If you’re looking for a fast-paced action game with deep role-playing elements, tons of side quests and a plot that goes to some seriously strange places, then Nier: Automata is for you.
Developed by Platinum Games and director Yoko Taro and loosely affiliated with the Drakengard series and the original Nier title, Automata is getting lots of well-deserved buzz. But with a confusing pedigree and an even more confusing storyline, you’ll want to get up to speed on the game before taking the plunge.
What is Nier: Automata?
Nier: Automata is a post-apocalyptic action RPG available now on PS4 and PC. It's developed by Platinum Games, makers of other fast paced action titles like Bayonetta and Vanquish. Nier: Automata is a continuation of the story of the original Nier released in 2010 and is a spin off of the Drakengard games that first released in 2003.
It adopts a strong anime-inspired style, with a rich plot, snappy combat system, large open world, deep character equipment customization, and no shortage of strange and quirky moments embedded in an otherwise bleak and serious game world.
What is the story of Nier: Automata?
This may very well be a question you walk away from the game still asking. At its core, Automata deals with a post-apocalyptic Earth taken over by alien machines in the distant future. The remnants of humanity live on the moon and have sent down androids, including female main protagonist 2B and her male companion 9S, as part of a resistance to reclaim Earth.
Nier: Automata, much like the original Nier, delves into questions about the difference between human consciousness and artificial intelligence. With alien-controlled machines and human-controlled androids fighting over Earth, a lot of tough questions are raised about futility, humanity, and individuality. It gets even more buckwild than that at some point, so be prepared for a game that really goes places.
How does Nier: Automata play?
Automata is a swift action-RPG that utilizes a light and heavy attack system, as well as a dodge mechanic that allows you to cancel combos or switch into one of four weapon classes to chain up even bigger combos. Also at your disposal is a little drone you can command to pepper enemies with weak bullets from afar as well as execute more powerful laser blasts or melee strikes.
You’re accompanied by an AI-controlled partner who will help you in combat but can also be set to be completely passive. The action isn’t overly demanding of players, but you can’t just button mash your way to victory, either.
Platforming elements are present, especially in areas where the camera changes from a standard third person perspective to a locked side-scrolling view, and take advantage of your character’s very high mobility. There are also light “bullet hell” elements that have you dodging and slicing through large enemy projectiles, especially during boss fights.
On top of all of this are various minigames built into the world, like fishing, and a very complex character skill customization system for the main character, your AI partner, and each of their little drones.
Which platform should I play Nier: Automata on?
Automata is on both the PlayStation 4 and PC, and right now the PC port isn’t looking like the ideal version that it probably should be.
While it’s absolutely playable and in a stable condition, the PC version lacks some fundamental graphics options like a true borderless window mode. And while it does support some advanced anti-aliasing options that put the PC version ahead of the console version, the process isn’t very well optimized and may cause hitching on high settings.
The game's cutscenes are locked to a 900p resolution at 30 frames per second on PC, but the rest of the game runs at full 1080p or 1440p and and an almost solid 60 fps. The minimum GPU spec is listed at a GTX 770 or a Radeon R9 270X, according to Steam.
The PS4 version doesn’t suffer some of the hitching problems and, like any console game, is just easier to get up and running while also managing to match the PC’s framerate. When running on a PS4 Pro, the resolution jumps from 900p to 1080p while also adding a few post-processing effects and a more stable frame rate.
MORE: The Best Gaming Desktops
How much time can I get out of Nier: Automata?
On top of being an open world game littered with side quests, Nier: Automata features no fewer than twenty six different endings, one for each letter in the alphabet. Some endings are almost instantly achievable by means we won’t spoil here and all endings are obtainable on one save file through an unlockable Chapter Select later on.
There are also significantly different versions of the game to be played upon finishing the main questline. The game is far from over when the credits roll. Expect one full pass of the main story to last you about 30 hours.
Do I have to play the first Nier or Drakengard games before playing Nier: Automata?
Definitely not. Automata is a fine jumping-on point for this series and might represent the best entry in the series thus far. The old Drakengard games and the original Nier didn’t review particularly well, with Metacritic scores hovering around the 60s.
The story connections to Automata are all referential at most, without any need for you to have finished or even played the previous four games. Automata takes place an indeterminate amount of time after Nier in the same world the Drakengard games take place, but it is very much a self contained experience.