Single Status Update
I'm going to take a moment to say that out of all the games I've played throughout my time as a gamer Nier: Automata is probably one of the best games I've had the pleasure of playing in a very long time. By saying this I have just beaten it (well I beat it last night but I went through to get ending D today (I cheated so I didn't have to do the whole tower section again and reloaded at my save right before the final two fights). I'll most likely be redoing the whole Tower chapter again tomorrow so I can get D on my main save file so I can get ending E, the true ending. Wish me luck because I hear the final section to get E is a nightmare) and yes it took me forever but I'm glad it did. I've played many games that have great stories, great characters, great world building, great gameplay, and yes even great soundtracks (you'd be lying to yourself if you didn't think the OST for Nier was a major component of it) but none of them have ever encapsulated me this much (I say this having a complete obsession over the Suikoden series of games, by far my all time favorites when it comes to world building/story/characters).
I've never come to care for characters so much as I have with 2B, Pascal, and A2 (screw 9S, sorry to everyone that likes him but I do not like his character and don't get me started on actually having to use him in combat. Worst parts of the game for me even with his story being so damn good). Everything they go through and everything they experience from the minor gains to the major losses all resonated with me (and in some cases absolutely gutted me, I'm looking at you Pascal). I won't be ruining anything about their stories here or giving a major plot developments but DX will definitely understand where I'm coming from. You really grow attached to these characters in ways you don't notice until something major happens. Hell I've never been attached to a character as much as I am to 2B. Watching her grow throughout the entirety of her play through (and 9S's), watching as she struggles with the things she had to do before the events of this game, watching as she gradually opens up more to those around her, and watching her become more accepting of the new truths around her was amazing. Most main characters never get this treatment with all these minor nuances and most are lucky if they get the character growth she did. A2 is similar in a lot of ways but her growth comes a lot faster and it's harder to get really attached to her since you don't spend as much time with her (but damn do I love her sassy personality, her interactions with Pod 42 are gold). I really wish she'd of gotten more attention than she did (and you really don't even understand the depth of her backstory and character unless you read about the stage play Yoko Taro did that tells it (it's briefly mentioned in game but not much is said)). I won't get into Pascal other than he's a very well written character, lovable, and gets the shaft hard and it really sucks because he's so lovable.
Story wise it's really just your typical sci-fi plot and while good is nothing really to write home about as it's the characters that make this game so good (not trying to undermine it by any means but it's certainly not Tolkien levels of epic). It also pays, while not necessary, to have prior knowledge of both the original Nier's story and Drakengard's story as it actually helps you understand a lot of the what happened in the past to lead to where this game is at storyline wise (hell three of the NPC characters are directly from the original Nier). I'm really glad I went and read up on them before beating the game, it really helped me understand a lot of what I was seeing toward the end and helped elaborate on a bunch of the in-game text documents you find. Though it might be easier to get that backstory soon as rumor has it we might be getting a remake/remaster of the original Nier or maybe we'll get a brand new game.
The OST is where this game truly shines (so much so I bought it, a rarity for me as I usually don't buy game soundtracks (the only other exception being the Journey OST)). As I said above it's a major component of the game and a major factor behind why I love this game so much. Hell I can't even listen to Weight of the World anymore without getting teary eyed (such a great song, don't think I'll be able to do the Nier raid in FFXIV anymore with the music on. Might end up ugly crying (and they won't be manly tears)). It really sets up all the pieces quite well and adds a lot of the emotional undertone to the game.
As for gameplay I'm not the biggest hack and slash fan. Never really have been as I've always gravitated toward RPG's and Strategy games while only playing the occasional hack and slash (I mean before this my only real forays into the genre were the Dynasty and Samurai Warriors games) but I gotta say I really enjoyed the combat in Nier. After getting used to it (which did take awhile) I started to really enjoy dashing in, slashing like a mad man, evading when needed, and rotating in Pod Programs (I'm a big fan of Mirage, so OP with fully leveled weapons). Bosses are a blast as well if not somewhat annoying depending on which one you're fighting (I'm looking at you eyeball of death). My only two complaints about combat are the Pods (outside of programs they're practically useless (and I say this knowing full well how many times the missile pod saved my ass)) and the 9S hacking mini-game (god was this one of the most annoying parts of the game for me and it sucks that its so fucking powerful. I just hate the randomness of what you'll get every time you hack into an enemy).
