Late in Nier: Automata‘s runtime, the sport takes an surprising break from sci-fi motion to share the backstory of two minor characters. It does so by turning itself briefly right into a textual content journey, the type of factor you’d discover in Twine, that tells you ways these two got here to be the place they’re. The ache and persecution they have been by means of; how they held onto one another by means of it. After which, on the finish of the story, in the event you make a sure selection, the narrator sums up her journey:
“I will not cease. Nobody stops.”
In that second, Nier: Automata means that the expertise of those minor characters, the struggling that provides solution to perseverance after which, cruelly, much more struggling, is not remoted to them, or the opposite unfortunate members of the principle forged. As a substitute, the sport posits that this expertise is a cycle. A common one, catching everybody and every little thing in it. We endure, and we go on, as a result of need to. Nobody stops.
Nier: Automata is obsessive about cycles, and with breaking them. The sport’s genius lies in interrogating each component of itself, from essentially the most cliched videogame trope to essentially the most virtuosic narrative flourish, and pushing that obsession onto the viewers. Nier: Automata is a sequence of resonant frequencies, one amplifying the opposite till every little thing is bathed in its rogue transmission.
This whole article might be spent recounting the high quality particulars of the plot of Nier: Automata, which builds upon the tales informed in Yoko Taro’s earlier video games, however by means of easy abstract: Within the 12 months 11,945, a military of androids created by people battle a military of toy-like machines created by alien invaders for management of Earth, with what stays of the human race cordoned off on the moon. This conflict has gone on for hundreds of years, and exhibits no signal of ending. For the androids of Yorha, a gaggle of particular forces who function the sport’s viewpoint characters, conflict—and dying—is every little thing. The one factor.
On the finish of the sport’s prologue, our protagonist, 2B, dies alongside her area accomplice, 9S. After which they’re resurrected, their minds uploaded into new our bodies, and despatched again out into the battle towards the machines. Not even whole annihilation is an escape from what 2B calls, in her opening narration, “a unending spiral of life and dying.”
Nier: Automata performs like a standard motion role-playing recreation, with a fight system—courtesy of the veterans at Platinum Video games—that provides depth and charm to a deserving title. Taro and his crew’s video games are at all times considerate, however typically damaged and underfunded. Automata is neither, and it performs superbly, and but its gameplay prospers additional emphasize the cyclical purgatory of the lifetime of the androids. Violence is routine, a method of filling up time, rising stronger, and even leisure. However violence, each as recreation mechanic and because the core of life on Nier‘s earth, is drained of that means by its inevitable repetition: Battle is background noise, ceaselessly droning towards tragedies which can be doomed to repeat themselves again and again, as androids and machines battle with a rising diploma of self-awareness they neither requested for nor know exactly what to do with.
How do you reside when your life’s path is predetermined? How do you presumably make that means out of your existence inside that type of inevitability? Nier: Automata confronts that query with the somber gravity of tragedy, and the trickster’s grin of a recreation designer in his component. If Nier: Automata desires to spotlight the cycles its characters are trapped in, it additionally desires to spotlight the way in which these cycles may be damaged, made sense of, or subverted. Being alive may imply that we’re all trapped. However it does not imply we now have to play alongside properly.
The sport pulls this stress off by continuously undercutting and reworking its personal play. One second, the sport can be exactly what you signed up for: a third-person motion recreation about an android with a blindfold and a giant sword. Then, a second later, the sport is a 2D bullet-hell jet-plane shooter. Then that jet aircraft transforms right into a mecha. Then the android jumps out of that mecha once more, you hack and slash for a short while longer, and the digital camera switches once more as you flip a hallway. Now it is a 2D platformer. Later, the sport throws hacking minigames at you within the type of twin-stick taking pictures straight out of Geometry Wars. One phase is harking back to a 2D Castlevania, as you battle and climb by means of a layered, ruined fort stuffed with machine lifeforms. One other resembles an old-school combating recreation. I might go on and on.
The large image cyclicality creates, paradoxically, an area for near-infinite experimentation within it. Everybody on this world desires to make sense of their lives throughout the mounted parts—life, dying, extra life, an limitless conflict on behalf of masters you’ve got by no means even met—that hold them trapped. They’ll do something for this objective, and the sport will, too. The sport transforms itself to uncover itself, as if some thoughts confined deep inside it believes that, by contorting this manner and that, it might someway perceive what it is actually manufactured from. Nier: Automata “ends” a number of occasions, every finale serving as a chapter break, giving the sport an opportunity to check out a brand new perspective, a brand new strategy. It’s a recreation continuously being made new.
And as Nier: Automata transforms, so do the androids, who attempt to discover a way of life with little steering from their human creators. And so do the machines, who start to mimic governments and relationships present in archaeological data of present-day humanity, imitating their very own mortal enemies in an effort to seek out one thing on this international planet value holding onto.
As they achieve this, the edges proceed to battle. One among my favourite characters is an android named 6O who features as 2B’s mission management, giving her orders for a relentless sequence of suicide missions whereas additionally speaking about her horoscope and crying concerning the crush she has on the woman on the opposite aspect of the room. At one level within the recreation, a aspect quest entails selecting flowers to cheer her up. That juxtaposition between the frivolous and the horrible is every little thing to Nier: Automata. The tragedy of the story is so nice that, if the sport is to believed, that juxtaposition is likely to be the one factor that issues.
Nier: Automata takes the burden of all that emotion, all its ache and playfulness, and focuses it into a private story a few pair of androids struggling to know themselves and their enemies, regardless of being so commodified by the conflict they’re caught in that they do not even benefit correct names. It is within the telling of that story that Nier: Automata earns its spot as Recreation of the Yr. Not simply because it tells that story properly, which it does. Nor as a result of it stays entertaining to play all through, which it does. Nor for its glorious localization, its stirring soundtrack, or any of the opposite small prospers it completely nails.
As a substitute, Nier: Automata is the Recreation of the Yr as a result of it manages to inform its story with each a part of itself. In the way in which each single component collaborates to dramatize the horrible, cyclical nature of life whereas concurrently breaking from that focus to seek out moments of pleasure and pathos inside it. The best way it transforms itself, telling a narrative of hope and failure and dying and rebirth from each angle it might consider. And the way in which it sees love, and kindness, and easy humanity in that story. Nier: Automata is a meticulously designed tragedy engine that someway, improbably, manages to transcend tragedy into one thing higher. It is vitally very like an android of its personal creation, her whole physique fine-tuned for fight, taking a break from the unending cycle of life and dying to choose flowers for a good friend ready someplace distant.