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Warning: Do not play Nier: Automata without finishing the install

by Ron Duwell | March 9, 2017March 9, 2017 9:00 am PDT

This is the part where I tell game developers to stop wasting my time. I have a lot of responsibilities these days and plenty of games I would rather play. If I wasn’t reviewing NieR: Automata or thoroughly looking forward to it, something this dumb would have been the last straw for me to move onto something else. I’m that strict when it comes to my free time and being jerked around.

For more details, I got my copy of NieR: Automata on Monday, and I sat down to play it. Oops, I forgot about the required download and installation. There’s one hour of waiting already, but because that’s become standard in the gaming industry, unless you own a Switch, I swallowed my pride and cleared out a few rounds of Terra Battle and wrote some articles while I waited.

It’s a massive 48GB by the way, but hey,Platinum Games was nice enough to let me start when the download finished and play the first level early. I fired it up and… oh… it’s the same thing as the demo. Maybe a few tweaks and secrets added here and there, but they are essentially the same thing. I ran through it completely, uncovered all of the treasure chests and secrets, romped through the boss, and boom. Just before settling down for dinner, I had the glowing satisfaction of blazing through a really solid opening level.

Congrats, Platinum Games! That’s a Mega Man X standard of opening sequences. I might have played through it on the demo months ago, but a few key additional sequences made it all the better.

I went to save my progress… only to find I couldn’t. I was instead greeted by this screen.

This screen is the install screen, but NieR: Automata doesn’t even let you know that at first glance. When you see it, you naturally want to move forward, so you answer some questions in hopes that they help you progress to the next part of the game… or at least a freakin’ save point. Nope!

One question leads to another question, leads to another question leads to another question. Eventually, you realize that the questions are cycling between vague themes of Will, God, or nothingness. To break this cycle, you turn to the bottom option to try and shake things up a bit. Nope!

This is where NieR: Automata tells you that this is an installation screen and you will lose all save progress if you back out of this eternal cycle. Leave the screen on and wait, or beat the level again. To be fair, it did warn that the game does not autosave like the rest of the modern gaming world, but it didn’t warn that it was going to withhold save points until the game was completely installed. Dinner was ready, the bathtub awaited me, and I had to sink back to reality after the high of a fun video game. I turned off the television, partially thinking this was a Yoko Taro joke, went about my normal evening routine, and eventually went to bed after a whirlwind of life-changing news.

When I got back to it the next morning, the PlayStation 4 had done its duty and turned off due to inactivity. The game was fully installed, but I didn’t get to save. Ugh, I have to play through it again! That high I got the previous time playing it wasn’t there this second time, and it felt more like meticulous busy work, beating a level that I had already played through twice. In my frustration and desire to move on, I made a dumb, risky move for a quick kill against the closing boss fight… boom. Dead.

No save points yet? No checkpoints either. Back to the start of the level for you.

This restart was my fault, but I should even here in the first place since I had legitimately beaten the level once before. Luckily, I managed to clear the level on the next playthrough and found my coveted save point awaiting me, which I promptly used three times.

It’s like this. I spent a solid two hours playing the first level of this game. Once in the demo, once on the first amazing runthrough, once when I died through frustration, and once where I proceeded very carefully and mechanically to guarantee my success. My controller would have ended up in my television screen had I died during that fourth attempt. That’s playing the same level four times and beating it three times before I was allowed to continue.

I’m not sure if this was Yoko Taro’s intention because I know he makes games that star jaded, horrible humans and are designed to frustrate you beyond the scope of what you expect, but I was not amused. I have a job to do, a game to review, a limited number of hours I can sink into a video game industry that praises length over content. What I don’t have time for is being jerked around by hardware limitations.

There’s frustrating me through a challenge, like in Nioh where I had to fight a boss two dozen times in a row in order to learn her pattern and figure out how to survive it, and there’s frustrating me by making me feel like I wasted my time. I don’t know if I should blame the PlayStation 4 for being a loathsome piece of hardware that takes forever to install software or Platinum Games for not overcoming its ego and putting a save point in the most obvious of locations… BEFORE players are forced to walk away and let the install finish.

If it’s impossible to put the save point there because the install isn’t finished, and I know that’s not the case because other games do it, then don’t offer the option to play at all. Simple as that.

If NieR: Automata wasn’t half as promising or good as it is, I would have succumbed to my frustrations and played something else. I’m not kidding around anymore, developers. Put your ego aside, and don’t waste my time.


Ron Duwell

Ron has been living it up in Japan for the last decade, and he has no intention of leaving this technical wonderland any time soon. When he's not...

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