|Genre(s)||Action role-playing, hack and slash|
Nier: Automata[b] is a 2017 action role-playing game developed by PlatinumGames and published by Square Enix. It is a sequel to the 2010 video game Nier, itself a spin-off and sequel of the Drakengard series. The game originally released for the PlayStation 4 and Windows via Steam, with an Xbox One port being published the following year with the subtitle Become As Gods Edition.
Set during a proxy war between alien-created machines and human-crafted androids, the story follows the trials of a combat android, her companion, and a fugitive prototype. The story requires multiple playthroughs, each unlocking additional story elements. Gameplay combines role-playing elements with action-based hack and slash combat, and features switches between video game genres similar to that of Nier with elements ranging from shoot 'em up to text adventure.
Production began in 2014, with series creator Yoko Taro, producer Yosuke Saito, and lead composer Keiichi Okabe returning to their respective roles, and artist Akihiko Yoshida taking charge of character design. The goal was to make a Nier game true to the spirit of the original, while simultaneously crafting a better combat system. As a project entirely new to PlatinumGames, its staff faced multiple challenges when developing the gameplay and open world environment. The story, written by Yoko, references several philosophies and explores themes of finding value in life and the reasons people kill.
Announced at the 2015 Electronic Entertainment Expo, Nier: Automata received media expansions to its world and narrative, and both downloadable content and crossovers with other games post-release. The localization was handled by 8-4, translators of the first Nier. The game was praised for its story and themes, gameplay, and music. Criticism was leveled at some visual and technical problems. The PC release saw a mixed response due to technical issues that were not officially addressed. Initial sales surpassed its publisher's expectations; as of February 2021, the game has sold over 5.5 million copies worldwide.
Nier: Automata is an action role-playing game (RPG) in which players take the role of combat androids from the YoRHa units across an open world. In addition to standard navigation on foot, using a special item allows the player to summon a wild animal to ride, and in some scenarios pilot a flying mech to fight enemies. As with Nier (2010), during navigation in some environments, the camera shifts from its standard third-person perspective to an overhead or side-scrolling view. Some areas also include platforming elements, requiring the player to navigate by jumping between platforms or over obstacles. The player can complete side quests for non-playable characters (NPCs) found throughout the world. Shops available in hub locations allow the player to purchase items, including consumables that recover health. Automata features 26 different endings; five main endings lettered A to E, and 21 additional endings lettered F through Z. These additional endings act as game over events triggered by performing certain actions, not progressing the narrative, or losing certain battles.
Combat is hack and slash action-based, with the player fighting enemies in real-time in a variety of in-game environments. During battle, the player can use light attacks—which are fast but weak—and heavy attacks—slow and more powerful. The player can evade enemy attacks and, with successfully timed button presses, can gain temporary invulnerability and launch a counterattack that deals heavy damage. The player is also assisted by a Pod, a flying robot assistant that can launch customizable ranged attacks varying from simple gunfire to heavy-hitting hammer attacks. Pods can also shield the player from harm in various ways. At different points, the gameplay changes to reflect different video game genres, ranging from shoot 'em up to text adventure segments.
The player is able to bring two melee weapons in combat. While attacking, the player can alternate between both weapons and attacks to create combination attacks. There are four different classes of weapons available: short swords, long swords, bracers, and spears. Attacks with different weapon types can also be charged and launched for increased damage. Weapon Stories, a recurring element in both Nier and the Drakengard series, where weapons found throughout the world have unique stories attached to them, are also featured. Each character has a different style; initial lead 2B is an attacker with two weapons available, second protagonist 9S has only one weapon and specialises in hacking into enemies to deal high damage, and later character A2 plays similarly to 2B with an added ability to briefly boost attack power by sacrificing health.
As characters progress, they gain experience levels, increasing their health, defence, and attack power. Character customization is handled through Chips, items installed into the player characters that adjust some of their attributes; these chips can do thing such as alter the HUD to show enemy health and damage and grant status buffs to the player characters. The number of Chips that can be installed at any one time are limited by how many slots a character has. Chips can either be purchased at shops or picked up from defeated enemies. If the player character dies, they respawn at their previous save point. The player character can then find their original body and either retrieve items and experience left with it to gain a bonus, or attempt to repair it. If successful, the body is resurrected as a temporary ally, but if unsuccessful, it becomes an enemy the player can defeat for an extra bonus. With online features enabled, the bodies of other players can also be retrieved or revived at the location where they died.
