Robo-Emo-Repeat

HIGH 2B and 9S are likeable characters.

LOW The game is twice as long as it should be.

WTF Accidentally getting joke ending H. 


 

There is a frequently-encountered, commonly-held belief in gaming that it’s acceptable for a person to put five, ten, twenty hours (or more!) into a game before it ‘gets good’. I disagree.

I am entirely fine with a game holding plot twists back or revealing mechanics as it goes along, but it still has to be interesting on some level at all times. Perhaps the story is intriguing, maybe the action is kinetically satisfying, maybe there are quiet moments of reflection, or the artwork might be so phenomenal that wanting to see the next area is a draw unto itself. Whatever it may be, there’s got to be something worthwhile going on.

This brings me to Nier: Automata. It has a fascinating story that is ultimately worthy of telling, but unfortunately, the game takes far too long to ‘get good’. What would have been a fantastic 15-20 hour experience is stuffed with ho-hum and drawn out to 40 hours or more, and it doesn’t justify the time investment it’s asking for.

The game stars cheeky battle android 2B and her partner 9S. The two are sent to a post-apocalyptic earth that’s reclaimed by nature and populated by wild animals and robots. Over the course of their journeys they ponder what it means to have feelings, to be alive, and similar topics that tend to crop up when artificial life is involved. Much of this will be familiar to anyone who’s read some sci-fi or seen some anime.

Automata is basically a small open-world featuring hack-and-slash character action similar to a greatly simplified Devil May Cry with a tiny bit of Bayonetta tossed in. The combat is solid, if not thrilling, and 2B’s abilities can be tweaked for variety by adding ‘chips’ – things like automatically using life items when below a certain level, adding a shockwave to sword slashes, and so on.

The combat would be passable as a central activity if other aspects of the game were robust enough to fill in the gaps, but apart from the likable main characters there’s not much of interest going on. The story was too similar to things I’d seen a thousand times before, the sidequests felt like busywork, and of course, no modern game would be complete without some form of crafting – it’s usually a tedious bore, and the game isn’t better for its inclusion here.

While spending time with this android duo was pleasant because they are pleasant, I was constantly wondering when something unexpected was going to happen, or when things were going to kick into high gear and take off. That moment never comes. Slashing enemy robots is only low-cal thrills, and the bits of story involving the robots that 2B and 9S encounter never drew me in. The entire campaign felt like being in a room where a surprise party is waiting, only to find there’s nobody crouched behind the furniture with balloons and streamers.

But hang on, there’s a catch. It gets better, right? The original Nier’s story famously unfolded only after it had been completed more than once, and that same conceit lives on in Automata, so this dullness is just… setup? Unfortunately, that pony doesn’t prance pretty this time.

For me, the first Nier was far more compelling and intriguing. In addition to a strong script, it had several mechanical surprises in store as it changed genre several times. Simply playing the game was fascinating because it was impossible to guess what it would do next. Automata has nothing of the sort in its first run. To be fair, it would have been extremely unlikely that the developers could have pulled the same tricks again, but as it stands, the campaign is flat and dull.

However, the real crime is that after credits roll, it’s revealed that the second run through is almost exactly the same as the campaign that was just completed. Of course, a few things change — cutscenes are shown from a different perspective and there’s a new mechanic added, but the same tasks need to be done in the same order, and where it was dull the first time, it’s straight-up tiresome the second.

I got about halfway through this second run and had no will to continue. Friends kept telling me I had only seen part of the story and that the third run was all-new (and make sure to come back for the fourth!) but I just didn’t care anymore – by this point I was more than 20 hours deep, and I wasn’t interested or excited enough to put more time in. I went to YouTube to see the rest of the story, and it was indeed good — just not good enough for me to sit through hours of it’s okay-ish, I guess?

