Nier: Automata on Repeat — The Humanity of it All

When does a game hit you? How does it hit? Does it go from zero to a hundred in no time flat? Does it slowly stew for the day, so that when finally settling in all flavors are encompassed? For Nier: Automata, it’s the latter. Nier: Automata has gained more favor than most might have anticipated. What originally started out as avid fan excitement quickly turned into, oh, this game is going to be important. It’s asking the player to think big and dig up the floor boards that hide a true jewel. Sticking with it and seeing the full scope is worth it.

Yoko Taro is known for making games with multiple branching paths. Nier took this further than predecessor Drakengard and it worked. While neither Drakengard or Nier may have the acclaim that Automata is receiving, it doesn’t stop the game design sticking to a strict formula. Here is a story, these are the stories told within the story and here are the many ways this can all play out. A system of systems pulling and pushing one another. It works, or, at least Yoko Taro makes it work. While nothing new, Automata and predecessors do it in such a way that show what a story can be. A game doesn’t need a definitive ending. Yes, everything ends, but doesn’t it all just start again anyway? This is the head space of Nier.

Warning Spoilers Ahead

As of writing this, I am about to start Nier: Automata a third time. The short preview that played out at ending B was more than enough to keep me going. While knowing there was more, it was the feeling Nier passed along that got the heart racing. It was more a combination of seeing what was to come and everything that encompassed the second playthrough. Thrust in the shoes of 9S was starkly different than 2B. Playing another character in game is always fun, if only to reveal more about the game world. It was how much 9S had to offer the scope of things that was astounding. Nier became a completely different game. Dare I say it, the second playthrough got to me more than the first. Where 2B might come off as cold and indifferent (not at the end), 9S is constantly taking in everything he can about — simply put, the meaning of it all. With 9S’ ability to literally get inside the mind of all machines, it immediately reveals the consciousness that lies underneath the machine network. Nier might feature cast/enemies made from cold-dead metal, but this game has more heart than most people.

Not talking specifically about the network presented in the game, but the backdrop the network presents. With the idea of the machines disconnecting themselves from the network so they might achieve self. The hilarity of it all is that the machines just end up imitating humanity in one form or another. The joke being that people strive for self but end up repeating things of past. Being original is boring, though, isn’t it much more exciting to relate? Having the machines drawn to certain things in the game shows this exponentially, because the machines are imitating humanity on such an intense time scale. This ranges from building up monarchies to quickly taking up a zealot like religious stance “Become as Gods!”

Going through Nier the first time presents much of this. It’s having the world open-up even more with a second playthrough that seals the deal. What makes a good game, great. It fills in questions that, while not left hanging, might have been floating around the general vicinity. It’s opening up even more doors. The world of Nier: Automata is the home and each playthrough is a room within the home. Again, I immensely look forward to my third go at it.

What’s even more important about this repeat cycle is that Nier holds things back in an appropriate way. It doesn’t tease anything out of the player, it wants focus on the situation at hand. Here is what is happening and pay attention. By giving full focus on the moment at hand instead of teasing out the game slowly, the ideas being presented can be more appreciated. Playing as 9S hit more because of this. Yes, there is more philosophical questions and thoughts being presented. It’s not the point, though. It’s the fact that this is 9S side of things, how the events that transpired played out and why he had such a change of heart for the machines. It becomes crystal clear. 9S is witnessing things even he can’t divulge to 2B. Not because he wants to hide things, but because he is stunned. These are things he has never had to take in to account. Oh, the machines don’t want to fight. Oh, the machines are bored. Oh, the machines are as invested in humanity as we seem to be. Why are we fighting this war? The list goes on and on. Knowing that it will only keep growing is exciting. It’s also a bit nerve-racking. Not having ruined anything for myself, I do know that ending C is supposed to really leave a mark. Whatever that means.

Nier: Automata has only been a pleasure to play and going at it over-and-over as such makes it all the more worth it. This is the first of a few thoughts on this game. That’s what it does though, it makes you think. Finally meeting A2 is going to be heavy, I know that. However much more it reveals, it will be worth it. Nier has a way of sticking, because it’s asking the big questions. Nier’s philosophical nature is what makes it so ripe for the picking. Sure, I can shoot and slash robots all day, but is it really worth it, when things like love are being presented?