NieR: Automata (2017)

Nier is a game that I had zero interest playing, one that whenever it was brought up I couldn’t understand why everyone loved it so much. Everything everyone said sounded extremely negative, then followed up in the same sentence with “but I still like it”. This is exactly what this game is. 2-B the “main” character you play as, is a robot who works for other robots to protect mankind… or something like that, honestly I have forgotten the baseline plot thread of the entire game as its just not interesting at all.

Everything is pretty off putting about this game. From the bland 2006 style brown blob of landscape, to the pervy nature of character design… I HATE how this game looks. Its style isn’t all that interesting either, other than the odd robot with smiling faces I can’t really point to any visual element of the game that is interesting or cool. Everything just feels bland, muddy, uninspired and just all around boring to look at.

The story itself is equally boring… robots learn how to feel and become sentient and think of themselves like humans…. Yeah it's been done a thousand times. Some say there is more to it than that, but its just mainly just that. The combat is also not very interesting. A mix of button mashing combos and a dodge here or there in no specific rhythm will easily get you through the game without much difficulty. It can be more complex and deep if you want it to be, digging into the various Chips that you can equip 2-B with to either deal additional damage, give you more movesets, assist in health regeneration… the list goes on and on, but its entirely optional and really doesn’t matter in the long run at all.

This game isn’t a good game, its a solid OK game sure, but not something that I’d classify as “good”. Everything about it is average at best, yet… I find myself wanting to go back to it for some strange reason everytime it gets brought up. I have no clue why, maybe because I hate myself, maybe because its actually a good game and I just don’t understand it, maybe its because I’m bored. I honestly don’t know.

Everytime I do want to go back to it, I am reminded of why I don’t… Its because a LARGE part of the actual game is repetition. You can beat the game, but you didn’t really “BEAT” the game… The endings (which there are 26 separate ones) makes you go through large swaths of the same content over and over and over again to “get” the message of the game. You start the game over again and immediately fall off a cliff and that counts as and ending. You can die to the first boss and that counts as an ending… and once you get that ending, you have to Restart the entire thing over again. I was in the second playthrough, where you start the game over from another character's point of view, and about 30 mins in, I missed a jump, died, credits roll fast, and then it makes me start the thing over again, again…. Yeah, no. That’s bad game design through and through. Making your players go through the game multiple times just to see the “actual” ending and “get” the message the game wants to tell you… It is bad, just plain bad.

I am trying not to harp on the game too much. There are some very good and well done things that this game does. The way the game switches from 3D open world to 2D side scroller is fluid and nice. There are several really interesting boss fights and environments that they take place in, such as the opera singer boss, whos lair is in an abandoned theme park that you get to ride a roller coaster to her. Or the smelting factory that holds a group of religious zealot robots who self immolate themselves to be reborn as gods (with a rad ending sequence and musical score).. There are several areas where this game can really be unique, and the real bummer is seeing those parts be so few and far between the rest of the game. Those super shiny and interesting areas are bogged down so much by the entire rest of the game that is so mind numbingly boring that once you get to the cool stuff it's quickly over and back to the boring parts for long stretches.

Even typing this up, I have more and more hatred of the game. Adding additional mechanics to something that you’ll only see if you waste your time on a second or third playthrough isn’t fun. I remember starting over and knowing that I had to play through the game multiple times to really see the full game. I got about 5 hours into the second playthrough with the other character (9-S I believe his name is) and just realized that I was going to have to play through the entire game again, just and the other companion. All the dialog is the same, all the areas, all the puzzles, everything is the exact same. They wanted me to sit down and just play through the game again, a game I already put in around 10 hours into the first playthrough. I normally don’t ever play games a second time, and if I do, they have to be REALLY good. This is not a REALLY good game to warrant a second or third playthrough, no matter how many people online tell me that I need to, to really understand and enjoy the game.

Nier is a game that should be played to know what everyone else is talking about. If you like mindless button mashing, bland environments, boring gameplay and story and have nothing better to do with your life, its a fine game. But don’t kid yourself and don’t believe the hype of this game, because it really isn’t something special, its just a game that wants you to play it over and over and over again.