NieR: Automata Somehow Keeps Getting Better The More I Play It

Right smack dab in the middle of my The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild addiction I found myself distracted. Rumblings about a new title by PlatinumGames kept making me think twice about what game I was devoting my time to. On one hand, I really wanted to complete all the shrines in Breath of the Wild. But on the other, there was something peculiar I couldn't break my attention away from.

On Tuesday I coughed up the money to purchase NieR: Automata. Frankly, I don't know what was wrong with me. I never played the original, and never personally experienced a Yoko Taro production before. There was little reason for me to stop playing one of the best games ever made to play a game that wasn't even charting on Amazon's best seller list.

Nonetheless, I started up Nier: Automata on Tuesday night after anxiously waiting for the game files to slowly drip off the PlayStation servers into my PS4. After six hours of staring at the wall, I was in.

First impression: "Wait, is this a PS3 game?"

Nier: Automata isn't a very good-looking game outside of its character design, but that's no secret. This was a game with a rather small budget, so of course it's not going to be able to compete with the likes of Horizon Zero Dawn. I thought to myself, "I'm a gameplay guy after all, right? Some bland environments can't stop me from getting at least 10 hours out of my $59.99 purchase." And so I continued.

As I fought wave after wave of enemies, I found myself rather disinterested. Explosions everywhere or not, I kept pausing the game to read my Twitter feed as if my brain couldn't commit. While I found that it feels like a PlatinumGames title, its much more simple combat mechanics weren't winning me over, and while its story might be a bit crazy, I recently played Goat Simulator. I wasn't impressed.

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By the end of the prologue I was convinced I was going to become one of the negative nancy outliers who would bring down the Metacritic user score. However, I made my best decision of the year to keep playing.

Since the end of the prologue, the game has changed dramatically for the better. For every hour I continue playing, I find myself increasingly won over by its style and design. My mind has been blown.

There's something deeply interesting about Nier: Automata, and it's tough to put a finger on why exactly that's the case. Its self-aware writing and willingness to break from the "safe zone" of game design are surely part of it. But more than anything, it's how the game remains unpredictable that carries it so far.

By the end of the prologue I thought I had the game figured out. I didn't. The gameplay style transitions have become more dramatic, with an increasing number of perspective shifts and arcade-inspired mechanics thrown in for good measure. The story has introduced all sorts of oddities that make me question reality, and perhaps the sanity of Yoko Taro. The music… well, the music might be some of the most emotion-inspiring of any I've heard in a video game since Final Fantasy VII. It feels like, for lack of a better description, I'm actually playing a video game.

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The sense of wonder here is off the charts. I am driven to progress through the game just to see what's next, and how the game will continue to redefine how I see what a game can be. And based upon what I know about the game's 26 endings, even once I complete the game for the first time, that'll only be the beginning.

I've never been so caught off-guard by a game before, and I've only just scratched the surface. While 48 hours ago I questioned my purchase, I'm now wondering how much more I need to play before it stops getting better. Well done, Yoko Taro. Consider me a fan.


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