2018 Summer Backlog: NieR: Automata

Sometimes with games, you're just not feeling it, and sometimes an otherwise promising game gets elbowed out off the playlist by a big bully of a release that demands attention now. Sometimes, as in the case of NieR: Automata, it's both. It was released in early March, 2017 when there were at least two compelling titles that had my full attention: Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Horizon Zero Dawn. When I fired up NieR, it was clouded by impatience to return to those other games. While I was intrigued by its mixture of gameplay styles, I was put off by its initial hours and lack of save points until after the first boss. I was not in the mood for a punishing roguelike. I bounced off the opening section a number of times, finally bested the boss and said, enough. Here in the middle of the summer doldrums, however, NieR: Automata is far more appealing. 

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Automata is a sequel of sorts to Platinum's NieR, a stylish action-RPG that really never developed much more than a cult following. NieR: Automata, on the other hand, was released with a significant amount of hype and fanfare, received well by both critics and gamers, and has continued to be public facing with the release of DLC and an ultimate edition. 

Playing through Automata now, I can appreciate the game's combat style - more Bayonetta than Dark Souls - and past the opening, its pervasive sense of sadness and desolation, conveyed through the bleak environments, excellent musical score and philosophy-tinged dialogue and story. Automata is a collection of nested systems and styles that are not always easy to negotiate, and its combat is challenging at anything other than the easiest setting. 

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I know, too, that to truly appreciate NieR:Automata, one must commit to multiple playthroughs and I'm almost certain I'll never make it that far. While the combat is fluid and flashy, it is also fairly repetitious and the game's settings - befitting its post-apocalyptic story - lack wamth and variety. Still, I'm happy to take this opportunity to check this important and well-made title off my shame pile.