Oh boy. This fucking game. You'd think that Nier + Platinum Games would be an instant recipe for success, right? Anyone would think that. Well, you'd be wrong. Nier Automata is a disaster and I'ma tell you why.
Right from the very beginning it's immediately apparent that this game is made by retards. The intro stage is so badly designed it actually beggars belief. It's so incredibly stupid I can't even. First and foremost they made this game have freely adjustable difficulty, so any difficulty it might have is thus rendered illegitimate. I thought Platinum would have better sense than this, but apparently not. Next, the way the hardest difficulty was (not) designed and integrated is downright horrendous. You die in a single hit if anything so much as grazes you. Normally this would be fine and cool, if the game has been specifically designed to be this way. However, this is obviously not the case here. The intro stage in this game is beyond awful. For some reason, the imbecile who designed this game decided it would be acceptable to not let you save at all, or have any checkpoints throughout the 40+ minutes or however long this damn intro is. Not only that, but every time you die (which is any time you get touched by anything) you have to sit through a long ass loading screen and it boots you ALL the way back to the title screen, you have to start up your file again, and sit through the unskippable beginning cutscenes and dialogue. EVERY single time ANYTHING grazes you you have to sit through all that bullshit. Like who the FUCK could even for a SECOND assume that this is acceptable. It doesn't make any fucking sense to not be allowed to save at all and have to go back to the title screen and sit through so much bullshit every time you get touched by a random bullet. The game doesn't teach you how to play so you have to flail around and figure whatever you can out in the few seconds you have before something touches you and you get booted back to the title screen. But even THAT is incredibly annoying to do because the beginning of the game is a top-down shooter that has nothing to do with the actual gameplay! So before you can even get to trying to figure out how to play you have to get through some 10 minute shooting minigame horse shit where you can't get touched by anything. Every SINGLE time.
There's also a lot of situations in which you randomly instant die to bullshit. Bullshit from offscreen that you couldn't see. A bullet that happened to be on top of you as were transitioning phases. Bullshit enemies surprise dropping out of nowhere. An enemy conveniently placed right on the edge of the screen (this game sometimes has the Resident Evil style static camera angles where the camera doesn't change until you go off the edge) who happens to be swinging the very split SECOND you walk towards the edge and the camera changes. The bridge that you lower killing you because you were too close when it came down and it touched you. An enemy you can't see killing you from behind a wall because you were walking too close to the wall and his attack clipped through it. Etc etc etc. Whoop, back to sitting through the credits and loading screen and beginning cutscene and everything. On top of not knowing how to play there's so much shit that's just a surprise that instantly kills you. Like "Ok good, managed to get through the shooting minigame this time! Oh, that new enemies has this one attack that does this. Welp, back to the title screen". "Hmm, what's the boss doing? Oh, it swept its arm and killed me. Back to the title screen" "What's it doing this time? Oh welp, back to the title screen".
And it's like... okay, the whole dying in one touch thing MIGHT have worked in a proper action game that is balanced for that. But this game isn't. It's an RPG. So you find all these items and chests throughout that are supposed to heal you or lower damage or stagger and stuff like that, but it's all useless because you die in one hit. Similarly, leveling up increases your HP and defense, but it's useless. And just for kicks, the ability to lock on to enemies is disabled. So it literally erases its own gameplay mechanics? Okay. Not to mention that it's counterproductive to even waste time exploring and picking up all the chests and items throughout the level because you can't save, so it's all going to get lost when you inevitably get touched and die half an hour later. Better to just ignore all the items and try to rush through as fast as possible because this game is bullshit. Who the fuck designed this shit? You have to get through SO MUCH bullshit just to be able to see one thing that kills you and try to remember how to avoid it the next time you get there, if nothing kills you before that. And it's SO LONG. The intro has a whopping 4 boss battles that you have to get through on top of a bunch of other battles for a staggering 40+ minutes of having to avoid getting touched the entire time and never being able to save. It takes upwards of 10 hours just to get through the intro in this game playing on the hardest difficulty. And it's not that any particular thing throughout is very hard, it's just the sheer amount of it coupled with the cruel and unusual punishment of having to waste time sitting through so much bullshit each time. You practically need to have a book on hand to read during all the time this game forces you to waste just to retry the level.