Setting and characters
Nier: Automata shares the post-apocalyptic setting of Nier, taking place thousands of years after the game's fourth ending. The universe of Nier takes place in an alternate timeline within the Drakengard series. While carrying over the Drakengard tradition of a dark atmosphere and branching storylines, no direct narrative connection is shared between Nier: Automata and the rest of the series. Set in the year 11945 AD, the story revolves around a proxy war between the human-made androids and the machine army of invaders from another world. Lacking both emotions and true names, androids have particular attitudes that distinguish them from their fellows. The "YoRHa" android forces are commanded from the Bunker, a reconnaissance base in orbit above Earth. They fight alongside the pre-YoRHa androids on Earth (known as the Resistance) to drive back the Machines.
The initial protagonist is 2B (short for "YoRHa No. 2 Type B"), a YoRHa combat android whose main traits are her calm and composure. 2B is accompanied by 9S (short for YoRHa No.9 Type S), a male "scanner" android who displays more emotion than the other YoRHa units. Eventually another playable character is introduced: "A2", an obsolete attack android with a taciturn personality who often chooses to act alone. The androids are supported by Pod 042 and Pod 153, floating box-like robots that act as ranged weapons. The primary antagonists of the game are Adam and Eve, twin controllers of the Machine Network; and the Red Girls, a construct within the Machine Network. Other characters include the YoRHa's top officer, "Commander"; the resistance leader, Anemone; Pascal, a machine who dislikes conflict and wishes for peace; Devola and Popola, androids who aid the resistance and are of the same model as a similar pair from Nier; and the original Nier character Emil, who has lost his memories in the intervening years after the original game.
The first and second playthroughs follow the respective views of 2B and 9S during an initial invasion. After opening a route for future missions, they are sent to clear out machine threats for the Resistance, led by Anemone, who provides the two with support. During their missions, 2B and 9S discover that the machines are exploring human societies and concepts. The two work with a pacifist machine group led by Pascal; battle Adam and Eve, physical manifestations of the machine network who reveal that their creators were destroyed centuries ago;[q 1] and encounter A2, a rogue android on the run from YoRHa. Adam is killed by 2B after he captures 9S. During his recuperation, 9S discovers a glitch in YoRHa's servers when syncing himself and 2B, and learns that humanity was extinct long before the alien invasion. Their last remnant is a Moon-based server holding humanity's incomplete genome remains. YoRHa perpetuates the myth of their survival to maintain morale and give androids a "god" to fight for.[q 2] With Adam dead, Eve goes mad with grief and drives the machines under his command into a frenzy. 2B and 9S kill Eve to end the rampage, but 9S becomes infected with Eve's logic virus, forcing 2B to kill him. However, 9S's consciousness survives within the local machine network.
The third playthrough begins as YoRHa launches a full-scale invasion. A logic virus attack—enabled by the "glitch" that 9S previously discovered—corrupts every YoRHa unit including those in the Bunker, except for 2B and the restored 9S.[q 3] 2B and 9S are separated in the aftermath, and 2B is infected with the logic virus. Discovered by A2, 2B uploads her memories into her sword and asks her to look after 9S. An ignorant 9S witnesses A2 mercifully killing 2B and swears revenge on her. Simultaneously, a tower created by the machines rises from the land, separating the two before they can fight. The perspective splits between A2 and 9S a fortnight after these events. A2—the survivor of a test run for YoRHa—finds herself empathising with the machines; she witnesses Pascal's village being destroyed, then its "children" committing suicide out of fear when attacked. Pascal begs A2 to either wipe his memory or kill him; A2 can perform either task or leave him. An increasingly-unbalanced 9S investigates the tower's resource-gathering platforms, fighting machine remnants and learning the tower is designed to launch a missile at the Moon server. Both eventually enter the tower, with Devola and Popola sacrificing themselves to open it.
