NieR: Automata spoilYoRHa thread of postgame reflection

Don’t come in here until you’ve finished all 5 of the game’s main endings (A-E). The last two only take 15 minutes.


Ending E: It annoyed me because just like Dark Souls they’re making this arbitrary challenge to get gamers to help each other outside the traditional boundaries of a game. The thought is beautiful but it doesn’t feel earned. They just turned the shmup pattern up to 11. It’d be another thing if 9S was trying to save 2B from the hordes or something in the context of the storyline. Instead they just made something up and then guilted people into blowing away 30 hours of JRPG grind.

I love that it worked for you guys, but it broke the suspension of disbelief for me. Which bums me out.

This feels like Mass Effect 2 all over again. Why am I so weird?

So this is the thing. In ending E, the pods are trying to save 2B, 9S and A2 data from YoRHa deletion. They’re hacking (and that’s what you’re controlling, ultimately). Now, you have spent 30+ hours with those characters. They were all fighting a unwinnable war for meaningless reasons - and all of them failed to succeed. Everything they’ve done would be devoid of meaning… unless you save them somehow and give them another chance, another shot at… something.

In a way, it’s a big part of the whole point of the game - existence is meaningless unless we give it meaning. And in the case of the game, what gives 2B, 9S and A2’s lives meaning is your effort to help them succeed. You want them to, because, ultimately, you might have realized that our real human lifes are no different, but we don’t have any power over our own lives - or at least, not in the way we have in this virtual world.

But then the game breaks the 4th wall. It’s subtle at first. You’re fighting this credits you’ve seen at least 4 times before. You’re actually fighting the gods that created this ruthless world. You’re fighting the ending they created, trying to save what they destroyed, trying to give those 30+ hours meaning. But you can’t beat them at their own game. At least, not at first. And every time you fail, it asks “do you want to give up?” And you remember how 2B and 9S and A2 had every chance and reason to give up… but never did. Not even when they should. And you want to save them, so you press on. But it’s impossible. Much like the war against the machines was an impossible fight, fighting the gods of the game, fighting the inevitability of death, fighting the weight of the meaninglessness of the world (be it virtual or real) is an impossible fight.

But then you start to get messages from other people. We’ve been there as well, they say. And if we did it, so can you. But you can’t. You can’t carry the weight of the world alone.

And then it offers help. But it’s not offering help to the pods - it’s offering help to you. It’s not a matter of pods saving androids anymore - it’s you beating this thing. All the time throughout this impossible fight, you listen to the solo singer singing about the search for meaning, the endless suffering, the continuous conflict, the impossibility of succeeding alone.

And then you accept help. And you realize that, with the help of others, you might be able to succeed. It’s the help of others that keeps your hope alive. You originally set out to help 2B and 9S and A2 but now you are the one needing help and getting it. And those who help you also sacrifice themselves for you. Their data is deleted so yours won’t be, so 2B’s, 9S’s, and A2’s data won’t be deleted. The song grows into a chorus which not only combines the multiple solo versions of the song in one - in the background, the chorus you hear is made of the developers of the game. Yes, the ones you’re blowing up in this very ending.

And then when you succeed against insurmountable odds, overwhelmed by the point this section hammers in - that existence is meaningless unless we cooperate in giving meaning to each other’s lifes, that sacrifice is one key element of what gives things any kind of meaning - the game forces you to look inside and consider what you’ve experienced and how you’ll react to it.

“Those people who helped you? They sacrificed their data to help you. Will you do the same for someone else?”

If death is inevitable, why not give it meaning by making it a choice? That’s a point that appears at almost every step of the way. “Become as gods”, the robots say. The fascination of Adam for death. The repeated cycle of death with 2B and 9S. Death is meaningless as a fact of life, but it is imbued of meaning when it’s a choice. And the game can’t force you to consider your own life, but it can make you consider the closest thing in this virtual realm - your savefiles.

Now, were this a pointless, costless sacrifice, it has no meaning. It must mean something. And you’re looking at 30+ hours of game (and who knows how many parts you haven’t seen yet) and thinking, “will I sacrifice all this so one person can experience 5 minutes of elation and then be forced to make the same decision?”

It’s brilliant. It is earned because it is like a final exam after 30 hours of existentialism 101. Without what you call “JRPG grind”, such a choice would be meaningless. And it must NOT be, or the whole point of the message is lost.

Now, for it to work, you must be invested in the game at a personal level. Games are not all that different from magic - it’s all smoke and mirrors. Which means that, if you’re paying attention to the wrong place (trying to find how the magic trick works, for example), you’ll never have the marvel of that experience. And that might be exactly what happened in your case, I suppose. Or maybe you just didn’t engage at all because you don’t have the kind of existential angst that the game requires to succeed.

