I’ve never been much for a game like Nier: Automata. It is a weird combination when approaching a new video game; Nier appears to be whatever style of game it wants to be. It has swords (something that will always pique my interest), a shooter aspect to it, an open world RPG feel, with some top-down dungeon crawler aspects, but also something not quite explainable and uncomfortable. The pace and story at times became convoluted, and a little hard to follow. The concepts behind the games are there, but something about it always kept me at arm's length, regardless of the praise heaped upon the game by friends.
The only way I can honestly describe the graphics are as interesting. The game is vast, but the world barren; large relatively nondescript spaces separate the occasional beauty. An expanse of desert dividing some of the world from the cityscape that makes up a large portion of the early gameplay. Even the beautiful aspects of the game seemed lacking; buildings nothing more than shells, water that held no depth, and enemies made up of little more than grey cans. I wouldn’t say the environment never elicits awe, but the graphics weren’t exactly my cup of tea.
I will not go into specifics as far as story beats go here, but I will loosely cover what the story made me feel. I felt like it was not created for my personal view. I liked what the game did with exploring the concept of post machine-revolution humanity, but I felt like little of the “reveals” were not overly foreshadowed. The story itself seems fine, but nothing more than an explanation for why you are running around with a sword. It never seemed to drive the character forward, but more kept the player on task. This could be that I haven’t gotten far enough into the game for it to switch from, helpful guide, to controlling director, but after 10 hours, I don’t want to be able to put down a game and forget about it. The story wasn’t able to keep me coming back for more.
The music followed the typical (expected? necessary?) formula for an RPG, quickening, and swelling during combat, becoming melancholy to establish the context and emotion of the world outside of battle. There was nothing beyond what to be expected, unfortunately. While the music did a good job of capturing the aura of the world, I couldn’t really convince myself I really enjoyed it. I never found myself humming the music while not playing the game, nor could I find the music really moving while in game. I will say that the sounds and music of Nier have a very distinct quality, but they just never quite resonated with me the way some games may. While I was playing the game I spent some time looking up what others thought of it, I usually like checking up on what people thought of the movie or game I’m about to spend money on. I was not really surprised to find that many people liked the music; however, there was just something about it that didn’t captivate me the way it did others.
This is where the game really shined. What it lacked in compelling story, and lackluster graphics (I will admit coming off of playing Horizon: Zero Dawn didn’t exactly help), Nier made up for in its intensive combat.
The swordplay was absolutely stunning. Early in, the quick hack-and-slash style was hard to follow. I nearly died (if not for some auto-heal mechanics) quite a few times early on, as I wasn’t quite able to read the action on the screen fast enough to react appropriately. The hectic pace is an obstacle to truly enjoying the game; but, once I was able to master that complexity of action, the moment of clarity captivated me. From that moment, I spent hours solely running through the world, fighting everything I could find.
I have heard to truly beat Nier, one must finish it a total of three times. This I will most likely not do. The combat mechanics may be enough to bring me back from time to time to finish it once, but something big will have to be revealed within the next five hours or so to convince me of giving Nier any more than one go around. I think Nier: Automata is a good game. I mostly enjoyed my time with it, once I solved the combat. I would have issues recommending Nier to another, however. Without knowing the gaming habits of the individual first, I think the best I can say is: “if your interest has been piqued by Nier, you should pick it up”. Even if you don’t finish the game three times, or even once, I think Nier is worth a try. Just look for it on sale perhaps.