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The credits have rolled on NieR: Automata. It’s amazing, but has it taken over The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as my favorite game of 2017?

Have you played NieR: Automata? If so, what are your thoughts?

Transcript(ish)

It’s time for a post-game smoke, where I give a few thoughts on a game as soon as possible after playing it. As is the nature of this type of video, it’s short, quickly thrown together, and certainly rides emotional high or low of whatever game I just finished. I trade in-depth analysis for visceral reaction. Both are important, but I only offer one here. If you are new to the channel, I offer plenty of longer, more thought-out videos, so please stay and poke around a bit.

The credits have rolled on NieR: Automata. 7 times in fact. If you’ve heard anything about this game, it’s likely three things: 1) that the game has 26 endings, each represented by a letter from the English alphabet, 2) that to truly beat the game you must complete endings A-C and 3) that the game mixes genres like a state fair chef mixes already deep-fried food with a deeper-frier. That meaning impressively but unnecessarily.

Let’s first start with the 26 endings. This number isn’t as intimidating as it sounds. Most of the endings don’t require a full playthrough to experience, and some of them can even be found accidentally. A couple of times I simply went the wrong direction only to be greeted by some short story closing text followed by the credits. In fact, one ending can be found simply by removing a specific chip–chips are essentially your skill tree perks–from your character’s inventory. By removing the OS chip–assumedly on the logic that you need the space for something more useful–your character simply dies. End of game. Credits. Back to the start menu. I always welcome this level of 4th-wall breaking. To me, when a creator can stretch the conventions of a genre with such humor and wit, I’m often impressed more than I would be when judging the game’s mechanics and gameplay. Maybe I’m a sucker for considering style over substance, and I wouldn’t prioritize thusly all the time, but here the style informs the substance. So it works.

Some may think–as I did originally–that forcing the player to finish endings A-C (or ending D, you can choose between C and D) is an artificial way to lengthen the game. But what the unacclimated player doesn’t discover until 2nd playthrough has started, is that those subsequent endings B-D aren’t simply replays of the same game. The game is very much a different experience with different characters, different levels, different set-pieces, and a different POV on the game’s overall narrative. The credits after each playthrough are simply another way to punch through that 4th wall. Think of the player as the android proxy itself, being reset like machine but with firmware intact.

The experience of your character may have ended, but the memories of that character (including the experience points, weapons, and items) essentially get uploaded to your storyline B, then storyline C characters. This evolution of machine is in fact a very thematically relevant occurrence. A big portion of the game explores the idea that machines–born of humans, in the image of humans–have become sentient and have actually evolved over tens of thousands of years. What do they evolve toward? Their human creators, of course. The machines attempt to replicate the human behavior learned through ancient books. In one specific instance, you walk into a robot orgy. It’s…interesting.

But what about genre mixing? A mark of true creativity is taking two disparate elements and combining them in previously unfathomed ways. In the world of video games, this mark can also be one of crushing disappointment. Overt genre mixing doesn’t often turn out well. But fans of NieR: Automata often cite the game’s seamless incorporation  of varied game genres as it’s core strength, and I agree that this game does genre mixing better than most other attempts–from top down shmup to arcade brawler to 2d fighter to 3rd person open-world RPG even to a minor text adventure and asteroid clone–NieR: Automata nails all of them. But I’m confident I’d still love this game with only the core 3rd person action brawler on display. It’s that good.

I knew, going into NieR: Automata that the game has 26 endings. I knew that too “truly” beat the game, you had to complete 3 or 4 specific endings. I knew that I wasn’t going to do that. I’ve got a backlog of orphaned games to play meaning I can’t waste dozens of hours on a single game. Well, as it turned out, fuck you orphans.

I went into this game thinking I would maybe like it. 35 hours later, I’m imagining how I’ll propose. Should I pop a surprise romantic dinner on the ruse of a normal Saturday night theater trip? Should I map a story that won’t ever leave us–the happiest couple at the party–dry for a small talk opener: “he gave me a ring as we tandem skydived into the Grand Canyon.” This game won me over so hard.

What’s weird, is I cannot fully understand, let alone articulate, why I fell so hard for this game. The NPC robots and their attempts to emulate a human society based on ancient books and artifacts is endearing, sure. That alone would keep me interested for a few hours. But it can’t be just that. The controls are tight (if perhaps a bit too button mashy at times). The difficulty curve is perfect (even allowing the player to take on the game OP’d if desired). The overall story, though hard to follow, especially if not familiar with the lore established by previous games in the “series,” as I was not acclimated, is still incredible. And on that note I appreciate a storyteller who can hook the player enough to make the player feel like he/she’s figured something out. Show, don’t tell, and all that.

Perhaps craziest of all, NieR: Automata has overtaken The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as my favorite game of 2017 so far.

Tell me in the comments if you’ve NieR: Automata. What did you think of it?

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Thank you for watching.

Music Credits

Video Dungeon Crawl Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com), Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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