Nier Automata – The beauty of ending E (Spoilers)

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I recently posted my review of Nier Automata after completing ending A. I have now completed the final main ending (E) and have some thoughts that I need to put to paper. I will be talking about ending E so you have been warned.

In my initial review my biggest issue was with the characters. I felt that they lacked depth. I can safely say that this was resolved as the game progressed, especially in the case of 9S. I got a lot of hours out of the game and fully recommend the game to everyone.

That isn’t what I want to write about today though. I want to write about a moment that made me surprisingly emotional. The game is filled with tragedy but it was the end credits for ending E that really it me in the feels. 

Basically, the game ends with all of the characters dead. If you play both endings C and D, (the difference being whether you chose A2 or 9S in the final battle), then the credits will stop as the two PODs begin to talk to each other. One suggests that, against its programming, it wants to save our characters. If you agree with it then you are embarked on one final mission.

The credits continue, only this time you are back in the bullet-hell mini-game used for hacking and the names in the credits are enemies. It starts of fairly easy but rapidly gets harder until the screen is basically a wall of bullets. I was getting so far only to fail time and again but I didn’t want to give up. I was at it for a while but was getting nowhere. The game kept asking me if I wanted to give up and I kept ignoring it to press on.

Then, after another failure, I got a new screen. Messages from other players filled the screen, words of encouragement connected to names and nationalities from across the world. It was like that scene in the Digimon movie where our heroes are all but beaten when suddenly emails from all the onlookers surround them. It was strangely beautiful.

I was asked if I wanted to accept their offer. I didn’t know what was going on but I hit yes. I’m thrown back into the credits but now there are arrows representing other players surrounding my own. We all fired as one, raining a hail of firepower upon the names that had crafted this wonderful game yet had caused me so much suffering. Each hit We took would leave a message telling me the name of the player who had just fallen protecting me as more flocked to my aid.

Finally, with the help of these other players, I was able to reach the end and had the satisfaction of ending E. Only, I had one final choice left to make. Did I want to help a stranger? Of course I did. But there was a catch: To give your support to this random stranger required the complete deletion of your saved game data.

This is when it really hit home. Every single player that just helped me through that final fight had sacrificed their progress to do so. They had given up their saves to support me. I found myself strangely teary eyed by now. In reality, many had probably finished with the game or backed up their data, but in that moment, it was a symbol of community. It is the closest that a game can come to mirroring the idea of sacrificing your life to save another.

I stayed on that screen for a long time. I wanted to give that help yet I still had so much left to do. I had left my own motivational message for the battle but I felt like I needed to do more. In the end I didn’t though. I wasn’t ready to part ways with Neir Automata just yet.

But I will. There is no benefit to me. No achievement, additional story or in game item. Just the loss of my characters. And yet, I feel oddly at peace with the idea. That save data would usually just sit there anyway so why not give it up to help somebody else?

The way this game gets you to think about these things is pretty special. It constantly plays with genre, concepts and ideas, really utilising the power of the medium.

So, to those that sacrificed their saves for me, I salute you. It was an honour to fight at your side. I will do the same as soon as I am ready.

Android FireWolfFred (playing on Steam) is almost ready for one final fight. See you all on the battlefield…

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