What Began as a Palate Cleanser…
A couple of weeks ago, I finally finished my 85+ hour playthrough of Breath of the Wild. Since it was released on March 3, I played little else and lost myself to Hyrule. I loved that game and it has forever ruined open world games for me. I wanted to cleanse my palate and not jump straight into Horizon: Zero Dawn, so I decided to jump into another game that was released shortly after Zelda — NieR: Automata. My brain hasn’t been released from its grip ever since.
Masterful in its Storytelling
Every once in a great while, a game or movie comes along that is so masterful in its storytelling that you can’t help but dwell on it while you begin to peel back the layers of the onion and figure out what you missed now that you know the ending. Prior to this game, Arrival was the only media I can think of in recent memory that did this to me. However, NieR’s superb grasp on what it wants to be and how it presents an emotional and depressing tale affected me in a way that I find hard to stop obsessing over. But – let me tell this story from the beginning.
Looking for a Solid Action Game
Around Christmas, the demo for NieR was released on PSN. I was in a bit of a game drought and had heard the first NieR was quite good, so I decided to give it a shot. I instantly fell in love with the silky smooth action that Platinum Games had baked into the title, and figured it would be a fun diversion when it came out. I was looking for a solid action game in the vein of Bayonetta or Devil May Cry and from the demo, this scratched that itch, so I pre ordered the game and waited patiently for March. I saw the reviews hit and thought, “it must be really good action to be receiving 9s or 10s,” and I was excited. I had no idea what was in store for me.
For me, the game began to quickly show its Japanese roots. There were odd parts and actions by different characters and my entire first playthrough I loved the weirdness. You literally never know what you would encounter next. Couple that with the fun combat and fairly interesting world and I was happy with my purchase. The story made little sense, but I didn’t mind. I was rather surprised when I hit ending “A” and the credits rolled after only 8 hours. I wanted more and had heard that multiple playthroughs were required to reach the “true” ending. So, I journeyed on…
Playthrough B started out pretty standard, I was playing the same missions/scenarios only as the second character, 9S. It was fun and all, but I didn’t connect with him as a character…at first. Then, about 1/3 of the way through, things started to get very interesting. You see, 9S has the ability to hack other robots and through that you begin to see backstories you had no idea existed. The intrigue continued to the end, with the first “Holy Shit” moment coming just before ending “B”. I was extremely curious what would change on my 3rd playthrough, but I was in no way prepared for what was coming…
My 3rd and final time to hit the “Start Game” button sent me careening down the rabbit hole faster than I ever thought possible. To say that this game doesn’t truly start until the third playthrough isn’t totally accurate. The information you gained from playthroughs A & B is crucial to setting the stage for what’s to come, but pales in comparison to what’s waiting for you in the third act. You see, the third playthrough is entirely new. You don’t repeat anything other than the map from the first two playthroughs. When the roller coaster of emotion comes to a screeching halt and you have finally seen the final ending you know what I knew without a doubt. This is a solid contender for GOTY if not Game of the Generation.
A Story that will Tear at your Soul
After I finished Breath of the Wild, I didn’t see how another game could come close to its accomplishment this year, I thought Zelda was a masterpiece and still do. But, what Yoko Taro (the director) & Platinum Games has accomplished with this game is a masterpiece in game design, story, and sound synergy. Every moment is beautifully crafted, every line carries so much more meaning once you know the context and yet there is an incredible amount said without long monologues or even excessively long cutscenes. Yes, it will help slightly to appreciate some of the lore if you know what happened in the first NieR. Thankfully, Mr Clemps on YouTube can help you with that in an hour and a half if you choose. If you don’t, you won’t be missing much as it is an entirely self-contained story that will tear at your soul and make you really contemplate what it means to be human…
Simply put, you owe it to yourself to play NieR: Automata.