Nier: Automata Review

After I finished Nier: Automata, a friend asked if I liked it. I was surprised that I wasn’t quite sure what my answer was.

I think much of the praise of the game is deserved. The fighting is fluid and flashy. And the music is simply amazing.

But I found myself thinking about the game long after I finished it. More so, I kept pondering about what the game was about and what it was trying to say.

If someone were to just play and beat the game, it comes off as pretty straightforward. You are one side (androids) and you have to fight the other (robots). Beat them all and the game’s over.

However, if you get through the game’s multiple playthroughs and endings, you see that Automata is trying to explore something deeper.

The central theme seems to be humanity. What does it mean to be human? Why are these artificial beings striving so hard to be human? Does merely acting out aspects of humanity allow you to attain it?

The game showcases various groups playing out different aspects of humanity: androids (loyalty, violence), robots (generosity, a sense of community), main characters (romantic love, jealousy, hatred), main antagonists (familial love, curiosity),  the twins (guilt, duty).

It’s funny how these themes are explored with no actual humans involved. Also a helpful tidbit is that “Automata” is the plural form of “Automaton” which by definition means “a moving mechanical device made in imitation of a human being”.

Multiple perspectives are further reinforced by how often Automata shifts the play mechanics throughout the game. You’re constantly moving from overhead to 3-D to side-scrolling. It’s literally making you look at things from a different angle.

By the game’s (final) ending, I wasn’t sure what I was meant to feel or think. The resolution wasn’t exactly strong or definitive. However, I think the game ended and told its story exactly how it wanted to.

Automata‘s approach is very Japanese in how it explores ideas in an elliptical way. Heady concepts are pondered upon but rarely given any conclusions for the player.

It reminds me of the author, Haruki Murakami. His books consistently have a dream-like quality and he doesn’t coerce the characters (or the viewer) towards any conclusions to the themes and concepts he introduces. To me, it shows how Japanese storytelling is less direct than Western storytelling. Not better or worse, just more ponderous.

Funny that this game came out relatively close to Persona 5, another very Japanese-feeling game. There, the colorful pop and light-heartedness of anime is very much on display. Automata presents the other side that anime can take in the dark and philosophical. (Also, big swords, upskirt views, and nude non-anatomical boys.)

Furthermore, it didn’t help that I realized after playing, that this game is a continuation of a long and winding story that spans several games, books and even stageplays. I think Automata stands well enough on its own for newbies like myself, but I’m sure there are richer effects to be had for those more fully immersed in the overall lore (as convoluted and complex as it sounds).

I’d love to explore more in-depth about aspects of the game and their meaning (such as why the characters are blind-folded) but maybe that’s for another post.

In the end, I would say I really enjoyed that the game had something to say and wanted to explore some really ambitious concepts. I don’t think I loved the gameplay itself but am always a fan of a game that pushes the medium’s ability to tell story and be artistic.


Now Playing

2018 has certainly started off slower than last year. I’m not complaining though since it allows me to go back to a few games I’d been itching to try or finish up.

Mainly, I did a NewGame+ for Persona 5, which I thought would go a lot faster but ended up being another 100 hrs of my life. I have no regrets though since my goal was to max out all the confidants and through that, got a much more enriched experience and deeper connection with everyone I encountered in the game.

I didn’t expect to Platinum the game but I got so many of the trophies that I decided to go for the last few. And those were doozies. The compendium and the twins trophies did make the game feel like a bit like work since I spent a lot of time in the Persona Fusion menus.

All this did nothing to diminish my feelings that this is a masterpiece of a game. Previously, I bristled against the constraints of the calendar system, but this time I came to appreciate its game mechanic. It helped that my NG+ allowed me to ignore certain aspects like Stat Building but I realized how the calendar made every choice much more purposeful and deliberate.

Next up, I played Bethesda (and Arkane’s) Prey. If previous posts are any hint, I absolutely adore Arkane’s Dishonored series and you can feel the core in Prey as well. However this game didn’t grab me nearly as much as Dishonored.

Perhaps it’s due to the focus moving from stealth to action, or that the level design was less multi-faceted. I think it also had to due with the relatively barren environment. I believe this was a conscious choice due to the enemy types in the game and also a bit of a homage to the original Alien movie. But it really just made the game a bit lifeless through much of the journey.

Prey opens with an impressive mind-bender but the rest of the game fails to deliver on what it teases. Without trying to spoil much, the end does include a twist, but it’s not one that you don’t already see coming a mile away and I don’t feel that the way they showcased it had enough of a punch. The end just kind of happens.

Finally, I lucked into a SNES Classic and have been hopping onto it periodically. However, I’ve come to realize that I’m currently not as interested in going back to old games right now. I really just want to play a new game and have a new experience. Also, I want to really put my new 4K TV through its paces.

On the horizon is the Shadow of the Colossus remake which I never played so will see what the fuss is about. God of War is probably after that but I’m on the fence as far as my interest there. I’m still waiting on Spider-man and Detroit. I have doubts we’ll see Red Dead Redemption 2 or The Last of Us Part II this year.

