Instead of opting to go with a standard skill system allowing players to unlock abilities through a set tree of choices using skill points, Nier: Automata utilizes a new mechanic allowing free customization of active abilities and passive bonuses throughout the entire game. Since 2B is an android instead of a human, the game requires you to install new abilities and bonuses like software, using items called Plug-in Chips. These customization items can provide bonuses like additional attack damage on your combos or faster movement speed while running. You just need the available storage to house them in your memory. This allows players to customize 2B to best fit personal playstyles, but since the game doesn’t do a very good job of explaining that, we’re here to help.
The first thing you need to know about Plug-in Chips is that they are sorted into five different categories: system, attack, defense, support, and hacking. Here’s the general breakdown:
- System chips control every element of your heads-up display in-game, including your experience and health bars, the objective tracker, and the enemy display. These chips allow you to enhance what visual elements you find most useful onscreen.
- Attack chips, as you might expect, enhance how your attacks and weapons perform along with some additional effects to combos. These can customize how your weapon combos and attacks work in combat.
- Defense chips provide mostly passive boosts to damage resistance, absorption abilities, and health retrieval in combat scenarios. They can also allow you to heal automatically after not taking damage for a certain amount of time.
- Support chips focus on evasiveness and automatic item usage but are relatively limited in number since you can’t use many of them outside of Nier: Automata’s Easy difficulty. Use these to increase the frequency of item drops from enemies, the number of item locations on the minimap, or to slow time after a perfect evade.
- Hacking chips increase players’ skills in the overriding of enemy machines during combat, but they are mainly used during sections when you are playing as 9S. These can strengthen enemies you hack or cause them to drop additional items when killed.
Regardless of the chip in question, you’ll need the appropriate amount of storage to activate it. During the beginning of the game, you’ll have access to around 25% of 2B’s maximum storage capacity, which you’re free to customize across three different preset configurations. To further increase your storage capacity and equip more powerful chips, you’ll have to head to the Terminal in the Bunker (2B’s home base) by using an elevator. There, you’ll find a vendor who can upgrade your pod and sell storage upgrades. Just remember, the more you purchase, the more expensive each one gets.
If you’re looking to increase your chip collection or get a better version of any chips you currently have equipped, you’ll want to look for merchants who sell them scattered about the world. While it’s true that you’ll be able to earn some decent ones by killing enemies and looting them, usually merchants tend to have the best ones available, provided you have the necessary funding. If you see something that you like, however, be sure to grab it — because you may not get the chance to do so again.
Like everything else you obtain in Nier: Automata, it’s important to remember that chips are a massive investment that you can lose upon death. Just like your inventory, weapons, and experience, every chip you had equipped is dropped with your previous body when you die. If you want to retrieve them, you should do so immediately, because if you die before doing so, they’ll be gone forever. Never forget to retrieve valuable chips from their resting place; otherwise, you’ll find yourself wishing you hadn’t spent the hefty amount of money on them in the first place.