Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Nier: Automata's Downloadable Content

Nier: Automata. It’s regarded as brilliant. It’s been called by some the most philosophical game ever made. It’s as powerful an argument that video games are capable of being art as any I’ve seen. It’s received universal acclaim and praise. It’s shown that despite almost every available piece of evidence to be found in the past decade and a half, SquareEnix is still capable of publishing quality work. And it’ an add-on, proving that there is no possible work of sufficient merit and dignity to be able to escape the grasp of greedy corporate scum. I guess I should just be glad they never got around to adding lootboxes to the game.

So yeah, unlike what you’d expect from a game designed to explore and illustrate the meaning and conflicts behind one’s existence, Nier: Automata has a DLC. And yeah, exactly like what you’d expect from a dude who has no good idea of how to spend his free time, I’m here to talk about it today.

3C3C1D119440927: Goddammit, Nier: Automata, I know you’re deep and artsy and you perfectly embrace the whole artificial intelligence angle of your story, but couldn’t you have put all that on hold for just 1 freakin’ second and given your DLC package a title that I won’t have to look up and copy-paste every single time I want to refer to it by name?

When I first started to play this DLC, I was...pessimistic, to put it politely. At the outset, this package seems to just be about adding 3 coliseums to the game, which you can enter and win several matches of varying levels of challenge within. I’ve almost never found RPG arenas all that interesting, honestly--it’s like, oh boy, in addition to the literal hundreds of repetitive battles I’ll fight during the natural course of completing the game, here’s a gameplay feature where I get to fight MORE! What an innovative delight! Ugh. So yeah, as this DLC starts out by just inviting you to a handful of arenas to battle, I wasn’t thrilled, and that feeling persisted as I took part in each one’s matches.

I will say that the coliseum angle isn’t all bad here, though. While having to schlup your way through a bunch of new battles is boring as hell, there’s some merit in the lore surrounding some of the coliseum stuff. 1 coliseum shows a rather ugly side to the Resistance, which helps to round them out a little, because the main game’s focus, even in terms of lore-expanding sidequests, tends to be more on YoRHa and the machines as groups than on the Resistance: while you get to meet a few significant members of the Resistance over the game’s course, you never get to see the light and dark side of the group as a whole the way you do the other major factions of the game. And another coliseum establishes a small culture of machines who regulate their lives with thousands of rigid, completely arbitrary rules, which actually is pretty interesting--it seems like less of a random side-story gimmick, and more like a new perspective Yoko Taro wishes to share on methods we use to deal with (or perhaps ignore and deny) our existential dilemmas and fears. It at least feels like this arena’s lore is trying to say something to the player about purpose and society, so it seems like a good fit to the game, a more natural part of it than many add-ons tend to be.

I was pleasantly surprised, however, to find that once the arenas had been cleared, this DLC isn’t over--there’s a final sidequest to get through which, while not really acknowledged or advertised very much as the content pack’s attractive features, ends up being, I think, the real point of purchasing this add-on. In this finale to 3C3C1D119440927, you’re given the opportunity to learn the story of 1 member of the machines: a somewhat defective and constantly bullied robot who found love and purpose in caring for a doll, and what his fate was. It’s a small but emotional story, told well through his perspective and then later through the eyes of another machine, and I really like the window it provides us into the everyday operations and frustrations of the machines. I particularly enjoy that fact because it seems like the overworked, underappreciated life of a single machine in an overbearing workforce may be a connection to the famous writings of Engels and Marx, whose works have, before now, not been given the same time and exploration in Nier: Automata as those of most of the other philosophers that the game has referenced.

In the end, the purpose of the tale of this lonely machine, and of the music video that concludes this DLC, are not fully apparent to me, and open to a lot of interpretation...but it’s a story that nonetheless clearly has meaning and thought to convey to its player. Which is neither unexpected, nor a flaw: this is, after all, Nier: Automata. Much of it is meant to allow the player to draw his or her own conclusions and insights from the game’s material, and the question of what this machine’s existence and legacy, and the artful music video that follows, means for us and and our existence should be something with which we grapple with the help and guidance, but not the hand-holding, of the game.

It’s hard for me to say whether or not 3C3C1D119440927 is worth the $10 that I currently see it listed for. Conventionally-speaking, it isn’t, as you’re not likely to get a full 10 hours of additional play time out of it, and much of what time you do get from it is sadly taken up by tiresome arena challenges rather than anything that matters. Conversely, though, this DLC is worthwhile and thoughtful enough, once you get to its real content, that it feels consistent to Nier: Automata as a whole, and perhaps that fact does, indeed, make it worth the cost. I suppose the matter boils down to your general experience with NA: if it’s something you’ve gotten a lot out of, and you’re interested in examining another piece of it and finding how that piece fits into the philosophical treatise as a whole, then this DLC won’t be a bad purchase for you. If it’s a game of which you’ve enjoyed the surface story layer but not had much luck in following the deeper content, then this probably won’t be worth the price, at least not right now--maybe if it ever goes on sale for, like, $5 or less. And if you just haven’t really cared for Nier: Automata overall...well, then, no, obviously don’t buy this, why is this even a question for you. I, at least, found it satisfactory, and that’s certainly more than I can say for the majority of my add-on experiences to date, so good on Nier: Automata in this matter.

Oh also it’s hard to dislike any DLC that gives me the chance to beat the ever-loving shit out of the guy in charge of SquareEnix.

1 comment:

  1. Another selling point of the DLC is that it presents a gameplay challenge that doesn't exist in the base game short of playing the harder difficulties(standard death is a pain) with fewer upgrades equipped. Character level can't be adjusted down, nor can weapon upgrades. So the opportunity to jump into a pit with powered up machines is a welcome one. Even the 15 minutes strafing with a Puyo Puyo shooter in the Play As A Machine gauntlet was enjoyable. But for someone who isn't inclined to dive deep into the weapon movesets, timing, and whatnot, I grant that it can be less than exciting.