During these events, it is revealed that YoRHa was always designed to lose and to perpetuate the myth of humanity, with the Red Girls in the Machine Network using them to further their evolution; each side trapped the other in an eternal cycle of war.[q 4] It is also revealed that 2B's real designation was "2E", an "executioner" unit assigned to repeatedly kill 9S whenever he discovered the truth about humanity, and that 9S was aware of this.[q 5] Separate arcs play out for returning characters Emil, and Devola and Popola. Emil lost his memories due to copying himself to fight the aliens. A group of those copies, gone mad after losing their sense of self, act as a secret boss battle. After the current character wins the fight, Emil dies after remembering his reason for fighting.[q 6] Devola and Popola were ostracized and programmed to feel endless guilt after their model series caused humanity's extinction in Nier. They stay at the Resistance camp doing the riskier jobs, and aid the YoRHa androids until helping 9S at the tower.
At the top of the tower, the two androids confront each other; 9S, now insane and infected with the logic virus, challenges A2 to a fight, prompting the player to choose a character.[q 7] If A2 is picked, she saves 9S and sacrifices herself to destroy the tower. If 9S is chosen, the two androids kill each other; in his final moments, the Machine Network offers him the chance to join them, as the tower has changed its function to fire an ark containing the Machine memories to find a new world.[q 8] Once both of these endings are unlocked, Pods 042 and 153 defy their orders to delete YoRHa's data, prompting the player to destroy the credits in a shoot 'em up section. Despite the possibility that the three restored androids would repeat everything, the Pods hold faith that they will forge a new future for themselves.[q 9] The player is then given the option to sacrifice their save data to help other players.
After the release of Nier, both director Yoko Taro and Square Enix producer Yosuke Saito wanted to create a sequel. When Saito spoke to assistant producer Yuki Yokoyama, Yokoyama was unwilling due to the original game's low sales. After the positive fan reception of the original Nier, however, both Square Enix and the lead staff who worked on the original game were willing to continue the Nier IP, but also wanted to create a better, more action-oriented gameplay experience. As a result, they contacted PlatinumGames, which had developed a reputation for high-quality action games such as Bayonetta (2009) and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (2013). The collaboration was agreed upon on two conditions: that Yoko become director, and that he be present to help with production. The latter condition necessitated a move by Yoko from Tokyo to Osaka where PlatinumGames was located. Although Taro was initially uneasy about the collaboration, the staff at PlatinumGames had been wanting to work on a Nier game since its release, and their enthusiasm and wish to remain faithful to the original assuaged his doubts. Designer Takahisa Taura also wished to create a sequel to Nier prior to Square Enix approaching the company. PlatinumGames handled primary development of the game, while Square Enix supervised and gathered many staff members and worked on the sound environment.
The original plan was to make the game for mobile platforms or PlayStation Vita—Yoko claims that they intended for it to be similar to the farming simulator Farmville (2009)—but it was soon decided to develop the game for PlayStation 4 instead. The game was co-produced by Saito and Eijiro Nishimura. Production began in 2014, including six months of pre-production. It included many of the staff from the original Nier. The early relationship between Yoko and PlatinumGames staff was fraught, mainly due to differing daily schedules due to Yoko's freelancer status. A system of "free time" was developed where Yoko could come in when possible without clashes, smoothing out the difficulties. During production, the team took into account both fan and critic feedback on Nier and later opinions on the game. The points they felt needed addressing ranged from character designs to gameplay to graphics. While improving on these points, they also carried over aspects that were well-received, such as the complexity of story and the game's music. The majority of development was handled by PlatinumGames at its offices in Osaka and Tokyo, while outside staff such as Yoko were also brought in.
Scenario and themes
Yoko was the primary writer of the game's scenario. Yoko ended up working much more on the script than his previous games, and delivered it four to five months late. After delivery, the overall narrative remained the same with only small-scale adjustments taking place during development. Two subwriters were Hana Kikuchi, who worked on the scenarios of Nier and Drakengard 3 (2013), and Yoshiho Akabane of external company Highestar. When creating the story, Yoko was hesitant about adding Devola and Popola to the story due to their integral role in the original game, but eventually decided to feature them. According to Yoko, while the scenario of Nier was "wet" in its emotional content, for Nier: Automata he aimed for a "dry" narrative concerning the world's inherent unfairness and the prejudices the characters are forced to confront. He also wanted to balance how he portrayed the protagonists and antagonists, feeling he had gone too far when humanising the antagonists of Nier, and leave the player more room to interpret the story as they chose. According to Saito, a lot of time and effort went into creating the story and character interactions so they would match up to the original Nier. As with the original Nier, multiple endings were created, but the conditions for reaching them were not as stringent as the first game. Yoko's desire was to make the game's conclusion happy, which prompted scepticism from other staff members when reviewing his story.
