STAFF REVIEW of NieR:Automata BECOME AS GODS Edition (Xbox One)

Saturday, July 14, 2018.
by Adam Dileva

NieR:Automata BECOME AS GODS Edition Box art Last year in 2017, NieR:Automata released for PS4 and PC to much critical success. Sadly for Xbox One owners though, many were unable to enjoy this completely unique and exciting title, but good things come to those that wait, and now NieR: Automata has finally arrived for Xbox fans to also see what the big deal has been this past year. With PlatinumGames behind the development, and visionary director Yoko Taro directing, NieR:Automata BECOME AS GODS Edition has not only been bundled with its previously released DLC as a single package, but some massive graphical improvements have been included for those playing on an Xbox One X, such as 4K resolution and HDR lighting.

I somehow managed to avoid spoilers of any kind when it came to NieR, and I’m grateful that I managed to, as the campaign and narrative were incredibly exciting, engaging and one of Automata’s best aspects. Set far into the future, mankind has been driven from their home, overdriven by invading machine lifeform. The world is in near ruin after the invasion, so androids were created for the sole purpose of taking it back. Part of the YoRHa squad, androids 2B and 9S are the ones tasked with succeeding this near impossible mission.

While it may seem like a typical “save the world” type of backdrop for story framing, there’s a lot more to uncover as you progress, something I don’t want to spoil in any way. It begins simply as an ‘us’ vs ‘them’, but there’s more to it than what’s on the surface, something you’ll uncover from separate narrative angles with 2B and 9S along the way. There are some pretty important “woah” moments where your jaw may be on the floor, especially at a couple of the endings.

Oh, you noticed I mentioned multiple endings? To really understand the whole story, Automata will need to be played through multiple times, and for good reason. Bear with me, as I’m usually not one for multiple playthroughs with games due to weaning interest and simple lack of time, but you need to invest the time into Automata if you want the full experience from it.

Described as “routes”, you begin the game playing as solely 2B, and completing her story is labeled ‘Route A’. Once the credits roll you can then start up Route B which has you playing as 9S’s point of view. While some major events will cross over, this isn’t simply playing the same game again with a slightly different character, quite the opposite actually. 9S’ campaign intermingles with 2B’s, allowing you to see what took place from a completely different area or perspective, all encased in a very clever way, but also with some interesting changes.

Normally I wouldn’t bother with second, or third playthroughs, but you’re allowed to carry forward the progress you’ve made in levels, experience and more, making it much more rewarding rather than simply starting over from scratch. These Routes are also more than a simple New Game+ mode as well, as they are essential to the overall narrative. You’ll encounter new enemies, mechanics, plots and more, so it’s absolutely necessary to stick with it. Yes there are multiple endings, but don’t consider the campaign truly complete until you’ve done so after at least Route C. I won’t say anything more, simply trust me.

With no loading times, aside from fast travel, the world is expansive and seamless. The post-apocalyptic setting gives an eerie backdrop, devoid of any human life, with visuals that look fantastic on the Xbox One X. Automata's gameplay was something I really wasn’t expecting, even from the opening segment. While the majority of your gameplay is a 3rd person hack and slash, what took me by surprise was not only the subtle shift to 2D sidescrolling platform run & gunning sets, but parts where you’re piloting a ship and essentially playing a top down bullet hell shooter for certain segments as well. These aren’t simple one-off sections as well, as some bosses are fought with your swords on foot, and others in your ship. There’s new mechanics introduced in Routes B and C as well, but I won’t avoid spoiling much else.

While the story is a linear tale, there are handful of sidequests that are optional to undertake, should you want to spend more time in the fascinating world. These sidequests are done quite well, giving you special rewards or lore. Many even have quite a bit of humor, something I didn’t expect from a heavy machine based narrative. There’s a handful of sidequests I highly suggest doing, as they make the overall experience much more rich, but I’ll leave that up to you.

So what’s new with this BECOME AS GODS Edition you ask? The very uniquely named 3C3C1D119440927 DLC included adds new outfits for the main characters, skins for your Pod and more. The costumes are obtained through some arena battles that unlock as you progress and are quite challenging, even on the easiest setting. This allows you to have another goal to work towards, even after multiple playthroughs. This DLC is welcome, but certainly catered towards the player that’s going to grind for levels and chips long after the final Route is finished.

