NieR: Automata PlayStation 4 Review: More Than Artificial Intelligence

by Nicholas Friedman


Ah, PlatinumGames. There really isn’t much you can’t do, is there?

Well, there were a couple, but those were surely flukes. With this week’s release of Action RPG NieR: Automata, Yoko Taro and crew prove that they can take on the juggernauts of the action game genre, all culminating in a gripping adventure with a side of incredible gameplay, likeable characters and a world of wonder -- and terror.

Though you may not realize it at first, Automata is a sequel to 2010’s Nier, which in turn was a spin-off of the much-acclaimed Drakengard series. Where Nier picked up from Drakengard’s fifth ending, Automata picks up from Nier’s fourth. Stick with us.

You play as 2B, a female android tasked with helping mankind return to earth following a machine takeover. You partner with 9S, a male android who tags along with his swords and robot pal, assisting you in the ups and downs of fighting robot overlords and returning earth to the remainder of humanity, the entirety of which is now living on the moon.

(Photo: Square Enix)

But the plot isn’t that cut and dry, and Automata often veers into existential or religious territory, drawing comparisons to the bible for plenty of its lead cast of characters, not to mention literal characters in the game, but we’ll keep that secret.

The thing with 2B and 9S is that they are supposed to be void of emotion, something that quickly changes as the two work together, but still, something that is forbidden. As the game kicks into high gear, the groundwork introduced in the early-game is turned on its head, thematically and creatively, but you’ll just have to play it to find out how.

The gameplay in Automata feels player perfect, effortlessly blending real-time action combat with bullet-hell mechanics, standard RPG traversal and often skates the line between genres. Sword combat is fluid and easy to get the hang of, and you’ll find yourself pulling off combos and finishers in no time.

(Photo: Square Enix)

The real joy is in the addition of your flying drone pal who hovers next to you, allowing you to glide in the air for a bit, shoot at enemies constantly, perform combos or deliver a charge shot. While many games that attempt to blend gameplay mechanics often fall flat or control poorly, Automata doesn’t have an issue at all. It just feels that good.

The game’s scenery is also something special, as vast deserts, post-apocalyptic cities and abandoned strongholds add both variety and realism to an otherwise wacky game. Even the colors and movements of the environments give off this keen sense of dread, and makes players feel like something is always up. It’s quite unsettling.

And the music. Wow, the music. Automata’s score is an absolute joy to listen to, something that makes long treks in the game feel comforting and yet totally epic. This is compared to the traversal in games like Final Fantasy XV, where the music may seem all too familiar, only really adding that extra oomph during high octane sequences.


NieR: Automata is a game that deserves to be played. Holding the original game in its own regard, Automata rises above the challenge in nearly every category, allowing it to stand with some of the best releases so far this year.

As a lengthy action game, Automata creates a visceral sci-fi adventure, and as an RPG it does one truly unique thing after another. It’s a bullet hell shooter that you can play without hating yourself, and the Devil May Cry-like game you need to scratch that itch.

When you’re finished with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Horizon: Zero Dawn, give NieR: Automata the attention it deserves.

RATING: Five out of five stars.

By Nicholas Friedman

Nicholas Friedman is a pop culture writer based in North Texas with work in The Dallas Morning News, GuideLive and He’s got a podcast on iTunes about creating superheroes from Wikipedia articles called Superhero Assembly Line, and enjoys spending most of his time reading comics, collecting records or playing games like Dark Cloud. Especially Dark Cloud.