“Glory to Mankind.”
May 10, 2017 4:51 PM   Subscribe

It’s the distant future and the earth is in ruins. Machines have replaced mankind, and therefore they must be destroyed. [Polygon] “And there are a lot of reasons to play Nier: Automata [YouTube] [Trailer] beyond its fusion of melee action and bullet hell shooting. It makes one hell of a first impression for one thing, seizing control of the camera to stage sweeping scenes that make 2B seem no bigger than an insect, then squaring her off against a living oil rig that feels bigger than the buildings themselves just to rub it in. And remarkably Nier only ever builds on that opening scene, moving from spectacle to spectacle, impression to impression, as if to say "Oh, you thought that last thing was cool? Well how about this?" Even after finishing the first ending and pursuing the others, the stakes kept rising.”

• The best Platinum joint since Bayonetta 2 [Destructoid]
“But Automata is so much more than a generic intergalactic struggle. It actually takes place hundreds of years after the aliens have taken over, so the Earth is dilapidated and mysterious. You'll unravel the finer points of what happened on the planet's surface, as well as the relationship that aliens, humans, and androids all have with one another through the passage of time. Naturally it delves a bit in what it means to be an android or a machine, and the nature of humanity itself. While elementary at times, the interaction between the characters sell it. It's a great idea to equip the androids with emotions as a story conceit, as it allows for more interesting developments between the cast. 2B, the android protagonist, is stoic as hell which seems like a boring character trait, but ends up working well when juxtaposed to 9S, her silly companion. Many of their conversations end up playing out like a classic comedy duo on top of some of the more grave matters that the narrative touches on.”
• NieR: Automata reviewed [Ars Technica]
“NieR: Automata’s greatest asset is its ability to constantly surprise and upset expectations. When, after a few hours, other games may begin to weary their player through repetition, Taro’s restless approach to game design refreshes your store of patience, luring you onward to find out what happens next. While the overarching quest is to bring peace to Earth either by force or negotiation, in order to allow humanity to resettle, the game focuses on a single dilapidated city in order to make the job (and the development budget) manageable. There is, nevertheless, a fair amount of backtracking if you decide to take on the cavalcade of side-missions thrown at you. As the game world slowly opens up you’ll be able to fast-travel between key encampments, but until then you’re forced to trudge on foot or, if you’re able, to hitch a ride via the local wildlife. These long traipses across the largely bland environments upset the pace established in the game’s first hour, but they do provide a strong sense of the scope and digital topography of the place, and you soon learn the shortcuts.”
• Nier: Automata is a game about overcoming depression, and just what I needed [GamesRadar+]
“His entire life is revealed to be an endless cycle of death without purpose. He has fought the machines - and died doing so - countless times before, and unless he does something, this will continue for countless times into the future. His gods long since dead, 9S vows to break the cycle and destroy everything, including himself. He goes from an enthusiastic helper to a jaded cynic who sees no point in living. I can't say I've never felt likewise. On my worst days, my depression tells me there's no point. It says there is no god, and no reason to continue living. And that's why I'm going to talk about Automata's bullet-hell mini-game now. Weird transition? You bet. But this is a game featuring robots who quote Jean-Paul Sartre and androgynous machines named Adam and Eve that debate the usefulness of underwear. You're just gonna have to roll with it. Besides, I promise it'll make sense in a moment.”
• Nier: Automata is one of the saddest games ever made [PC Gamer]
“Nier: Automata is a game about white-haired Ken dolls plotting their ascension while a colony of surviving humans hides on the moon. It is also a game about androids smashing hundreds of squat machines with samurai swords. At the same time, it is a game that explores existentialism, nihilism, and other big isms in a despairing vision of a world that has lost humanity and cannot move on. It's brilliant. In Nier you play an android, dispatched by android high command to destroy the little rust-coloured machines that have taken over the planet. It's quickly obvious, when they start screaming in fear at your arrival, that the machines have gained a degree of sentience. They have formed small societies that crudely mimic human behaviour. In the heart of an abandoned housing district the machines are trying to have sex while some tend to heaps of spare parts in prams. In an abandoned theme park another machine straps dead androids to itself in an attempt to recapture an operatic vision of beauty.”
• It’s a game that’s whatever it needs to be at any particular moment to be completely amazing. [Kotaku]
“Giving players the option to enjoy the game on their own terms is something Nier: Automata does very well. Challenge-hungry players can ramp the difficulty all the way up, doing away with silly things like targeting and aiming. Folks who just want to enjoy the nice game with the pretty androids can set the difficulty to easy, which allows for the equipping of special chips that auto-heal, auto-fight, auto-dodge—they almost play the game for you. That’s my favorite thing about Nier: Automata. Knowing that it’s accessible to all sorts of players means there’ll be plenty of people to revel with me in this equal parts charming and macabre world that Yoko Taro and PlatinumGames have built.”
• Nier:Automata: An Interview With Yosuke Saito and Junichi Ehara [CGMAGOnline]
““The characters that appear in this game are androids – they’re mechanical life forms.” Yosuke-san describes. “At first glance, when you hear that, you would imagine characters or beings with no emotion. But…there’s going to be a lot of interaction between the characters, like 2B and 9S….that they do have some kind of dialogue between them. We see that there’s some kind of emotion, and so, the image that you have of androids and mechanical life forms may change as you play the game. You would notice that they do have some kind of emotion.” “So, I can’t really dive into to much about it, because that would reveal the story line,or be a kind of spoiler.” He continues, “But while there is that theme of agaku, I also think that there’s also a theme of love on in this game, which you would normally not associate with robots.”
• Nier: Automata and the Illusion of Survival [US Gamer]
“I struck down Hegel in a desert, a sandstorm obscuring my view. I was A2 now, not 2B (who A2 killed at 2B's own request after a virus corrupted her); nor 9S, who was out for A2’s blood after witnessing the murder of his friend with zero context. Here A2, a fresh perspective for me to infiltrate, stood. The remnants of A2’s assumingly once-Gothic lolita maid outfit still tattered. Her long hair newly chopped off. The centipede-like boss Hegel now just sand in the wind. As if Yoko Taro, Nier: Automata’s director, had said 'be gone!' to the ideas once pontificated by the other Hegel—the philosopher—and this was his response. As if surviving was paving their own path, separate from the musings of old men of centuries past. ”
• NieR: Automata A Guide To All 26 Endings (No Spoilers) [Game Revolution]
Ending T: fa[T]al error - Remove your OS Chip in the menus.
Ending W: broken [W]ings - Perish during the very first mission.
posted by Fizz (39 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Thank you so much for making this post, as I have been trying and failing to begin writing a post about NieR: Automata for several weeks. I will now proceed to actually read your post, and in so doing fret endlessly about the elements you've highlighted or overlooked which I would have ignored or emphasized, respectively.
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 5:18 PM on May 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

