A new year is right around the corner and with it comes a slew of new games that the video game community is already giddily awaiting. Of course, there is the dreaded first quarter. Usually, anyone familiar within the video game community knows that most triple A titles will be coming out sometime in the Q3, leaving Q1 looking a bit sparse. Just look at 2016 as an example. Three major shooters all came out one after the other for a few weeks and it can create some discord; getting to all those games can be difficult. With 2017 on the way, though, things are already looking a bit different. Q1 is looking more fleshed out with titles and one of those titles is Nier: Automata, not a triple A, but worth all the attention.
Nier: Automata is a game fans of the series have been eagerly awaiting and even has a demo available. So what makes Nier so important and what does it have to offer gamers? Well, for one, the series is known for its dark tone (sorry Yoko) and almost horror-like storytelling with settings to match. The narrative of Nier and its parent game Drakengard have overly-depressing and somber narratives. Nothing good really happens in these games and it would be a safe bet that Nier: Automata will follow suit. The storytelling in these games is about as adult as they come (make sure kids aren’t around when playing). For anyone who hasn’t played the original Drakengard, go play it: it comes highly recommend. It wasn’t mind blowing by any means, but what it was doing for gaming was something drastically different.
There is a really popular show for instance, Game of Thrones, well Drakengard was dealing with all themes presented in GoT long before it was popular. This game has it all, incest, child abuse, sadism and other heavy themes. It also has dragons, which are dealt with in a more realistic way than GoT. Fans of fantasy know Dragons are almost god-like beings, hell, in Dark Souls they’re immortal…. getting back on topic though. This series is known for pushing boundaries’. Drakengard was the first of its kind, a game doing something different that few games, especially beat ‘em ups were approaching. The storytelling in Drakengard was astounding. Drakengard, convey’s a sense of permanence of choice that games can still struggle with today. Not that every game must have a rigid backbone to it, that wouldn’t make video games fun. It’s understanding the way the story is being told though that allows for the praise this game series deserves. Long story short, Drakengard tells a story in its own way, also knowing how to end a game. The same can be said for Nier. Even both game’s sequel game’s manage to keep things interesting while remaining in the realm of the weird.
Nier, which creative director Taro Yoko has stated is the direct follow-up to Drakengard 2, follows suit perfectly for what these games offer up. Nier might take place a thousand-plus years in the future, but that changes nothing. There could easily be a whole essay on how all the games are connected (there probably is), but that’s not what this article is about. The series is asking deep questions, questions that might not be as obvious at first. The series, for as wacky and bombastic as it can be, is a reflection on events taking place in our world and how “we” fit into that world. It flips over rocks that might be hiding something nasty and at other points opens doors most people never want to peer behind. Not everyone wants to look at these things, nor should they be forced to. For those who usually let curiosity get the best of them or are looking for a deeper understanding of something, it’s worth pulling back the veil.
As a series, it has managed to keep up with the times in good stride (even if it got weirder along the way). Nier and its predecessor Drakengard were both superb reflections of their time. Nier: Automata is already looking to address certain themes all too familiar for the times right now. Again, making a giant leap into the future, possibly to speak on what technology means for the world. How it shapes and effects our lives. It will be interesting to see where Automata goes because it will be the first game without human protagonist. Heroine 2B looks female, but like her counterpart S9 (looks male), they are both fully functioning machines. Not a single human thing about them, aside from looks (they both look dope). It will also be a game without blood, as far as what has been shown. Surprising as this series oozes blood; even the shades in Nier spouted fountains of gore. Yet even this design choice of focusing more on explosions than gore is important. Giving pause to thought, maybe Nier: Automata is saying something about our world in a clever way that is built into its world.
All that said, Nier: Automata is looking to be as equally impressive as its parent games. This series shines and maybe releasing earlier in the year will garner the attention Nier: Automata deserves. This is no JRPG newcomer; these games have been there the whole time and stand up to the best of them.