A lot to offer, and a lot of confusion
Nier: Automata has something to say. Are you willing to go through a long, game to hear it and still know exactly what it is talking about?
This has been #1 on my wishlist for years. It came out at a time I wasn't able to afford full priced games. Nier: Automata had the trappings of a game I would love, a "cult classic", Platinum-made, spectacle fighter, with gameplay genre shifts, featuring mechs, androids, spectacle combat, exploration, in a post-apocalyptic world. Nier: Automata sounded like my dream come true, by cleanly mixing genre's I've wanted to see mixed for a very time while pulling inspiration, mechanics, and genres from some of my all time favorite games, . and yet, I wasn't satisfied at the end. Why is that?
"Will I like this game or not?"
What do you value most? Gameplay or Story? Those that value story and philosophy tend to adore this game and claim it to be the best game of all time. Those like me that value Gameplay and appreciate story will have some enjoyable moments, but ultimately be dragged along a long game just to be confused and disappointed. I googled "i don't get nier automata" I was surprised to see so many other people who were WANTING to like Nier, but couldn't.
Earth is engulfed in a centuries long war between invading alien machines and "person-like" androids representing and fighting for the last vestige of humanity taking refuge on the moon.
Humanity needs to take back the machine infested planet, and androids are the only ones that can survive it, or at least sacrifice themselves if need be. You're gradually taken through missions of destroying huge machines, running errands for fellow androids, and oddly enough, doing quests for pacifist machines. There is a pretty interesting and complex cast of characters, in the machines that "disconnected from the network" and took up studying and mimic human culture and personalities, to the point of some NPCs being inspired by notable real world philosophers. It's just a shame you have to go through alot of gameplay mess to get to the meat of things.
What Nier gets right is combat. Like any Platinum game, the mechanics of fighting are solid and mostly satisfying
I say mostly because it does feel great to tear up on enemies, but because it it such a long game, it wears thin after long 60 hour open world errand grind. 2B can equip any weapon into her light or heavy slot, allowing for a wide variety of options, though I found the default weapons more than suitable as the other weapons takes time an effort to make good. Combos are limited, but you can find an infinite attack string with probably any setup, Your Pod can shoot infinite "Shmup bullets" or missiles that take time to lock on and do reasonable damage, but I never found other Pod "guns".. Pods have many equippable skills like Lasers, explosions, circular blades, and directional spears but have lengthy cool downs. There are other mechanics, like a Counter/Parry attack (which seemed really difficult, charge attacks, and taunting to boost your damage and enemy damage - but these are built into the very imperfect chip system.
Chips are interesting at first, requiring you to manage mechanics or features you want to keep or sacrifice in order to to make significant changes to your loadout. At first glance, this is unique and fun, but becomes a hassle and a time sink over-time.
You can combine chips of same levels to increase their effectiveness, but this is where things get extremely convoluted. The chip system has developer oversights AND would take hours of grinding to truly optimize. Some chips have diamond versions, taking up less space in your loadout BUT they are very rare AND when you combine them with chips at certain levels, they loose the Diamond rank, requiring you to only fuse them with chips of low capacity OR farming for extra rare Diamond rank chips in order to have the most efficient loadouts. This system is so convoluted that you need a lengthy guide to determine how you should fuse chips to upgrade for the best efficiency, since you can only equip so many chips based on their capacity. Also, expect to spend countless minutes selling, deleting, and fusing chips from your limited inventory. I learned I was basically screwing myself by fusing chips I bought or picked up instead of meticulously managing my chips.
This matters because you need all the help you can get, especially on Hard difficulty. Most enemies can kill in one or two hits and fauna out of all things can kill you in one hit. You need increased HP chips or HP restoring chips to survive, but then must make decisions on what abilities or bonuses you want or would sacrifice. Counter mechanics are key in most Platinum games, but because they are hard and risky to execute, as well as took up valuable chip capacity, I didn't use Counter for the entire game. It's neat to customize to your play style, but you may also miss out on certain mechanics in order to increase your damage or conveniently heal yourself, versus using clunky menus to heal during fast paced battles.
The overall experience leaves me with mixed feelings.
Combat is solid, but is samey after hours of slaying robots.. Boss battles range from incredibly epic to irritating damage sponges, but most are pretty good. Shmup moments are neat for a while, but loses luster after a many uses. Some side quests are good, but there are more than enough "collect X Number of these things" Fetch quests or "kill x number of these things" quest. There's a "choose your own adventure" text adventure segment, but I'm not convinced it was needed. The story has me very confused, as the enemy are mindless machines used to wipe out humanity, but were some how sentient enough to disconnect themselves from the network of their alien masters and decide they want to learn from and emulate humanity.... are they machines or not? And how can they create lifelike, human-like men with skin, blood, all the functions of a human so they can act like androids and also read books of human culture. The story regularly hints how the machines emulate humanity and the main characters think they are just emulating humans from recordings, but they clearly are trying hard to be like humans. It was never clearly stated how a bunch of metal robots designed to kill could still have the intelligence and ability to emulate humans down to their culture and emotions. Then, at the end I'm expected to understand that machines and androids are just like humans. The multiple endings are really more like chapters - the fact that they are considered "game endings" falsely made me think these were the end of the game and ultimately, the 26 endings based on the English alphabet are more a gimmick than a good story telling mechanic. Yoko Taro has been both praised and criticized for his strange story telling and players like myself didn't exactly get what the game was "trying to say". All this hype, praise and high-minded human existence philosophy and I still have no clue exactly what all I did, why I did it, and how it matters.