This looks incredible! I've never wished I had a PS4 more.
posted by corb at 5:21 PM on May 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

Let me warn the prospective player: it is possible to expect too much of NieR: Automata. It does many things well, and a few things brilliantly, and it does more things than anyone would rightly expect it to. I commend it for these reasons. However: I got caught up in the hype, and tried too hard to figure out what was going on too early in the process, and [the game that I imagined that NieR: Automata might actually be] turned out to be marginally more interesting than [the game that it actually is]--but that's not really much of a criticism. My imagination is really good. Still, you can learn from my example: just let the game take you where it's going to! I promise that it's doing better things than 90% of the games that exist, and the other 10% is composed solely of those games that best satisfy the quirks of your own personal taste.
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 5:38 PM on May 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

Nier: Automata is going to be my game of the year. With Resident Evil VII a close second. 2017 is going to be a great year for gaming. Do yourself a favor and find a way to play this game. The story is deep and thought-provoking, the gameplay is filled with variety: bullet-hell, side scroller, action-RPG, button-masher. It's a little bit of everything and they make it work. It's also one of the most beautiful games I've ever played. This scratches all of my gaming itches.
posted by Fizz at 5:39 PM on May 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

I can't help but feel like the existence Nier: Automata is something of a minor miracle. Despite working perfectly as a standalone title it's the latest in a line of games by Yoko Taro, all of them until now commercial and critical failures. Any company as laser focused on profit as you might expect a major publisher like Square Enix to be would never have greenlit Drakengard 3, never mind this game.
posted by Proofs and Refutations at 5:49 PM on May 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

This looks incredible! I've never wished I had a PS4 more.

