A look back at what made NieR: Automata so great

Two years ago today, NieR: Automata released in North America on PlayStation 4. Since then, it has been released on both Xbox One and PC, and players across all three systems often call the title one of the best games they've ever played — myself very much included. But what really made NieR: Automata stand out from its peers?

Here's an in-depth look at exactly that. If you haven't played it yet, don't worry; there are no spoilers in this article.

A story unlike any other

Nier Automata

Nier Automata (Image credit: Square Enix)

Many video games over the years have had incredible writing and storytelling, but nothing on the market is quite as creative, unique, and impactful as NieR: Automata. Over the course of this 40-hour narrative epic, the game touches on several different philosophical questions and concepts that have perplexed humanity's most intelligent minds for centuries. A story that dives this deep risks feeling bloated and inaccessible, but that is not the case here — Automata conveys its themes in a way that everyone can grasp and comprehend, provided that the player pays attention.

NieR: Automata has fantastic characters, too. The game masterfully weaves the arcs of its characters into the title's overall narrative, ensuring that no part of the story feels out of place or jarring, which is quite an incredible achievement when you realize how easily the whole thing could have fallen apart into a nonsensical mess at the seams. While I can't go into any more detail without spoiling what the game has to offer, I can promise that this story will have changed your outlook on life by the time you fully complete it.

Superb gameplay

The gameplay in NieR: Automata is nothing short of phenomenal. Movement is fluid and responsive, and combat is fluid, smooth, and engaging, offering players tons of different combat mechanics to learn and master. Whether you're using a sword, an axe, or a spear, each strike with any of the game's numerous weapons feels powerful and satisfying. You can combo your moves together as well, which allows you to start huge chains of attacks that can decimate dozens of foes at once if you have the skill to pull it off. The game is by no means a cakewalk, though: your enemies can hit just as hard as you do, so timing dodges to avoid their assaults is key. This can often be tough, but it's also very satisfying, as it opens up an opportunity for you to counter-attack.

The thing that makes the gameplay truly unique, though, is how there's more to it than its standard hack-and-slash direction. There are several times where the game turns into a twin-stick shooter, a platformer, and sometimes even a text adventure. These variations of gameplay might seem strange at first, but they're incredibly well done, and the way they're paced makes them feel like brief-but-welcome breaks from melee combat instead of jarring inconsistencies. Additionally, the gameplay is tied into the story in several creative, even groundbreaking ways, which makes everything feel like part of one fluid experience.

Overall, the gameplay of NieR: Automata is simply superb.

Amazing presentation

NieR Automata

NieR Automata (Image credit: PlatinumGames)

Though not as fantastic as everything else about the game, NieR: Automata still has an excellent presentation factor. The graphics, while not industry-leading, still look great, especially if you're playing on an Xbox One X. But where the title really shines is with its animations and its soundtrack.

The animations of Automata are unbelievably fluid. Everything in the game is fantastic to watch — walking, running, jumping, fighting, and more all look stunning, to the point where I would frequently swing my weapons at thin air just to watch how the characters moved during my first playthrough. The soundtrack is even better, winning Best Score/Music at The Game Awards 2017 and offering what many gamers consider to be the best score of all time as far as games are concerned.

Should you buy NieR: Automata?

In short, you should absolutely buy the game. Two years after its initial North American release, NieR: Automata still stands as one of the best games of this generation, as well as one of the best of all time. It tells a revolutionary narrative that will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish, and the gameplay and presentation are both amazing as well. It's my personal favorite game ever, and I cannot recommend playing it enough.

NieR: Automata is available now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC for $40.

Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.