What do you fight for?
Nier Automata shouldn’t exist. From all logical standpoints the chances of a sequel to the 2010 cult classic seem absurd, with its parent developer Cavia gone and the series for the most part reaching a definitive end come the games final ending, hopes for a sequel seemed like a pipe dream. But apparently, we live in a world as crazy as the ones Yoko Taro creates because not only does Nier Automata exist, it also comes to us with renewed life and award-winning studio Platinum Games at the helm. Nier Automata restores my faith that despite all the doom and gloom people like to put around games these days, genuine passion projects do exist. With a considerably bigger marketing push and the involvement of Platinum Games, more eyes will be on the series than ever before, so I thought it important to give my opinion as a long time fan of both the Nier and Drakengard series and from the perspective of someone accustom to Yoko Taro’s unique and sometimes confusing design and storytelling methods.
Nier Automata is a completely uncompromising vision. In a console generation that has been characterised by low risk releases and repetitive sequels, Automata is completely Yoko Taro’s work, polished up to a refined level. It instills a level of trust in the player you’ll rarely find in a video game narrative, asking the player deep questions about both the actions they take in-game and the actions they take as a person. Set thousands of years after the events of the original Nier, the planet has been invaded by aliens and their machine forces, bordering on extinction, the remaining humans take refuge on the moon, sending out their specially created android units named Yorha to fight the machines and reclaim earth (FOR THE GLORY OF MANKIND).
You play as androids 2B and 9S, as you fight desperately to push back the machine forces and reclaim the planet. And that’s as much as I’ll be giving away of Automata’s plot. Going in knowing virtually nothing, makes uncovering the games mysteries and reveals one of the most narratively satisfying and enriching experiences you can have this console generation, there’s truly nothing like it both in structure and scope. Automata wants to make you think, it wants you to ask questions and yet it has no problem leaving you in the dark for large portions of its run. When you reach the games first ending only about 10% of your questions will be answered and almost half of the game’s content will be seen past this point. (to put it into perspective, the games third ending is essentially a sequel to the first two and adds nearly 10 hours to the overall play time).
I truly cannot stress enough, how important playing through all the games 5 main endings is, to truly understand and appreciate the narrative. Its an unprecedented level of trust in the player and a completely uniquely Yoko Taro way of delivering a narrative. The game makes you work for the reveals, it makes you dig deep for its secrets and it makes the final pay off that much more impactful, that much more important, Automata’s narrative is a gut punch of misdirection and big ideas, that has had me endlessly pondering on its meanings and implications for days since. As with all Yoko Taro’s games, Automata deconstructs and analysis’s the very core of video games, in both their portrayal of violence and the act of consequence. There’s nothing quite like it in the medium, nothing quite willing to go the places Automata does, nothing quite willing to push what narratives can say about us and our interactions with them.