The first Nier had plenty of enemies that killed you in a single hit too, but at least it had the sense to save and to not waste your time with long ass loading screens and kicking you all the way back to title screen and making you start up your file again and sit through unskippable scenes and dialogue bullshit. This thing reeks of a dev who simply wrote a single line of code that makes every touch kill and called it a day. Didn't even bother playing their own shit. There isn't a designer on earth who could legitimately play this and go "Yeah, this is acceptable".
And here's the thing. I would be okay with all this (obviously it still would be bad design, but) if the difficulty was actually legitimate and it was something you're supposed to do. But it's clearly not something you're supposed to do. The game is clearly meant to be played on normal and they just threw this in to troll with literally no balance or gameplay consideration. This is literally the worst possible realization of the problem with adjustable difficulty that I have been warning about for YEARS but that no one else cares about or listens to me. This is what pisses me off the most about adjustable difficulty. It gives devs free rein to not put any work or consideration into the balance or playability of the game because "Well whatever, they can just adjust the difficulty". How could ANYONE have tested this and concluded "Yeah, it's totally cool to sit through this long ass loading screen, get sent back to the title screen, have all this unskippable dialogue and scenes where you need to put down the controller and read a book while it goes through them". This just screams of a designer who never even played his own bullshit. "Durr hurr, who cares, we don't need to try it out, they can just adjust the difficulty whenever, yolo". It's disgusting. If it was something legitimate and that the game was ACTUALLY like that, DESIGNED to be that way, then I would be okay with it. But when it clearly isn't and you can just switch the difficulty at any time and it makes no difference, what's the point.
If the game forced you to play in this way and not get touched at all in order to get through the intro, then it would be fine because at least then it would feel like you're actually working towards something concrete. That the time and effort you're putting in actually matters. Hell, I would respect a game that had the balls to force a player to put that kind of effort in. But Automata has no balls. Not in the slightest. Let's compare it to Bayonetta, one of Platinum's other games, to illustrate exactly what is so wrong with this game's design:
Even though getting pure platinums in Bayonetta has the exact same requirement of not getting hit at all, in that game it works because it's actually designed in a sensible way. 1) Bayonetta doesn't force you to sit through unskippable bullshit, 2) it doesn't make you repeat 40 minutes of content with no save, 3) it's not completely illegitimate adjustable difficulty. The fact that Nier Automata has all those things is like the unholy trinity of bad game design. Some people might say that getting pure platinums in Bayonetta is a self-imposed challenge, but this is wrong. It isn't. Rather, playing on the hardest difficulty in Automata is the self-imposed challenge because you can adjust the difficulty to easy and back to very hard and back and forth at any time with zero penalties. Can you do that with pure platinums? No. You can't get a bronze in the middle of your pure platinum run and get away with it. You can't switch difficulties in the middle of your run and get one of the platinums on easy mode and then switch back. Finally, pure platinum has in-game reward and acknowledgment that you have done it. It tracks every single pure platinum that you got, if you missed one it SHOWS you in the game that you didn't do it, and once you do it it shows you that the task is accomplished in the form of the pure platinum trophies and the results screen. So it isn't self-imposed. Its completion or lack thereof is judged within the rules of the game. Automata does none of this. It doesn't track jack shit and provides zero acknowledgement of whether you accomplished the task or whether you cheated at any point by adjusting the difficulty. It's the very embodiment of a self imposed challenge. Like yeah, I could save time on doing the intro by changing the difficulty over to normal so that I can practice against the boss and once I learn all his shit, slide it back to very hard and do it. That would be easy. But what the fuck would be the point of doing that? There isn't one. What's keeping me from just sliding it over to normal and then back to very hard again any other time? Or simply doing certain parts on normal and other parts on very hard? Nothing. It's pointless. That's really the biggest issue. That's it's adjustable and therefore illegitimate. It doesn't make sense to play it. At all. Very hard may as well not even be there. You could literally play on easy and simply reload whenever you take a hit and it would be EXACTLY the same as far as the game is concerned. It's trash. I don't know who designed this piece of shit game but he needs to be dragged into the street and shot. I don't know how he even manages to breathe with how unbelievably stupidly designed this is. I don't know what the fuck they were thinking. Well, I do know. They weren't. Who needs to think or design anything properly when you have adjustable difficulty, after all? It's abhorrent. It's inexcusable how idiotic, callous, and unthinking the designer is. The laziness and lack of balance, testing, work, or thought. The complete lack of reward or point to doing any of it (not even a shitty god damn Witcher 3 style trophy penalty to give you at least some reason not to adjust the difficulty). The total lack of proper design philosophy. The complete and utter lack of respect for the player. Nier Automata disgusts me on a fundamental level.
