Trends aren’t uncommon in the video game world and we seem to have an interesting new one developing in front of our eyes. Nier: Automata is the second “warrior woman vs machines” game to be released this month. Both feature complex female leads, addictive action and intriguing worlds to explore. However these surface comparisons end there. The two games may have a similar ethos, but Nier: Automata is a completely different beast and frankly, on its own merits something quite special. A frankenstein’s monster that combines blistering third-person action with top-down/eight-way shooters in a way that feels both fresh and oddly nostalgic.
Where Horizon: Zero Dawn is a coming-of-age story full of hope and optimism, Nier: Automata is a bleak and often melancholy affair that owes more than a pound of flesh to the likes of Ghost in the Shell. We play as 2B, an android soldier created to combat an alien army that have brought humanity to the brink of extinction. The remaining humans have since relocated to the moon and systematically dispatch androids in a last-ditch attempt to reclaim the Earth. These androids are more than soulless metal shells however. They are capable of free thought and emotion, but are explicitly forbidden from embracing their more human qualities. Much like the aforementioned Ghost in the Shell, this dichotomy of machine and human makes for an interesting tale that goes to places you wouldn’t expected from Platinum Games. You know, the studio known for over-sexed witches and giving Metal Gear Solid’s Raiden his own game.
It may feel a little overdone in places, but beneath the over-the-top action set-pieces there are some truly unsettling scenes that delve into subjects like religion and mortality. Often catching you off-guard and making you pause the endless barrage of swordplay to take a moment to consider your actions. With branching paths and multiple endings included the narrative remains enticing on subsequent New Game+ ventures, despite the increased difficulty.