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Nier: Automata for PC review: A sleek and stylish RPG you don't want to miss

Nier Automata
Nier Automata (Image credit: Square Enix )

While on the surface, neither its gameplay or premise are hugely uncommon, Nier: Automata is a PC game that's unusual, in every sense of the word. There's a lot to take in through its narrative, with complexities not only to its extensive cast but also the surrounding world that houses it. From its high level of polish to a complex yet rewarding plot, each of Nier: Automata's foundations bind together to create a complete and gratifying package. A game doesn't come to mind that offers an adventure quite like Nier: Automata, which makes this unpredictable journey all the more fulfilling.

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Plot

After an army of extraterrestrial machines invades earth, Nier: Automata takes off with the post-apocalyptic ruins of the planet. With humans having fled to the moon in refuge from these otherworldly invaders, the planet is left to be ruled by evil machines. In a final attempt to reclaim Earth, humans send down combat-trained androids to survey the current state of the planet.

Nier Automata picks up with a squad of androids being deployed from the "Bunker" – an orbital space station that houses all operations for the "YoRHa" android program. Following two combat units, identified as 2B and 9S, the game explores their journies uncovering the history behind Earth's invaders and how to return peace to the planet.

Over the course of the game, Nier: Automata's seemingly common plot introduces a number of interesting aspects, which continue to become more prominent as the game goes on. While some of its twists in the narrative are somewhat predictable as they approach, there's always something refreshing in the direction its plot takes. It's hard to talk about Automata's plot without spoiling its charm, but with some unique approaches to storytelling, this is a huge component for why you'll be staying around for the duration.

The beauty of the wasteland

A game doesn't come to mind that offers an adventure quite like Nier: Automata, which makes this unpredictable journey all the more fulfilling.

While Nier: Automata is technically a sequel that succeeds the original Nier from 2010, its evolution over this time couldn't be clearer. The game embraces a range of new qualities that help further carve out the franchise's identity, making for a more appealing world to explore.

The inclusion of an open world comes to be one of Nier: Automata's biggest strengths, through a large, interconnected world that joins together all its locales. Whether exploring alien architecture or speeding through an amusement park, these are all seamlessly linked together with no loading times. Each of Nier: Automata's locations has its own individuality, which plays a huge role in setting the scene for its memorable narrative.

Although a majority of combat takes place in larger areas, a fair bulk of the world is comprised of stricter lanes that connect them. While boss battles often take place by memorable landmarks, some of these connecting areas feel like barren backdrops, rather than fully realized parts of the world.

It's hard to criticize Nier: Automata's beautiful world, with the sheer variety in its approach to world design. Although there's not a huge incentive to return outside of the story, this is mostly redeemed by the gems scattered throughout.

More than just a hack and slash

Every battle comes with its own subtleties, which you'll need to pick up and adapt to on the fly.

Beyond gazing at what the world has to offer, Nier: Automata's biggest strengths come from its combat. There's an unmatched flow to encounters, which only emphasizes the game's attention to detail for major aspects of the game.

The core pillars to Nier's combat are made up of light attacks, heavy attacks and ranged attacks. When balanced with one another in reaction to the situation, players will find themselves emerging successfully in encounters. While lower level enemies can be mostly taken down with a few light swings, boss battles (which become a huge part of gameplay) should always be approached with all your abilities in mind. Though simple on the surface, every battle comes with its own subtleties, which you'll need to pick up and adapt to on the fly. This makes for one of the most fluid combat systems I've seen a long time, provided you learn how to master its mechanics.

Expanding on your core abilities, Nier: Automata also provides clear upgrade paths for all abilities and weapons. While consumables and weapon upgrades can be purchased from various vendors, the introduction of "plug-in chips" are an interesting additional route for customization. In keeping with the android theme, these chips can add new abilities, but they take up space in your storage. To free up some room you can discard crucial chips, such as the ones dedicated to displaying HUD elements. While you might lose access to the mini map or HP meters, that can be a worthwhile tradeoff for more experienced players.

Laced through all of Nier: Automata, there's also a sense of unforgiveness in its gameplay. One of the biggest changes from your average western action game is the lack of an autosave function. Instead, your only way to save progress is via dedicated Access Points. These might be relatively frequent in some areas, but they require the player to diverge from the main path in order to preserve progress. The first level doesn't even have a save point until you defeat the first boss, which can leave newcomers frustrated after losing an hour of gameplay.

NieR Automata

NieR Automata (Image credit: PlatinumGames)

Without an Xbox One launch, Nier Automata was developed mostly with the PlayStation 4 in mind. While it seems the version on Sony's console is well optimized across the board, the PC version comes with some minor issues. Being a game built solely for a controller, the biggest hurdle for PC players to overcome is dealing with its mouse and keyboard controls. If you have a controller for your PC, it's highly recommended, due to the nature of the game's combat and camera systems.

