MAJOR Spoiler Warning for all 5 main endings of Nier Automata. Usually I wouldn’t do this, but this is an incredible game that everyone should play themselves if possible. Please only read if you’ve beaten the game or don’t care.
The world can be harsh. Nier: Automata demonstrates this the entire time you play it, presenting you with plenty of scenarios in which you are able to see how bad things are in the world the characters inhabit. The game makes no attempt to hide the ugly face of the world from you, and from the beginning its clear that everything is awful. There are many times you’re forced to do bad things yourself, only adding to the sense that the world is corrupt and rotten.
This is only more clear when it comes to the humans of the game. As I said in my earlier post on the topic, humans are gone from the world, and we have been succeeded by our arguably superior progeny in the form of androids and machines.
Humans are truly portrayed as awful creatures in this game. It’s made fairly clear that most of the world’s current problems were in some way cause by humans. All of the flaws of androids and machines are ones they inherited from us. Machines are critcized for not being original enough; instead they imitate the records of humanity. It was humans that killed themselves off in the events of the first NieR and many times before that.
As I said in my earlier post though, this is a game with some optimism. In the final ending you’re given the chance to save the three androids you’ve controlled until this point. All three have broken from their long-dead human creators by this point, and while they have been driven to death or at least near it by this, they have gained freedom. It’s up to you to protect that freedom in the final segment, and it’s not easy.
The world sucks, but a part of that is because life is hard. It can be hard to move forward in life, and sometimes it feels as if fate or God are conspiring against you. In Ending [E], that is the case. 2B asks early on if she’ll ever have the chance to kill the gods trapping the characters in “a never-ending spiral of life and death.” You get that opportunity here, fighting the game’s gods in the form of the credits. It is due to these people that the game was made, and thus it is their fault that the characters were made to suffer so.
But it’s impossible. The bullet hell you’re put in is, as far as I can tell, literally unbeatable. It seems to me that, if you could do it, it would take hundreds of hours of planning. The bullet patterns seem random, and they’re incredibly long. There’s no evidence it can be beaten, and after a few deaths against the game this begins to become clear. The game’s pointed questions heavily imply you should give up, as you begin to feel the despair felt by those trapped in this game’s world.
As time goes on though, you’re given support. Messages from others show up, encouraging you to go further. These messages come in many forms, but most appear similar to the one in the title of this post. They come from all over the world, from real people who beat the game and want you to beat it as well.
The messages can motivate you to keep fighting, but they don’t actually do anything for you. The bullet hell remains as impossible to beat as it began, and while the number of messages increases, they fail to result in any material support. They’re a nice gesture and a sign that the human heart has value in spite of its capability for evil, but in practical terms they’re useless.
That is, until the offer of support shows up. After enough deaths the messages result in an offer for help, and it’s here that the true ending reveals its tricks.
Your ship is surrounded with the ships of others, players who’ve beaten the game and decided to help you out of the goodness of their hearts. These players deleted their saves for you, gave up all they accomplished in order to allow you to press on, to allow you to beat the game. Every time you get hit one of them dies, and as the game clearly points out, their data is deleted. This motivates you to play well, but more than that it makes it clear that you have the support of others behind you.
The vocals shift at this point, gaining a chorus that they previously lacked. When playing here my emotions welled up into a massive amount of tears, because the game managed to create a real feeling of connection and human companionship in a singleplayer game.
Once the game is beaten, the three androids are given a new future, but it’s not one we have access to. As the pod says, the future presents infinite possibilities, and we really don’t need to know what happens. They’ve now truly been set free thanks to the help of the player and others around the world, and the knowledge that they’ve achieved true self-determination is enough.
Once the final cutscene is presented, you get to send a message to another player as well. You’re allowed to send something mean or something funny, but most people were clearly too emotionally invested to do something like that, at least when I played the game. As everyone else did, I sent a kind message encouraging the other player to keep fighting.
You’re then given the option of deleting your own save. It’s clear that this could help a person you would hate, that it’ll help a person you don’t know, that it has little impact, and that there’s really no reason to do it. And yet, so many do. It speaks to the power of the game that we’re all so willing to delete our saves to save someone else, especially when we don’t have to. The first Nier ends with save deletion, but it’s no choice. Here you delete your save to help another human being, and the feeling of doing that is hard to resist.
Yoko Taro doesn’t have a ton of faith in humanity, and that shines through in his game. But I think Nier: Automata makes it clear that he has faith in the bonds between individuals, even if he has none in humanity as a social structure. True freedom comes from the moments we spend with one another, from the times in which we escape from social obligation and truly care for our fellow human beings. As a system humanity is corrupt, destructive, and on the path towards eventual destruction. Humans might have doomed the world, but it’s humans who end the game by giving others a little bit of hope. We might be dooming ourselves, but we’re also our only chance.
Did you save another person? I certainly did.