The happy ending from Yoko's perspective was the fifth and final ending. According to Yoko, the fifth ending did not come to him for some time as he was focusing on other aspects of the story. He felt that the characters he was developing were naturally leading him towards that ending rather than him designing it for them. The final ending featured a shooting sequence where the player fought their way through the closing credits; this was symbolic of the player and characters breaking out of a known system to find the hope of a new future. Yoko said this was representative of the story's focus on the future and systematic elements. The ability for players to aid each other through the closing credits segment was inspired by a publicity stunt by Coca-Cola, where two machines in India and Pakistan—countries with a long history of mutual conflict—were connected via livestreaming in special drink dispensers. Yoko was deeply impressed by this, but pulled away from his initial concept of having messages appear only from countries at war with the home of each player. The team also included the option for players to delete their save data, a mechanic used in the original Nier. This feature, where players sacrificed their save data to aid other random players in finishing the bullet hell sequence at the end of closing credits, was implemented midway through development.
The team defined the game's central theme as "agaku", a Japanese word meaning to struggle out of a bad situation. Another theme Saito pointed out was love, which he stated was unusual given that all the central cast were robots, which were not normally associated with emotions. Yoko also used the androids' and Machines' reverence for the long-extinct humanity to show how people's sense of self and worth is necessarily founded on belief in something else. The negative influence of human history on the factions also reflected his views on how people continue to fight and create boundaries between themselves despite their advancement. A recurring element from Yoko's earlier work was his examination of why people kill, and the impact of killing on others—this stems from his observation of people coming to enjoy killing enemies encountered in games, which suggested to him that something was wrong or missing inside them. The darkness of the narrative was explained by Yoko as reflecting the inherent darkness of reality. The narrative makes reference to numerous influential philosophers and thinkers, with some Machine characters being named after them such as supporting character Pascal (Blaise Pascal), boss character Simone (Simone de Beauvoir), and NPC Jean-Paul (Jean-Paul Sartre). Yoko used books by Will Buckingham and Nigel Benson, which respectively explained philosophy and psychology in understandable language, as a reference for the narrative.
Art and game design
As Nier: Automata was an RPG as opposed to Taura's previous pure action games, the development presented new challenges for him. While Taura handled the action combat system, designer Isao Negishi created the RPG elements. According to Negishi and programmer Ryo Onishi, a major difficulty was creating a title faithful to Nier, which required a shift away from the style of their earlier titles. While designing the game's RPG elements, the staff at PlatinumGames were partially inspired by The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015) in the design of their sidequests, which they felt they would never be able to match. The sections where the camera shifted to a side-scrolling perspective were inspired by the Castlevania series, of which Taura was a fan. For the final boss where the player chooses between 9S and A2, each was supposed to lose important elements (weapons and items for A2, experience points for 9S), but this was dropped.
For the combat system, the team took the systems used in Nier and infused elements from other titles by PlatinumGames. Taura's main concept was that the combat system improve on the original and weave into the story. An additional consideration was the inclusion of mechanics that would allow both casual and hardcore action gamers to enjoy playing. It was also the studio's first attempt at an open world game: while its previous titles had used a story-driven linear structure, Nier: Automata boasted large environments linked by seamless transitions. A particular element noted by Negishi was the lower concentration of enemies in the world compared to that usually found in PlatinumGame titles, a necessity due to the game's open nature. This was part of their efforts to fulfill Yoko's creative vision: by including fewer enemies, the team gave players the opportunity to "enjoy the still beauty of the game's desolate world". Required inclusions were the shooting elements, compared by staff to bullet hell titles, and combat that switched camera perspectives. The plug-in chips were an updated version of the Words used in Nier, only themed around the premise of androids. Cooperative and player-versus-player multiplayer modes were suggested, but never got beyond the concept phase.
