NieR: Automata

About a year ago, I joked that from now on, all console games that I played must have a colon in their name, because the ones I played with a colon were more fun. Then I played God of War, which I enjoyed despite its lack of a colon. Now I come to NieR: Automata.

I purchased NieR: Automata because two sites I read regularly, AV Club and Ars Technica, both recommended the game. A glance around the web shows general praise for it. I’m afraid this might be one of those times when my expectations where raised so high that the actual game could not possibly match them.

I played NieR: Automata on its easiest setting, which may be the problem. In retrospect, the praise that the game received was for its gameplay. It seamlessly blends a third-person view with a side-scrolling game, a top-down action game, and a flying action game that’s both top-down and side-scrolling. I acknowledge that this is novel.

But my reflexes are just not up to challenging gameplay, which is why I usually choose to play a game on its easiest setting. On that setting, the combat in NieR: Automata almost plays itself: your companion drone auto-fires, your character 2B attacks, evades, and heals on her own. It’s the easiest of “easy modes” that I’ve experienced in any computer game.

You play as 2B, a combat soldier in an android army, fighting a machine army on the earth’s surface while the remnants of humanity live on the moon. You soon acquire a companion, 9S, a scanner android. Each of you has a robot Pod that provides ranged combat, while the two androids do close-range melee combat. The graphics style is that of Japanese anime, both in the look of the characters and in the style of combat.

Since I can’t enjoy a video game for how it plays, the most important element of a game’s design for me becomes the story. That is where NieR: Automata falls flat. I got the impression from the reviews that NieR: Automata‘s story would offer an interesting story about identity and purpose. It does, kinda sorta, but not in any way I found to be original or engaging.

I may be spoiled. Having played God of War, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, and Horizon: Zero Dawn, my bar for a good console videogame story may be raised too high.

With that said: If you’re looking for a game with interesting gameplay variations and a high replay value (you get to replay other characters after you’ve played the game for the first time), NieR: Automata is a worthwhile game. If you’re like me and play a game for its story, there are better choices out there.

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