Then, I finally got around to playing Nier: Automata, and now it’s a little less certain.
I’ve never played a Yoko Taro game before, but I understand that he claims to make “weird games for weird people”, and Nier definitely hits the mark there. It’s half super-gritty post-apocalyptic endless war ANGST DARKNESS EVERYONE DIES game and half surreal goofiness (moose wrangling!), with a fair bit of third-wall shattering and bleak-but-gorgeous visuals thrown in.
His previous games have a bit of a reputation for having great stories but coming up short in the gameplay department. This one is a fortunate exception; it’s by Platinum Games and that’s a name that is pretty synonymous with super fast and flashy movement and combat systems. Running around the ruins of human civilization and beating stuff up is an absolute joy, and I occasionally had to remind myself to get back to the, you know, plot.
It has five endings that you need to see to actually finish the storyline, and 21 joke endings that you can trigger by disobeying what the game tells you to do – for example, if your allies are making a huge heroic sacrifice to hold off enemies so you can get a door open, and you opt to fight alongside them instead of opening the door, it will eventually tell you that your attempts ended with everyone dying and roll end credits. Another comes when an NPC asks you to eat a fish because she’s curious what effect it will have on you.
Spoiler: It’s not a good effect.
It’s pretty rare for a game to give you more than the illusion of choice, and I was quite tickled whenever I ran into one of these endings by accident.
But, back to the story endings – like I said, there are five, and this is normally a massive turn-off for me because games with multiple endings often make you play through the exact same events from the exact same viewpoints, satisfying arbitrary conditions along the way, just to see all the different ways the story can diverge in its last ten minutes.
Nier isn’t like that. The first play-through, which took me about 13 hours, tells one story. The second took me about six, and was split between experiencing events from the first through a different character’s perspective and seeing entirely new events.
Endings 3, 4, and 5, which come after the parallel stories of the first two routes, took me another ten hours or so. It turns out that rushing the second story was a bad plan, because my character was woefully under level when starting the third story and I had quite a time just getting up to the point where I didn’t feel like I was made of tissue paper.
Anyway, if you like really pretty games with stylish action and swords and that occasionally switch into bullet-hell style shooters or abstract maze games with chiptune soundtracks, or if the thought of riding a moose or debating philosophy with a robot appeals to you, Nier will give you those things. Set aside about 30 hours to see it all, though.