The Story of two androids in a mechanical hell…
Starting up the game, you’re immediately thrown into a top-down shooter style of gameplay. Hold on, bear with me, as this is basically introducing you to the type of reality this world is. As your comrades get shot down one by one, you’ll suddenly find yourself fending off your enemies, and eventually ditching your flight unit to take the fight to the ground, where you belong.
That is your introduction to 2B, and the world of Automata.
After dealing with a giant buzzsaw and meeting up with your field support unit (Simply known as 9S), you race through this abandoned weapons factory, cutting down all in your way. In the end, though, you can’t find your actual objective, something called a Goliath-class machine. (Spoiler warning, they’re as big as they sound.), unless you are accosted by two more giant buzzsaws, which turn out to be attached to the Goliath you were actually hunting.
It’s a hard fight, but 2B and 9S eventually manage to disable it, at great cost to themselves.
Surprisingly, this is one the tamest things in the game
After some big fireworks, you’ll find yourself in a space station known as “The Bunker”; a bastion for the android forces of YorHa to restore themselves. And by restore, I mean we’re literally going to walk you through the Settings menu…
On a meta level, it works…
Once back in fighting shape, you are given your mission: To contact the Resistance camp stationed on Earth, which leads into doing some odd jobs to get the shops into working order and some desert recon. The machines, despite being the enemy, are a strange and mysterious group. And it gets even stranger once you battle your way through both desert and ruined apartment complex.
There’s something clearly not right here.
Certain events cause 2B and 9S to retreat from what they discover in the desert, but since they technically accomplished what they were told to do, they are met with praise from the Resistance. Afterwards, The Bunker gives the pair another mission; contacting a missing faction of YorHa that have fallen off the communication grid. This leads the andriods through an abandoned sewer pipe and into an even stranger sight…
Disney Land in the future.
The machines here are more interested in having celebrations, so progress is smooth until you have to stop an one-machine show in the heart of castle. Unfortunately, the fate of the YorHa soliders is not pleasent, but this chain of events does lead into something not quite unexpected at this point.
Pacifist machines. Better yet, they’re into philosophy.
After making introductory rounds, 2B and 9S are met with shocking news; Goliaths are attacking the city ruins where the Resistance is station. Even though the recently discovered machine village is suspected of laying a trap, it’s quickly put aside to actually deal with the threat. Upon disposing of the second Goliath, however, something strange is discovered in the aftermath left behind.
This chasm is more important than you’ll ever realize.
Following the strange signal underground, however, leads to the first of many shocking revelations, and the official introduction of two familiar adversaries.
The ensuring fight ends in a stalemate, promising another encounter between the two pairs. However, more pressing matters await, as Command tells the two androids to investigate the leader of the pacifist machines, who in turn, sends them to contend with a group of machines who live in a “forest kingdom” that they built. It’s a hack-and-slash journey through the loyal machines, but the ending is not quite what they expected.
This android doesn’t feel the need to hide her true self…
Despite orders to dispatch this rogue android, she takes off on her own agenda. At this point, the two decide to check in on the Resistance camp, where they are suddenly tasked with guard duty. The escort? A payload of missiles. Guarding the missiles in itself is no chore, but then the supply ship itself suddenly comes under fire, after which point protecting it is no longer an issue…
Mecha-Sin: Yevon’s new lord and savior.
It’s an intense fight, at the conclusion of which 2B and 9S are seperated. After obtaining a Scanner program for her Pod, 2B manages to track down 9S’ location to a baffling area; a fabricated, colorless array of blocks arranged into something like a city. And at the end awaits one of the two heads of the machine network.
What happened here may be explained in an alternate reality.
The following struggle between the two ends with 2B killing her adversary. After bringing 9S’ data back to The Bunker, she is enlisted by the head of the machine village to accompany him to meet another group of machines that desire peace. This takes them back to the abandoned factory (from all the way back in the beginning), and to the dismay of them, leads them directly into the midst of what is actually a machine cult of all things…
Renounce your false religion…
With some outside assistance from 9S, escape from the factory is possible. However, things quickly go from bad to worse, as the other half of the network starts to experience a slight malfunction… causing some of the machines to go berserk and begin wrecking not only the Resistance camp, but the machine village as well. 2B and 9S manage to stay them off, buying enough time for them to strike at the source itself.
Putting an end to the chaos.
Broken and battered, 2B still manages to kill off the other side of the network and bring the machines back to normal (whatever that is.), but payment must be paved twofold, as they say…
And that’s simply just the first ending. There’s a set of five main endings, and twenty-one non-canonical endings, for a grand total of twenty-six endings and off-shoots. The fun’s just beginning here.
The choices are yours, and yours alone.
Armaments of a fighter.
There’s three distinct game play styles. The first one you’re introduced to is vertical shooter style, which probably could have been taken out and not have anything lost. This only ever applies to whenever you take a Flight Unit for scripted battle sets, and even then, it only applies to half of each set.
