It’s easy to end a game like Nier: Automata and come away scratching your head. There’s a lot to digest throughout the game, but they try to condense some of the more poignant narrative threads into bite-sized pieces throughout some of the endings. Well, if you need a quick breakdown for each of the endings, including ending A, B, C, D and E, and an explanation to the events that unfold throughout the game, this article might help you out a bit.
Nier: Automata starts with a series of battle unit androids being sent down from the Bunker moon base to locate and destroy a Goliath class unit at a factory. All of the units save for 2B are destroyed. A scanner unit, 9S, ends up lending support to 2B during the battle against the Goliath, but 9S is heavily damaged in the process. Upon defeating the Goliath, various other Goliath units converge on the position and prep to attack 2B and 9S, but the duo use their black box cores to self-destruct and blow up the other Goliath machines.
9S manages to upload 2B’s memory core to the Bunker moon base before the black boxes detonate. When 2B is revived in another android body, she and 9S are assigned a task to help a resistance force on Earth repel the machines and discover what happened to a recon unit named A2, which went missing.
It’s explained that the machines were the combat units used by an alien race that came to take over Earth. The YoHRa android commander explained to the rest of the fleet that the aliens and machines were so overpowering that the remaining humans had to flee to the moon.
2B and 9S meet up with a resistance group on the ground led by Anenome. The duo discover that the resistance have been having a tough time surviving against the machines. During their mission of clearing out the machines to help the resistance, 2B and 9S venture into the desert where they discover a machine colony. Before 2B can destroy the colony, the machines come together and combine their consciousness through the machine network to create two humanoid machines named Adam and Eve. After seemingly defeating Adam, the YoHRa duo leave.
2B and 9S continue to hunt down the machines, which leads them to a forested area where they meet Pascal, the leader of a group pacifist machines who maintain a peaceful truce with the resistance camp. They learn from Pascal that the aliens have been gone for so long and that there were so many years that passed without proper instructions that the machines in Pascal’s village decided to simply stop fighting.
Later on 2B and 9S discover one of the alien vessels that invaded Earth, and there they learn from Adam and Eve that the machines collected data on the aliens and then evolved to the point where there were able to destroy their alien creators. The machines continued to operate on a collective network, and both Adam and Eve planned on making their way to the Bunker on the moon base in order to dissect and analyze the humans.
2B and 9S also discover throughout their journeys that over the centuries the machines have been learning and adopting some human traits. In the forest kingdom they discover that for two and a half centuries some machines have been living away from the rest of the machine network in the forest kingdom because they felt that machines shouldn’t have to live in the hot, unhygienic places where they were; the leader felt as if family was important, and so they established the Forest Kingdom. A century later the king of the Forest Kingdom died and the machines placed his last memories into a baby machine to raise him as the next heir. The baby king, however, is killed by the fugitive YoRHa unit, A2.
During a mission to protect supplies scheduled to fly up to the moon base, an ancient machine is called up to destroy a human naval vessel. Various YoRHa android units fight the giant machine and 9S goes missing while riding a missile into the mouth of the machine. He also gets captured by Adam in a makeshift underground place called the Copied City. 2B ventures to the city to rescue him and faces off against Adam once more, this time killing him after he reveals that he still intends to collect the humans from the moon base and dissect them. In killing Adam, many of the machines are disconnected from the machine network, giving some of them more autonomy away from the machine collective.
During his downtime, 9S begins to repair himself by checking the main servers to restore his memory modules. However, while scouring through the main servers of the Bunker on the moon base, 9S learns that the human race is extinct. In fact, the YoRHa commander reveals to 9S that humans were long extinct before the aliens even attacked Earth.
Project Gestalt was supposed to be designed as a way to preserve mankind, but it too failed. A thousand years after the failure of Gestalt, humankind went extinct. The androids decided to find some way to restore mankind using the genome data from Project Gestalt, but that also failed. They began storing the remaining data on the Bunker. The androids pretended to send supplies up to the moon base, but the cargo was empty.
Originally, Project YoRHa was established as a dummy outfit with specialized fighting androids to work as a “protection” unit for the humans on the moon base, even though humans no longer existed. YoRHa command did such things to pretend as if humans were still alive as a way to give the androids a purpose to keep fighting and way to bolster their morale during the war against the machines that occupied Earth.
Following 2B’s rescue of 9S, Eve – Adam’s brother – becomes distraught with grief and vows vengeance against the humans. Eve launches an attack against the resistant camp, sending various robots to eat and kill the resistant group. 2B and 9S proceed to battle Eve in one epic showdown.
