NieR Automata's recent review rating on Steam drops to mixed as users bomb score due to Microsoft Store port
Over the last couple of weeks, Microsoft has made a slew of surprise announcements of several RPGs coming to Xbox Game Pass service, including a surprising Octopath Traveler port, alongside Yakuza 6, several Bethesda titles, as well EA Play finally arriving to Game Pass for PC. NieR Automata arriving onto Microsoft Store on March 18 initially seemed like a small footnote in a deluge of high profile titles on Microsoft's subscription download service -- it had originally released on PC via Steam in the same month as the worldwide release back in 2017, and has been available to play for years.
However, a surprising lack of parity between the new Microsoft Store version and the original Steam port have left original buyers feeling a bit spurned.
A botched port with no support
First, a little history lesson. The original NieR Automata port on Steam was (and still is) a mixed bag at best, with players reporting stuck mouse cursors, choppy cutscenes, bugged resolutions, stuttering and a slew of other problems. Luckily, shortly after release, community modder Kaldaien released the Fix Automata Resolution, or FAR mod, targeted at fixing these numerous issues. Kaldaien at the time had previously created fan-patches for PC ports such as Tales of Berseria among others using his Special K modding framework, and is currently looking ahead to the upcoming port of NieR Replicant.
Square Enix themselves originally promised an investigation into the reported issues and asked users at the time to stay tuned:
Thank you to everyone who has supported NieR:Automata.
We are happy so many are enjoying the game. We wanted to let you know that we appreciate all your feedback and are investigating the issues that have been reported.
Please stay tuned for updates.
However, outside of a few news posts urging players to upgrade their graphic card drivers, no fixes ever came. Even a 2019 refresh with the release of the 'Game of the YoRHa Edition' didn't provide any relief. If you wanted to play NieR Automata on Steam, you used the FAR mod -- that's just how it was and is.
In Comes QLOC
Last week, NieR Automata became also available on the Microsoft Store, and also as part of Microsoft's Game Pass for PC Subscription. On the same day, Polish porting house QLOC reported on having worked on the new port for the 4-year-old game. QLOC, previously credited on PC ports for the Yakuza series alongside Mortal Kombat 11 and Dark Souls Remastered, did not work on the original Steam release of the game. For the new store version, QLOC supported the new port with a borderless video setting, FidelityFX and HDR support, and UI Textures upscaled to 4K. Players who went on to try the new port also reported significantly fewer issues with regards to stutter and choppy framerates. I'm not sure how many times I've heard that the icon on the taskbar for PC games doesn't matter, because in this case it certainly seems to.
This resulted in the obvious of course, with Steam players barraging the store page due to the missing support they were denied as a better product appeared unannounced several years later. Review bombings have been the subject of several controversies before, of which Valve has had to step in to declare certain raids 'off-topic' such as the case for Borderlands 2 when Gearbox announced a period of Epic Games Store exclusivity for Borderlands 3.
As of yet, Nier Automata's review bomb has not been been flagged by Steam's off-topic review activity, and for seemingly good reason. A quick perusal of the recent negative reviews read like stern disapproval rather than outright anger. "While I love the game I can't recommend the Steam version." one review laments, another states "I can't recommend it in its current state. At this point in time you really shouldn't have to install a mod just to fix basic frame rate issues". A third is simply glad to point buyers to the new Microsoft version with a simple statement: "Don't buy this version. Get the GamePass version instead."
Of course, NieR Automata's time on Steam means that the current port has been poked and prodded and buffed out for years, and Kaldaien himself admits that the new Microsoft Store version isn't perfect especially with regards to post-processing effects like bloom and ambient occlusion. On top of that, existing texture modifications and other alterations means that when combined with the FAR mod, the Steam version of the game is still arguably the one to get if you don't mind tinkering a bit. As it stands though, Automata's new port works out of the box, and I understand the frustration Steam owners have felt having to patch the game up themselves since 2017, only to find out that staying tuned has yet to pay off.