Early last month, a new Reddit user named u/sadfutago joined the Nier subreddit to ask what might seem to outsiders a fairly innocuous question: “How do you open the church?“
Their post was short and to the point, explaining that they were new to Reddit and wanted to know how to open the church in Nier: Automata, which they elaborated on in replies to mean “the place in the underground copied city where you fight the boss adam.” They explained that while they can open the door, their friend who was at the same part of the game could not.
The problem? There is no such church in the Copied City. Or anywhere else in Nier: Automata, to anyone’s knowledge. And now, thanks to this one user, the entire community is currently losing its mind trying to solve the mystery behind this location.
At first, community members replying to sadfutago’s post thought they might just be confused, or inaccurately describing where they were trying to get to, and asked for screenshots or game clips to get a better idea of what was going on. But over the next month, as sadfutago returned to the subreddit sporadically to drop gameplay evidence of their predicament, it became clear that what they were showing was not a misunderstanding at all. Instead, it appeared to be an entire secret area complete with lore implications and easter eggs that no Nier: Automata player had accessed before.
In their earlier posts, sadfutago uploaded off-screen clips and photos of what appeared to be a secret door in the Copied City and, beyond it, a mysterious church with pews and a balcony above. As Redditors asked for more evidence and offered advice on how to more clearly share clips and screenshots, sadfutago’s submissions became more detailed. It all came to a head in the last few days, when multiple clips they shared revealed the extent of this supposed secret area.
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It starts with a hidden door, followed by a long drop down a ladder. The music changes, and there are strange tower spires that retract as A2 runs down a long, twisting hallway leading to an enormous door that opens into a church. A brief cutscene plays as A2 enters, focusing on several elements of the church, and as A2 walks in she has a brief dialogue with Pod 042 that some have identified as dialogue lines that occur elsewhere in the game.
At the front of the church, a child’s body lies seemingly entombed with a single Lunar Tear growing from their chest. The child is flanked by Devola and Poppola’s weapons, a mysterious dark mass that can’t be interacted with, and a box that appears to be hackable by 9S.
So, what’s going on here? The Nier: Automata community is, for now, completely stumped. Many have suggested sadfutago has somehow accidentally stumbled upon a piece of cut content, pointing to a known beta version of the Copied City which contained an unenterable church in roughly the same spot — albeit one very different from the one sadfutago has found.
But if this is a hidden easter egg or cut content, it should theoretically be replicable by other players under the same conditions. And so far, no one else has yet been able to manifest this strange secret in their own copies of the game.
They’ve tried everything, from matching the quest and progression conditions sadfutago describes in their own game to trying to replicate the same platform and patch version, to no avail. Dataminers are investigating Nier: Automata’s code, looking for anything that could indicate how to unlock this weird church and its contents, but haven’t found anything yet.
While this extreme lack of evidence would suggest this is perhaps just a fun hoax from a talented modder, the modding community isn’t so sure. Multiple members of the Nier: Automata modding community across both Reddit and the official modding Discord have affirmed that up to this point, modders have not been able to create anything this complex, especially as this section contains multiple assets that don’t exist elsewhere in the game.
“If this is a mod this would be the first time anyone has done something like this, and NOBODY else knows how to make custom doors like seen in the video — it would be a relatively IMMENSE undertaking for a single individual to accomplish with various modding breakthroughs”
That doesn’t mean it’s impossible for this to be a mod — in fact, one theory being floated around is that this is an elaborate tease from a modder or group of modders who have figured out how to do map editing on this level and who are building up to a full unveiling of their hard work. But as several have pointed out, this is quite the long con for such an announcement given that it started nearly two months ago, so many members of the community don’t seem to be clued into it, and it didn’t really gain traction until just this past week.
The same counterargument also applies to those who think this might be not a mod, but a full-blown hoax built in Blender. It would be a lot of work over a long period of time for not a lot of return — just some brief internet fame followed by disappointment.
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But if the Nier: Automata church isn’t just an unfound secret, and it isn’t a mod, what does that leave? One theory is that this is all an elaborate ARG leading up to new Nier content. After all, Nier: Automata The End of YoRHa edition is coming to Nintendo Switch on October 6, and it certainly would be in character for the game to include extra secret content teased in such a bizarre way.
But that’s not the only possibility. Many community members have pointed out that in the most recent video posted by sadfutago, much of the contents of the church seem to point to a tie-in with Nier: Replicant. The child with the Lunar Tear seems to represent Yonah, the black mass could be the Shadowlord, and Devola and Poppola’s weapons standing by would also make sense. Several users have also noted a strange square shadow appearing in the window at the top of the church as sadfutago walks in, suggesting it could be Grimoire Weiss.
What a Nier: Replicant tie-in could mean isn’t exactly clear though. An updated version of Replicant was released for current consoles last year that included a fifth ending seemingly connecting it even more closely with the events in Automata. But what all this speculation actually would mean remains to be seen.
Regardless, the theory that this is all some elaborate tease for more Nier content was exacerbated today by two tweets. One, posted by Nier series producer Yosuke Saito, quips that this sort of tease is something Yoko Taro might do. He followed it up shortly after with a tweet telling people to “please calm down and make a reservation here,” referring to pre-ordering the Nintendo Switch version of Nier: Automata.
The other is from the Nier: Automata creator himself. Asked by a user if the video in question was a “scrapped mission early in development” and to “bless us with your insight,” Yoko replied that they could find his insight in his Twitter profile, which reads: “I can’t answer about any products. Please ask publisher.”
Do you want to know about my insight?
In that case, you can find answer at my twitter profile. Thank you.
— yokotaro (@yokotaro) July 26, 2022
IGN has indeed asked Yoko Taro’s publisher, in this case, Square Enix, for comment or clarification, as well as developer PlatinumGames, and is waiting on a response. But in the meantime, Yoko’s tweet is a delicious deflection from a man who could very easily have said he didn’t have anything to do with it and ended the entire conversation. Is he, in fact, teasing something deliberate here? Or does he just find the entire thing extremely funny and is just playing into a hoax as a goof?
For now, the Nier community is stuck in delightful confusion until one of several things happens: either someone finally manages to replicate the church in another copy of the game, sadfutago reveals this was all an elaborate hoax or setup for a mod announcement, or Yoko throws back the curtain at last to reveal the entire scheme was a fantastic marketing ploy for new Nier content of some kind.
Whatever the case, kudos to whoever is spinning us all around in circles right now is probably the most Nier-apropos mystery anyone could have possibly invented. If that sounds intriguing to you and you somehow have not played Nier: Automata, we called it a “crazy, beautiful, and highly entertaining journey full of nutty ideas and awesome gameplay” in our 2017 review. While we don’t know if the Switch version will include an answer to the church mystery, we do know it will include brand new costumes, and the game is also on its way to becoming an anime.
Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.