NieR: Automata The End of YoRHa Edition Review
The NieR series, published by Square Enix and developed by PlatinumGames, has finally made its way over to the Switch with NieR: Automata The End of YoRHa Edition. This enigmatic series is well-known and greatly loved by many people, however for some Switch users this may be your first experience with NieR, and this was certainly the case with me.
I was a little intimidated going into NieR: Automata, but the game didn’t give me any time to think about it as I was thrown headfirst right into the middle of things. One great thing about NieR: Automata is its ability to pull you into its world and immerse you deeply in the story and the characters’ lives. It’s a game of mysteries where almost nothing is what it seems and just when you think you have something figured out, the game turns everything upside down and sideways. I often found myself sitting stunned, mouth open and all, after an event wondering ‘what just happened?’. NieR: Automata gives you nothing for free, you have to slowly peel away its layers, glean every scrap of information you can from absolutely everything, and honestly, it’s brilliant. It’s made to be explored and replayed, you aren’t going to get all the information on your first or second playthrough — it’s a confusing puzzle that gets more compelling the longer you’re working on it and the moment when two pieces line up is so satisfying.
As you can imagine in an Action RPG you’ll end up doing a lot of quests and a lot of fighting in NieR: Automata, so let’s talk about the quests first. Quests are given to you in a few ways: directly through the story, through your in-game inbox, and through talking to characters around the world — these quests are marked by a small red dot on your map. I nearly went mad trying to figure out how to get to all these quests and as yet I have not been able to do them all. The quests range from the standard “kill this enemy” and “deliver this to X” to some pretty bizarre things, even some you might want to decline, which all optional quests have as a choice. A few issues with the quest system I found, though, are related to the map. There’s no way to toggle just one quest at a time, so they’re always active, which can easily make the minimap a cluttered mess, and although you can place a custom marker, it doesn’t alleviate this problem. I also had issues with my quest markers; in one playthrough I didn’t get some markers that I really needed to progress (bless the internet for helping me out there) yet on my second playthrough they showed up just fine while others were missing.
It’s often very unclear what you’re supposed to be doing next, sometimes you just have to stumble into the right area for something to trigger. This is less of an issue during later playthroughs, but when markers aren’t showing up and you have no destination to go to, it can be confusing. The last issue with quests I had is during my second playthrough, while a good number of my quests reset, some did not, and I could not find any rhyme or reason to which ones did not reset.
Now onto the combat; I’ll mostly be talking about the customisation options you have for difficulty as that has the biggest impact on combat. In NieR: Automata you play as an Android with a flying companion called a Pod. One benefit of this is, instead of a traditional skill tree, you have Plug-In Chips, which allow you to customise your stats, buffs, HUD, and Auto Actions. Auto Actions are exactly what they sound like, actions your character or Pod does automatically, such as shooting, evading or even attacking, and you’re able to toggle the Auto Actions off at any time without removing them. This system to me is genius, as I often get overwhelmed by too many controls to memorise and execute — so having my pod act independently was invaluable to me. I also really enjoyed playing around with the effects of my Chips, adding more healing effects when I felt I needed it or beefing up my weapons to slash through my enemies quickly. Generally, combat is fairly manageable as all the enemies are always scaled to your level (unless you happen to be in an underground colosseum that is 👀) and during your second playthrough, you get access to Hacking. Hacking is a little minigame that’s similar to Atari’s Space Duel, but for those of you who haven’t played that ancient game, you control a little triangle shooting the targets; it’s pretty straightforward most of the time and they’re much more fun than I expected!
Following on from combat, I absolutely have to talk about the camera because it is honestly a bit of a mess. On the one hand, when you have control of the camera everything is great, you can change the settings to your liking, sweet, no problems… on the other hand, when the game takes control, yikes. In some areas you’re forced into a sidescrolling perspective; I really disliked this as it made navigation so much harder. Not only was there still forward and backward movement, but the snapping of the camera in and out of that perspective was incredibly jarring, especially if the change means you’re suddenly going the wrong way and end up triggering it again by accident. he other instance of camera snapping I had was related to the Auto Action chips. My Pod would shoot automatically at enemies, forcing the camera to look at them and me unable to turn the camera away manually. I wouldn’t have minded so much had the enemies been close, but usually that was not the case. I ended up turning it off a lot of the time when I was trying to travel around because, otherwise, it was impossible to get anywhere without clearing every enemy out of my way.
Speaking of travelling, for the first two-thirds of NieR: Automata you’ll most likely be travelling on foot – or on moose or boar back if you fancy – until you unlock the ability to fast travel, so you’ll see a lot of scenery. So how does the game look on the Switch? Well, that depends on what you’re looking at; large-scale scenery pieces like rocks, concrete, metal and the ground are repeated and sometimes stretched or ugly textures. Personally, I didn’t find myself noticing them much, as I was too busy running around doing quests, but it is something to keep in mind if that kind of thing bothers you. Where the game really makes up for that, though, is in the effects and the characters, both are absolutely beautiful. There are some areas in NieR: Automata where I was totally blown away by the visual effects — the amusement part in particular is something to behold. The physics of the characters are also a fun time, especially since your companion likes to do flips for some reason, and who can get tired of skirts or jackets being stuck in weird places for a moment? Not me. They are highly detailed however and extremely well-animated, even if they do occasionally get in the way of opening chests or talking to people.
One last thing I have to mention is the sound design, which is almost unreal. The music was exceptional, beautiful, and haunting and always suited the mood, which was wonderful as there were many small moments that could have been ruined by poor background music. Never once did I feel the music was intrusive or out of place; it felt part of the world, as much a part of it as the grass or the sky. The voice acting was also impeccable, nothing was overdone or over the top, it was all believable and felt real. I wanted to ask all the questions I could and hear characters talking to each other about the little things. Although, I will say I accidentally managed to cut off conversations several times through combat, walking into a cutscene or by having someone contact me via my Pod — I recommend staying still if you’re interested in the conversation, just in case.
Although I was unsure if this would entirely be my type of game, and was intimidated by its possible difficulty, I can wholeheartedly say its intriguing nature has won me over. With its seemingly endless replayability and secrets to uncover, it keeps me coming back. Whether you’re new or old to the series, now is the best time to pick up NieR: Automata The End of YoRHa Edition for the Switch and dive right into the mysterious world waiting for you.
+ Customisable Plug-In Chips and settings really help tailor the game to your needs and abilities.
+ There is so much gameplay and replayability
+ Unique and interesting story that is revealed slowly
- Quest inconsistencies
- Sudden camera movements, especially when changing perspective
- You can accidentally kill a moose if you jump off a cliff with it