As if all this wasn't already bad enough, it turns out that this game has now gone Open World. Great. Juuuust fuckin' great. I thought I was finally out of this hell after FFXV! I thought I was safe! But no. You can't escape! Ugh. So much of this game is just fucking running and running forever getting to objective markers to kill some enemy or get some item, and the distances are so long that it takes forever to get anywhere despite the fact that your character runs really fast. On top of that, fast travel doesn't get unlocked until like halfway through the game which makes everything EXTRA annoying. I made the mistake of doing all the quests as they became available, but lemme tell you, if you plan to play this shitty game, just don't bother with any of them until fast travel gets unlocked. Save yourself all the pointless running from one end of the world to another. This game even has extra layers of trolling with its quests, like where you get a quest from a guy, and he tells you to go talk to 3 other dudes on different parts of the world, so you spend ages running over to where they are. THEN you have to run ALL the way back to the quest giver. Only for the quest to tell you that you now have to run to the 3 dudes AGAIN to report to them that you reported to the original quest giver about reporting to them! FUCK you.
Granted, the size of the world isn't on the level of some of the other open world games, which I guess is something, but it's still so vast and open that trying to explore is a fool's errand. Original Nier only had the plains and the desert as "open" areas, but even those were small enough that they weren't a pain in the ass. But THIS shit? Jesus christ. Rather shoot myself right now than go through this. Just nope. Not going through this fucking shit anymore. Especially after I already went through the intro and saw how badly designed this game is. I'm done. I refuse. Denied. Except you can't just say fuck it to exploring either because 0.1% of the time instead of an item being a junk randomized respawnable material or consumable it will end up being something actually important like a weapon or a pod! So you're just fucked either way. Like how FFXV fucks you by hiding the rainbow frogs and the treasure map scraps in between all the useless junk, or how Witcher 3 fucks you by hiding a unique recipe in a random barrel. Just fucking kill me now and spare me the suffering.
Furthermore, once you get past the intro and you're on the open world you can save pretty much anywhere, the game has checkpoints, and it doesn't kick you all the way back to the title screen anymore when you die, which proves what I said earlier that the intro was never consciously designed to be that way. It was simply an anomaly that got through because of developer laziness and a poorly thought out mode that was never tested or balanced in any way. So it's only the intro that's complete ass bullshit like that. And that means that the hardest difficulty is all smooth sailing (comparatively) once you're past the intro. Almost nothing in the rest of the game is even 10% as bullshitty as that intro, so once you get past it you've more or less got nothing left that'll be much of a challenge to you.
Once you're on the open world the game also changes to the Souls style death system where your body and items remain in the place where you died, along with a message you can write that other players can see (if you're online). You have to run back to where you died to retrieve your body and your items, and if you get killed again before you reach your body you lose your stuff. But since the game uses a manual save system, it's better to just reload your last save rather than going to pick up your body. I guess the only reason you'd have to pick it up would be if you hadn't saved in a LONG time and you had gotten a bunch of exp and items, but since you can save at almost any point there's no reason for that to happen. Frankly, it seems rather superfluous to have this sort of death system when it can just be bypassed with the manual save system. It's like they went "Durr hurr Souls is popular and it has this body retrieval system, guess people must like that! Let's copy it!" These clueless fucking retards never even stopped to analyze or consider WHAT it is that makes Souls games good and just copied a completely superfluous mechanic that has nothing to do with why the games are good. Anyway, the only time where it's actually better to recover your body is if you die in a boss fight, since it automatically restarts you at the beginning of the fight, so it's better to just pick up your body right there than load and have to run to the boss again. In fact, in stark contrast to the intro, afterwards they go a little TOO overboard with the generous checkpoints, because sometimes you'll even get checkpoints in the middle of boss fights. So you don't even need to go the entirety of a boss fight without getting hit. I mean come on bruh. I'm all for a checkpoint at the beginning of a boss fight, but in the middle of them too? That's a bit much. Also, recovering your body causes your old body to reanimate as a temporary ally for a couple minutes, so you have some extra firepower during the fight too.
