Daily Archives: April 11, 2017

Nier: Automata Review

header

Totally dependent upon how you view it, I’ve either spent an impressive amount of time with this game- which released roughly a month ago, or I’ve dedicated far too much to an oddly compelling yet confusing adventure. Nier: Automata is stylized as a successor/sequel to 2010’s Nier, which was just as oddly compelling and yet quite confusing from a convoluted plot standpoint- something which did not impact the cult following it has obviously procured. Without spoiling too much in terms of either games’ story and pacing- whereas the first title takes a humanistic approach to things, Automata drives things the other way and focuses not only on non-human playable characters but the failure of humanity and threat of extinction as a whole.

Or at least that’s somewhat the simple gist of it, if it’s even remotely possible to boil down the extensive and surprisingly in-depth lore of the series thus far and of the expansion this game represents as well. I’ll admit, a lot of the coverage and footage I saw for and of the game didn’t exactly blow me away- I was never really impressed by the expansive yet empty world that I saw or the often repetitive encounters with too-similar enemies. While some of these issues remain to a degree, Automata also provides enough base content that it never made me feel that any one element was too overdone or too much of the focus. To a certain degree this means Automata is quite the jack of all trades and genres, however it also fails ultimately to master any one segment because of this.

There is certainly a predilection towards combat- as Nier is at its base a hack and slash adventure game with role-playing elements and other unique gimmicks littered somewhere in between. However I was actually blown away by the fact that certain parts of the game which I would not have immediately expected to be as important or to have such an impact drew me in more so than the solid combat mechanics and exciting locomotion maneuvers themselves. Whereas I thought the environments looked lifeless and bare upon first glance, I completely understand how this ties into the plot and lore and why that’s actually the exact direction the game should’ve and could’ve gone. Couple this desolation and loneliness with an equally melancholy musical score and you have a truly moving work of art.

A lot of this expansiveness adds to the ability for players to take time to think alongside their android character, reflecting on the calamities leading to the ultimate destruction of the human race and life on earth. Although every character you will encounter is in some way machine-related, not all of them will be killer robots or robot clowns and quite a few emulate historical context and interesting caricatures in ways that would put even Fallout’s founding father bots to shame. Such pensive moments as I experienced within many of the quests and plot lines of Automata were a complete contrast to my expectations and honestly raised the bar that much higher for me when it came to the bleak story being told. Somehow, against all odds I became that much more invested in the characters and the universe that I’d previously seen as two-dimensional on paper.

To delve into other aspects of the game and push off from the story and some of the periphery of the game and its moments, as this is a Platinum Games title it boasts an impressive array of combat features and upgrades. There are definite ties to the first Nier title to be found if you know where to look, yet this game serves as an easy stepping on point for newcomers looking for a thrilling and contemplative adventure as well. Combat is kept simple and precise and yet still offers the complexity of some other flashy Platinum Games titles as well- affording players the opportunity to utilize several classes of weaponry suited best to their style of play, while also keeping upgrades and additional unlocks to a minimum so as to keep things comprehensible. There are light role-playing elements here and there, but I’d say they’re few and far between.

One of the most intriguing aspects of gameplay at least stylistically stems from the change in perspective that litters some portions of the game. Typically you play in an over-the-shoulder third-person format, yet on occasion the game shifts to on the rails and top down perspectives for intense firefights utilizing your full android arsenal and party. While ultimately even the bullet-hell segments of the game boil down to eliminating your enemies and clearing the area in search of any interesting lore or story progression, I still found combat and the nice pace of breaking things up a suitable way to keep the monotony of most hack and slash titles to a minimum. The combat is solid enough that there honestly doesn’t need to be too much done with it that is flashy or gaudy and the enemy encounters and boss fights are memorable enough and frenetic and entertaining as is.