Good news everyone! </Farnsworth> It's on PC too.
posted by mrgoat at 5:56 PM on May 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

(And XBox.)

I have to admit I can't really get past the fanservice, though.
posted by tobascodagama at 6:00 PM on May 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm enthusiastically interested in the game but I haven't played it yet and I'm studiously avoiding discussion of major story beats. Some links:

Dunky plays NieR: Automata

Nier has a shop where you can straight up buy all the trophies

Nier: Automata – how a ‘weird game for weird people’ became a sleeper hit

Kill Em All 11945
posted by figurant at 6:06 PM on May 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've been playing this, and recently picked up the DLC. It's a game of surprises. Of endings and beginnings. Of futility. And also problematic scantily-clad android ladies smashing retro-futuristic robots with their underage boy pal.
posted by Neale at 6:18 PM on May 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

why do people think machines are going to replace and exterminate us

our apocalypses are so dull and predictable
posted by clockzero at 6:27 PM on May 10, 2017

So it seems it isn't on the Xbox and never will be. Shame, as it sounds like a bit of fun, and I do recall enjoying Bayonetta back in the day. Oh well!
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:31 PM on May 10, 2017

our apocalypses are so dull and predictable

*spoilers* 'O Romeo, O Romeo, wherefort art thou, Rome? *spoilers*
posted by Fizz at 6:32 PM on May 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

Unfortunately, the fanservice is one of the negative aspects of the game but I feel like I've become desensitized over due to games overall being all similar in a way. However, if you play as 9S (scanner type) you will avoid most of it since he gets to wear pants and is closer to a normal JRPG protagonist.

It's a shame since I would recommend it to others but I need to stick a warning: label on the cover because of how players have objectified 2B. The good news is how there's the 2nd android A2 but she is wearing a halter top and shorts later on.

BTW: PC has some weird errors that haven't been patched out so I'd suggest buying the PS4 game unless you happen to be one of the few lucky players.
posted by chrono_rabbit at 7:02 PM on May 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have to admit I can't really get past the fanservice, though.

The first I can remember reading about this game was that it gives you an achievement for looking up your character's skirt. That alone was enough to get me to ignore it.

Suddenly everyone was talking about how this game was amazing. Even people who would normally call out that fetishising fanservice bs were praising it and no one was talking about the fanservice stuff anymore.

What happened?
posted by thecjm at 7:03 PM on May 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

I wrote about the fanservice but it is weird how none of the bigger review sites mentioned this problem. I think it's a mix of apathy and reviewers are biased esp. if they want to get more free games from major game companies like SE. Also, the main character designer is famous in the games community for working on other SE games.

Also, there's a bit of don't kick over the beehive if you're going to write about games due to unwarranted harassment posters are subject to due to social media. Also, Yoko Taro has been asked about the designs he just mentioned: I like women.
posted by chrono_rabbit at 8:26 PM on May 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

What happened?

The short answer is that the game is good enough to outweigh the fan-service complaint for anyone who doesn't operate on a zero tolerance system.

It also helps that the fan service isn't one-sided. Two of the main antagonists, Adam and Eve, are mostly naked bishonen.
posted by pan at 9:07 PM on May 10, 2017 [6 favorites]

I regret the money and time I spent on it. I felt like I'd seen every single thing it was doing before. Points for trying to merge disparate games i to one I guess but it really just lost me when it made me play through the first act a second time as Lonely Boy Robot. I turned on autobattle because I just didn't give a damn any more as I slogged my way to the oh so stunning revelation at the end of his act that I'd called as soon as Emotionless Lolita Robot got the parallel revelation halfway through her first act.

