Nier Automata Demo Review

Thoughts on the Nier Automata demo?

Hmmm, playing it.

Can’t quite get the controls the way I’d like them. I’d like to have fire on one of the left triggers instead of the right trigger, so I can evade while firing easily. Wait, there we go. Overlooked customize somehow.

So we have 3rd person shooting with a little robot beside us, and instead of dark lance and other sealed verses, we now have “Pod Programs”, the first of which being a laser that is an obvious expy for dark lance. These pod programs function on a cooldown, which I think is less interesting than the magic meter. It has a startup time, so it doesn’t suffer the usual weakness-less.

Most moves have really generous IASA frames into everything, and can thus be canceled into evade really easily. The animation blending is super smooth. Evading once will trigger a run that is as fast as evade. If you do heavy attack into light attack, then the sword from heavy attack moves on its own to complete the attack as the character performs the light attack, a cool touch.

There’s no listing of all your attacks, so I was able to find the basic light attack chain with throwing swords ahead of you, holding the light attack button down to do a moving whirly spin move, pressing heavy attack after light attack to get a multihitter, tapping heavy attack for a sweeping attack, pressing it multiple times for multiple sweeping attacks, charging it briefly for a sword slam to the ground, and charging it fully for a large spin move.

There’s a lock-on, but the camera is really far out and the game was clearly designed to not need it. Interestingly, it is both a hold style lockon and a toggle style lock-on at once. If you hold, then it will be released when you let go, if you tap, then it stays locked on. I can’t believe I’ve never seen someone try this style of lock-on before. When held it engages camera lock, and when tapped, it keeps the camera neutral, but the character and gun robot will stay locked to that enemy. There’s no directional attacks of any kind, and on hard and very hard, lock-on is removed completely. Kind of a disappointment there. Also, when locked on, your gun robot suddenly becomes less accurate, when it has perfect accuracy when aiming normally. It’s a cute touch to balance the two, I just don’t like that it invokes random bullet spread, not that it matters too much. Definitely ensures that you need to aim manually at long range targets.

It’s a bit hard to tell how invincible the dodge is. If you dodge the enemy at the last moment, then you’ll warp out, and be able to perform a launcher attack.

Overall, I’m not particularly impressed with the combat system, at least, the actions the player character is capable of performing. I think it is competent, far more than Nier’s was, but I’m not blown away.

The current enemy designs are basic, but serviceable. There’s enough startup on attacks that you can’t attack if an enemy is swinging in front of your face. Dodges have recovery time too.

There’s a menu for customizing various character functions as well. Interestingly one of them is the robot’s OS, which has the description that the robot will die if removed. Naturally, I removed it, and the game restarted, same as when I die. That makes sense. They add a lot of other functions, like your hud, minimap, damage number display, and so on. There’s also a program that takes up more space that automatically has you use healing items when under a certain health value, so I guess we’re pulling an MGR.

There’s also auto-vaulting on obstacles like ninja run and grabbing ledges where appropriate.

I think overall it’s going for a gameplay style a bit different from platinum’s usual, factoring in positioning a bit more, and having longer startups on attack strings, with shorter, less varied strings overall. The strings probably are related to the weapon type used as well.

When set in different slots the weapons appear to have different functions. For example, with the heavy weapon in slot 1, you get heavier light attacks, and the lighter weapon performs the heavier attacks. Comboing from them allows for different options as well. I don’t totally know the relationship of the weapon’s attacks relative to the weapon slot and button right now, but the sense I get is that every weapon will have a range of unique attacks that it can perform depending on whether it’s assigned to the heavy or light attack button and whether it’s used after an attack by the other weapon. You can switch between two weapon slots using the dpad mid-gameplay, so you have access to up to 4 weapons, each bound to a single “button” (since you’re swapping the function of the 2 buttons you have). The weapon swap function takes a small amount of time, but interrupts your movement. If done during an action, it’s buffered for the end of the action. You can switch pod programs this way too, but there’s only one in the demo, so it’s not clear what the limitations on this are.

It feels a lot like a polished and refined Nier,. with sane damage values attached to attacks, sane enemy health values, and better animations all around, just the pod programs and fire aren’t as interesting as the sealed verses, which is regrettable. I think it’ll be a good game overall, just a bit different from platinum’s standard fare. It’ll do well on solid fundamentals, but I don’t think it’ll have much in the way of advanced play. Think of it more as a game similar to 2d zelda or dark souls than necessarily a platinum action game, but still it has very much a platinum style of design. They position projectile enemies very deliberately to function like level design and create challenge, much like the original Nier did.

Also the use of enemies that flail their arms to stand in as contact damage enemies is clever visual representation. 3d games are missing contact damage enemies and this will help automata reclaim a bit of that.

The miniboss and boss fights are kind of simple. Sawblades get sent at you, you need to avoid or dodge them. The patterns aren’t so hard.

If you do the perfect dodge, you’re allowed to do it again as soon as the invincibility wears off, so if there’s still a hitbox on top of you, you can keep doing it forever, which for the sawblade fight is really sensible.

There appears to be a launcher move you can do without dodging first, but I couldn’t figure it out.

In the air, light attack always lets you keep air actions and heavy attack always appears to be a helmbreaker type of move.

Also there’s an emphasis on lining enemies up to shoot the pod program at them, or just to shoot at them in clumps while cutting through their projectile fire. So you gotta figure out the optimal coverage and find a moment to shoot without being hit.

I think that’s all I can really say right now.

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