NieR: Automata, thoughts and first impressions

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Joanna Yu

Calm. Patience. Strategy.
These three principles always run through my head whenever I power up a new game and lay the foundation for how I approach each situation; play it safe, be careful and take my time — slow concepts that attributed to the reason why I died thirty minutes into NieR: Automata and was unable to get past the introduction. Staring straight into the glowing eyes of the game’s first boss after running out of healing items made me realize that Automata would not be an easy adventure to tackle and set the pivotal mood of survival that pushes the story forth.
Taking place in a post-apocalyptic world, Automata paints a bleak future for Earth. After facing an onslaught of alien-made machines, humanity has escaped to the moon and combats the mechanical army from space by sending humanoid androids dubbed “YoRHa” to fight on the surface. Players take control of YoRHA unit 2B and her assigned partner 9S as they complete missions for the moon-based humans. However, as the duo continues to explore the world their creators once called home, they begin to notice that some elements are not as they should seem; upon the discovery of machines possessing self-awareness, emotion and other human characteristics, 2B and 9S work to unravel the truth behind these abnormalities as well as the hidden mysteries coded into their own systems.
As the story unfolds, Automata gives players free reign to explore the open world. Every location in game is reached by foot, and because of the superhuman ability of the android characters, players can sprint infinitely — or even hitch a ride on the surviving wildlife — to get from place to place. Environments are eerie yet beautiful, showcasing the art team’s vision of what cities, amusement parks and other remnants of humanity could look like after global devastation. Exploration also incorporates platformer elements that allow an even greater depth when venturing through region that is pushed further with a plethora of optional quests and plot-lines to complete.
In addition to the world’s vastness and beauty, Automata’s other engaging aspect is its action-packed combat. Due to the android’s fighting ability, players can equip weapons twice their character’s size to perform endless chains of graceful combos and mighty attacks that can send mechanical opponents flying. However, no matter how entertaining engaging swarms of machines is, the combat system takes the player by surprise due Automata throwing the player straight into battle during the introduction without any warning. Elements are introduced one at a time, but having to keep track of every option and command in further chapters can be overwhelming; I’ve had to keep six fingers on the controller at all times so I can reach the appropriate button at a moment’s notice when I play. In addition to moving and attacking with the player’s android, additional buttons control their companion robot pods and their actions. Enhancing items called chips  give status boosts or additional combat commands that can be programmed into the androids’ mainframes. Players can set different combinations of these chips along with a variety of weapons that can be switched during battle with the press of a button, allowing even more possibilities for combat.  
Being able to actively control and maintain these options takes time to get used to, but once a player overcomes Automata’s learning curve, combat becomes the shining glory of the game. Creative and challenging boss fights take the already intense battles to a new extremity where quick thinking and intuition are necessary to dodge waves of projectiles, avoid hacking attempts and decode how to take down each enemy. Players can choose how challenging they want their battle experience to be, ranging from easy mode — where the game’s artificial intelligence will control pod functions and other combat actions — to very hard, a feature that will instantly kill players if they are hit.
One big thing that I look for in games are how the characters I play as are written and portrayed, but from how far I’ve gotten in Automata, I can’t say that I know 2B and 9S that well due to the little interaction and banter they two partake in. This lack of conversation fits Automata’s underlying tone of a cruel reality, nonetheless. Although the androids may look, act and think like humans, they are nothing more than the machines they fight against. They may possess personalities and cognitive ability, but they are nothing but tools for mankind. Although this factor often slips my mind during play sessions, I look forward to seeing how convoluted the story becomes, battling machines the size of skyscrapers and even racing from place to place on a moose (complete with drifting capabilities). Accompanied by a breathtaking music score to appropriately set the scene of each area, Automata is an immersive and intriguing experience that captivates the player to keep exploring its world of immense beauty and unfolding brutality.
NieR: Automata is available on PC and PlayStation4
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