Here is a more thorough review of it I did a couple weeks ago.
posted by egypturnash at 10:51 PM on May 10, 2017

I liked Nier: Automata, but I think it fails to live up to its potential. The way it plays with narrative structure and the medium is neat, but all too often it falls back on paper-thin anime storytelling cliches to get by. For all the praise the game has gotten for its philosophical/ontological trappings, I think it failed to really deliver on those themes in any more than a hand-wavy "what is the nature of man?!" sort of way.

Most importantly, I think, is that the actual gameplay is just sort of okay. Not great, not meh, just okay. It's a stylish and interestingly customizable character action game, but that said, you can get by button mashing for the most part and the systems don't really progress or develop over the course of the game. The genre-blending stuff is interesting, but then again the bullet-hell and shmup sections are merely competent. I was hoping for something more like Bayonetta or Devil May Cry in terms of systems and depth but Nier is really closer to a Dynasty Warriors than anything else.

Also, the female characters did bum me out. You've got a game full semi-emotionless, definitely sexless android characters and for some reason we're still getting panty shots and painted-on booty shorts.

And while we're on the subject: YorHa can't build more than five flight units because they're too "expensive" (why is there artificial scarcity in a total war against opposing, self-replicating machine nation-states anyway?) but they have all the resources in the world to tailor exquisite gothic lolita outfits for their warriors. 2B even has a spare pair of calf-high leather boots next to her bunk, for crying out loud! Somebody in the YorHa budget oversight office is doing really shitty job.
posted by mmcg at 2:29 AM on May 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

Nier Automata had one of the most gut punching / emotional ending sequence I've ever seen and probably ever will see, but it's a shame that I can't talk to anyone about it.
posted by xdvesper at 2:40 AM on May 11, 2017

It also had the best fucking merchant I've ever seen and I'll just leave it at that.

I went into 2017 expecting P5 to end up my GOTY but having played both I'm not sure anymore.

BTW, original NieR has been reprinted, for those who care.

Here's a link to The Dark Id's ongoing LP on SA.
posted by Bangaioh at 4:27 AM on May 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

I played the first "level" as a demo, up to defeating the oil-rig robot. It seemed pointless, trite, cliched, repetitive, and juvenile to me. Especially the character design and dialog was really irritating. I guess it's just not my thing at all, but I wanted the 20 minutes back when I finished the demo.
posted by donkeymon at 4:48 AM on May 11, 2017

The first I can remember reading about this game was that it gives you an achievement for looking up your character's skirt.

Ten times. I love the top-rated comment on reddit: "You get something for doing that in real life too. It's called a Restraining Order."
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:05 AM on May 11, 2017 [6 favorites]

Thank you to all the commenters pointing out the fanservice.

I think this game looks really interesting - but I appreciate being able to make the choice whether to support something with this kind of fanservice. It's really annoying when people just don't mention it and you end up feeling tricked into buying something that demeans you.

The code of silence does kind of undermine gamergate's "don't like it don't buy it" argument, though, since they intimidate people out of even giving you the information you need to make that choice.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:25 AM on May 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

Yeah, don't see why I should put up with this puerile fanservice junk when I can just kill machines and save the world with Aloy.
posted by xthlc at 8:21 AM on May 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

when I can just kill machines and save the world with Aloy.

I really wish that Horizon Zero Dawn was available on PC. It's one of the few games that I wish I had a console for. Very jealous.
posted by Fizz at 9:08 AM on May 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

And the fanservice is the most awful part of the game. I love everything else about it.
posted by Fizz at 9:08 AM on May 11, 2017

Even people who would normally call out that fetishising fanservice bs were praising it and no one was talking about the fanservice stuff anymore.

What happened?

Oh, the usual, death and rape threats to anyone who mentions sexism in video games.

Gamergate won, in other words. Sexist shit that would sink a project elswhere simply has to be accepted without being discussed in reviews now.
posted by happyroach at 9:57 AM on May 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

I do wish you had mentioned about it in your post, though. It does look like a very good game, otherwise, based on these reviews - and I might have bought it before knowing.

