The following is Part 3 of my journey through Nier: Automata. I will be playing up until the save point at the end of the Forest castle, not longer. I spent a good deal tackling some sidequests and getting lost in the world this time. Read and play along with me but a word to the wise...

Spoilers follow!!!!

Pascal pointed 2b to the Forest Kingdom, so I knew I needed to head into the shopping district and find the entrance. Before that I decided it was time to inspect the world a bit and see what surprises the side quests held. My last play session, I witnessed a machine child run away from his mom, so I knew I needed to find him.

I open up my menu and poke around my quests looking for some direction. Am I missing it? Am I going to find a hint pointing me in the direction I need to go? No luck. I guess I’ll just inspect all the read markers on my map. As much as I am loving this game, I am starting to find some organizational issues in the maps and menus. There is so much information and the maps are extremely stylized. But therein lies the problem. The color scheme in the menus are all white, olive, and grey, and red is the color of the map markers. My complaint comes from the fact that distinguishing red markers is harder than it needs to be. Guess I’ll just dive in and start poking around.

This proves better than I hoped, as just poking and proding gives me a chance to see how the map is organically laid out rather than just heading to a marker. I eventually find the child machine that ran off, but in the meantime I find the entrance to the location of the first mission as well as some interesting quest givers.

I like how the overworld really requires the use of the camera to determine how to get around. Verticallity is built in nicely, and a double jump and air dash is all 2b needs to navigate around the space. The sense of speed is thrilling, and the fact that 2b is an android, built for combat, is evident in every movement.

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I love how some Japanese developers approach the “western open world” game. I have seen this with Dragon’s Dogma, Dark Souls, and Metal Gear Solid 5, to name a few. Japanese developers seem to really tap into the classical approach to world design, as seen in titles such as Super Metroid. There are the open spaces, but there are also more intimate, tightly constructed spaces that seem to be a natural progression from classic 16 bit exploration games. The world’s seem to be built with exploration as a first design choice, rather than a playground of attractions for the player’s interaction.

I finally find the child, and with him questions arise. How did these machines learns familial connections? How did they begin to learn about love, trust, loyalty, jealousy, anger? I can’t help but have sympathy on this kid, who doesn’t understand why his mom is being so hard on him. I also get the first glimpse of 9s having sympathy and compassion on beings he’s been programmed to hate.

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These questions are what drive me from location to location. How did these machines choose against their programming? What is the distinction between the androids and machines? I’ve concluded so far that each was made in the image of their creator, programmed to operate in a certain way. Yet the androids hold themselves in a superior light to the machines. This is questions I wrestle with as I uncover more of the story.

The perspective shifts of Nier liven up the experience.

As 2b and 9s travel through the forest, fighting squads of soldiers and battling their way through a maze like castle (in another impressive perspective shifting scene) 2b lets slip that she is perhaps forming a friendly, familial bond with 9s. I won’t spoil exactly what she says, but it had me grinning from ear to ear (this game has heart, and these characters are great!) If her own programming can be changed simply through experience and exposure to elements she was never designed for, might that be how the machines have achieved civilization and peace?