On a technical level, the game mostly runs without issues on most hardware, aside from some small bugs related to playing in full-screen. With some time having passed since launch, we've still yet to get an update to correct these nuisances, but they aren't too detrimental to the overall experience on PC.

Nier: Automata is an unforgettable experience for any kind of gamer. While its strong ties to traditional Japanese RPGs is evident, there are some interesting traits clearly influenced by western titles.

It's hard to fault what most of Nier: Automata's offers, mostly because it majestically executes in a sleek and ingenious manner. With a careful approach to even the smallest aspects of its mechanics, the game emerges as a polished and artistically-stylized package. For those looking for a creative adventure with some intriguing notions, look no further than this lustrous RPG.

Pros:

  • Smooth and rewarding combat.
  • Beautifully stylized open world.
  • A story worth staying for.

Cons:

  • There's little incentive to revisit locations outside of the main story.

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Matt Brown is Windows Central's Senior Editor, Xbox & PC, at Future. Following over seven years of professional consumer technology and gaming coverage, he’s focused on the world of Microsoft's gaming efforts. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.

28 Comments
  • I didn't realize this was coming to PC.  I might have to check it out but I just started Fallout 4 so it might be a while.
  • "A while" confirmed. I've logged over 80 hours into it and only just now started the 3rd act.
  • An amazing game, great story, great characters, great music, great controls (with gamepad), a dream for me. It's really worth to give it a try.
  • Easily one of the best games I've played in a while.  Haven't like a story and discovery of the world I'm in since FO3. Just a warning, if you think the game is too short after beating it, its really not.  You play through again with mostly the same story, then you play AGAIN with a different story.  And that's as far as I am, I think you have to play through four or five times to get the full story / real ending.  I've got about 35 hours into the game so far.
  • I need to get back into playing RPGs. I do miss their entertainment. I guess as life sets in as you get older, you sometimes lose focus on these kinds of things ;)
  • This looks really good. But bring it to Xbox or GTFO :p
  • PC beggers they say
  • Or at least Windows Store.
  • We're sorry, but this game is not available in your region. What?!
  • It is not available in my region too.
  • Hmm, we usually go through Green Man Gaming as it's a little cheaper for readers. Does it appear if you manually search on their site? (:
  • Nope, tried many site even humble bundle, Gog, steam doesn't show just redirect to main page.
  • i have been thinking about buying this game, but they need to get rid of the intrusive Sony copy protection first..
  • Reminds me a lot of Phantom Dust.
  • No Xbox port...steups.
  • For those saying no Xbox port it apparently rides on the success of PC and PlayStation versions. If they're successful, we're apparently getting it for Xbox. Which is what I'm waiting for as my GTX 760 doesn't even meet the MINIMUM requirements for this game.
  • A 760 is way above what a PS4 can do so don't worry.
  • Another 5/5 review with a 4.5 score, its strange, but I've saw this a lot on other sites too "Nier is perfect!!!......... 9/10" strange
  • Ye, just like Jim Sterling who went something along the line of "This game is of such propotions that if history ever forgets it, then history ****** up"... 9/10.  I think it's something to do with it being sandwitched in between other great games and the reporters believing they got a 10/10 qouta, and feel the backlash would be less by dumping this one down rather than famous brands like Zelda or Persona. By no means, those two are great also, but Nier:Automata goes into the the cathegory of legends imo. I think I got it up there fighting against FF VII, and Metal Gear Solid, for my best game ever. And there has been such a long time since any game has had that privelege. ^_^
  • Waiting for it on xbox one .
  • This game was developed using money that MS gave Platinum for Scalebound. That's the reason why MS pulled the plug on the game, because Platinum was using the money to develop their other games. So yeah, this game should be put on the X1 and Scorpio.
  • If this game was made using uwa, then cant they scale this game to xbone and Scorpio?
  • I'm definitely going to grab this on PS4, the game looks incredible.
  • me too, it looks amazing! 
  • Witcher 3
  • I played on ps4. It's quite a good game indeed!
  • Will consider if/when they do an Xbox port. Never played the first one because of the weird "Westernized" version. Does it have an option for Japanese audio? Most J to E translated games have awful voice acting in the English version. I had to mute the preview video after a few seconds.
  • It has Japanese audio.  I hate dubbing too.  It sounds like an Xbox port is unlikely because the Xbox has no market in Japan.  I just bought the game for PC to support it, even though I'm already playing it on PS4.  Its an amazing game, great story, mechanics and soundtrack.