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Secret area found in Nier: Automata either an amazing discovery or an elaborate prank

Five years after the game’s initial release, a new mystery

nier automata screenshot Image: PlatinumGames/Square Enix
Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Nier: Automata fans and the game’s modding community are confounded by the reveal of a previously unseen secret area in the game — a discovery made five years after Automata’s release on PlayStation 4. What makes the secret more perplexing is that only a single anonymous player has ever allegedly accessed it.

Players who are intimately familiar with Nier: Automata and the game’s current modding scene are stumped by the discovery: Does venturing into this previously unseen area require a very specific set of requirements? Is it a mod of the PC version masquerading as a PlayStation 4 game? Is this a prank? An ARG from the developers? Something else?

The Nier: Automata modding community has, thus far, no definitive answers to those questions. But dozens of Nier enthusiasts are digging through game files, replaying the game, debating the extent of Nier: Automata modding technology, and studying videos frame-by-frame like a modern-day Zapruder film.

The saga of Nier: Automata’s secret new area — a church hidden behind a wall in the game’s Copied City area — started in early June, when a player posted a question to the Nier subreddit asking what was required to access the church area. They had access to it, so why didn’t their friend? Other players didn’t know what the original poster was talking about. There’s no church in that level, one player said. “I don’t think you can enter any building in the Copied City,” another responded.

The original poster, who goes by sadfutago on Reddit, later posted video of the church and where they accessed it — through a never-before-seen camouflaged door. Some were suspicious, and called the video faked. Others started investigating.

It wasn’t until Monday, when prominent modder and streamer Lance McDonald posted a new wrinkle in the saga, that the story of Nier: Automata’s new mystery exploded. (McDonald is also responsible for finding Nier: Automata’s supposed “final secret” last year.)

“Someone randomly posted a video on the Nier Automata subreddit showing they found a secret room in the Copied City,” McDonald wrote on Twitter. “So far no one else has worked out how they managed to make this secret door appear. Literally 1 person on earth has accessed this room and we are uttered mind blown.” McDonald later explained that it’s “not yet possible to mod Nier Automata in this way,” adding that “the community is in shambles over this discovery.”

Existing mods for Nier: Automata generally consist of character model replacements, high-res texture updates, and other quality of life enhancements for the PC version of the game. Creating or adding all-new geometry to the game’s world is much more challenging, modders say, particularly on PS4.

On a popular Nier: Automata modding Discord server, members of the community have been picking apart every detail from multiple videos posted by sadfutago. They’ve also peppered the poster with questions, divining that sadfutago is allegedly playing on an unpatched, physical version of Nier: Automata on a PlayStation 4 that is disconnected from the internet. Getting clear answers our of sadfutago has been challenging, it seems.

Modders and Nier experts have tried to view the supposed secret area through roundabout means — using a wireframe-only view and by breaking through game boundaries — but still don’t see the church. New playthroughs of the game are happening now, hoping to crack the mystery.

On Tuesday, sadfutago posted a clearer and lengthier version of their video, showing what appears to be a complete-looking area, but little to interact with.

Discussions on the Nier modding Discord server generally agree on one thing: If this new area is a player-created mod, it’s a sophisticated one. So sophisticated that the only likely author is someone from the Nier: Automata development staff or someone who is so talented that they’ve been developing their mod in secret and without the broader help of the community.

There’s also widespread suspicion that this is either a longstanding hidden Easter egg or part of some guerrilla marketing effort. Two high-level developers of the game, producers Yosuke Saito and Yoko Taro, haven’t exactly been forthcoming about what they know.

“Eternal mystery,” Saito tweeted Tuesday, quote-tweeting Lance McDonald’s viral tweet about the hidden area. Saito also tweeted that a well-buried secret like this is something that the wily Yoko Taro would do, and later added “First of all, please calm down and make a reservation here” — linking to a separate tweet about the upcoming Nintendo Switch port of Nier: Automata.

As for Yoko Taro, the producer preferred a more definitive response. “Do you want to know about my insight?” Taro tweeted to a fan who asked about the mystery church. “In that case, you can find answer at my twitter profile. Thank you.”

The “answer” in Taro’s profile is this: “I can’t answer about any products. Please ask publisher.” In other words, Taro apparently has no interest in confirming or refuting this particular secret. (Incidentally, Taro did confirm the discovery of the aforementioned “final secret” from Nier: Automata last year.)

As for whether sadfutago is on the up and up, it’s worth noting that their Reddit profile has only ever been used to post about this one subject, and only in the Nier subreddit. Their name, sadfutago, includes the Japanese word for twins. Nier: Automata has a set of twins: Devola and Popola, and their staves appear as props in the hidden church’s altar. Also appearing on that altar is a character from Nier: Replicant, Yonah — but Nier: Replicant, a remake of the original Nier, was released four years after Automata, so how could those assets appear in a supposedly unpatched version of the game?

Every new revelation has Nier fans and modders looking for new answers, but as interest has grown, so too has noise in the Nier modding Discord. It’s currently flooded with memes, copypastas, and rapid-fire shitposting. But as some Nier fans seek answers, some are just happy to be along for the ride, disappointments be damned.

“This is either a god-tier and impressive hoax or insanely cool left over data and either way this is AMAZING,” one Nier subreddit poster said in response to sadfutago’s latest video. “I have never been this happy at being potentially bamboozled before.”

Update (July 28): On Wednesday, sadfutago posted another video of the church area in Nier: Automata, this time showcasing 9S completing a hacking minigame and losing the ensuing boss fight — which exists elsewhere in the game — and a bit of new story text.

Nier: Automata’s mystery continues to deepen, bringing more questions than answers.

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