The hidden Nier: Automata church mystery keeps getting weirder and weirder

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For the past few days, the Nier: Automata community has been absolutely shaken by a secret room that nobody can seem to find except one mysterious Reddit user who goes by the name “sadfutago.” The church, as sadfutago called it in their original post a little over month ago, contains even more mysteries that can’t be explained, sparking debate (and memes) over whether any of it’s real or not.

Since it came out in 2017, fans of the tragic action game continue to discuss story  theories and share memes on various subreddits and Discords. The Nier games, especially Automata, are dense with lore, characters, and secrets to unpack. Last year, Nier and Souls game modder Lance McDonald found a way to skip all of the game’s several endings, unlocking post-game features via an obscure button combination. Series director Yoko Taro confirmed it as the game’s final secret.

Sadfutago’s church might change that. Nobody, even with noclip mods, has been able to find the church anywhere in the game.

Nier modders in a Discord server called Nier: Modding have regularly released model swaps for the main characters and weapons, along with balance tweaks to the game since its release, but there’s no known way to add completely custom levels or map geometry to it. The Discord’s co-owner, Jeremy Reed, contacted sadfutago after they posted their initial photos in June to try to understand where this church came from.

Communication with sadfutago has been erratic, but has yielded some results. The Discord modders worked with them to try to verify whether the church was legit by first asking them to take a video of it. Sadfutago struggled to cooperate, citing the fact they play the game on PS4 and don’t have it connected to the internet to be able to upload it. After some urging by the modders, sadfutago used a phone to record their screen as they approached the hidden door to the area in the Copied City level. The shaky video ends before they go further into the secret room, but you can clearly see a button prompt to open the door. “I didn’t want to record too much because my mom said not to take up space,” sadfutago wrote in a comment on the post, suggesting that they used their mother’s phone to capture the footage.

Reed and the other modders helped sadfutago capture direct footage on the PS4 and transfer it to a USB drive. On July 25, Sadfutago posted a video of them opening the door, fighting the game’s robotic enemies within, descending a long ladder, and opening another door to a twisting hallway. Lance McDonald posted the video on his Twitter account and it quickly blew up. 

“Literally one person on earth has accessed this room and we are uttered [sic] mind blown,” McDonald wrote in the tweet, which has over three million views.

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Following McDonald’s post, the Nier: Modding Discord and Nier subreddit exploded with people desperately trying to pick apart sadfutago’s video and Reddit comments to access the room in their own games. Sadfutago continued to reply on Reddit, offering tiny bits of info on what version of the game they play on and what they had accomplished in their playthrough of the game so that people could mirror every possible variable.

A person who claimed to find the door themselves was brought onto Nier speedrunner jaynoo_’s stream where they were asked to take more footage. The person, who goes by Dee Dee, couldn’t provide any evidence besides a screenshot that was taken from sadfutago’s video. They then left to go get pizza and never came back—an event that quickly became a meme among everyone following the hunt for the church.

The second and most recent video released by sadfutago follows them as they explore the church. A unique cutscene plays as they enter, which reveals the room’s contents, including a pearl-white body holding a flower and a hunched figure made up of black squares. Sadfutago picks up a money item on the floor and tries to interact and attack the hunched figure, but nothing happens. “I can’t kill the black bloby I can only walk through him I don’t think there’s anywhere else to go after that place,” sadfutago wrote in the title of the post, spurring another set of memes about the “black bloby”.

The hidden church’s architecture resembles an unused model in the game that looks very similar to a church in Bayonetta 2, which Nier: Automata developer Platinum Games released three years earlier, but that church doesn’t have an interior like the one sadfutago found. The flower held by the white body is a Lunar Tear, which Yoko Taro uses in many of his games. McDonald also pointed out that an object that looks a lot like the floating book character Grimoire Weiss in Nier: Replicant floats by an open door as sadfutago steps into the church.

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All sorts of theories sprouted from there. One of the most popular of them is that sadfutago is part of a marketing campaign to tease the upcoming Nintendo Switch release of Nier: Automata. Futago means twins in Japanese and there are quite a few twins in the Nier series. The game’s producer Yosuke Saito replied to the church hunt on Twitter, telling fans to “please calm down” and buy the Switch version. Yoko Taro, who uses Twitter infrequently, wrote that his response is in his Twitter profile, which says, “I can’t answer about any products. Please ask publisher.” A representative of the game’s publisher, Square Enix, told GamesRadar that it also can’t comment on the situation.

Some think that sadfutago is playing a pre-release or never-before-seen version of the game because none of the game’s modders can find the church nor any of the unique things in it within the game’s files. An alternative theory is that sadfutago is playing a modded version of the game by someone who has figured out how to alter the levels.

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On Tuesday, modder and game developer meowsandstuff, with help from other modders, put out a document detailing inconsistencies in sadfutago’s footage. The document points out that the model of the body resembles the updated version of Yonah, a young girl from Nier: Replicant, the first game in the series, which was remastered last year. It’s possible that the model was created several years in advance, but, like with all the other objects in the church, no one has found it in the 1.0 version of the game that sadfutago claims to play on. The modding Discord continues to sift through the files to double check, but nobody has found anything to corroborate sadfutago’s claims.

The modders also note that there’s an item on the floor that doesn’t have an arrow pointing down toward it, a symbol that can’t be disabled without a modded game with access to a debug menu or an auto-collect item mod—which any player can get in a normal playthrough—equipped. Sadfutago manually picks items up in the footage, so the modders theorize that the arrow was removed so the button prompt for the door looks real and not like an item that was modded in to sell the illusion.

The document goes deeper into oddities in the videos and information provided by sadfutago, along with some speculation about their character. Nobody has been able to consistently speak with sadfutago for long before they disappear. Their messages on both the subreddit and in the modding Discord are brief and filled with errors, suggesting that English isn’t their first language or that they are young—although they mentioned coming home from work in a Discord message. I’ve tried to contact them but haven’t heard anything back.

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None of three well-known modders in the community I spoke to are buying sadfutago’s story, but they’re still holding out for a breakthrough.

“[They] did INSANE stuff. That’s not possible by anyone known at all. Like a custom cutscene, that would require Havok SDK,” McDonald told me, referring to the Havok middleware that the game uses alongside Platinum Games’ proprietary engine.

Meowsandstuff demonstrated that it’s not too hard to recreate the church using assets from the game in Blender, a 3D modeling program used widely in game development and modding. He told me that everyone is convinced sadfutago isn’t telling the truth about the game being untouched.

“That being said, it’s definitely brought a lot of excitement to many of us as we’re hoping that the tools used to produce the church may end up publicized, since what we have seen is definitely the work of someone with a lot of talent,” Meowsandstuff told me.

The story of sadfutago and their mysterious church doesn’t seem to be over yet. Serious searching has died down in the modding Discord, but many people are still hoping for some sort of resolution. If this is like past secrets in other games, it might take years. But if the result is a major breakthrough in the modding capabilities of Nier: Automata, a five-year-old game with an active and devoted fanbase, it might end well, even if it doesn’t turn out to be a genuine secret level.

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