More prominent than that, however, is when your Flight Unit transforms into a Gundem-light knockoff. Your controls become that of a twin-stick shooter at that point. This is not only the other half of your Flight Unit sections, but is also the control setup for the hacking minigame. It’s a little awkward to get used to it, however, and precision is a bit of a chore for controllers. In addition, most of the challenge doesn’t come from unique challenge, but rather how many bullets can you slide around, which may be a bit overwhelming for people who are not used to this type of third-person shooter content.
Still, it’s a lot easier than real world hacking…
The main gameplay style you’ll be working with, however, is more traditional hack-and-slash combat. It’s set up like a mix Devil May Cry and God Of War. There’s no style ranking, so it’s less about combos and more about finding your openings between enemy attacks to take them down. There’s four weapon types than handle differently, and you’re able to assign two different weapons to a Light and Heavy (Square and Triangle respectively) attack, which can do different things both seperately and when mixed together depending on your weapon type. Holding down R1 fires off your Pod, which faces in the same direction as the camera. It’s a strange design at first, but you can effectively damage two fronts at once after you learn to set up. L1 uses a Pod’s equipped program, a sort of extra attack you can perform on cooldown. These range from really useful (Hammer) to siuationally useful (Spear), to almost useless (Gravity). There’s enough variety to let you find something to compliment your play style however. R2 lets you perform an evade, and evading just before an attack hits sets you up for a counter attack that does something different depending on which attack button you hit. You’re going to be evading a lot in this game, so learning when to prop an enemy into the air or simply blowing it up is key to helping improve your combat life. L2 lets you lock onto an enemy, but, honestly, I found it to be a hindrance in this game. It’s designed to help aim your Pod easier, but this game sometimes has targeting issues where you’ll sometimes lock onto an enemy halfway across the field instead of the one right in your face that you wanted to lock onto. In addition, harder difficulties actually disable your ability to lock on, so it becomes a double-miss in my book. The combat isn’t built around requiring singling out enemies, however, so you can take or leave it as you will.
Combat can be as fast or as methodical as you like. Just be careful of getting tossed into the air.
Throughout your adventure/genocide of all things mechanical, you’ll come across Plug-In Chips. These define everything (and I do mean EVERYTHING) your android fighter is capable of doing and seeing. Like with Pod Programs, there’s a fair amount of variety to them, but some are going to be more clearly useful than others, especially given the limited space you have to install.
As far as moving around in the world, X lets you jump. Pressing X again in midair gives you a double jump, and holding down X lets you grab onto your pod to glide down to safety. Yes, there is fall damage in the game, but you kind of have to go out of your way to encounter, as you’ll often land on your feet anyway. Pressing R2 lets you perform an evade, even outside of battle, and I mention this because after an evade dash, you’ll run instead of jog, and after enough time running, you’ll move into a sprint that lets you cover ground the quickest. The game doesn’t tell you this, it’s something you’ll have to learn on your own (or by having someone like me tell you that you can do this.) The world only consists of five major areas and a couple additional side areas that the plot takes you to, so it’s a rather condensed world. Despite that, however, I wish that there was a little more inter connectivity between the areas, especially with the desert. A lot of side quests either take place, or take you back to the desert and there’s only one way to get into the desert. Granted, you will get access to a quick-travel option to help cut down on walking, but that happens halfway through the first playthrough, and by that time, you’ll probably have missed a few sidequests in that time. The same thing could be said of the abandoned factory as well and overall these two areas could have been better interconnected with the rest of the world.
By the end of your first go around, you’ll probably be sick of all this sand.
Walking the streets of a ruined Earth
Despite the general inconsistency in running between areas, exploration can be a rewarding things. There are chests and item spots scattered all over to help reward you for going off the beaten path. While you’ll mostly get materials for upgrading weapons from these, you’ll also sometimes find brand new weapons in general, or even a little backstory lore for your trouble.
You’ll also find a bunch of side quests throughout the world as well, and these range from world-building, to outright silly, to some combination of both.
Yes. Escorting a machine clown parade is one of the many things you can do.
Side quests will also give you materials and weapons to work with for your trouble, as well as occasional other things like new Pod Programs or Plug-In Chips. It’s worth going out of your way to do them, but a lot of them are missable, so it may take you a few playthroughs to track them all down.
Want to know what happened here? Just another of many side quests you can do.
The time you’ll spend in NieR: Automata is most likely going to spent deciphering the rabbit hole. Some things are more easily picked up than others, and others will have to be pieced together in order to discover what’s really going on. By the end, you’ll most likely wonder just what, exactly, you were fighting for, and I believe that was the point. This not a story of a singular good versus a singular evil, of great conquests or epic battles. This story is about two androids and the loss and struggles they have to contend with as they undertake their missions in the name of YorHa.
The gameplay is a solid experience throughout, with no glaring flaws to look at, the world is constructed to tell an experience with it’s side quests and environments, and the facts you find are not always directly given to you.
If you appreciate a story that doesn’t pull punches, and a solid combat experience to accompany it, I’d recommend giving Automata a try. You won’t be disappointed.