Now, as shitty as this game is, it does have at least two things that are very good: firstly, the music is REALLY good. It's the exact same style as Nier and in fact many of the songs are evocative of classic Nier songs (as well as some that are straight up reused for nostalgia's sake). Secondly, the controls are very tight and responsive and your character feels very good in their movement. The combat system is similar to the first Nier but better, mostly in terms of the movement and the dodge. The dodge has quite a bit of invincibility frames and covers quite a bit of distance if you hold it down, and can be done many times in a row to continue avoiding multiple attacks. Your attacks tend to have a lot of windup and recovery animations and they feel very slow and plodding, but every single part of them is always dodge cancelable, so you're never stuck with no way out. You always have a way of avoiding damage.
That being said, since you die in one touch in Very Hard, it incentivizes really niggardly play. There's no reason to take the risk of getting close to an enemy and taking a stray hit and dying, when the ranged attacks are strong enough to deal with everything, coupled with the shockwave chips which make your melee attacks send ranged shockwaves. It's better to just sit back and shoot enemies with the pod's bullets and laser/bombs while spamming ranged heavy melee shock waves at the same time. Like why even play any other way? It's not like an action game where you have the time limit and combo points system to encourage you to get in there so you can get a good score. Here it doesn't matter. You just gotta not take a hit and kill the enemies. Why bother playing any other way? Not fast enough? Pop a double ranged damage pill. And it'll still probably be faster than taking a risk, dying, and having to reload anyways. Not as fun? Hyeah, glad you noticed that this game was never properly designed to be played on this mode. Nier did it better because only some enemies killed you in one hit, so it had a better balance of high risk enemies that you have to play really safe and conservative against, and enemies that didn't instantly kill you if they got a touch in on you, so you had incentive to fight in a more ballsy way. The exception in Automata is when you're forced to fight in very enclosed spaces and with bosses; since bosses have so much health, so many long range arena wide attacks, and they tend to have checkpoints so you don't lose any progress from dying, it's better to fight all out against them.
The chip system is the other thing this game has that's pretty fun. Chips take the place of words from the previous Nier. You find chips throughout the game that give you all sorts of different perks and boosts to your parameters, and you have a set amount that you can equip on yourself at one time. On top of finding higher tier versions of chips you can also fuse two of the same type and level of a chip to create the next tier version of it, so even finding repeats of the same chip is good. I like how even chips of the same type and tier can vary by how much space they take up. You can use them for all sorts of things, like increasing your damage, your movement speed, the length of your dodge, shooting shockwaves, etc. The taunt chips are easily the most OP ones. It raises both your and the enemy's attack by up to 500%, but since you die in one hit anyway, it's literally all benefit and no downside. Couple that with popping the pills that double your attack damage and something like the insane pod bombs and you can easily kill even most bosses in about 5 seconds before they can even do anything. Skill not required. Yeah, it's kinda ridiculous how overpowered you can get, but I mean, whatever, that's expected because the game is an RPG, not an action game.
In terms of graphics the game isn't anything that special aside from the fact that 2B is an extremely attractive, cool, and stylish main character. I mean let's be real, she's probably like 80% of the reason why this game is popular with most people. Let's not kid ourselves. You think all these girls we see all over the internet cosplaying her were Nier fans? Come on bruh. Everyone knows girls don't play videogames. But yeah, she's great and a significantly more appealing character than Nier. I'll admit this. This game also has the same really bad texture pop-ins that the original Nier had, which I guess they do to keep performance running smooth, except that this game still has its share of sub 15 fps framerate drops and hiccups anyway even on PS4 pro. But whatever, it's not frequent enough to be awful.
