NieR: Automata rules: Stray observations from a guy who knows 15 hours isn’t enough to really ‘get’ this game

To 9S or not to 9S, that is the question

NieR: Automata should’ve gotten far more end-of-year recognition than it did. But, it released in the same 12-month window as Zelda and Mario masterpieces, and that’s that. All-time classics sometimes get overshadowed and bumped aside by other all-time classics. It’s a video game eat video game world out there.

I delayed playing NieR: Automata until its Xbox One release earlier this week. To all my friends who were dumb like me and couldn’t find time for it last year, I have this to say: Find time right now to play NieR: Automata. It fucking rules.

My three nights spent playing it have put me in something of an awkward position. I’m a bit more than 15 hours in, and that’s a lot considering I’m a busy bloggerman who has obligations like hanging out with cats and complaining about how hot it is. Averaging five hours a night means I certainly think this game is an unconditional banger.

But, while no one has spoiled NieR: Automata for me, everyone has told me I certainly don’t “get” it yet. I won’t get it for a while. I need to beat the game like three times to get it. (Eating a fatal mackerel apparently doesn’t count as “beating” NieR: Automata, even though the credits rolled.) I wanna talk about NieR: Automata now, though. The best games are the ones you think about when you’re not playing them, and the ones you want to talk about whenever you get the chance. NieR: Automata qualifies on both counts.

So, how do I talk about it now when I know I lack the expertise to discuss what the game does really well? [Conclude article here, achieve Ending R.] Or, we could run through some bullet points from my educated-but-not-as-educated-as-I-could-be viewpoint.

  • How incredible is it that NieR: Automata turns the display into something that you need to account for when picking the skills you want to equip? Like, you could turn off the health meter, mini-map, and experience gauge in favor of a small buff to ranged attacks or whatever. So many games slap a HUD on the screen because they’re games and that’s what games do. NieR: Automata makes you justify it.
  • Piggybacking off that last one, it’s even more incredible that you have to save space for protagonist 2B’s operating system chip. Remove that and she dies and the game kicks you back to the start menu. It’s just a smart little thing that is completely unnecessary but makes sense in the context of the in-game world.
  • Double jump dash might be the best-feeling video game movement mechanic in existence. It’s better than walljumping. It’s better than gliding through the air like Batman. ReCore had a supremely satisfying double jump dash (and you could even dash off ledges to get extra distance which still reset the dash you’d have in mid-air). It made ReCore like 15 percent better than it really was. NieR: Automata does this really well too. More double jump dashes in games, please. 

  • While my methods are far from super scientific, NieR: Automata runs really well on Xbox One X. I had heard complaints about frame drops on the base PS4 last year. No complaints from me about the Xbox port, at least on the X.
  • The Xbox app keeps track of how many times you’ve looked up 2B’s skirt. I, a not-horny bloggerman, only have one recorded attempt and it was surely accidental. One of my friends though — FOUR! Pretty tough to play it off as a camera mishap when you’ve done it four times. I’m fairly certain horny-and-gamin’ is one of the seven deadly sins. (Also, I’ll definitely do it 10 times to get the achievement. I’ve done FAR worse for Gamerscore.)
  • NieR: Automata does a fantastic job having systems that feel impenetrable until you eventually understand them all. Games with simple systems are whatever — your mechanical mastery is what makes them feel special. And games with excessively tough systems, like EVE Online, turn off the vast majority of players while retaining a dedicated few. NieR: Automata finds a sweet spot where it feels inaccessible at first until everything finally makes sense. Then you’re min/maxing loadouts like a pro. That’s an important part of the power fantasy of RPGs.

  • I’m really into side quests. I know there are multiple routes through NieR: Automata, but I also know that side quests stay completed across all playthroughs. I’m at like 38 percent quest completion before the Missile Supply Mission in Route A. It feels impressive even though it probably isn’t.
  • NieR: Automata strikes a really nice balance between open 3D world stuff and stylishly weird 2.5D fixed camera stuff. Every time I forget those perspectives exist, a new section, like the forest castle, will come along and freshen everything up.
  • Why the heck do fish sell for so much? What am I missing here? There better not be end-game over-powered fish armor and then the store merchant is like “Ah, sorry mate! There are only three carp in the world. I’m not gonna sell them back to you — you really shouldn’t have let them go for 1,000G!” Gonna snarl at the screen if that happens.
  • How good is the amusement park?! More amusement parks in games, please.
  • NieR: Automata prompted me to tweet “I just fought a white-haired dickless man-baby in the desert???” If that doesn’t pique your interest and get you to play NieR: Automata, then I don’t think there are any more bullet points to help my case. You’re a lost cause, man.
About The Author
Brett Makedonski
While you laughing, we're passing, passing away. So y'all go rest y'all souls, 'Cause I know I'ma meet you up at the crossroads. Y'all know y'all forever got love from them Bone Thugs baby...
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