NieR: Automata is an action role-playing game. You play as an android fighting to save the last remnants of humanity from the machines that have overtaken Earth. Featuring multiple playthroughs with different endings, the story plays on expectations and breaks the fourth wall in various ways.
Pro It's got a hauntingly beautiful environment
NieR: Automata is set in a post-apocalyptic landscape after Earth has been overrun by hostile machines, and the artists really nailed what that would feel like. Abandoned and overgrown cities litter the landscape along with old refineries, graveyards, and eerie forests. When you add the beautiful soundtrack to the experience, it fills you with a bittersweet mix of loneliness and hope.
Pro An incredible amount of content
Outside of the main story, there's plenty of optional content to dive into. The side quests are the best way to get to know the characters and lore of the world, with some of them giving clever and subtle foreshadowing of the game's most critical events. There are also weapons to collect and upgrade, each of which offer nice little tidbits of lore after you get them to max level. And after reaching a certain point in the story, you get access to Chapter Select that lets you go back and replay whatever you want. You can easily spend 60+ hours exploring the world and still have much more to do.
Pro Fast-paced, action-packed combat
The combat in NieR: Automata is fantastic. It has a hack-and-slash feel to it, with an emphasis on agility and showy acrobatics. With the fluid and responsive controls, you can switch seamlessly from using swift attacks with your weapon to devastatingly strong attacks as you combo them together. You also use customizable ranged missile attacks from your personal robot pod, such as powerful laser beams or a giant hammer attack. It can be difficult to win battles sometimes, especially on the harder gameplay settings, but it's worthwhile to keep at it and watch yourself progress and improve.
Pro Unique storytelling with a real emotional impact
NieR: Automata's outlook on storytelling is incredibly special. To get the full experience, you have to run multiple playthroughs of the game, each of which offers a new experience and perspective. Your world view of the story events and characters expands drastically as you complete each playthrough, playing on your expectations to help you develop a deeper emotional bond with the protagonists and become invested in their plight.
Things take a real turn on your third playthrough, putting you on an emotional roller coaster all the way to the true ending. The plot twists and knocks on the fourth wall elevate the story to a truly unique place. Getting all the way to the very end can be a religious experience from how much heart and meaning you discover in the symbolism.
Pro Varied genre-spanning gameplay elements
NieR: Automata has different types of gameplay to keep things interesting. From the very start, you're on an on-rails bullet hell section, and then you switch over to the more traditional action RPG style of fast-paced combat. Things change up again not long after with some side-scrolling platforming from a 2D view. Later on in the story, there's a hacking mini-game where you navigate a tiny ship through a short puzzle, with the music changing to a charming retro sound to fit the theme and mood. This is a game that doesn't stay boxed in a single genre.
Pro Gorgeous, ethereal soundtrack with amazing vocals
NieR: Automata's music is out of this world. It's so stunning and elegant in a way that nothing else can really live up to. The soundtrack manages to emotionalize the game through music, from the action-packed tracks with hard-hitting wind instruments and percussion, to the softer, somber songs that encapsulate the hauntingly beautiful environments and story moments you encounter. Vocals in the lore's indescribable language makes the music even more memorable, adding to the ethereal quality of the sound. This soundtrack is definitely one that you can go back to again and again without getting sick of it.
Con Limited open world
Even though NieR: Automata is technically an open world game, it doesn't always feel like it. It's more that there's a big open space in the center of the ruined city you explore, with branches that lead off to vastly different environments, like a desert, a village, and a few other places. These locations aren't that spacious, either, and it's a bit of a stretch to even imagine all of these places being so close together in the first place. It's not too much of an issue as long as you find the story and combat engaging enough.
Con Second playthrough can get repetitive
Once you get to Route B, your second playthrough, you may find that too much is the same. There are some big differences, such as the new way you get to see things play out, but a lot of it rehashes Route A, your first playthrough. There's a ton of hacking you have to do as well, which gets pretty boring after repeating it over and over again. But if you stick with it, Route C and onward are absolutely worth the time spent getting to that point.
Con Some boring fetch quests
The pacing gets messed up when you're forced to run certain fetch quests near the start of the game. This is somewhat forgivable after the fun and action-packed introductory level, but the quests themselves are still a drag to play through. Some of the side quests can also boil down to the same thing. Even though these quests give a lot of useful information about the world, they're not all that fulfilling, and you may dread having to repeat them when playing through the game again.