Over the past couple of weeks, Microsoft has made a number of surprise announcements about several RPGs coming to the Xbox Game Pass service, including a surprising Octopath Traveler port, next to Yakuza 6, several Bethesda titles, as well as EA Play which finally arrives Game Pass for PC. NieR Automata arriving at the Microsoft Store on March 18 initially seemed like a small footnote in a flood of high-profile titles on Microsoft’s download service – it had originally been 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 has made original buyers feel a bit rejected.
A botned gate without 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 fixed mouse cursors, choppy scenes, bugged resolutions, stuttering and a host of other issues. Fortunately, shortly after its release, community modder Kaldaien released Fix Automata Resolution, or FAR mod, aimed at fixing these many issues. Kaldaien at the time had previously created fan patches for PC ports such as Tales of Berseria using Special K modding framework, and is currently looking forward to the upcoming port of NieR Replicant.
Square Enix itself initially promised an investigation into the reported issues and asked users at that time to stay up to date:
Thanks 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 of your feedback and are investigating any issues reported.
Stay tuned for updates.
However, apart from a few news posts urging players to upgrade their graphics card drivers, there were never any fixes. Even an update in 2019 with the release of ‘Game of the YoRHa Edition’ gave no relief. If you wanted to play NieR Automata on Steam, you used FAR mod – it was just the way it was and is.
In Comes QLOC
Last week, NieR Automata also became available in the Microsoft Store, and also as part of Microsoft’s Game Pass for PC subscription. On the same day, the Polish porting house QLOC reported working on the new port for the 4-year-old game. QLOC, previously credited on PC ports for the Yakuza series along with 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 tried the new port also reported significantly fewer problems with stuttering and choppy frames. I’m not sure how many times I’ve heard that the icon on the PC game taskbar does not matter, because in this case it certainly does.
This, of course, resulted in the obvious, with Steam players blocking the store page due to lack of support, they were denied when a better product appeared unannounced several years later. Review bombs have been the subject of several controversies in the past, with Valve having to go in to declare certain raids ‘off-topic’, as was the case for Borderlands 2 when Gearbox announced a period of Epic Games Store exclusivity for Borderlands 3.
So far, Nier Automata’s review bomb has not been flagged by Steam’s off-review activity, and for apparently good reason. A quick review of the recent negative reviews read as strict disapproval instead of outright anger. “Although I love the game, I can not recommend the Steam version.” one review apologizes, another says “I can not recommend it in its current state. At this point, you do not really need to install a mod just to solve basic frame rate issues”. A third is simply happy to point buyers to the new Microsoft version with a simple statement: “Do not buy this version. Get the GamePass version instead.”
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Of course, NieR Automata’s time on Steam means that the current port has been stuck and stuffed and buffet for many years, and Kaldaien himself admits that the new Microsoft Store version is not perfect, especially in terms of finishing effects such as flower and environment occlusion. On top of that, existing texture modifications and other changes mean that when combined with FAR mode, the Steam version of the game is still without a doubt the one to get if you don’t mind fiddling a bit. As it turns out, Automata’s new port is working out of the box, and I understand the frustration Steam owners have felt having to patch the game themselves since 2017, only to find that staying up to date has not yet paid off.