If Nier: Automata had been more compact or structured differently, it would have been more effective, immediate and powerful. Instead, it’s a great idea stretched across too many hours of uninspiring content. Although I had affection for the androids and admired what the script ultimately revealed, this is one case where less would have definitely been more. Rating: 6.5 out of 10


 

Disclosures: This game is developed by Platinum Games and Square-Enix, and published by Square-Enix. It is currently available on PC, PS4. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 24 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed one time. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M and contains Blood, Partial Nudity, Strong Language, and Violence.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: All dialogue has subtitles and there are no audio cues necessary for successful play. It’s fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway has been gaming since the days when arcades were everywhere and the Atari 2600 was cutting edge. So, like... A while.

Currently, he's got about 42 minutes a night to play because adulting is a timesuck, but despite that, he's a happily married guy with two kids who both have better K/D ratios than he does.

Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody at the office is looking, and his favorite game of all time is the first Mass Effect -- and he thought the trilogy's ending was Just Fine, Thanks.

Follow Brad on Twitter at @BradGallaway
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28 Comments on "Nier: Automata Review"

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Dusty
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Yea this game isnt great. I dont know where all the praise is coming from. The colors are dull. The story is just ok. The characters are cool, but the combat is just god awful. Nothing even close to Bayonetta…heck I had more fun with Transformers than this game. The open world is completely unnecessary and just draws an already boring game out even further. I miss linear hack n slash like DMC and Bayonetta with a need for strategy and unique enemies. All the enemies here are brown trash cans. This game is a bargain bin buy, and thats… Read more »
GTAJJ
Guest
Hey Brad, I like to start off that NieR is the first ever JRPG and I can say at least, I was ignorant to the genre as it just doesn’t interest me even watching gameplay of existing JRPGs and honestly still do. However since there was no other game out, I just did a “screw it” and bought it. So I feel I’m writing from the most unbiased as I could be, I would be mainly negative ususally haha. I like to quickly add that I love the fact you took note if there is a colourblind setting. As someone… Read more »
GTAJJ
Guest
Hey Brad, Thank you for taking the time to read my long response. I did read your previous responses to others and I apologise if I did re-ask the same questions. I was wondering your exact viewpoint as it interests me and would never insult you for your opinion despite my concerns. I see, while I disagree with GC’s policy, I see why you did it – you have the right too. I also wasn’t aware that you’re not paid for the reviews so I really respect that and you must do it for passion/enjoyment I presume. I agree, your… Read more »
Vicky Soni
Guest

I always like to play game which are surrounded by the nature and it seems to be pretty good for that.

John
Guest
“There is a frequently-encountered, commonly-held belief in gaming that it’s acceptable for a person to put five, ten, twenty hours (or more!) into a game before it ‘gets good’. I disagree.” I agree with this sentiment. I bought this game on a lark and, after three or four hours, I’m not really interested in seeing what happens next. For me, time is at a premium–the majority of sand is now in the bottom of my hourglass and I run a small business. Given that my free time is sparse, I’m not willing to invest large chunks of it based solely… Read more »
David
Guest
Can’t be bothered to finish the game, yet giving a review like you’ve expeienced everything it has to offer. If you aren’t enjoying the game, even just in specific parts, that’s fine, but can you give a complete reflection on a game that you haven’t finished? If you didn’t feel like finishing it, no big deal, but why review half of a game? Ex: I’m going to make a burger for my friends, so I get everything ready and put together, cheese, condiments, lettuce, tomato. I start cooking the patties but before flipping them to cook the other side, I… Read more »
Mike Bracken
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Your hamburger analogy fails on every level.

Antonio
Guest

It really doesn’t. But then again, this comment will be censored, so it doesn’t matter.

sleeve
Guest
“Hey David. No, I’m not giving a review like i’ve experienced everything it had to offer, i’m giving a review based on my experience.” Sure. But what’s the point of reviewing an incomplete experience? I could watch the first hour or so of Die Hard, turn it off after John McClane gets trapped in the bathroom with his feet all bloody, give it a 6.5, and tell people that it “wasn’t for me” and that it “didn’t connect with me” based on what I saw. Sure, there’s another hour or so in the movie, and I’d be sure to mention… Read more »
Badgercommander
Guest

Just to clarify 100% – I was being very sarcastic.

