Nier: Automata [PlayStation 4] – Review

You know that feeling when you’ve just finished a movie or book and feel like you had some grasp of what happened, but know another round would benefit you’re comprehension immensely? Well, Nier: Automata sure as hell produced that feeling in me!

I’d heard this game lauded for its story and storytelling ever since it debuted back in 2017. On top of that, it’s an action game developed by PlatinumGames, so I knew it was likely going to be among the cream of the crop. I couldn’t argue against the latter, but for whatever reason the game’s story just never clicked with me. Perhaps, a replay or two would clarify things for me, or in this game’s case, maybe a philosophy class?

I’m a pretty direct observer, and I think what brought this game rave reviews was the philosophical subtext behind, well, just about everything going on in the game. I wouldn’t say I’m dumb, but I’m definitely not sharp enough for this game, which isn’t to say it’s too smart for its own good, either. It just has layers, and the more inquisitiveness the player brings to the table, the more they’ll get out of the story. A couple minutes of reflection after each session probably would’ve helped me out in this regard.

Set in a post-apocalyptic version of Earth, it was a vision of our planet being reclaimed by nature… and robots.

Similarly, the action gameplay was button-mashing with depth. It was easy enough to wail on the light and heavy attacks and look cool as hell doing it, but the combat had the kind of depth that meant I was still peeling away layers of complexity more than thirty hours in. Displaying their prowess, Platinum created something more than a straightforward action game. Combos, unique weapons, different pairings – there was a lot to dig into. These, and other light RPG mechanics, plus numerous sidequests gave me plenty to sink my teeth into while exploring the fairly expansive open world.

During missions the viewpoint shifted often, causing the character action gameplay to resemble more of a classic action side-scrolling game, or a top-down hack and slash. There wasn’t a functional gameplay change when this happened, but it was so damn stylish. Separately, there were killer shoot ‘em up sequences – again, with seamless transitions between horizontal scrolling, vertical scrolling, and top-down viewpoints – that made me wish for a stand-alone spin-off.

Combat often seemed like a shoot ’em up, and hey, there WERE shoot ’em up sections, too!

With layers of complexity, Nier: Automata’s combat was a prime example of what a modern character action game can be. Fast-paced, exciting, with loads of customization and progression mechanics, it’s one of the best, no doubt. Speaking of layers, the story had them in spades. I feel like there’s more for me to grasp than I got out of my initial playthrough, so if I do wind up returning to the game in the future, I’m sure it’ll offer something new for me. Even if you’re a bit of a dullard like me, it’s well worth checking out.

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