I really don't know what else I can say about this other than I finally understand why everyone has been praising it since it came out, it really is that good. I can't recommend this game enough and it's definitely worth the money (I only wish I'd of waited on buying it until they released the Game of the YoRHa Edition so I could get that damn dynamic theme and avatars). I also need to thank Platinum Games for making it and Yoko Taro for creating such a wonderful world (he's a mad lad and I love it, I really hope we're getting a remake/remaster of Nier or another Nier game in the future as this man needs to be at the helm again). This truly has been one of my best gaming experiences in a long time (outside of Detroit, which is still a masterpiece imo).
Now to move on to other games finally. Maybe now I can finally get Horizon beaten or maybe not as I did get Pokemon Sword for Christmas and that will probably eat up my free time until Cyberpunk (hey don't judge me, I actually still like the Pokemon franchise and this one, from what little I've played, is really fun and I'm liking a lot of the new editions to the main game play loop).
I don't remember E being terribly hard but then again by the time I did it, I was probably on my 6th play through (or 2nd depending on how you look at it) and a really high level. My build focused around no staggering and HP regen off damage. I pretty much was unkillable after I came up with my chip sets. I think I got rid of most of the UI except the HP bar in favor of bigger chips for combat. It was pretty much god mode after awhile as the game stops scaling after very few cycles and everything fold over like paper, even bosses. I was level 80 I believe last I played, I was tempted to get to 99 to fight the secret boss, but after 60 hours, I couldn't find time to invest in it anymore. (I probably had a good 15+ play throughs with zero skips via chapter select)
I fully agree about A2. I really wish the 3rd play through was more dedicated to her. Instead we got a play through an a half of 9S. The game would have been even better if you could character swap at any time during 2B/9S's story, and only made you play 9S when necessary on play through 2. Every facet of the story was amazing, Hell even some of the side missions were extremely intriguing, especially the ones you just stumble upon by chance. But 9S's playstyle was just so dull. The hacking thing was cool until it got repetitive outside the larger maze story driven ones. They should have given 2B an extra ability like A2's overdrive mode (can't remember what it was called atm), and let 9S have weapon swap while hacking just may provide a debuff on larger enemies rather than just blowing them up and making him extremely OP.
I know it will never happen, but damn I'd love a prequel that focused on A2 and the Commander. The world is so interesting, I'd love to dive into it again. I loved the game so much I got every weapon upgraded to max and each pod which was a fucking repetitive grind from hell. The music was definitely everything, They completely made the tower sequence, and the cult factory sequence which was probably my favorite moment of the whole game. My blood was pumping hard through my first play through of that as 2B. (become as gods, become as gods!).
The E ending requires you to literally fight the credits in an Asteriods on crack scenario using the cursor thing from hacking, it was pretty fucking brutal (and of course they play the YoRHa version of Weight of the World so I was trying not to ugly cry). Only reason I beat it is because you have the option of having backup help you in the form of other people's save data spawning in as more cursors to act as a shield (which gets lost if they're destroyed, sorry to all of you who sacrificed your save data for me. I really appreciate it and you are definitely the MVPs of the game. Sadly I didn't offer up my save data as I'm going to slowly work on getting all the trophies now (which will require me to get to level 99 and get all weapons fully upgraded, damn you boss who I shall not name)). Boy do they ever leave it open for a sequel though (unless he's going to use the XIV collab as a pseudo-sequel).
My build focused mostly on health regen in and out of combat with minor boosts in melee strength and evade range increase. I spent more time pulling guerilla style attacks and focusing on counter moves and pod usage (as much as they're worthless you can't write off that damage they can put out). It's not overly the best strategy to play with but it worked for me and I only really ran into problems when fighting those EMP machines and the long ass snake like ones. Everything else was a cake walk. I ended at level 61 (I literally level after the last boss before you choose who to back).
You mean Berserk mode? While I liked it (and I still need to get the trophy for it) boy was it a double edged sword with my build. The few times I used it would of ended in death had it not been for the auto-use items chip. 9S could of really used a secondary weapon but I found using Combat Bracers with him to be the best strategy and they're practically long-range weapons and deal a hell of a lot of damage.
You never know, Taro might adapt the stage play into a game (I mean we already know what happens but it'd still be a fun jaunt). All depends on what Platinum and SE have him working on these days outside of the FFXIV collab. I highly doubt he's finished telling the story he set up all the way back in the first Drakengard game.