The few complaints that I would have do touch a bit on what repetition there is actually present within the game and that comes largely as a narrative and strategic thing. Your character will be afforded the opportunity to deck themselves out in the occasional rare bonus here and there, plugging in a special upgrade chip that boosts stats in certain areas and are hard to come by. Ultimately this adds some strategy to the game, however there isn’t much diversity outside of a health or damage boost and so it isn’t as interesting as it could be in terms of use. Another case I would like to make is that Automata falls heavily into the Dragon Age II camp of adventure titles- meaning there is plenty of lore and content there and it isn’t a bad game at all, however you’re likely to retread many of the same or all-too similar areas for the duration of the campaign and throughout your quests. Although encounters will be varied and narrative progression unhindered, it’s a sort of lazy game design flaw that bugs any and everyone.

The world and lore is entirely too intriguing for it to be limited in some of the ways it is- perhaps not literally as it is quite expansive, but in terms of scope and use as a character in and of itself. All things considered, if you played the previous installment then you’ll probably agree that Automata is certainly a leg up on the original in nearly every single way possible. The combat encounters are fun if not always diverse, the lore is handled quite well and manages to promote some intriguing plot lines, and the gameplay mechanics are quite solid and rarely offer any hiccups to halt the fluidity of the game. If you’re looking for an experience that has the ability to be a comprehensive one but doesn’t force you to explore it as deeply as you could, then Nier: Automata is for you.

Concept: Guide your android comrades in the eternal war against the machines. Quite literally, rage against the machine.

Graphics: While you will see ultimately a lot of the same, what is there is rendered quite well and there aren’t too many muddy textures involved.

Sound: The melancholy mood that permeates the soundtrack and the narrative itself lends to the experience overall and is a strong selling point.

Playability: While it has some quirky features and abrupt changes in perspective at times, the gameplay handles excellently and fluidly throughout your adventure.

Entertainment: There are often hidden depths to be found but the main draw lies in the fact that the experience is totally what you make of it and there are many interesting facets to the characters and the world and conflict themselves.

Replay Value: Moderate.

Overall Score: 8.5

Tagged , , , ,

GI Show #342 Thought Blog

the-game-informer-show

Somewhere within the first seven minutes of listening to and watching the latest iteration of Game Informer’s long-running podcast/video series, I realized that I wanted to do one of my rarer pieces in which I list some interesting details and my own thoughts in regard to them. I’m also going to take this opportunity to more than likely thoroughly embarrass myself with my extensive knowledge on some subjects and lack thereof whereas others are concerned. Reader beware, you’re in for a scare…as a certain scary mastermind might say.

My first point of interest comes about four minutes or so into the two-hour show and is in regard to Ninja Theory and their work on Hellblade, as well as previous titles of interest including the DMC: Devil May Cry remake/reboot. For some strange reason I had been thinking they also developed Ninja Blade, a 2009 game for last generation consoles (predominately the 360) that centered on a similar demonic situation to some Ninja Gaiden narrative points. However, to my ultimate surprise that was handled by none other than our friendly neighborhood From Software- the creators of the variety of Souls games for those of you unfamiliar with the name.

My next point comes in regard to the discussion surrounding Hellblade itself and the talk of experiential storytelling versus outright cutscenes and loss of player control. I find it incredibly interesting that the game markets itself as not only trying to adhere closely to history and historical accuracy, but as a story revolving around perception and mental illness as well. These are such heady topics in today’s society and aren’t often handled by any industry or medium, meaning this is venturing into somewhat dangerous and uncharted waters and I’m truly interested to see how the portrayal holds up. Interestingly enough, a close comparison I would draw at least from how I’ve seen the footage play out thus far in-game would be to That Dragon, Cancer’s perception of the world and of physical illness rather than mental. I think oddly enough these two projects have some semblance of a close relationship in the tone they wish to convey and the important matters they wish to both show through experience and deal with through narrative promise.

The next portion of the video that drew my attention was some of the discussion regarding Drawn to Death and its myriad of inspirations- from the creative productive of David Jaffe to Anarchy Reigns to Brutal Legend to MadWorld so on and so forth. Having of course seen the review and some more thoughts regarding it in the time since the latest episode of the GI Show has aired, I’m immensely disappointed with any of the promise the third-person arena shooter hybrid had being pretty much a loss, despite it not being anywhere near my radar of interesting games to pursue in the first place. I think perhaps my thoughts line up somewhat with the simple premise that it’s an interesting and semi-unique concept and a shame that it doesn’t really pan out whatsoever from that.

