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The game that tells a story

GAMES & GADGETS

GAME: NieR: Automata

GENRE: Action role-playing game

PLATFORM: Windows, PS4 

Nier: Automata lets you play as robots 2B, 9S and A2, who fight on a deserted earth against machines in a proxy war between humans and alien invaders. As part of the "YoRHa", you fight to remove the machines from the Earth, to make it safe for humans - who have taken refuge on the moon - to return. But since the story of this game is by Yoko Taro, there is much more to the plot, which undergoes more twists than many murder mysteries. There are multiple endings - one for each letter in the alphabet. The first five constitute the main plot of the game.

This game might seem like just another hack-n-slash third-person action title, but it also works as a bullet hell shooter, with cameras seamlessly switching between 3D free camera, top down mode, 2D side-scroller, and a classic 2D forward moving bullet hell mode. However, they do make it essential to use a game controller (unless you're the type that likes to be challenged with a very complex control system). While playing as 2B, you get multiple sequences where you are expected to use your weapon combos and dodge incoming attacks to get past hordes of enemies. But while playing 9S, you instead get the hacking mechanic, which lets you hack into enemies to destroy them or gain control of them.

Automata utilises an open world, but keeps it small enough for it to remain tightly connected. There are drastic changes in scenery as the game progresses, with a city fading into a desert, and an amusement park suddenly blending into a village in a forest. However, it never feels jarring.

The game has a lot of side quests. Almost all of them leave you with a sense of uneasiness. Unlike most titles, Automata rarely offers large chunks of information, instead giving little tidbits, scattered across multiple threads. And this makes the process of finding them feel like an achievement. The soundtrack is brilliant.

The difficulty scale is awkward - normal mode is absurdly easy, while hard mode is more painful than Dark Souls, and very hard mode does what it says - kill in one hit. Some people might find the multiple play throughs required repetitive. And the supporting cast appears weak if the side quests aren't played through till the end. There are times when the game robs you of your agency as a player when you might want it most, forcing you to be a spectator in a drama which you desperately want to change. It's certainly not easy to play, especially with the difficulty turned up.

VERDICT: Automata is evidence that games can tell great stories and utilise their unique medium to convey a sense of empathy that other media can't. In addition to all this, you get to ride a boar. You really should try this game.

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