Now Playing

I’m deep into Persona 5 right now and there’s no end in sight. People have been touting 100+ hrs and I’m only around the 35 hr mark.

So far it’s great, but I definitely think the anticipation and high praise made me expect a lot. The game’s a little more confining than I expected, forcing me to do or not do things at certain times. Which can be frustrating because there’s a ton to do in the game and I want to do it all.

I’m also wondering if the game will change things up later on. Even though I’m not halfway, I feel like I’ve got a pretty good handle on the mechanics and the gameplay loop. It hasn’t felt tiresome yet, but I’m afraid that I’ll get worn out by the same process throughout the whole game.

Other than that, I’ll still jump into Mass Effect Andromeda multiplayer from time to time. It doesn’t have its hooks in me quite the same way that Mass Effect 3 multiplayer did, which I can’t figure out why since it’s basically the same format.

My hunch is that there are just too many other games I want to get to. This has been an incredible year for games and we’re only now reaching the halfway mark.

The second half of the year doesn’t seem has loaded with games I’m anticipating. That’s even before Red Dead Redemption 2 got delayed until next year, which surprised absolutely no one.

I still have yet to play Horizon Zero Dawn and Legend of Zelda. I’m hoping that by the time I am ready to get to them, they’ll be on sale or at least in stock (looking longingly at the Switch).

For now, I’ll keep an eye out for more indie gems like Little Nightmares and What Remains of Edith Finch. And I’m still itching to do a second run-through of Dishonored 2.

I assumed I’d do another play of Andromeda simply because it’s Mass Effect, but the further away I get from the game, the less interested I am in revisiting it.

But good news is that a sequel to Life is Strange was announced! I have no idea what that game might look like, but I’m still excited.

Let’s Play: Persona 5 (intro)

I’m finally diving into the eagerly anticipated Persona 5!

Due to Atlus’ restrictions, I won’t be doing a full Let’s Play series. Which is a shame because, lord, is this game beautiful and awesome.

Rarely have I ever seen a game this slick and stylish. Every single menu or graphic has been infused with eye-candy. Not to mention the top-notch animation cut-scenes that look better than most anime.

I’ve now played about 12 hours and I still feel a bit railroaded, so hopefully things change as I move further into the story.

There’s a lot to do and see, and lots of people to talk to, but the calendar system really makes you think hard about your choice of action.

As a somewhat OCD completionist who wants to see and do everything, I find it a little bit constrictive and somewhat stressful. But I hear this is a hallmark element of the Persona series so it feels a bit wrong to criticize it.

Also, unless the game opens up new areas as I progress, I’m a bit surprised at the limited scope of locations in the game. For some reason, I had expected to be able to explore at least a good chunk of Tokyo but so far have been confined to three areas. Now, those three areas are pretty dense with activities, but still… I’m anticipating another 50 hours in this game.

Even those complaints are pretty minor in my book, as I’ve been enjoying my time already.

Also to note, since Atlus barred the PS4 broadcast/recording features, I had to resort to external capture methods for the first time. So that’s why the audio sounds a bit off. If I had planned to record the whole game, I would’ve tried to solve it, but don’t really feel like it’s worth it at this point. Apologies!

Most Anticipated Upcoming Games

Final Fantasy XV (Sept 30, 2016)

I was a die-hard fan back in the days of IV, VI and VII but have fallen off the wagon since. I bought XIII but was less than impressed.

I haven’t kept up with every detail about this game so will probably wait for the reviews to come in before committing to this one. But I’m hoping SquareEnix can recapture the magic.


Persona 5 (Feb 14, 2017)

I actually haven’t played any previous Persona game (and am still debating over whether or not to buy a Vita just to play P4) but everything I’ve seen of Persona 5 looks like it will be amazing.

The anime aspect, the Tokyo setting, and the bold design style are piquing my interest big time.

I got to play Catherine on last-gen and thought it was a great mix of puzzle platformer and character-heavy story.


Mass Effect Andromeda (March 2017)

Easily my most anticipated game.

The Mass Effect trilogy was the highlight of my Xbox 360 gaming experience. I played the crap out of those games multiple times.

The games had major flaws and plotholes, but the Star Wars-esque setting and the interesting characters are what kept me coming back for more.

I’m hoping for more of the same in Andromeda.


Other games that I’ll probably end up checking out:

The Last Guardian, just to see what the hype is all about
Watchdogs 2, initially excited about the first one but reality of it kept me from even playing it
Rise of the Tomb Raider, my enthusiasm dulled after having waited so long for it to show up on the PS4

What do you guys think?

Also, I want to do a Let’s Play soon but most of these games on my list are RPGs which aren’t exactly conducive to focused recorded gameplay. I’m thinking I’ll try recording a couple of episodes of Persona 5 and see how it goes. But I’m open to anyone’s opinions.