Friday, December 23, 2016

Nier: Automata Demo Will Rock Your World

If you've been reading this blog for a while, or heck even for a few months, you know I have a thing about pre-orders. In that I don't like them. It's a system that started with good intentions but is now being exploited by businesses to generate profit before a game is released. Thus resulting in the chain of mediocre to sub-par content on the market.

Except when it comes to NieR: Automata. I am fully on board with this game, whatever the outcome and accept any shortfalls that occur by pre-ordering. Automata is the second game in the NieR family. A collaboration between it's owner Platinum Games and Square Enix. It appears to be set after the first game, though the story and content has been well guarded by the developers. The little bit that we do know has come to light with yesterday's release of the demo on the PlayStation 4. And even that is pretty low-key. You play as an android called 2b, and you work with companions along the way to stop other machines that are causing destruction to the world. If you've played the first NieR game, then you know the ride you are in for. The emotional roller coaster of feels that you want to jump off of, but you can't. Platinum Games wanted to make Automata feel like a proper game in the NieR family with better game play.

But let's talk about that demo.

That. Demo. Wow.

If I had to put any type of association to Automata, it's the offspring of Ninja Gaiden and Bayonetta (a Platinum Games title as well). But this isn't the blood, hack and slash porn that you would expect of such a mash-up. Automata has refined their battle mechanics into something that is quite fluid. I mentioned this a few times yesterday during my playthrough just how clean the controls felt. Except the auto-target system. It's linked to the L2 button while "fire" is R1. It didn't work for me and I found myself fumbling and using my mini-bot's special skill more often then intended. I've already made a note to rebind that key when the full game is released.

The camera is exquisite. Unless you are confined (such as top-down or in a flat plane), the camera is incredibly agreeable with allowing you to see 360 degrees around your character. Smoothly. The landscape renders quite lovely no matter how many enemies pounce on you.

I think what impressed me the most is how the game changes with the landscape. You are not always allowed to roam freely. As you move through walkways, up smoke-stacks, and into penned areas, the camera changes. Going from open world to a 2D platformer was intriguing and required you to rethink about how you should tackle enemies when you don't have a "left" or "right" to deal with. Top down was just as much of a challenge, taking away my dexterity when it came to jumping away from attacks. But it didn't feel like these changes to the cameras were gimmicky. They were fluid. That was the surprising part. You see games like this and it's always a weird quirk people don't always agree with. I don't know how they did it, but Automata made it work.

While it didn't provide a whole lot of story or context aside from, kill the bad machines and "what the hell is with the black box?" this demo was everything I needed from NieR. Just a taste of what to expect without overwhelming the palette. I can't wait until March of 2017.

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