Combat is very fun and addictive, and with the chip system in place, you can customize your character’s abilities to suit your playstyle. 2B has access to two weapons and her Pod, whereas 9S can only use one melee weapon at a time. Weapons range from light and quick swords, to big slow heavy hitters, again, based on your preferred play style. Luckily the controls are customizable, as I found the default layout to not be so intuitive, so I have ‘X’ and ‘Y’ for my light and heavy melee attacks, Right Trigger for my Pod and plane mode shooting and Right Bumper for my dodge.

Attacks feel, and sound, powerful, and dodging an enemy attack will give you a slight moment of slow motion, adding to the coolness factor of it all. Like most PlatinumGames titles, the combat is very addictive, smooth and rewarding once you take the time to learn its intricacies. Once you have a grasp on combat and learn that there’s no limited or stamina meter for dodging, something you’ll need to heavily rely on, it all feels and looks so satisfying and stylish.

2B and 9S have a floating Pod that follows them around, used as a form of communication with HQ, but also an aid in battle. These pods will not only help you safely float through the air from tall heights, but can be outfitted with different weaponry. Laying down on the Right Trigger will have your Pod shoot an endless stream of bullets forwards, or towards your locked on target. You can purchase other abilities for your Pod to equip later on when you save up enough credits, each of which are unique and worth experimenting with.

Chips are how you’ll customize 2B and 9S, not just their combat abilities, but also regenerative, hacking and even running speed options. This is the main RPG element to Automata, and once you wrap your head around how the system works, with the cap of slotting chips, it becomes quite interesting to build the perfect set of ability improvements to suit your style of play.

Chips have ranks of +1 and so on, and the higher versions of a chip have a higher cost to equip. You start with a low cap of chip values you can have equipped at one time, but eventually can upgrade the cap to use more. The better the chip the much higher a cost it will have to slot it, so it depends on if you want to be specialized in a few abilities, or decent in a variety; this is where your customization comes in to cater to your gameplay. If you need more cap to equip an awesome new chip, you can unslot the chip that shows map, damage numbers, quest markers, HUD and more. Given the context that you’re an android, it’s a very clever system.

Combat can be quite difficult to get the hang of, so rather than having a very difficult barrier of entry, the easier modes allow you to equip “Auto Mode” chips that will automatically attack, shoot and even dodge for you if you equip them. I found these quite helpful in the beginning when I was getting my bearings around all of the mechanics and systems in place, as there’s not much help tutorial wise aside from the opening basics.

Should you die, well, more when you die, you’ll learn about Automata’s death mechanics in place. Much like Dark Souls, when you die, you lose your stuff, or in this instance, your upgrade chips. To get them back you’ll have to make it back to your body without dying again, and while this amy seems harsh, it felt purposeful here, as deaths weren’t generally unfair, and more a lack of skill. On the flip side, when you die, you leave a corpse for others to find (if you decided to play connected to the server).

Now, also somewhat like Dark Souls, when you find corpses on the ground, which means that a player has died there, usually indicating a challenging fight ahead. You have two options when you happen upon a corpse; resurrect it to have it fight alongside you, or loot some of its gear and credits. While you can only resurrect one player at a time to fight alongside you, essentially think of corpses you find as mini treasure chests, granting you free loot for every one you find. One boss battle in particular, the floor was just littered with corpses, so I resurrected one to distract the boss as I went on a looting spree.

Visually the world looks amazing, as the post-apocalyptic setting feels very realistic without a human presence, and the finer details look superb in high definition. Even more impressive though is the audio and soundtrack. The voice acting is perfect across the board, but the musical score is absolutely amazing. Each boss fight, each area and event has its own distinct sound and feel to it, completely suiting the mood it trying to convey visually. This is one of those soundtracks I’m going to go buy separately.

NieR:Automata is a stunning action RPG that I’m incredibly excited that I got to experience. There’s plenty to uncover, all with a deeper meaning if you stick with it through to the multiple endings. Many games get forgotten once completed, as I’m glad to have played many, but very few stick with me for quite some time, and even less that I euphorically have to recommend experiencing. NieR:Automata is one of those must have games, as it’s completely unique and unlike anything else I’ve ever played. Thank you to those directly responsible for bringing this amazing gem to the Xbox One for more fans to enjoy, as I probably would have never gotten to experience it otherwise.

Overall: 9.8 / 10
Gameplay: 9.8 / 10
Visuals: 9.5 / 10
Sound: 10.0 / 10


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