Using feedback about the original characters designs, Akihiko Yoshida was brought on as main character designer. Saito originally wanted to invite D.K, character designer for Nier, to return. However D.K had broken his elbow and was unable to draw, so referred the team to Yoshida. While the team thought he would refuse due to his busy schedule, Yoshida was willing to join the project as a number of staff members at his company CyDesignation were fans of Nier. Yoshida joined a little later than usual in the process, so Taro gave him a general guideline of sleek designs with black as the dominant color. As opposed to the original Nier, which was released in two versions with a different version of the main protagonist for western tastes, the team decided to have the game feature the same protagonist in all versions, focusing on creating a high-quality Japanese RPG rather than making adjustments for its western release. This wish for a uniform international appearance was another reason why the team brought in Yoshida. The Commander, Adam, and Eve were designed by Yuya Nagai. Square Enix artist Toshiyuki Itahana handled the redesigns for Devola and Popola. The enemy concept art was handled by Hisayoshi Kijima, while environmental artwork was done by Kazuma Koda, Yasuyuki Kaji, and Shohei Kameoka: environmental design was a collaborative effort with Yoko, and the team strove to make the environments appear like places players would visit in the real world. One of the challenges faced when creating the character models was making them seem alive despite their mechanical nature.
Composer Keiichi Okabe, who worked on both Nier and Drakengard 3, returned as lead composer with his studio band Monaca, alongside fellow members Keigo Hoashi, Kuniyuki Takahashi, and Kakeru Ishihama. The score was influenced by classical music, while recalling elements used for Nier such as the overall sense of melancholy. A change from the previous score was a shift to portraying a more mechanical and brutal theme and environment than Nier, which had focused on grasslands and villages. Another factor was the open world environment: rather than a single looping track, Okabe created multiple hard and soft tracks that transitioned into each other depending on situation and environment. Balancing of the music was carried out using the digital audio workstation (DAW) Pro Tools. Another prominent return was Emi Evans, who provided vocals for the first game's soundtrack. Additional male vocals were provided by Shotaro Seo. In addition, a theme song was created for the game, with versions sung by both Evans and new singer J'Nique Nicole. Nicole and Nami Nakagawa joined with Evans to form a three-part chorus for some of the musical work, including a boss theme featured in the game. Several songs from the Nier soundtrack were arranged for Nier: Automata.
The general sound design was handled by Masato Shindo, who was faced with a challenge new to the PlatinumGames staff: in their previous projects sound echoes had been handled by individual settings created by the team, but that would not work properly in an open world setting due to its scale. Instead, Shindo designed a realistic soundscape using a system to manage echoes in real time, determining how much reverberation to generate based on current surroundings. Sound implementation was handled by Masami Ueda, and it was a greater amount of work than he had experienced on any previous project. One of the factors that helped with the smooth implementation was Ueda's previous encounters and good working relationship with Okabe.
An official soundtrack album was released on March 29, 2017. An additional sixteen-track album subtitled Hacking Tracks, containing musical variations for hacking segments, was bundled with first-print copies of the soundtrack.
In January 2014, after the release of Drakengard 3, Yoko expressed an interest in making a second spin-off from the Drakengard series, but did not specify whether it would be related to Nier. He later confirmed in December of that year that he was working on a new game, but did not reveal any more details. Nier: Automata was first announced at Square Enix's press conference at the 2015 Electronic Entertainment Expo under the provisional title Nier New Project. Its official title was kept secret at the time as it would have spoiled aspects of the game's plot. An official title was also undecided at this point. Yoko originally wanted to call it Nier: Android, but Square Enix rejected that title due to a possible trademark conflict with Google's Android operating system.
At the time it was announced, the game was 10% complete. Its official title, along with a gameplay trailer and prospective year of release, were revealed at the 2015 Paris Games Week trade show. A2's playable role was not intended as a surprise reveal. The team did use her long-haired design for footage from a late-game boss fight where in-game she had short hair, making her change in appearance less obvious. Initially planned for release in November 2016, Square Enix delayed release as there were concerns about its commercial performance against other prominent titles: it was decided that a Q4 or Q1 release would give Nier: Automata more of a chance for commercial success. The delay gave the developers additional time to improve the quality and gameplay balance. The delay was appreciated by Yoko as it gave the team more time for polishing.
Localization for the English version was handled by 8-4, the same company which had localized of the original Nier. According to Yoko, 8-4 changed elements of the script for each region, as some of the concepts in the Japanese script were difficult to understand if translated directly. The aim was to create a script that would appeal to players around the world. As 8-4 had worked with Yoko before on Nier and Drakengard 3, they were familiar with his writing style and found it easy to ask clarifying questions during translation. 8-4's biggest issue was writing the android characters; while ostensibly emotionless, they had distinctive personalities and much of the relationship between 2B and 9S revolved around emotion. While 9S was already written to be more emotive in Japanese, 2B had to be rewritten so she came off as "droll" rather than emotionless in English.
