Square Enix's Nier: Automata, a sequel to the 2010 role-playing game Nier, takes place in a dystopian world ravaged by a proxy war between humans and robots. We spoke with Platinum Games and had a brief hands-on session with the upcoming action RPG to see the game in action.
In Nier: Automata, mechanical enemies have overrun Earth. Humans have left the planet, outside of The Resistance, a group of humans who stayed behind to fight off the robotic enemies. You play as 2B and her companion 9S, both of whom are androids that are aiding the humans to fight off the hostiles.
"As an overarching story, the machine lifeforms in this world start to act a little weird, a little different. So that’s when 2B and 9S start to get involved," says Nier director Yoko Taro.
The demo begins at a settlement camp for The Resistance, which is surrounded by crumbling concrete and NPCs huddling around campfires. Here, you can upgrade your weapons and buy items. Game designer Takahisa Taura explains that Nier is being created by the "younger generation" at Platinum Games. "They really try to get that feeling of our previous in this game, as well," he said. Even the strange mix of genres that appeared in the predecessor, from horror elements to a brief section taking the form of a text adventure, is a concept that the team is hoping to bring to the new game.
Nier: Automata features an open world that progressively becomes more explorable as the story progresses. Two of the areas I was shown, a barren desert and a grassy, post-apocalyptic looking city, are connected to one another. You can walk from one area to the next seamlessly.
Nier: Automata's combat feels much smoother than its predecessor, and Platinum Games' influence is instantly recognizable with a flow that feels similar to Bayonetta. In the short, three minute time trial I play, I am tasked with having to defeat as many robotic enemies in the elapsed time as possible. Playing as 2B, I swiftly evade oncoming attacks by holding down R2, and switch between spiked gauntlets that are perfect for melee attacks, and a powerful Katana on the fly. You can also switch these weapons for other ones, as well. Similar to the last game, both heavy and light attacks can be used.
A new addition is a small robot hovering above 2B's head at all times. This pod is controllable, such as using it to aim and shoot bullets at enemies. 2B can also latch onto it to float above enemies, and you can simultaneously attack foes while in the air. "For those that are not really comfortable with shooters, we have a lock-on feature so you can lock onto enemies and it will automatically shoot in that direction," says Taura.
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Certain unique enemy attacks from the last game return, like the rows of dangerous red bubbles being shot at you. Some foes have shields that deflect your pod's bullets, but you can use melee strikes to break them down. There are also tall, colossal enemies with multiple layers to their bodies, which must be destroyed before they can be killed.
With a more refined, action-oriented combat system, Nier: Automata plays well, without sacrificing its RPG roots. Nier: Automata releases for PlayStation 4 in early 2017.