Attack on Machines, Eyes on 2B

Let's face it. It's hard not to love NieR:Automata (or particularly 2B). My first waifu is KOS-MOS, a female android from the game Xenosaga. While 2B is no match to KOS-MOS in terms of power she is also a female android and probably much sexier too. Despite the issues plaguing many players on PC including myself, I still consider NieR:Automata as my all time favorite, a new entry in my list alongside Xenosaga and very few other titles worthy enough to make it that far. In this post I'm going to talk about both technical and personal issues I'm facing while/when playing this game.

The minimum requirement vs my currently available PC(s).

I have a total of 4 Windows in active service but only 3 are with me right now while the most powerful one, albeit with old hardware (but was built as a gaming rig) is in my hometown. Although that gaming rig is only powered by Core 2 Duo and a single GeForce 9600GT it was able to handle Skyrim and Civilization V without problem, as long as I don't use extreme settings. My current PCs on the other hand are comprised of Intel Core i5 NUC (with Intel HD Graphics 5000), ASUS Vivo PC VM62N (with both Intel HD Graphics 4400 with 1GB shared memory and Nvidia GeForce 820M with 1GB dedicated VRAM) and not forgetting Microsoft Surface 3 (Atom CPU, I don't bother to check the details about the graphics).

NieR:Automata suggested the minimum graphics requirement of Nvidia GeForce 770 GTX 2GB or Radeon R9 270X 2GB. I'm not sure how GeForce 770 GTX is better than my really old GeForce 9600GT other than newer chip design, faster memory and better power management but I think they should be quite similar. However my current computers (Intel NUC and Asus Vivo PC) have specs way lower than the minimum requirements. Seeing that how my GeForce 9600GT was able to handle Skyrim and Civ V despite the low specs I was betting on my Vivo PC's Nvidia onboard GPU to be up to the task.

However the game refuses to run with the onboard Nvidia GPU at all. It gives me the "no graphics memory" error. From what I see on Steam forum and Reddit the same error seem to be affecting many users with onboard laptop-class graphics. Strangely it doesn't have such problem when I run it with the Intel Graphics but this temporary 'solution' only allows the game to to run but not at playable frame rate, unless I tune the resolution way down to anything less than 720p. This reminds me that my Intel NUC computer has a better Intel Graphics than the one in my Asus Vivo PC. Maybe it will run better on that machine as I did notice gaming on it was smoother than when I tried the Intel Graphics in my Vivo PC. However the Intel NUC is without its own monitor right now and the real problem is downloading the game again. Downloading the 26GB game file from Steam took me 12 hours on my 4Mbps connection, I'll have to wait until the earliest this weekend to do that the second time. Sadly I will have to live with the 4Mbps internet for a long time as it is the fastest available in my apartment (the sole landline ISP in my area refused to upgrade it because it's not economical to them due to low demand).

I don't mind playing the game with moderate setting and resolution. I even intentionally played Skyrim and Civilization at 900p window because I like the convenience of looking at guide websites at the same time when playing those games. As for NieR:Automata I was actually prepared to play it at 720p as I understand it is more demanding than any games I've played before. For me I see no point of playing it at 1080p because that's the resolution of my current monitor. Even if I have a 1440p monitor I'd still not playing any game fullscreen at full resolution, chances are with 1440p monitor I'd play it in 1080p window max. After all if I were to stream my gaming session 720p resolution would be the most realistic option I could pick as anything higher is impossible with my slow internet.

PS4 version vs PC version.

Since I don't have the best hardware to play the game I can't speak for myself but some owners of the high end Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti said the developer probably took the plain PS4 code and recompiled it using the DirectX SDK without optimization for desktop CPU/GPU. The evidence for this is how the PC version is locked at 1080p at 60fps. It won't take advantage of the superior hardware like a PC game is supposed to be.

I'm not sure if any of the speculations is true but I think they make sense. Seeing how many issues people were reporting the PC port was probably a rushed job without enough polishing. The idea of a PC port itself probably an afterthought, maybe something that someone in the team came up while having a drinking party held months after the game first demoed to the public not too long ago. Or the PC team are just not experienced enough in coding PC games to begin with.

Region locked vs worldwide.

Now comes the personal issue. This region blocking is the first issue I encountered when acquiring this game. Square Enix handled it terribly with lack of communication and explanation demanded by particularly South East Asia gamers. They did announce the game is coming in April, an announcement that came only one day after the official PC release, but still no actual date is fixed. The game page on Steam would simply redirect people to Steam Store home page. The worst part is even 3rd party retailers like Humble Bundle (HB) and Green Man Gaming (GMG) also blocked SEA people from buying it. GMG page would give a notice of unavailability whereas on HB, while it won't show up in search a user with the link can still access the game page though I'm not sure if purchasing is possible or not. I also don't know it accessing the GMG page via VPN will work or not either.

Good thing I followed the discussions on Steam forum and Reddit (I haven't been active on forums in years and have never been seriously on Reddit until now). From there I found only two 3rd party retailers are available for SEA people to buy the game, namely CDKeys and Games Planet (GP). Most people I found recommended and trusted GP but I noticed CDKeys have a more attractive offer for the game (I mean cheaper obviously). However I found GP being more convincing with the people behind it actively interacting with customers with very gamer-friendly attitude and have a very fast customer service. Thus I ended up buying the Steam key from them.

I've written some about region locking in my previous post in case you are interested but I'll touch about it again here. Many people take issue with how it was marketed as worldwide when in reality it is not. Even the 17th March release date also stated worldwide. This is misleading and extremely frustrating especially SEA people who feel deceived when they thought the Japan release means Asia release, only to find out the entire SEA is left out. I don't think it's exaggerating to say many potential buyers ended up buying different games after feeling betrayed like this.

DRM vs freedom.

Buying from 3rd party retailer is actually exposing me to a possible runlock strike. Although I could activate and install the game without problem there's no telling what will Square Enix do about it. The gamers worry is not entirely baseless as it has happened before. Remember the game Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (MGGR) is still not available in SEA after so many years waiting. While I have no interest in that game I understand the frustration of fellow gamers who want to play it. Some people who managed to buy it via alternative routes ended up unfortunate after finding the game unplayable a few weeks after release despite the game is still in their library. Konami apparently used a runlock strike against people whom they have received money from.

Square Enix is not Konami but we don't know the future because it seems like many Japanese companies have a terrible grasp of how to do business with people outside Japan. NieR:Automata uses Denuvo DRM that makes it possible for Square Enix to perform a runlock strike should they want to do that. See, this is why people don't like DRM, it's not just pirates who hate it but also people who legitimately bought a copyrighted material. People don't like how the copyright owners still have control over something they already paid for. By the way it's worth noting that both MGGR and NieR:Automata are developed by Platinum Games.

Some people claimed the DRM may negatively impact the performance of the game. I'm not sure about this but the message is clear, end users don't want it.

Personal vs technical issues.

For the technical issues, while I think it's Square Enix's responsibility to offer a patch to make the game playable for the affected gamers, it's also can be solved as long as I have the money to build a rig with dedicated graphics. However when it comes to the personal issues I mentioned above I don't have any control on region locking and DRM. Us who chose to get the game via 3rd party retailers are now at the mercy of Square Enix. We can only hope they won't do what Konami did but if they really ended up becoming Konami I'm prepared to get the ahoy matey version. I'm sure the black sail crew are working now. I don't condone their action but I legitimately paid for it so it won't make a difference where I get it from should they mess with me in the future.