Yesterday the demo for action-RPG Nier: Automata arrived on PSN. Nier: Automata is a sequel to the cult hit 2010 game, Nier, which itself was a spin-off of the incredibly weird Drakengard series. Automata is a collaboration between Square Enix and top Japanese developer Platinum Games. From what’s playable in this first demo, Platinum has beautifully expanded on the gameplay of the original, creating one of the most promising games arriving 2017.
The demo, titled the confusing ‘120161128’ for some reason, has you play as 2B, a girl in a short skirt and blindfolds. You’re tasked by some vague military to break into a post-apocalyptic factory to slay a giant robot. Along the way, you’re accompanied by 9S, a young boy piloting a flying mech for reconnaissance. Small robot enemies appear along your linear path to give you trouble. But since 2B is equipped with two swords and a machine gun drone, they don't make for very difficult foes.
Nier: Automata runs at an exceptionally smooth 60 fps, putting its higher-profile cousin Final Fantasy XV to shame. This is one of the best-running PS4 games I’ve had the pleasure to play. You don’t know what you’re missing with the lower framerate in titles like Square's Final Fantasy XV.
Combat is your typical Platinum Games style of light-attack, heavy attack with a focus on dodging. But thanks to your drone's abilities, you can fire a constant volley of damage at foes. Nier: Automata switches perspectives several times. You go from a typical third-person action to side scrolling sections, even a top-down view for Bullet Hell challenges. The demo is linear, but the final game is said to be more open world.
The game’s setting and characters in no way harkens back to the original Nier. The original entry was more of a magical adventure set in a dark fantasy world. Nier: Automata is pure dystopia, full of rust and deserts. Its setting looks quite a lot like this past fall’s ReCore, only higher quality. What I’ve seen of the story seems entirely distinct from Nier or Drakengard. But considering how utterly bizarre director Yoko Taro’s games can get, you should expect anything. Character design is done by Final Fantasy veteran Akihiko Yoshida, thus the tiny skirts and white hair.
An Explosive Finale
The demo for Nier: Automata feels a lot like the particular interests of both Taro and Platinum mixed together. The preview gameplay ends with a huge boss fight against a massive robot. Your character ends up tearing off one of the robot’s arms then beating it down with its own limb. It's more than a little similar to Platinum's Metal Gear Rising. The monstrous boss isn't as cute as the normal robots you battle. They're small and cute, with stout bodies, big heads, and large eyes. It almost feels wrong to slay wave after wave of them.
Nier: Automata’s demo ends on a very bleak note, with both 2B and 9S in a seemingly impossible situation. But one can assume they somehow survived their ordeal, since Nier: Automata is planned for release in Japan on Feb. 23. Watch out for spoilers for at least two weeks, it Automata will be out in North America on March 7 for PS4 and Xbox One. (A PC release is TBA.)
Yes, Platinum can be hit or miss lately, but this definitely feels like the "good" Platinum. Nier: Automata has me sold with this demo, so use this extended holiday to give it a try.