Time and again, Nier: Automata has shown itself to be exceptionally unique among its mainstream brethren. It’s unique in its union of two seemingly unrelated styles of gameplay. It’s unique in the delivery of its story. It’s unique in its developing relationship with the player. Perhaps most importantly though, Nier: Automata is unique in that it is a wholly satisfying and self-contained experience. No more is needed.
It seems like just about every game released these days is either a sequel or is trying to lay the groundwork for a new series. It’s understandable from a business perspective; marketing new IP is much more difficult and expensive than marketing a known series. Therefore, it’s much more practical to hook players with loose-ends and other sequel-bait rather than giving one’s game a satisfying conclusion. However, doing so often proves frustrating for those playing the game. At best, they’ll have to wait for the sequel to get the answers they want. At worst, the sequel never comes, and what would have been a great standalone experience becomes little more than the disappointing first act of a story that will likely never be finished. Non-starters and disappointing sequels have become increasingly common over the past few years. So, when a fully self-contained game like Nier: Automata comes along, it really stands out.
Nier: Automata concludes in a manner that feels like an earned reward. It answers the most burning questions one has while still leaving enough room for one’s own interpretations and conclusions. What’s more, the game’s true and final ending is only reached through persistent effort on the part of the player. It is quite literally the reward for choosing to see the game through to the very end, even when offered the chance to stop and give up. It’s a game that gives its players the choice to take its ending as far as they want, and that includes reaching one that puts a full and satisfying lid on the whole of the experience. The same is true on the gameplay side of things.
Often, the first entry of a game introduces a mechanic and leaves further development to its sequels. This is not the case with Nier: Automata. Just about every system in the game keeps developing and getting new wrinkles introduced right up to the very end. Melee and ranged combat grows as new weapons and new Pods (ranged combat and weapon storage devices) are found. It even takes on a brand new dimension late into the game as new characters are introduced. Hacking doesn’t show up until the second playthrough, but continually develops from that point on. It progresses from a simple combat tool into a means for accessing new loot and eventually becomes an essential vector for story and plot development. There are very few stones left unturned in terms of the potential places the games mechanics can go to. There may indeed yet be room for further development, but it’s difficult to imagine what else could be done.
In a landscape filled with games trying to set up sequels or entirely new series, Nier: Automata stands out as a wholly complete experience. It ends its story in a way that is satisfying yet open to some interpretation. It continually develops its gameplay mechanics so as to realize most of their potential rather than leaving players feeling like something was lacking. Finally, it rewards its players’ loyalty with said satisfying conclusion and developed gameplay. What many game series to in two or three entries, Nier: Automata does all on its own. It is an exceptionally refreshing thing to experience, and something I would absolutely love to see more of in the future.
There’s so much more that I’d like to say about how the true ending is reached, but that would require delving into spoiler territory. Normally, I don’t think spoilers are all that big a deal, but this case is special. If you’re still on the fence about Nier: Automata, do yourself a favor and play it. And when you do, stick with it to the very end and resist the temptation to give up. You won’t be disappointed!
Lede image captured by Hatm0nster