OK, I wrote way too much already. Anyone else wants to say anything? :)

That’s great stuff. You really made me think about it on levels I hadn’t considered. I’ve never been very observant when it comes to videogames, so I need help with stuff like this.

But ultimately, I’m not going to impart meaning to an arbitrary challenge. If I reject the premise of the 5 minutes of elation then there’s no point for me to sacrifice myself. Perhaps it’s meaningful to another person to achieve ending E and therefore it indirectly gives it meaning to me. In some ways I accept that; in other ways I cringe at how much meaning we impart to virtual achievements.

Part of the problem is that I’m already keeping the game at arm’s length a bit at the end because I’ve been playing so many Souls games and Japanese beat 'em ups that are full of “life is circular” Eastern philosophy that I’m just tired of it! I get it, guys! I’m good here.

I just used my pristine save file to do the Lunar Tear quest that I missed the first time through. Emil is now one of my favorite characters in the game. That feels more important to me.

On the other hand, I love the idea of a clean break from a game. I haven’t ruled out going back into route E when I’m “done” with the game. The sacrifice will probably lose all its meaning in the context you’ve described, but perhaps it will mean something to me as a gamer who strives to continuously move on to the next great experience by letting go of great games when it’s time.

Are virtual achievements all that virtual, really? That’s another layer in the game overall “setting”. What is virtual and what is real? Isn’t one’s experience, whatever its source, the very definition of “real”? What is the essence of “real”?

And there are so many layers in the game - the nature of identity, its relation to memory and its persistence (and the relation of both with the concept of “reality” as experienced by a subjective self), the riddle of consciousness - the game touches on so many mesmerizing, delectable parts of philosophy that I’m still kind of enraptured by it. Have you noticed how most of the bosses (and some characters) are named after (mostly Western) philosophers?

Everything in the game is in some way an examination on the nature of life in an uncaring universe. Yeah, depending on how you view things, it’s all pointless and meaningless. Yeah, those 5 minutes of elation mean nothing in a galactic timescale. But from the point of human experience - of the here and now, which is the only moment in which we really live and exist - isn’t it everything?

I could go on and on about how it ties into religious and mythical aspects as well - mostly in the “Adam and Eve” subplot. Or how it hints at the mechanics of desire and sensorial perception. Or how it puts Pascal’s Wager at a whole different light. Or any other number of things I never thought I’d ever see (well) represented in a videogame.

Yeah, approaching it as another JRPG game filled with Eastern philosophy would certainly interfere with noticing or enjoying all those threads. And it’s actually funny how much this game is tied to Western philosophy, actually. There’s a lot more Sartre than Confucious in the whole thing, and I really appreciate it for that too.

…and they boil it all down to some software engineer turning the shmup patterns up to 11!

I’ve never been much for any of those other philosophical quandries you’re talking about either. Fortunately, me being a curmudgeon doesn’t diminish anyone else’s appreciation of the game, and I can still enjoy it on my own level.

I think the one thing I came away from the game a little disappointed with is that there wasn’t more of what we got with the second encounter with Simone. That was easily one of my favorite moments.

I’d like to talk about the characters. I thought it was neat that we start out playing badass 2Booty with her gruff, Batman-like grunts in all the dialogue, but it’s dopey sidekick 9S that turns out to be the most interesting and central character.

I was expecting more out of A2 as well. She seemed too similar to 2B, both character-wise and of course all the same animations and attacks.

Yeah, I was a little disappointed with Et tu’s relative lack of development as well. I was really hoping that playthrough #3 would have been from the perspective of one of the pods instead.

Now I’m super curious if the concepts behind the character names somehow made it into the Japanese translation. Do they have the same kind of subtlety? Or maybe they just left it as English?

Probably because the 2B line of androids is just a minor modification of the original A2 design.

Someone on Reddit mentioned that perhaps it was intentional for you to back up your save game before making the choice. The characters in the game do it all the time.

Does that rob you of the meaning of your own choice? And if the intent is to help others, does that matter?

Or is breaking the endless cycle of life and death part of the point?

I backed my savegames up before making the decision, but I didn’t use that backup. I thought that was against the point the game was making.

I went a bit further, in fact - I uninstalled the game. I’ll wait a good bit and come back to it for another complete playthrough (and maybe sacrifice my saves again). We’ll see. ;)

Based on the DLC announced so far, that was probably for the best!

I finally wrapped this up, long after everybody else has moved on.

Really enjoyed reading both of your perspectives on E, though I don’t have much to add. I think I fall somewhere in between them – it was a touching, well-executed moment that made a fitting culmination to the journey, but it didn’t hit me quite as hard as @rhamorim.

