Nier Automata is set in a post-apocalyptic world where androids and machines battle for dominance in a perpetual stalemate, Nier: Automata combines a multifaceted narrative, innovative gameplay mechanics blending both modern and retro styles of gameplay, and a hauntingly gripping soundtrack.
Developed by PlatinumGames and published by Square Enix in 2017, Nier Automata stands tall as a masterpiece in the realm of modern video game design and a hallmark of modern pop culture.
At its core, Nier: Automata revolves around themes of existentialism and the meaning of life, weaving a profound narrative that encourages players to question the legitimacy of both the emergence of consciousness in artificial lifeforms and the attachment to individuality juxtaposed with the consequences of war and loss.
The game unfolds in a desolate Earth overrun by a seemingly sentient machine race created by alien invaders. The last remnants of humanity have sought refuge on the moon, deploying a militarized android force called YoRHa to reclaim their home, resulting in endless, stagnating conflict between the androids and machine invaders.
The protagonists 2B and 9S, a combat and scanner unit, form an unlikely duo and set out to investigate bizarre signs of human-like evolution within the machine race as the legitimacy of their own existence is brought into question.
The storytelling in Nier: Automata is a nod to old school JRPGs, with a deep and emotionally resonant storyline that unfolds over multiple playthroughs; the game’s narrative structure encourages players to replay the story after the credits from the perspective of different characters to reveal information obscured to the player on their first playthrough, including an entire second part of the storyline initially hidden from the player.
The storyline is carefully threaded and masqueraded in such a way that the structure of the story is a revolution of itself when it eventually unfolds to the player, and what starts as a simple story about a machine life evolves into a philosophical work of art.
This is science fiction at its strongest in videogames and the nonlinear storytelling not only pays homage to the golden age of gaming from a design perspective, touching on the same levels of profound commentary as the likes of Metal Gear Solid 2, Sons of Liberty, but also provides a level of depth rarely even seen in modern videogames.
A Coin With Many Faces
Nier: Automata seamlessly combines elements of retro and modern game design throughout it’s gameplay mechanics, the combat system is characterized by its fluidity and responsiveness, drawing inspiration from classic hack-and-slash games, offering a very satisfying blend of fast-paced melee combat and long-range shooting, this is a showcase of PlatinumGames’ expertise with the action genre .
However, this isn’t where the game truly excels; Nier Automata’s combat is also complemented by a unique feature: the ability to seamlessly transition between different gameplay perspectives at different points in the game, ranging from traditional third-person action to top-down bullet hell scenarios, forced camera perspectives and side-scroller platforming.
This shift in gameplay styles pays homage to classic arcade games, adding a nostalgic touch that resonates with older players while introducing younger audiences to a diverse range of gaming experiences seen less often in the modern world of gaming, but its not just the amalgamation of these gameplay styles that makes Nier Automata a special experience, the way it blends them together in its modern 3rd person gameplay, incorporating features from all of its inspirations into a cathartic combat system is surprisingly enjoyable and makes Nier Automata more memorable.
The Dilapidated World of Nier Automata
Desolate landscapes, scattered ruins, and well hidden secrets abound in Nier Automata’s open world, the level design is sensible, tactful and makes quality use of the game world enabling players to quickly familiarize themselves with the map, it’s still the usual deal here, side quests and diverse environments that break away from linear storytelling, rewarding curiosity and a keen eye for detail.
In addition to it’s Castlevania and Metroid-like influences, the open-world design also embraces modern principles, providing a sense of freedom and agency in how it’s explored. This is perhaps the least innovative area of Nier Automata, but never takes away from the experience, there are many homages to Automata’s predecessor that fans of the game will immediately recognize and appreciate in the world environment.
The game also incorporates verticality, allowing players to explore the surface, the rooftops and the depths of the world, it’s a pleasant design choice that compliments the narrative and rewards exploration.
What’s more alluring is the worldbuilding and narrative connections, the interconnectedness of the world mirrors the intricate storytelling, creating an environment where every location holds a significant and meaningful piece of the overarching narrative.
Whether it’s stumbling upon the remains of a forgotten city or descending into the depths of machine-infested caverns, each discovery adds layers to the rich lore of the game world.
A Soundtrack To Write Home About
It goes without saying that one of Nier Automata’s most notable features is the synchronicity between the soundtrack, which is almost entirely comprised of a made up language and the artistry on display on the screen, it is rare for a game to perfect the level of visual and auditory harmony Nier consistently achieves without faltering.
There is a level of intent in the musical composition that is almost impossible to convey in words; every consonance is utterly harmonious with what is being narratively experienced and visualized on the screen and every piece of music is hauntingly beautiful and alluring.
The soundtrack is designed using a technique similar to Glossolalia – a technique sometimes utilized in music in which vocals are linguistically unrecognizable, but able to be appreciated or almost understood in any language – Neir Automata is exemplary in perfecting this technique in its entire musical score, perfectly matching the higher philosophical themes of the game and providing minimal distraction during significant narrative moments; it wouldn’t be outlandish to state that this is one of the most impressive scores in recent videogame history.
Keiichi Okabe’s meticulous soundtrack propels the game’s commitment to marrying the old with the new, from melancholic melodies to intense battle anthems, and even 8-bit recreations of most of the songs that transition on the spot.
The emotional impact reverberates throughout the entire narrative and the inclusion of dynamic music that adapts to the player’s actions and the game’s events is a modern twist resulting it a truly immersive auditory experience that really is a standout worth mentioning.
Emi Evans and J’Nique Nicole, the two main vocalists, deserve a standing ovation for their contributions alone.
Everything That Lives Is Designed To End
Nier Automata’s success is hard to pin on a singular achievement, it is a crown adorned with many jewels worthy of praising; the ability to merge retro and modern game design seamlessly with excellent contextual relevance and precision, appealing to a broad audience across multiple generations, the game’s narrative complexity and profound themes, the innovative gameplay mechanics, and evocative soundtrack all lend themselves to an experience that really plucks the heartstrings of contemporary gaming on a level worthy of celebration.
Nier Automata champions the potential of video games to transcend genre conventions and surprise audiences, it is a simulacrum of meaningful and rich storytelling and extravagant musical talent in digital form, and age will never be able to tarnish the experience.
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