I know that fanservice is so routine that it might seem not worth remarking on, but when no one is remarking on it, it feels very much like, "Does... does nobody else notice this?" That is, it's not just the routine fanservice, but also the routine acceptance of it, that signals that gaming is not for me, that gaming communities are not for me.

A Google search does bring up people bringing up the fanservice, but not having played the game yet, I had to know to look for it.

I don't want this to come across as an attack. I might still get this game. But I do wish that misogyny was considered a big enough deal to be worth mentioning when you're discussing (especially, recommending) a piece of media. Beyond just helping people make a more informed choice, it does make a little bit in how normalized acceptance of sexism is.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:01 AM on May 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

Kutsuwamushi, You're right. I should have. I know there are a few critics who have acknowledged the problem. I overlooked it in my excitement about this game. I could have framed the post a bit better, had I included this problem as part of our discussion about the game.

I appreciate you calling it out as problematic. I'll think a bit more carefully and critically.

Creator Yoko Taro is certainly not helping the issue:

• Yoko Taro on Why NieR: Automata Protagonist 2B Wears High Heels: “I Just Really Like Girls” [Dual Shockers]
“To a question asking why a combat android wears high heels, Yoko Taro answered that the game is set 10,000 years in the future, so when he tried to imagine what it would be like, he thought about how it was 10,000 years ago, and people back then probably would not have been able to imagine what it would be like nowadays. That’s why he decided to think freely and willfully about it. Since a lot of western games feature space marines and that kind of concept, he let his ideas flow freely and came up with a girl wearing heels in the future. Yet, the biggest reason is simply that he just really likes girls.”
We might consider this post with our discussion:

• Horizon Zero Dawn vs Nier: Automata: Feminism vs Egalitarianism [One Angry Gamer]
“Some people have noted that the men in Horizon are portrayed as emasculated and weak, and it’s mostly true. The most noteworthy warriors in the game are women. The most noteworthy men in the game are bumbling sidekicks or young admirers to Aloy. The men who are leaders are portrayed as being either incompetent or useless without a female protector, like the young and handsome leader of the Carja tribe, or the interim leader of another splinter group who is literally a little boy who spends his time crying in his mother’s arms. In this way, the feminist perspective in Horizon is one where it worships female superiority. In fact, the world is thrown asunder due to (white) male greed and ambition, and only a woman is able to save the world… three times: The first time includes wiping out the evil white man’s machines, the second time is restoring the world’s ecosystem, and the third time involves Aloy saving the planet.”
posted by Fizz at 10:27 AM on May 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yet, the biggest reason is simply that he just really likes girls.

Great, another dev with the emotional maturity of a teenage boy.

In this way, the feminist perspective in Horizon is one where it worships female superiority.

That sounds more like a bad case of Good Guy Syndrome and pedestaling. Barf.

I get that the shittiness of Japanese pop culture is a reflection of how backwards Japan is wrt social issues but is it to much to ask of reviewers and game industry people in the West to critically reflect and discuss these issues? It's not like you need a phd to call out freaking panty shots either.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 10:57 AM on May 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

I really enjoyed NieR: Automata too. This is the first JRPG I've really played through and I struggled with some of the tropes. Particularly the silliness of it. But then there's also the operatic drama of it, these crazy histrionics and fetish costumes and ridiculous swords. The central existentialist themes of the story held my interest. Most importantly I think the gameplay deftly worked hand-in-hand with the storytelling, and to me that's the whole point of videogames.

The characterizations of robots in the game is really interesting. So are the questions of humanity. I want to avoid spoilers but the nature of the replays and the story really make this a smarter game about existence than usual.

