Libra: NieR:Automata The End of YoRHa Edition (Switch)
In a way, RPG fans have it rough. Not only do we have to wage war on a backlog the size of a small country, we also must accept the truth: we’ll never truly reach the end thanks to the genre’s average runtime. It’s admittedly a good problem to have, though many RPGs may never be played as a result. For me, this was part of the reason I never played NieR:Automata when it first came out. But now that it’s on the Switch, like magic, it’s jumped to the front of the queue overnight.
But I’m not complaining, as I knew I was in for a treat because of just how many have showered it with praise over the years. And as it turns out, I’m enjoying it quite a bit myself, though I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it’s a masterpiece. In these first impressions, we’ll be going over the basics of NieR:Automata The End of YoRHa Edition, how it runs on Switch, and what I think after 15 hours of play.
NieR:Automata The End of YoRHa Edition takes place in a world in ruin. Many moons ago, an alien species invaded the Earth and threatened to wipe out humanity, but not in the way you might expect. Rather than attacking humans themselves, like so many nightmare-fueled dreams might tell us, the aliens instead deployed an army of machines to do their bidding. While this front would be successful in uprooting humanity and forcing their escape to the Moon, humans would also develop their own machina in the form of androids to stay behind and try to lay claim to their land once more. This war would rage on until two androids, 2B and 9S, would uncover some truly shocking and downright horrifying things at the root of the conflict. More importantly, the two would discover that war isn’t always black and white, but instead just somewhere in between.
NieR:Automata The End of YoRHa Edition isn’t finished after a single playthrough. Instead, there are over two dozen endings to obtain, though many are short, comedic in nature, and don’t require a full playthrough to achieve. That said, you can still expect to play through at least three times in order to attain the “true” ending, as there are simply too many questions left unanswered after completing it just a single time. Fortunately, both the gameplay and story beats are somewhat shaken up with each new playthrough, though much of it hasn’t resonated with me on my second playthrough so far – more on that later.
Knowing that the best parts of the narrative are behind the third playthrough, there’s really not much else to say, that’s spoiler free, from a 1.5 playthrough perspective besides this: the game does an excellent job of establishing an air of intrigue surrounding its many mysteries, and you’ll certainly be compelled to start anew after beating it once.
NieR:Automata The End of YoRHa Edition is a 3D hack-and-slash action-RPG at heart, with the occasional 2D side-scrolling section and shoot ‘em up sequence thrown in to change things up. For the most part, 2B and 9S explore a sizable open world that’s long been overrun by machines, with only a few android bastions scattered about. The majority of combat consists of weaving in various light, heavy, and pod-based (ranged) combos and abilities in order to overwhelm and defeat enemies. Evasion is also key, and can more or less be spammed at any time without penalty. Timing a dodge perfectly will not only negate any potential incoming damage, but also allow for a quick and powerful followup combo to be made thereafter.
There’s also the shooting and hacking portions to consider, which incorporate the aforementioned dodge mechanics and pod-based specials as well. Though to me these sequences feel more like gimmicks than anything else. I always found myself wanting to get through them as quickly as possible because I just don’t find it all that interesting, but arcade shooter fans may feel otherwise. In NieR’s defense, most of these sequences are short, but none of them can be skipped which can be a potential bummer for those, like myself, who don’t find them enjoyable.
Overall, the combat looks and feels good, but it’s not all that deep and will likely not appease those looking for something with “more meat.” There are quite a few different weapons and plug-in chips that can help customize your playstyle to your liking, but I found some of them to be unnecessary bloat rather than compelling options. Higher difficulties are available for those seeking bigger thrills, though be warned that they leave little to no room for error.
While following the main campaign is pretty self explanatory, delving into side quests can sometimes be problematic. For one, some quests can be picked up early but require certain advancements from other quests (main or otherwise) in order to progress, despite map markers suggesting otherwise. Speaking of, the map has its moments of frustration as well, with a lot of clutter and its three-dimensional perspective being a bit unintuitive at times. Collectively, this makes the questing system, particularly the side content, feel a bit antiquated compared to everything else, and it’s truly unfortunate since there are many side quests that have really good stories attached to them.
