Wednesday, October 11, 2017

First Impressions of NieR: Automata

An awful lot of video game conventions just make sense when your character is a robot.

I picked up NieR: Automata a couple of weeks ago, and have been steadily working my way through it. So far, it has been a delightful game, with some very interesting design decisions.

The setting is a post-apocalyptic setting where alien robots invaded Earth and drove the surviving humans to the moon. You play a female android, named 2B, who is working for the humans. It's mostly a straightforward console action game. The story line is very Japanese, which is somewhat hard to explain. If you watch anime, you'll recognize a lot of tropes. However, at the same time, it is also very weird.

Speaking of console games, the mouse and keyboard keybinds are next to impossible to play with. It's clearly a game designed for a console controller. After trying the game with mouse and keyboard, I promptly went out and bought an Xbox 360 controller. Given that the last console I owned was the NES (regular, not Super), this has been an interesting learning experience.[1]

Though the trailer above is in English, I'm playing with the Japanese voices and English subtitles. The English voices aren't as good, in my opinion. The only downside is that sometimes there will be a conversation while fighting, and it can be hard to catch the subtitles in that situation.

I started the game on Normal difficulty, but couldn't beat the first level, so I dropped down to Easy. Easy is interesting because your character has "auto-chips" which automatically control your character. However, you can enable and disable specific chips to customize your game. For example, I use automatic ranged fire from your pod and automatic evading, but manual melee attacks and manual weapon switching.

This whole theme of your character being an android and mechanics reflecting that is quite well done. For example, saving is literally your character uploading her current memory at a terminal. If you die, your memory is loaded into a new body at the terminal. You can find your old body and pick up all your gear.

Similarly, your characters "skills" are slots in memory. It's really nice system, and I'd like to talk more about it in a future post.

I really like the camera work as well. The game often seamlessly switches into a side-scroller or overhead view for specific sequences. It's quite well done. Character control is also very well done, and the game just feels smooth and easy to handle.

All in all, I'm really enjoying NieR: Automata, and I recommend it. It doesn't do anything too revolutionary, but it is a highly polished and fun experience.

1. As an aside, how do you console gamers handle the Left/Right Button and Trigger? Do you use your forefinger for both, or do you use your forefinger for the Button and middle finger for the Trigger? Neither feels quite right to me.


  1. 1. As an aside, how do you console gamers handle the Left/Right Button and Trigger? Do you use your forefinger for both, or do you use your forefinger for the Button and middle finger for the Trigger?

    Situational. Home position is forefinger on triggers, if I need a trigger pull while I am using the shoulder button, the middle finger gets recruited.

    1. I see. The base controls for Nier: Automata seem to require using both the shoulder button and trigger a lot, so I was having trouble. Maybe it's just something I need to get used too.

  2. This game was great. I was hooked right from the opening sequence. I died a couple times on it, but made it through. The first few sections of the game are quite difficult on normal, but I found the difficulty didn't ramp up throughout the game, and as I got better, the game got easier.

    Still a really amazing game.

    1. Yeah, I think a lot of my problems in the opening section were unfamiliarity with the controls. Especially once you get chips to shore up your weaknesses (like auto-healing, etc.) I can see higher difficulties becoming much easier.

      I just don't want to hold down the pod fire button, so I'm sticking with Easy and auto-fire.