The team had notes about how to write each character; for example 9S, would speak about things at length, while 2B would be more crisp. The team also needed to make decisions about the voice acting, ranging from potential regional accents to altering voice types. A cited example was changing a character with a high-pitched child's voice to a more mature one so as not to grate on players. They also needed to do research on the various philosophical themes so as not to make a mistake in their writing. One problem that emerged was the naming of the character Jean-Paul, who in Japanese was named Sartre. As the estate of Jean-Paul Sartre would not have allowed the philosopher's name to be used in this context outside Japan, Yoko reluctantly allowed the name change at Square Enix's request. English dubbing was handled by Cup of Tea Productions, which had previously worked on both Nier and Drakengard 3.
Versions and additional content
The game released in Japan on February 23, 2017. A limited Black Box Collector's Edition was created, featuring the game, a figurine of 2B, a special release of the Nier: Automata live concert, an artbook, a download code for a special item, and a prequel novella. The novella, which retells the events of Nier from the perspectives of characters Devola and Popola, was written by Jun Eishima, a regular collaborator for supplementary material related to the Drakengard series, in collaboration with Yoko. In addition, Square Enix collaborated with Japanese rock band Amazarashi to produce a new single, "Inochi ni Fusawashii", inspired by the game's world. Amazarashi's lead singer Hiromu Akita was a fan of Nier, facilitating the promotion. The music video for "Inochi ni Fusawashii" was supervised by Yoko.
In the West, the PS4 version released in North America on March 7, and in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand on March 10. In addition to the standard version, there was a Day One edition that featured reversible cover art featuring artwork by Yoshida, and a version of the Black Box Collector's Edition featuring the Day One edition with added accessory content, the 2B figurine, an artbook, and a 13-track soundtrack including tracks from both Nier and the earlier Drakengard games.
The game was announced for a digital release on Windows platforms through Steam. A concern for both Square Enix and PlatinumGames with the PC version was potential piracy, which was expected to delay its release. When handling this problem, the teams considered using Denuvo digital rights management. The PC version was released on March 17, 2017. A fan patch fixed two major problems of the PC version that were not addressed by Square Enix; an error in the resolution setting and general performance problems even with beyond requirements hardware. During the initial launch, the game was region locked to certain parts of the world, mainly from countries located in Asia. The official Japanese Twitter account for the game issued a tweet that it would be available in these countries in April. The game was review bombed in April 2017 by Chinese players demanding a translation of the game to Chinese, whom PC Gamer called "a powerful new voice".
In November 2016, Saito stated that an Xbox One version was up for consideration, and announced that the game would support the enhanced PlayStation 4 Pro model. Saito later confirmed that an Xbox One version was not being developed due to low sales of the console in Japan, in addition to focusing on a single console so as not to compromise the game's quality. An Xbox One version was eventually announced, and released subtitled as Become as Gods Edition. It released worldwide on June 26, 2018.
Downloadable content (DLC), 3C3C1D119440927, was released on May 2, 2017, and features additional costumes and accessories based on the original Nier, aesthetic hair customisation options, new battle colosseums, and boss fights with Square Enix and PlatinumGames presidents Yosuke Matsuda and Kenichi Sato. It is unlocked in-game from the chapter selection screen, and requires save data from a completed playthrough. The DLC was included both in the Xbox One release, and in the "Game of the YoRHa" edition released for PS4 and PC on February 26, 2019.
|PC Gamer (US)||79/100|
The original PS4 release of Nier: Automata received "generally favorable reviews" on review aggregator Metacritic, based on 101 critic reviews. The PC version also received favorable reviews, based on 12 reviews. The Xbox One version received "universal acclaim", earning a score of 90 from 30 reviews.
Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu gave it a near-perfect score, lauding most aspects of it despite one reviewer finding customisation cumbersome. Miguel Concepcion of GameSpot praised every aspect of the game apart from its side quests, referring to its gameplay as "the closest thing there is to a spiritual successor to Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance". Eurogamer's Jeffrey Matulef called the game "the most captivating game I've played in ages" despite rough edges. Mollie Patterson, writing for Electronic Gaming Monthly, praised it as a highly enjoyable experience as both a player and reviewer. Destructoid's Chris Carter lauded the title as a competent blend of action game and RPG.