The sexism that's being called "fanservice" here is a disappointment; French maid fetish outfits, high heels on combat androids, etc. It'd be a better game without it, or at least some critical distance to it. But I could just roll my eyes at that stuff. I even liked some of the other weird Japanese tropes like the Adam and Eve boys, which to me is a sort of gay equivalent of the sexist portrayals of the female androids.
posted by Nelson at 11:36 AM on May 11, 2017

I beat Nier Automata yesterday (Ending E) and I think it's a great but flawed game. The biggest flaw being the unnecessary sexism, which will drive away as many potential players as it draws and serves no purpose in the game's narrative. It's indulgent and shameless marketing.

However, the way the game plays with its own narrative and structure is fascinating and worth playing through if you're interested in game design. I think this game proves that narrative game design still has a LONG way to go. We're still in the infancy of games as a dramatic art.
posted by clockworkjoe at 12:31 PM on May 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

(Random synchronicity: I'm currently reading Seven Surrenders, the sequel to Too Like the Lightning, and the Adam & Eve boys look exactly, seriously exactly like my mental image of Ojiro Cardigan Sniper.)
posted by tobascodagama at 1:23 PM on May 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

This game, bar the creepy sexualisation, is basically made for me. I would play the shit out of it. I'm not going to, though, per my Not Paying For Media From Mouth-Breathing Perverts policy.
posted by Kreiger at 1:41 PM on May 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

Fizz: I know there are a few critics who have acknowledged the problem. I overlooked it in my excitement about this game. I could have framed the post a bit better, had I included this problem as part of our discussion about the game.

In all fairness, given how misogynistic the gaming hobby is, one could pretty much take it as granted that any women in a game will be massively oversexualized and objectified. It's really the games that don't fundamentally treat female characters as primarily stroke fodder for men that are unusual enough to be commented n.

Foci for Analysis: I get that the shittiness of Japanese pop culture is a reflection of how backwards Japan is wrt social issues but is it to much to ask of reviewers and game industry people in the West to critically reflect and discuss these issues?

We've seen what happens to reviewers and game industry people who critically reflect on and discuss these issues. The shittiness of Japanese pop culture isn't the problem here.
posted by happyroach at 9:05 PM on May 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

I was not familiar with Taro Yoko's work when I went to see him give a talk at GDC 2014. I was simply drawn to the title of "Making Weird Games for Weird People". I left after about 15 minutes when he went on describing his creative process towards making the player feel sad in the emotional climax of the original Nier. His method was apparently to make the death of a girl more tragic by adding her being very young, then also mute, also very kind, and also killing her on her wedding day. This didn't seem very weird to me so much as a trope I'd seen a thousand times. That he didn't consider making her death tragic by having her be a well-rounded character that earns the player's emotional investment seems to be the real tragedy to me.

Nier: Automata seems very appealing on some level. Platinum Games does excellent combat, the setpieces seem incredible, and I love a good shmup. Like others have mentioned, the fanservice aspect really turns me off. Admittedly I'll probably play it at some point, but there's enough good stuff out there that doesn't include the designers' juvenile sex fantasies I may simply never get around to it.
posted by Durhey at 12:07 PM on May 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

I feel like there's enough content for a Yoko Taro post FP but it's difficult to set-up since it'd be linked to various interviews/clips all over the place. However, I do recc'd to check out the YT links since it gives players a good idea of how he works on games.

I do like Nier: A as it has an amazing OST, haunting atmosphere, and decent ARPG sections by Platinum Games. I've played and own the DLC on PS4 and it was worth my entry fee. But it's difficult to separate from the overall toxicity of gaming communities and their products from each other.

The Nier 1 LP on SA is a fun read too.
posted by chrono_rabbit at 5:29 PM on May 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

I haven't played any of the recent Final Fantasy games. Does anyone know how they're stacking up with regards to the topics we've been discussing? Gender, character, sexuality, agency, etc? Are they any better or are they plagued with similar cliche and tropes?
posted by Fizz at 9:15 AM on May 13, 2017

Fizz: FFXV suffers from poor character design for Cindy (your mechanic) and Noctis' LI is kinda a non-entity but it's overall a very uneven game with nice gfx. It has some awesome fantasy food and chocobos though.
posted by chrono_rabbit at 5:39 PM on May 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

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