During the battle against Eve, 9S attempts to hack into his core and disable his defenses, but in the process 9S becomes corrupted with Eve’s data. After 2B kills Eve, 9S requests for her to kill him as well, and she reluctantly obliges. However, part of 9S’ consciousness that was accessing the machine network manages to transfer into some nearby machines and he uses the bodies to study the machine network while being inside one of them; this leads to the first ending of the game.
After completing the 9S campaign – which is a retelling of 2B’s adventures from the perspective of 9S – the A2 campaign will open up, which takes place after the events 2B and 9S’ endings.
The YoRHa battle units are sent out on one final mission against the machines. However, during the assault on Earth they are all corrupted and infected with a virus, The Bunker and everyone on it also becomes infected along with the YoRHa commander. Only 2B and 9S are able to escape the bunker before it’s destroyed thanks to 9S hacking in and cleaning out the virus from the logic circuits of himself and 2B. However 2B is still infected and becomes corrupted after the duo make their way back to Earth. 2B is not only corrupted, but also becomes overwhelmed in battle. Before she’s killed by the infected YoRHa units, A2 comes to her rescue, but it’s too late and 2B becomes fully overtaken by the virus, resulting in her asking A2 to kill her. 9S witnesses the death of his beloved 2B at the hands of A2, but he’s unable to do anything about it as the bridge he’s on collapses during an earth quake.
A tower erects itself in the center of the ruined city all while this takes place. Eventually both A2 and 9S attempt to separately investigate the tower. 9S, however, also wants to kill A2 for killing 2B. In one chance encounter, A2 manages to inform 9S that 2B wanted him to become a good person and that he should give up killing and live a life of peace. 9S is still overtaken with grief and vengeance and continues to seek the death of A2.
9S proceeds in attempting to access the tower in the center of the city, but the mission is so perilous and psychologically taxing on him, especially after witnessing the death of 2B, he slowly begins to lose his mind in the process. Devola and Popola, two characters from the original Nier: Gestalt, come to 9S’ aid and sacrifice themselves so that 9S can enter the tower.
It turns out that two other Devola and Popola units who were in charge of the Gestalt program for saving mankind from extinction ended up scuttling the project and causing it to fail. Other Devola and Popola units were persecuted in result, and before the twin model android line was discontinued, they were programmed to feel perpetual guilt for the actions of the other Devola and Popla units for destroying the Gestalt program.
9S begins to progress up the tower and he discovers that the machine network that had become a “prophet” for the machines, had managed to infiltrate the database of Project YoRHa. They reveal to 9S that the androids weren’t just designed to fight for humans but also designed to kill each other. Project YoRHa had a backdoor virus that was designed to go active after a certain amount of time. In fact, the 2B units weren’t actually battle units, but companion units for the scanner units. The 2B units true designations were ‘E’ units not ‘B’ units… they were execution droids designed to terminate advanced YoRHa units; this was done because the 9S line were advanced, and due to their curiosity they would eventually discover the truth about YoRHa. This is why 2B was constantly killing 9S units, even when they didn’t want to. It was also why 9S units had an affinity for 2B units. They were all designed to die.
A2 manages to ascend the tower and help 9S destroy most of the machine network units. In a final battle, A2 and 9S fight – as 9S promised that he would kill A2 for killing 2B. In one ending, A2 manages to defeat 9S while he succumbs to the logic virus. A2 hacks into 9S and cleans out his memory and has the pods send him to safety while she attempts to destroy the tower.
In an alternate ending, 9S and A2 kill each other, but 9S manages to explain that the machine network – represented by two holographic little girls – had actually built the tower as a preservation device. It was an ark cannon.
The tower would fire off the collective consciousness of the machine network housing Adam and Eve. Wherever the payload landed – whether it be on a foreign planet or a moon in deep space – they would be able to re-establish the machine network there, starting with the machines Adam and Eve.
9S is given the choice – while in the machine network and before he dies – to join Adam and Eve on the ark or to stay and die alongside A2. If 9S stays then the game ends. If 9S joins Adam and Eve on the ark, the ark will fire into space and the tower will crumble. During the credits, the pods will discuss purging the data of 9S, 2B and A2.
Depending on the player choice, pods 153 and 042 can choose not to purge the memory data they have of the androids, but instead – at the behest of pod 042 – restore their memory cores and salvage their body parts.
The game’s true ending sees the pods bringing the memory modules and android parts to a rooftop where they the original 2B and 9S have been reassembled. The pods also manage to restore android A2, who is positioned in between concrete blocks overlooking the city at the top of a building. Birds fly overhead as the screen fades to black.
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