Game Informer reviewer Joe Juba wrote that a lot of enjoyable elements within the game's narrative and gameplay were obscured by confusing or obtuse mechanics. GamesRadar+'s Sam Prell was enthusiastic about the narrative, blend of gameplay genres, and overall quality. Meghan Sullivan of IGN called Nier: Automata "a crazy, beautiful, and highly entertaining journey full of nutty ideas and awesome gameplay". PC Gamer's Andy Kelly was positive about the game, but felt the PC port was lacking due to its graphical and technical issues. Janine Hawkins of Polygon lauded the game's sense of scale and willingness to make players feel small in the face of its content.
The story and narrative themes met with general acclaim, though some found its pacing or presentation lacking. Both Sullivan and Matulef found the android protagonists hard to identify with. The gameplay was enjoyed overall, but several found a lack of depth in combat compared to previous PlatinumGames titles. The game's visuals were generally praised, despite comments regarding occasional low environment quality or visual spectacle. Recurring complaints arose from technical issues such as graphical pop-in, frame rate drops, and long loading times. By contrast, the music received unanimous acclaim.
The game sold 198,542 copies during its first week of release in Japan, topping the charts and significantly exceeding the sales of the original Nier in 2010. In April 2017, the game was reported to have sold over 500,000 copies in Japan and Asia, including both physical shipments and digital downloads. According to the NPD Group report for March 2017, reached ninth place in overall sales, and sixth in the PS4 chart. In the United Kingdom, the game debuted at sixth place in the general software charts. By May 2017, the game's physical and digital versions across PS4 and PC had reached 1.5 million copies. The majority of sales during that period came from overseas, and was seen as a surprising success compared to the low sales of the first Nier. By May 2019, the game had reached worldwide shipments of four million copies, with an additional 500,000 units selling by March 2020; the latter was attributed to steady sales of the "Game of the YoRHa" edition. The game greatly exceeded Square Enix's sales expectations, and made them consider Nier as a possible franchise. The strong sales, in addition to the positive critical reception, was cited by PlatinumGames as saving the company and revitalising general interest in their products after several disappointing game releases. By March 2020, the game had reached worldwide shipments of over 4.5 million copies. In December 2020, it was reported that cumulative sales had exceeded 5 million units worldwide. As of February 2021[update], the game has sold over 5.5 million units worldwide.
Nier: Automata was nominated for and awarded several different industry awards across 2017 and 2018, including awards of acclaim from CEDEC and the Game Developers Conference. It was also awarded or nominated in several "Best of" lists for 2017 by gaming websites.
|2017||35th Annual Golden Joystick Awards||Best Storytelling||Nominated|||
|PlayStation Game of the Year||Nominated|
|The Game Awards 2017||Best Score/Music||Won|||
|Best Role Playing Game||Nominated|
|NAVGTR||Camera Direction in a Game Engine||Nominated|||
|Original Dramatic Score, Franchise||Won|
|Game of the Year||Nominated|
|Game Design, Franchise||Nominated|
|Writing in a Drama||Nominated|
|Japan Game Awards||Games of the Year Division - Award for Excellence||Won|||
|British Academy Games Awards||Game Design||Nominated|||
|D.I.C.E. Awards||Role Playing Game of the Year||Won|||
|SXSW Gaming Awards||Excellence in Technical Achievement||Won|||
|Excellence in Musical Score||Won|
|Game Developers Choice Awards||Game of the Year||Nominated|||
|36th Annual Golden Joystick Awards||Games of the Year Division - Award for Excellence||Nominated|||
Prior to the release of Nier: Automata, Yoko scripted a musical stage play called YoRHa, which was performed in 2014. Set in the same universe as Nier: Automata, it acts as a backstory for the characters A2 and Anemone. The play was born during the six month pre-production period where Yoko and PlatinumGames were finding their feet. While the stage play predated the reveal of Nier: Automata, the play's writer Asakusa Kaoru stated that it would not exist without Yoko's vision for the world of Automata. Yoko created the basic scenario while the script was written by Kaoru. For later productions, Yoko made revisions to Asakusa's script to simplify the plot. He described the stage play as a spin-off of the overall universe. Later, new revisions to the original stage play, a spin-off, a musical version, and an all-male spin-off play were produced over the next few years.