Story is kind of whatever. It didn't feel as interesting to me as the first Nier. As usual, you gotta play through the game multiple times to get the full story. The game itself is really short, with the main questline probably only taking around 10 hours. Most of the actual playtime is spent running around doing the sidequests. All quests and objectives are marked on the map like in FFXV, so all you have to do is run to the quest markers, grab the quests, then run to the quest objective markers and repeat. I'm not complaining about that, because I sure as hell wouldn't want to comb this big ass open world for quests. On the bright side, the quests all still have that unique Nier touch of humor and darkness, with almost all of them tending to take an unexpected (unless you're genre savvy about the series, in which case it's ALWAYS expected) depressing or fucked up twist. So it's generally at least worth doing them for that alone, along with the dialogue. Thankfully, this time around you don't need to get all the weapons to get the final ending, because FUCK combing this entire gay ass open world for all these bitches. Plus, some of the weapons and other unique things are hidden in REALLY fucked up places. It's not like Nier. There are even items that don't show up visually until you use a scanner ability to make them appear, but you have to be relatively close to get a reading, and you have to manually be using the scanner. I found some of the weapons in the middle of nowhere by total accident by running around autistically with the scanner. So that's really fucked up. There's also a fucked up quest where you have to comb the entirety of the world looking for all of the old world documents, but you betta fuck OUTTA here if you think I'm about to do all that shit. The game is probably really long if you're gonna bother doing all that crap. Otherwise it's really short, even doing 90%+ of the sidequests and counting the fact that it takes more than 10 hours to get past the shitty intro stage.
The fishing is less robust and sadly nowhere as good as in the previous game. There's no minigame to it, you just throw the bob and then press X once it sinks and you automatically catch the fish. It's not even possible to fail to catch the fish, there aren't skill levels related to fishing, or baits you can use, or anything interesting. Bleh. Pretty boring all around compared to before. I mean come on! I was hoping for something epic! A mortal struggle between man and fish!
Next, you might wanna sit down for the shit I'm about to tell you: after you get the third ending you unlock the ability to buy all of the game's PSN trophies using in-game currency. That's right, no need at all to complete the actual requirements for any of them. You can just buy 'em all and get the platinum trophy easy peasy. I've never seen such a thing in my life. It's a travesty. As if adjustable difficulty wasn't enough, this game seems to be doing everything in its power to delegitimize itself. All I can say is... I am disgusted. So disgusted that I only bought one of the trophies just to see if this was real (it is) and then didn't buy any more even though there was no more use for all the money I had anyway. I don't even wanna have this shitty game's trophies.
Finally, jesus fucking christ, the last minigame you have to clear for the final ending is the most fucked up bullet hell I've ever seen in my life. That shit is SO fucking fucked you don't even know. It's probably almost impossible to beat it for real. Granted, I only tried maybe 50 times before I gave up and decided this game isn't worth it, but it sure looked pretty hopeless. The game gives you the option of giving up and having it pretty much beat itself to get the final ending. Which I suppose is a fitting end in a game that deliberately makes everything pointless with adjustable difficulty and bought trophies. It almost feels like a developer that hates the player. I said before how I felt like the developer had a bad philosophy when it comes to game design, and after playing through the whole game this feels like an even more apt observation to me. It feels as if the developer is trying to communicate a sort of nihilistic design philosophy to the player, because a lot of the things it says throughout the game and during that last part while it's trying to get you to give up seem to have a very high degree of self-awareness. The things it says are very meta: "It's so hard, you'll wonder if anyone even bothered to bug-test this!" "Aren't you ready to give up?" "Don't you think games are silly little things?" "Do you admit there is no meaning to this world?" "Shitty world, shitty game" "Whether or not you enjoy something simply depends on your own heart." "Is it all pointless?" "This game is crap anyway"... it feels like philosophical commentary on the player's experience with the game itself. Well, one thing's for sure, the game sure succeeded in making me think that it's not worth my time or effort. All in all, I don't think Nier Automata is a good game, but it's certainly, uh... unique, in its brazen shittiness, self-awareness, bad design, and groundbreaking acts to delegitimize itself.
Final Verdict: D
Final Playtime: 62 hours