2017 has not yet started and it is already promising to be jam packed year for PlayStation 4 with excellent games back to back. In January we have Gravity Rush 2, Horizon Zero Dawn in February and Nier Automata in March.
With the demo finally out, it’s time to see if Yoko Taro and Platinum games managed to craft something truly special.
It is hard to describe the exhilarating feeling you get when playing Nier Automata. The way 2B effortlessly glides across the battlefield, dodging hails of attacks and delivering relentless blows against oncoming mechanical monstrosities. The controls are beyond responsive, the animations are unbelievably fluid and despite the evident chaos the combat never feels out of the player’s control.
The demo can be challenging. Just mashing the attack button will get you killed, since even the most basic enemies can dodge and attack relentlessly. Unlike in the original Nier you no longer have the ability to defend, but this doesn’t prove to be a problem. Dodging is both easy and rewarding to do. Dodging in the last moment opens the enemy up for a powerful counter attack rewarding skill players.
In the demo you have access to two weapons: The Virtuous Contract and the Virtuous Treaty. Where Automata diverges from other action titles is that you need to map one weapon to your light attack and another to your heavy attack, granting you endless possibilities for combing and customization.
If you are feeling extra daring, you can always ditch both of them and go for your trusty bare fists which can also prove to be equally effective.
Fans of Drakengard will be delighted to know that the weapon stories are back. Each weapon has its own grisly tale that is slowly unlocked as you use the weapon.
While we just have a brief glance of the Plug-in chips system in the demo, it felt equally fleshed out. 2B has a limited amount of memory and you can equip various chips which give you access from some basic elements each game has such as the HP gauge, Mini-map and objective markers to auto using items healing items when you are low on health. The game even gives you access to the OS Chip which if removed means death for 2B and sends you back to the game’s title screen.
This is all boasted by the amazing menu designs. They retain similar monochromatic aesthetic while keeping in check with the story’s sci-fi feel. The book design is replaced by a modern digital menu which surprisingly still very much has that Nier feel.
Whereas the visuals of its predecessors were always behind the curve, seeing Nier Automata in action is a sight to behold. The animations are some of the best I have seen to date. Each and every attack and dodge beautifully transitions one into another. This feeling of fluidity is further emphasized by the fact that the game runs at a silky smooth 60fps not losing a beat even in the most intense action scenes.
The music is as good as ever and is as every bit powerful and emotional as its predecessor. The demo features a robotic military facility and the deep base with female voices sound amazing. The game features both Japanese and English voices, both sounding equally stellar.
After the unpolished disappointment that was Drakengard 3, I didn’t dare to hold my breath. Thankfully, Nier Automata does absolutely everything right, from the top-notch combat to the stunning visuals all while retaining that Nier aesthetic that made the franchise so memorable in the first place. The demo doesn’t touch too much on the RPG elements of the game but if the quality of the demo is anything to go by those too should be flawless. The demo is available on the PlayStation Network and you should give it a go even if you are not a fan, you might be surprised. Nier Automata will be out for the PlayStation 4 on February 23, while North America and Europe will have a release on the 7th and 10th of march respectively.
If you’d like to get yourself up to speed with the series you can read our 13 part Darkengard and Nier retrospective.