I didn’t delete my save yet because there are still some sidequests I want to go back to, but I will probably do it once I am sure I’m done with the game.

Well oops, I didn’t know there was a spoiler Nier:Automata thread. @rhamorim told me about this one.

Here’s what I wrote in the other one:

[quote]Right. I just finished the game! Here are my thought on Nier: Automata. Extreme spoilers ahead!

First of all, I’m writing this as a Drakengard/Nier “veteran”. All the games in this loosely-defined series have always been mediocre, but had original ideas to make them stand out. I was hesitant about this one, but I was won over and decided to try it because of the cool menus, the chip system the Platinum-designed combat… and by 2B’s sexy (but creepy) figure. Turns out Nier: Automata is still mediocre. Its biggest sin is that it contains ALL the clever tricks the original Nier had up its sleeve and very few new ones, and they’re used even more poorly this time, on top of not being so clever anymore.

First, let’s give the game its dues. The grayish computer menu interface is really neat. The combat is much improved… but it’s still not that great. The music is quite good (the gibberish singing is back and still annoying in a kind of catchy way). Speaking of the music, one of the game’s tricks is that it changes the music playing after finishing a side-quest. A small detail, but it adds extra payoff to finishing a quest, enhancing the “good” or “bad” result. Someone should take a note of this. The quality of the writing is adequate, I guess although oddly enough most of the better writing is in the side-quests (Romeos and the Juliets is pretty funny). Just like the first Nier, you often see events from the perspective of someone else (including your enemies), which is always interesting.

More about the combat. It feels like Bayonetta with shooting combined to melee attacks, plus a dodge move that rewards good timing. It all still feels sloppy though, so much that I can scarcely believe the game proposes you complete it with every hit being lethal (“Very Hard”). There’s so much going on at once with a partner fighting, shockwaves, bullets and the camera sometimes deciding to use clever cinematic angles that it’s hard to dodge even with the generous timing. Anyway, “Normal” is a cakewalk and “Hard” mode often kills you in one hit anyway, so that’s crappy balancing for you. There’s about a dozen enemies repeated ad nauseam too. The combat is nowhere near as tight as he recent Furi. If you want the same style done right, try that.

Weapons are dull to boot, which is a shame since it’s one of the series’ highlights. They have no unique spell like Drakengard, so the difference between each of them is really thin. The grim weapon “super short stories” are back (yay!), but they’re disappointing (boo!). To top it all off, weapon upgrades and story segments are not handed out by using them… it’s another damn crafting system that asks you to collect 11 walrus tibias.

It’s an open world game, but the world is very small and quite ugly. It’s more of an open neighborhood, really. Fast travel works well, so that’s a plus I guess.

So how about the story? That’s often the part that stands out. It seems that now every JRPG has to be about answering the great question of life the universe and everything. This one is no different. I’m quite tired of that, honestly. JRPG directors are no more wise about the meaning of life than the average college undergraduate, perhaps even less so. In the same vein, the names of philosophers have been inserted willy-nilly into the game without any relevance. I am not impressed.

As is usual for the series, the tone is unrelentingly grim. However, the game does try to make you care for the characters, unlike, say, the original Drakengard. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I especially don’t know how I feel about building a slide for children, only to have them commit suicide 5 minutes later. I guess the shock value is worth something? On the other hand, disaster is inevitably meted out on everything and everyone and always for vague reasons, so it’s hard to really care. The game is about a proxy war fought by robots between human and aliens, but there’s absolutely no payoff concerning either the humans and the aliens. Everyone’s already long dead and that’s it. It’s fittingly bleak, but not very interesting. Honestly, the game is light on plot and would be quite short if it wasn’t for the (re-used) multiple ending scheme and the sub-quest padding.

A note about “that trick”. Nier’s ultimate trick up its sleeve, the complete save file wipe, is back, but it is used for something completely irrelevant: you sacrifice your save file to give a boost to another player, out there somewhere, fighting against the final boss… the actual credits as a bullet hell shmup level. You shoot the names of people against a black screen. It’s not even integrated in the story properly, but the game pretends it’s has great emotional resonance. Man, I thought the context in which the save wipe was brought in the first Nier was dumb, but this makes it seem so much smarter by comparison.

How odd, you can buy trophies outright with in-game money and the amount is kind of trivial compared to the hours of grinding you would need to do it “legit”. I went ahead and did it. I mean why not? Where else can I do this?

The game is probably more of a revelation to the relatively JRPG-starved PC, but now that I’ve already played a bunch of Drakengards and the original Nier, the novelty feels a bit thin. Honestly, Nier: Automata is a lot worse than I thought.
2 machine lifeforms out of 5

P.S.: Jesus, what’s up with that DLC? 19 CAD$ for recycled arena fights and costumes?[/quote]

I agree with some of your points, but they didn’t annoy me as much. I was just a bit letdown since I didn’t have that suspension of disbelief.