It’s because of all these concerns that I find myself really struggling to get through the second playthrough. I certainly want to for the sake of the story, but the issues that arose from the first playthrough are only amplified in the second due to them being so similar in gameplay structure (so far, anyway). The added hacking feature in the second run, while powerful, is just another shoot ‘em up sequence that I was already tired of before its debut. The consensus online for similar takes is to just power through it because the story is excellent, but I’m not sure that’s something I’m willing, at least for now, to do.
While I may have already said that I don’t think NieR:Automata The End of YoRHa Edition is the masterpiece that many find it, that was broadly speaking, as I do think we can all agree that it’s most definitely a visual and tonal masterpiece. Seeing a dystopian earth ravaged by centuries of war, strife, and vegetative overgrowth is truly a sight to behold, and the stunning soundtrack only strengthens the case. Brandishing its now iconic Chaos language with soul-stirring melodies, this ruined version of earth comes alive across dilapidated cities, arid deserts, overgrown forests, and even a defunct – but still very much alive – amusement park. Many tracks are also multi-layered in that they will build up or dial back based on exactly where 2B and 9S might be within any given zone – a noticeable, nice touch for the true audiophiles out there.
Performance and graphical fidelity overall are solid in NieR:Automata The End of YoRHa Edition. While there is the occasional pop-in and muddy textures to deal with, the game goes to great lengths to make the world as immersive and performance-rich as possible given the hardware constraints. Many Switch games handle draw distance poorly with subpar algorithms that absolutely gut objects in the distance. While it’s only reasonable to assume this will happen to an extent, most go overboard with it. NieR, however, handles it pretty gracefully by still showing some trees, tufts of grass, and other doodads in the distance. And even though you’ll beat the dynamic texture scaling from time to time, it is generally handled quite well.
My only real complaint regarding graphics lies in a stylistic choice rather than something technical. I realize most people probably don’t mind the inescapable upskirt view of 2B, but it’s just not really my cup of tea. There are temporary ways around this by adjusting the camera, but a bird’s eye view is simply not viable for long in a 3D action-RPG. Perhaps there are costumes later that make her appearance a bit more modest, but I can’t say that for certain. Either way, it’s a minor nitpick and I’m sure most people won’t mind an android booty in their face the entire time, at least for the first playthrough.
As a quick note, the bonus content provided in NieR:Automata The End of YoRHa Edition is beyond the scope of these impressions. But for thoroughness I’ll include those details directly from Nintendo’s website:
Three types of colosseums are included, and three types of costumes based on characters from the related title, NieR Replicant, can be obtained as rewards.
*To enjoy this content you will need to have progressed a certain way into the main story of the game. There are also some scenes during the progression of the main game scenario in which this content cannot be accessed.”
- Stunning world and interesting story.
- Performs well on the Switch.
- Many, many endings to obtain, and at least three runs, each of which have their own nuances, required for the “true” ending.
- One of the best soundtracks out there.
- Gameplay gimmicks that feel even worse the second time through.
- At least three runs required for the “true” ending (personal preference).
- Some side quests can be obtained before they can even be fulfilled, but are still marked on the map.
- Map can be unintuitive at times
As it stands, I find NieR:Automata The End of YoRHa Edition to have some impressive highs but also some frustrating lows. On one hand, I’m captivated by the story, its characters, the overall aesthetics, and the dystopian world that encompasses everything. But the overall gameplay simply isn’t up to snuff for my personal tastes, especially after beating the game once. That said, the game looks and runs fantastically well on the Switch, and there’s no denying that it has a large and loyal fan base that would disagree with many of the issues I’ve brought to light here. To each their own, of course. Regardless, NieR:Automata The End of YoRHa Edition is certainly a game worth playing, even if my own goals towards that true ending may be put on hold for the foreseeable future.