills use more parts, but the option is nice. Not to mention these things can impact other players game too.
Similar to the Souls series, playing online will randomly display fallen characters from other games. You can pray for these fallen allies, giving the fallen player a boost and then choose to salvage or restore their body. The first option will give you three random perks they had equipped for a short time, where as restoring their body will give you another ally for a brief period. This can be helpful in the right situation, but often times doesn’t last long enough to matter.
Overall, NieR: Automata is good, but it could be much better. The story, while slow and confusing at the beginning, eventually becomes quite intriguing. The combat, while fast and fun, isn’t as good as other ventures and lacks the same charm of other games. With this being said, it’s still better than a lot of similar hack and slash games. As for the world, it’s thrilling to explore, with plenty to see and do. So if you’re looking for a game with a great story, an interesting world to explore and a good combat system, then NieR: Automata is a must. However, if you want another Bayonetta, then you’ll probably be disappointed.
[Editor’s Note: NieR: Automata was reviewed on PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]NieR: Automata Review,