Multiple novels were also created based on the universe, written by Yoko and Eishima. Long Story Short acts as a novelization of the game's main events with additional commentary from the characters through monologues. Short Story Long is a compilation of previous short stories in the Nier continuity, along with new stories related to the characters of Automata. YoRHa Boys, based on the male spin-off stage play, was written by Eishima and supervised by Yoko; it follows a group of male YoRHa units put into an experiment to collect behavioural data. A figurine based on 2B, 9S and A2 is in production.
In October 2018, 2B was announced as a playable guest character in Bandai Namco's fighting game Soulcalibur VI. Released on December 19, the DLC features a scenario around the character, themed moves and weapons, and an alternate white variation dubbed "2P". Given the inverted colour scheme of 2B when playing as a second player, the name "2P" was adopted as a play on being player two, and it sounding similar to 2B. Yoko Taro jokingly suggested the P stands for Panasonic. Characters from Nier: Automata were incorporated into a content patch in Shadowbringers, the third major expansion for Final Fantasy XIV. Titled YoRHa: Dark Apocalypse, the scenario was outlined by Yoko, then given to other writers. The current two episodes of YoRHa: Dark Apocalypse are "Vows of Virtue, Deeds of Cruelty", released as the first patch; and "The Puppets' Bunker", released alongside the game's main narrative patch Reflections in Crystal. DLC costumes and promotional appearances based on the characters of Nier Automata have also featured in Gravity Rush 2 (2017), Star Ocean: Anamnesis (2018), and Phantasy Star Online 2 (2020).
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- Adam: The aliens you seek are no longer here. They were wiped out centuries ago. ...By us. The machines. (Route A, Chapter 03: Adam and Eve)
- Commander: In truth, humans never went to the moon at all. Any transmissions received from the moon are just dummy signals set up in advance. The only thing there is a small bit of data relating to the human genome. / 9S: But why would you— / Commander: Humans were already extinct when the aliens attacked. [...] No one fights without a reason. And we need a god worth dying for. (Route B, Chapter 9: Deranged Religion)
- Commander: But tell me—why weren't you infected? / 2B: I don't know! / 9S: It's probably because I deferred our data sync. I noticed some weird noise in the Bunker's server data, so I paused the upload. (Route C, Chapter 11: Full-scale Attack)
- So then! To sum up: For hundreds of years, we've been fighting a network of machines with the ghost of humanity at its core. We've been living in a stupid *****ing world where we fight an endless war that we COULDN'T POSSIBLY LOSE, all for the sake of some Council of Humanity on the moon that doesn't even exist. (Intel - Archives - Machine Research Report)
- A2: The 9S Type is a high-end model. They knew you'd discover the truth eventually. But the model designation "2B" was just a cover. The official designation...is "2E". Number 2, Type E. They were a special class of members designed to execute YoHRa units. But you knew that... Right, 9S? (Route C, Chapter 17: The Tower)
- These colossal Emils were the sad final state of Emil's copies. Attacking without warning, they possessed the ability to unleash fierce attacks using magical weapons from the old world. At the end of this pitched battle, the true Emil stopped his dopplegangers [sic] with heartfelt words before annihilating them with a final strike. He then passed away with an expression of great relief, as if he had finally met the person he'd longed to see. (Intel - Unit Data - Emil Clones)
- Pod 153: Proposal: Cease combat. Fighting her at this point would be irrational and— / 9S: Pod 153! I order you to halt all logical thought and speech! This order shall remain in effect until you have confirmed the deaths of either myself or unit A2! (Route C, Chapter 17: The Tower)
- 9S: This tower is a colossal canon built to destroy the human server. Destroy it...and rob the androids of their very foundation. That was the plan devised by those girls. But they changed their minds. [...] This tower doesn't fire artillery. It fires an ark. An ark containing memories of the foolish machine lifeforms. An ark that sends those memories to a new world. (Route C, Chapter 17: The Tower, Ending D)
- Pod 153: Question, Pod 042. Did the data salvage restore all of their past memories? / Pod 042: Yes. / Pod 153: And are those recovered parts of the same design as previous ones? / Pod 042: Yes. / Pod 153: Then...won't that simply lead us to the same conclusion as before? / Pod 042: I cannot deny the possibility. However, the possibility of another future also exists. (Route C, Ending E)