To double down on this, given that food critique probably has more comparisons that work well with game critique than any other art forms due to the fact that aesthetics and craft can be completely offputting. A food critic often doesn’t finish the foods they are served due to the expectation that they get a broad range of tastes. Further to that if a food critic was served a meal that was utterly disgusting, they would never eat the rest of the dish

Old Shoe
Guest

This.

sleeve
Guest
So you’re cool with my FFVII example, then? And other examples as well? As long as the disclosure at the end of the review lists the amount of time spent on the game, and whether the game was completed? “If you told me you stopped watching Die Hard for whatever reason, I’d say “guess that wasn’t the movie for you.” and then we’d move on to another topic.” If we were having a casual conversation? Sure. But not if you were writing a review of the movie, obviously. Other reviewers spent an honest amount of time playing through the game… Read more »
sleeve
Guest

Farewell, Brad. Farewell.

Honestly I don’t understand why you don’t assume people won’t give you smack for not completing a game and then giving it a number grade

Badgercommander
Guest

I always eat the whole burger before I decide it is gross. I mean if the bun is moldy, there might be part of it that is alright, how do I know until I try it all?

Michael Aronson
Guest
These arguments about having to experience all of a game’s content before reviewing it are nonsense. Let’s say I enjoy playing Mario Kart 8 for fun, not for the challenge. Is my review invalid if I don’t play the game on 200cc and Mirror mode? What if doing so sours me on the game because I’m playing every track at least five times and getting bored? Let’s say I enjoy playing Lego games for their main stories. Is my review invalid if I don’t try to 100% them? What if doing so sours me on the game because I’m not… Read more »
Benjo321
Guest
Totally agree with your criticisms Brad. The second part of the game is by far the weakest section and it’s a real shame that all the good stuff is locked behind part three (which will be in the region of 20-40 hours in). I was initially very cold on Automata as it just wasn’t getting anywhere near the same high notes as the first game, but the final act along with some juicy lore-filled sidequests later on really swung things back around into something I’m incredibly fond of now. But yeah, time is a very precious resource and demanding 60+… Read more »
sleeve
Guest

I think one might just as easily level all of these criticisms at the original Nier. The big difference in Nier: Automata’s case is that the gameplay in Nier: Automata is much, much stronger, and more compelling.

Warwick
Guest
Great! This is the review I wanted. It doesn’t matter if I really enjoy the game the first time and think your score is too low, or words are too harsh, it’s really about what they are trying to achieve, and if that achievement is only available on a third playthrough, then you’re absolutely right. The original Nier had combat and travel issues, but the world and story was quite interesting, and at least when starting the second time around, you didn’t start from the start but instead from about half-way through – that’s a huge saving grace that makes… Read more »
FZeroRacer
Guest
The important conceit is that Nier only really had two playthroughs worth of gameplay in it. Once you beat the game the first time sure, the second run drastically changes your perspective. But the third and forth are almost exactly the same outside of a small bit at the end. You also had to collect all the weapons. Ultimately this is a really disappointing review from someone who played through Nier. Especially since the 2nd playthrough in Automata is far shorter than the first and there are significant changes. The fact that he decided to give up and just youtube… Read more »
Princepeach
Guest
I agree with FZeroRacer. I totally get the criticisms of slowness, but this review reads as if the author was waiting for the game to “Pull a Nier”, rather than approaching it on its own terms. Even during the first half of the game, there are many quiet moments (particularly in sidequests) that are affecting and surprising. Barreling through the content to get to the twist really does the player a disservice. Despite the high-octane combat, Nier: Automata is a more thoughtful, deliberately paced game than the original. In an intangible way it reminded me of Shenmue; both are games… Read more »
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