So I completed this last night. I haven’t played any previous game in the series so had no idea what to expect. First up I really enjoyed it. I loved that I had no idea where it was all going and how the side quests, while often mechanically rote, were usually surprising in some way and almost always tied into the central themes of the game. Whenever I found myself rolling my eyes over a quest I was always pleased to have it end with something that peaked my interest.

I wrote this a while back to illustrate the tug of the game’s side quests:

“I fought the forest king’s guard behind a giant wooden door that was unlocked using several items found around the castle. It was exciting to find the door, exciting to assemble the key, exciting to see what was behind the door, exciting to get beyond the king’s guard and exciting to find an old robot overgrown with flora in front of a gravestone dappled with sunbeams breaking through the forest boughs. What was there? Would it be some lore and further insight into the world? A wad of G? A new weapon? A diamond plug-in? A pod? A pod program? Some rare materials? Another quest layer? Some strange new item? That mystery made all the stages that came before it exciting and it’s the beating heart of the game’s side quests. Where will this lead? What will I discover?”

I really liked this observation in the main thread. I think this is one thing that kept me interested on top of the unpredictable direction of the story – I never knew what ‘mechanical set-pieces’ the game was going to throw at me. Really cool and exciting. In the Yoko Taro documentary someone posted he said that he wanted to make games that were unexpected and I think he’s succeeded, at least to me as a Nier noob.

I can relate to some of @Woodlance’s criticisms and I’ll second his praise of the music being layered so it can be dynamically adjusted to complement different situations. Vessel did this with Jon Hopkins’ music and it worked really well when tied to puzzle progression. The music in Nier: Automata was fantastic too. I’m not wild about crafting systems but I didn’t find it egregious here. I maxed a lot of weapons out just through exploration. That said, I’m sure I’d have needed many more hours to max the rest out!

Okay so on to the story and my readings. I’m not sure I was quite as high on the [E]nding as @rhamorim but still got most of the themes it was exploring, which is unlike me because I’ve usually got a tin ear for that kind of stuff. I liked that you, as the player, ended up fighting the credits (the developers = the creators = god) to allow the data to leak so 2B, 9S and A2 could have another shot, but in order to do so you needed help from other players to succeed. While I think the save data wipe seems heavy handed it kind of is the ultimate sacrifice to a gamer. I pondered the choice for a while and to avoid being paralysed by all the stuff I’d not done and found, and in keeping with the themes of the game, I went ahead. I also liked that Pod 042’s dialogue was very tongue in cheek, particularly about the possibility of intensely dislking the player you could end up helping.

For some reason I also missed this:

Two hacks and A2 was toast for me. I must have damaged her enough while dodging or something. That’s a really cool reveal though as the camera pans out. I first chose A2 at the end and her ending left me wondering what would happen to 9S, then when I eventually went back and chose 9S… Christ, that was grim. This whole game was grim.

There’s a strong sense of companionship/partnership running through Nier: Automata too, from 2B and 9S (who usually worked alone) to Adam and Eve, Devola and Popola, the two Pods and even the last boss is a twin configuration. Without the other half they become almost dysfunctional. Simone may be another example.

If I have any criticism, some of the dialogue is cheesy and over the top (I laughed a number of times, probably when I shouldn’t have) and the story is piled high with stuff to sift through and try and connect. Even before 9S loses his mind, to say he was one of the most advanced YoHRa models, he was a dimwit at times. For almost the entire game he’s constantly saying machines don’t feel anything and blah blah. Dude, wake-up, look around you. Also: you’re a machine too, but called an ‘android’ instead.

I’m also really surprised how many parallels this has to SOMA (spoilers!), from the existentialist themes and what it means to be, to machines exhibiting human characteristics and even the ark plot point and resolution. SOMA’s not as expansive but I think it’s a lot more focused and succinct. It shocked me and I felt that dread and loneliness a lot more at the bottom of the ocean, all while another version of me went into the heavens, just like 9S.

All in all though, a unique and constantly surprising experience that I really enjoyed and certainly one of my games of the year for its boldness.

Was just looking through my screenshots and remembered noticing this:

All the chests turned into these pixelated low-poly versions. I can’t remember exactly when this occurred, or why specifically, but I think it was near the end of playthrough [B]. It’s probably to do with 9S hacking into the moon and Bunker servers.

Hmmm, I never noticed that. I’ll make sure to check in my next playthrough. ;)

I’m pretty sure that’s because you have the Cypress Stick equipped.