I also enjoyed the particular question regarding who showcased more versatility and overall effectual game development chops- Rockstar North or Naughty Dog. Personally I think I agree with a lot of the points made- while it is true Rockstar has had a few different genres on their plate, for the most part they’ve stuck to the tried and true formula first showcased by GTA’s open world design and have emulated it greatly (admittedly) in their other works of recent years such as Red Dead Redemption as well. On the other other hand Naughty Dog has handled several amazing story arcs across different series, genres, and narratives entirely- going from the fantastic Uncharted series to The Last of Us and even to more cartoonish games prior to both of those hits. If I had to choose based upon flexibility and talent for world-creation in terms of diversity versus depth, Naughty Dog would take my vote as well.

I particularly liked the comments regarding conciseness and succinctness of writing in terms of what the most common editing tips were that the crew had been given as writers themselves. Obviously as I don’t have to deal with deadlines and word constraints for my free-flowing combo of a set-piece write-up (or whatever the heck you want to call this site and my posts) I can afford to go off on tangents and speak my mind in thorough and cluttered posts such as this. While that is an obvious disadvantage to some in terms of reviews and response pieces at times, I also utilize it as a way to give a truly in-depth and all-encompassing look at whatever thing piques my interest for that particular piece. Of course, I don’t write in this same style for other specific purposes- such as when it comes to novel or short story writing or any of the other things I typically dabble in, so take that with a large grain of salt. Write in whatever way suits you best and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise- unless it’s your editor; you should listen to that person because they will get you to the finish line.

I recognize the fact that I’m jumping all over the place here in terms of topics despite following the base chronology of the podcast, yet I also really appreciated the mention of Evo. I think more games- like Spore in some ways, for example, would benefit from that same sort of simple approach and simple focus in terms of leveling up both design and scale alongside plot and character themselves. I sort of see similar attributes in the recently released Everything, however that even pales in honest comparison to some of the factors of Evo itself.

I think another particularly useful line of questioning and responses stems from the previews and misconceptions area of the podcast as well. Ultimately I feel like the majority of games will get a better preview even if the final product turns out to be crap. Whether this is because most of us are innately optimistic in what we hope to see in the final product or solely because developers are obviously going to show their best work off remains to be argued. As for misconceptions about the industry, as with any other industry I feel that this sort of insider access can and will always give way to changing opinions and open up new viewpoints to people as they discover what truly goes on behind the scenes. I myself only know a little bit of it from a journalistic and press point of view, yet I’ve been active in the development process before with projects and can certainly understand the struggles and difficulty with decision-making there for example.

Short of going into the intricacies and details of the phenomenal interview with Rare on Yooka-Layleewith a fine-toothed comb, I think that’s about the majority of highlights I’ve got to hit on this particular episode. I’ve done thought blogs and reactions to GI magazines in their entirety and highlighted things I’ve particularly enjoyed about videos before but it has certain been some time. So, if you all would like more of my long-winded thoughts from time to time you can always feel free to comment or ask for them, or simply yell at me to write more of them down. Cheers.

Tagged , , ,
Mr. Miniike's Tea-Sipping Reviews

Album reviews and pop culture nothings by a Christian INFP New Yorker turboplebe with no musical talent. Mostly empty gushing. How can you resist?

ultimatemindsettoday

A great WordPress.com site

Selected Essays and Squibs by Joseph Suglia

The Web log of Dr. Joseph Suglia

The Ninth Life

It's time to be inspired, become encouraged, and get uplifted!

Elan Mudrow

The Ridges of Intertextuallity

Storyshucker

A blog full of humorous and poignant observations.

What Inspires Your Writing?

A blog dedicated to writers...and the people, places, and things that spark their creativity

%d bloggers like this: