Nier Automata isn’t as perfect as I wanted it to be – Gameplay Analysis

Nier: Automata, developed by Platinum Games, published by Square Enix, directed by Yoko Taro. This is a tale of a me going into this game with very wrong expectations and who paid the prize of believing all those big magazine Reviews.

“No Action Game Fan should miss this masterpiece”.. translated quote from IGN Germany. When all those reviews came up, I was hyped to get Nier: Automata, saw so much potential in the game, in the combat, in the gameplay and combining that gameplay with narrative.

However, it ended up being a clash of two forces who each had their own gameplay philosphy that went into two different directions, Taro and Platinum. In this article I will explain all the gripes and grips I had with Nier Automata, including positive and negative aspects.

First off… WHY THE FUCK DID I BELIEVE IGN  I want to let you know that I definitely do not believe that Nier Automata is a bad game, but this article might make it sound very negative.

And talking about negative let’s start with the start of the game…

The Prologue

The Prologue has been an issue since pretty much forever, due to some very weird design choices for that entire prologue.

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Before you start, the game warns you about auto-save not being available…

The prologue has:

  • Unskippable Dialogue
  • Partly Unskippable Cutscenes (not all of them are unskippable)
  • No Checkpoints
  • A Bad Ending which throws you directly into the Title Menu again

This all goes on till a bossfight, includes said bossfight and goes on for a total of around 30 minutes…

Now, imagine being in my place, starting the game on Hard cause you want some challenge…

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..then die…

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…then realize you have to do all this again…

You should not design a prologue like that! In my opinion, when designing a prologue you have to keep the following things in mind:

  • Not every player is familiar with this genre or is an MLG MountainDew E-Sportler with a lifetime supply of Doritos.
  • Not every player will be able to survive the prologue without dying, unless you make the player invincible.
  • People will get tired and frustrated when they have to see the same dialogue sequences again and again.
  • Not every player has played the Demo, so they can only guess how hard the difficulties really are!

I just came fresh out of Tales of Berseria when I first played Nier Automata and there “Hard” is a cakewalk.. in Nier, “Hard” is absolutely merciless…

We will talk more about difficulties later. But for now I want you to realize something.

I have not talked about any Core Gameplay Mechanics up to know, because the game’s tutorial is mostly intuitive and in the Prologue you don’t know much about these Core Mechanics. That means, when the actual combat begins, you have a bunch of enemies and the game actually does not tell you the controls… of course, best thing to do here is look up Settings and then look at the controls, but other than that you don’t get any information.

What I mean with that is that Controls are not the same as Mechanics, knowing what buttons to press is one thing, but it’s another thing to understand what your actions of pressing these buttons do, especially in context with the enemy… more on that at “Enemy Mechanics”

Now, is the tutorial overall more good or more bad? The idea of intuitive learning is good in my opinion (though I’m more a fan of giving the player the possibility to do a less intuitive but more detailed tutorial mission), but the punishment for failing is way too harsh, which is why I would more tend to “bad” here.

Anyway, I don’t want to get too hung up on the beginning section of the game, so let’s move on..


Now, that was quite the start, so it is time to get into the actual meat of the game. First off, let’s take a little overview about what we’ll talk about:

  • Player Mechanics/Movelist
    • Controls
    • A2/B2
    • 9S
    • Pods
    • Chipsystem
    • Shoot’Em’Up Sections
  • Enemy Mechanics
    • Standard Enemies
    • Superarmour Balance
    • Far Ranged Combat/Bullethell Segments
    • Enemy Modifications/Special Enemies
    • Telegraphing
    • Bosses
  • Levelling and Difficulty
  • Open World Design
  • Player Progression

Going from the core of the gameplay to the construct around it, this blogpost will mainly be about the design of said elements and what philosophies were assumingly behind it.

Now then….

Player Mechanics/Movelist

The Controls

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First off, we have a grand departure from Platinum Games usual not remappable controls and we get a fully customizable controller layout, very good.
We also have the same for the keyboard controls, almost fully customizable, except for one little thing that makes this game absolutely unplayable with the keyboard…

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Double-Tap for Evasion.

The Evasion is one of Nier Automata’s core mechanic that has to be accessible at almost any point in the game, so why exactly did someone thought you had to map this mechanic to “double-tapping”? This is also fixed, you can change the button performing this action, but the double-tapping always stays.

So a controller is absolutely needed to enjoy this game properly, but otherwise there is nothing to complain about.

The controls feel smooth, responsive and reliable, which is very good, not once I had a situation where I can blame my failure in the game on “that button didn’t work”.

Mechanics/Movelist: 2B/A2

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A2 is better cause she can taunt. I am going to put 2B and A2 into the same place here since with the exception of 3 things, since they play pretty much the same.

I’m also going to mainly concentrate on the ground battle, though I will take a small look at other gameplay sections of the game later.

Playing with those characters you have a very Platinum Games typical pattern, a light attack, a heavy attack and shooting. It is here to note, that shooting is not mapped to one of the face buttons but one of the shoulder buttons on the controller. The Pod, which is the device you use for shooting, is also independent from the actions of your character, which means you can shoot the enemy while also fighting them Close Combat.

Both Light and Heavy Attacks have each their own combo, the extent of that combo depends on the weapon (and the enhancement level of that weapon) you have equipped to to it. Holding a button causes a different attack for Light and Heavy Attack as well (Holding the Light Attack button with A2 will cause her to taunt).

Similar to Bayonetta, you have two Weapon Sets in which you can equip each weapon to either the Light or the Heavy Attack. The first two weapons you get, Virtuous Treaty and Virtuous Contract, are by default set on Virtuous Contract to Light Attack in Virtuous Treaty to Heavy Attack on Set 1, and Virtuous Treaty to Light Attack and Virtuous Contract Heavy Attack on Set 2.

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I stayed with these two till the very end…. ok, maybe not always, but most of the time.

 

If you perform a Heavy Attack during a Light Attack Combo or vice versa, your character will perform a special combo using both weapons you have equipped. Mind here, whether Weapon 1 is on Light Attack and Weapon 2 on Heavy or vice versa doesn’t matter here. To use the example from the default weapon set at the beginning, Set 1 has the same Special Combo than Set 2 because the weapon combination is the same.

Switching between the Sets happens by pressing a Single Button and can happen at any moment in battle, however the attack you’re currently performing gets executed fully before it switches to the second Weapon Set.

There is also a Launch Maneuver that throws you with the enemy in the air that isn’t a counter. Pressing Heavy Attack right after you jump off the ground will perform that attack. There is also a dash attack you can perform by pressing Shoot and Jump at the same time, where the character uses his Pod to launch him/herself at the enemy. This one has a higher chance of stunning the enemy, but considering how fast enemies die anyway, it has not much use. It also is the only attack from 2B/A2 that can not be dodge-cancelled immediately so there is quite the risk in using this attack.

Going from the offensive maneuvers to the defensive ones…

Dodging also happens via a single input, this also triggers sprinting for faster movement and unlike Bayonetta you can chain an infinite amount of dodges together without a penalty. If you face an enemy whose attack hitbox is active over a longer time, you can basically infinitely dodge through this hitbox and never get hit.

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The effect of perfect dodging is quite cool though.

Attacking right after dodging will cause a counter, with a different counter depending if you press the corresponding button for Light Attack, Heavy Attack (this also depends on which weapons you have equipped) or Shooting. Now, an interesting thing here is, that the counter itself still has invincibility-frames but they vary from weapon to weapon.

The Heavy Sword Counter for example does a stinger attack followed by the character throwing the sword, the stinger attack has i-frames till a certain point, afterwards you’re affected by attacks again. The Light Sword Counter is a launch attack that throws yourself and the enemy (if possible) into the air, I can’t exactly pinpoint the moment the i-frames dissappear because in most cases this counter moves you out of the enemy attack hitbox, but I believe they do the moment you are in the air.

Generally the Light Sword counter is a very secure way to deal with enemies that you’re not familiar with, as it moves you away from the enemy attack (unless you face a vertically rotating blade) and sometimes even disrupts the enemy attack with a launch. I say sometimes, because most enemies have a decent amount of super armour, more on that on “Enemy Mechanics”.

This covers the basic combat mechanics, I have not mentioned Pod Programs here, I will cover them later, so this is the most basic of basics. Now I’ll go through some more complex mechanics which add to the dynamic of the combat.

Dodge Cancelling/Dodge Offensive

Now, if you read tweets of mine as well as my last blogpost about God Hand, one term that always comes up in these type of games, at least in my case, is “dodge-cancelling”, the ability to cancel out attacks with the dodge.

To make it short, you can dodge cancel literally anything in this game with the exception of two attacks, which gives the edge over enemies that attack you through your attack (via super armour) and reduces the committment to an attack while also raising the pace of the combat. The same goes for the mid-air dodge, allowing for much more movement in the combat that one might see at first… and unlike in Bayonetta you don’t have to “buy” the Mid-Air Dodge first for some fucking reason.

However, there is a interesting dynamic in Nier which I would like to concentrate on. Certain attacks continue after they’ve been cancelled. Let’s take a look at the follow clip by myself:

 

Ignore the text in this tweet for now, as this is also an interesting dynamic of Nier’s Combat System, the Maid-Air Heavy Launch, we’ll cover this later.

The beginning of the short clip is me performing a launch attack by pressing Jump and directly afterwards Heavy Attack. This is not possible with the Light Attack by the way. However, in the midst of that attack I am dodging out of it while the blade is still going upwards. At 0:03 you can see how the attack would look like when almost completely executed, but It’s a bit cut off at the end because I jump-cancelled out of it. This is something I will refer to as “Dodge Offensive”.

The point is the following, some attacks continue even when they’re cancelled, allowing you to dodge and do other stuff when the enemy is still getting thrown into the air or into a wall. It’s the most obvious during the Heavy Sword Launch attack I’m doing in the clip, but you can also see this while doing the Charged Attack with the Heavy Sword. When fully charged and let go, you can almost immediately dodge out of it and you can see how the blade still performs the attack around you even though it won’t connect to any enemy unfortunately.

I can not pinpoint exactly every attack that are making use of this mechanic, I know it works with the Heavy and Light Sword’s Heavy Launch Attack and the Charged Attack of the Heavy Swords. For others I suggest experimenting around with each weapon category and set combosition, it’s where I got the most fun out of Nier Automata.

Mid-Air Heavy Launch

 

 

The basic mechanics of the game do not allow you to triple jump. You jump once, then once in mid-air and then you fall back down. However, elevate yourself yourself in the air with other means than pressing “Jump” and the game treats your character as if if you were still on the ground.

With that I mean that you can perform a Heavy Launch Attack in Mid-Air, which is usually only possible by Pressing “Heavy Attack” right after you jump off the ground. In case you do not believe me, try it! Jump and then Mid-Air jump again and press “Heavy Attack” right afterwards, it won’t work. This also allows you to use a Mid-Air Jump to elevate yourself a third time, which you can see in the clip I posted under “Dodge Cancelling/Offensive Dodge Cancel”

In this video I use the “Wire” Podprogramm which pulls you towards an enemy, to elevate myself off the ground. Experimenting around with the Light Sword Counter which also throws you in the air led to a similar result which ultimately means, that this Mid-Air Heavy Launch is really usable under any circumstance where you’re in the air by not pressing “Jump”.

However, there are some weird Shenenigans going on with the Heavy Sword Heavy Launch. In the video above I use the Mid-Air Heavy Launch with the Heavy Sword, dodge cancel out of it and continue comboing, however this does not always work. In some attempts the game didn’t let me continue the combo afterwards which was weird to say the least, the highest success rate I have is, when I dodge towards the enemy after the Launch Attack, which leads me to believe that the continuation of the combo is dependent on the enemy position.

It could also be something going on with the comboing before the Heavy Launch Attack but from what I remember I used the almost exact same combo everytime I do this, so I do not think it is dependent on that.

This concludes two of the more complex things that sticked out to me, there are surely more than that, but these two really were the ones that sticked out and became really useful to me. However there is also a third dynamic I need to mention..

Dodge Off-Set

A Re-occuring mechanic from Platinum Games is the Dodge Off-set, which is also Present in Nier Automata:

For the ones who do not know, Dodge Off-set is a mechanic with which you can continue an ongoing combo after dodging out of it. In Nier Automata its done by pressing the right stick into any direction while dodging and attack again to continue the combo you were doing. You can’t perform the Special Weapon Combination attack (aka Light Attack, then Heavy Attack and vice versa) like that though.

However, there is a Chip in the game that enables you to Off-set without the necessary input by the right stick. However, this funnily enough removes a bit of depth from the Gameplay as Off-setting is now much simpler.

That said… Dodge Off-Set does not serve any use in Nier Automata. In Bayonetta the game encourages you to finish your combos because of two factors:

  1. The end of the combos in this game, the so-called Wicked Weave attacks are your most efficient tool in interrupting the enemy attacks as well as for enemy position control.
  2. You get point deductions for not being able to finish your combo (removed in Bayonetta 2 as well as reducing the efficiency of Wicked Weaves…. why?)

None of these exist in Nier Automata, it does not even enhance damage output, so it is a neat addition, but kind of useless…

 

Differences between A2 and 2B: Taunting and Berserk Mode

This is going to be shorter section of this blogpost, we already talked enough about the basic mechanics…

Here I can also say one very essential thing that has been crossed out earlier: A2 is better because she can taunt, so let’s concentrate on that.

This doesn’t go only for the taunting, but I have to give some praise to the amazing character animations of Nier Automata. Sprinting, Combat in general, All playabable Characters move in almost mesmerizing way, it’s just so fun to see the characters move. It is also thanks to that why moving around in Nier Automata is so fun, I occasionally had moments where I didn’t use Quicktravel just because I liked it so much. I can’t go detailed here, but watch really any gameplay video of Automata and you will see what I mean.

Now back to gameplay stuff. Taunting has, next to the fact that you’re feeling like a sassy badass, a similar effect as in Metal Gear Rising when you taunt with Sam. The affected enemy gains an attack boost, but their defense gets reduced, their head also starts to glow read in most cases, however this doesn’t work against every enemy.

Other than that taunting doesn’t change much. I did not notice a change in the enemy behaviour and in the mechanics, which is quite the step down from Bayonetta and Metal Gear Rising, but it is acceptable considering Nier doesn’t want to be as complex as the other two mentioned games.

Still, taunting feels good, especially when it has an effect on Gameplay, I appreciate taunting in any kind of game with action in it, so… good stuff

Oh, you can actually taunt with 2B and 9S as well by flashing your lights in front of the enemy… honestly the lamest taunting I have ever seen in a video game and way too awkward to use, especially in battle.

 

Berserk Mode and Dodge Extension

Playing with A2 also comes with another difference, holding the dodge button while dodging will extend the dodge and add a red glow.

Picture: Red Glow

Let’s make it short, it does literally nothing except when you’re in Berserk Mode.

You activate Berserk Mode by doing the input for Self-Destruct. This will cause a significant Damage Boost while draining your health. The initiation for both Self-Destruct and Berserk Mode leave you exposed, so you have to be in a save spot.

However, Berserk Mode really only does more harm than good. Not only is the health drain pretty fast and leaves you exposed when it is running out (especially on Hard Mode), but the profit isn’t really that visible. Next to the attack boost, it gives the Red Glow of the Dodge the effect that you can counter attacks automatically but think about it. You have to hold dodge for a whole while just to get that effect, so you have to dodge and hope that one of the enemies attacks into the red glow, the i-frames only go for the initial dodge as well, so extending your dodge doesn’t have any use except for looking cool and that is very unfortunate.

Or in short: Don’t go Berserk, it’s not of any use.

At least I WOULD say that if I didn’t stumble over a video by Zaarock who uses Berserk Mode in combination with Deadly Heal (You get health back when killing an enemy) to essentially be Berserk forever, as long as the enemies are getting killed fast enough.

This is combined with Attack Boost as well as taunting, so damage output is pretty damn high, but again, it has to be granted that you defeat literally every enemy currently attacking you, or you’ll be exposed and most likely die.

 


As you can see, Combat from the Players Perspective can get quite complex if you want it to. Using things as the Dodge Offensive will make your life easier in Nier Automata and arguably more fun, but you definitely don’t need those to beat the game. The Experimenting around with Combos and Weapons is arguably the most fun thing to do in the game, and thanks to the very satisfying animations, the combat never feels bad. It is again Platinum at its best here, making the game experience for beginners feel good, even if they’re beaten up the whole time, at least on Easy or Normal.

I haven’t really covered everything from the players standpoint yet, Pod Programs are still in the need to be discussed as well as Combat with 9S and the Chipsystem, so let’s get on to that.

 


 

Mechanics/Movelist: 9S

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Poor guy… suffers in the story and is kind of boring gameplaywise.

9S plays quite differently from 2B and A2, but the basics are pretty much the same.

Unlike the 2B/A2, 9S can only carry one weapon at a time, so you don’t switch between 2 Weapon Sets, but just between 2 Weapons. You also only “fight” via the Light Attack Button as the Heavy Attack is initiating Hacking. The Dodge Counters are also different for each weapon.

The Launch can now only be performed by pressing Light Attack directly after a Jump off the ground, the same mechanics as before for the Heavy Launch Attack also apply here.

However, I consider 9S to be the most unpolished character out of the 3, at least when it comes to normal ground combat.

There is a really small tolerance between a normal attack and a hold attack,the attack the character performs when you hold the light attack button. I had several moments, where I wanted to do the normal combo but 9S suddenly performed the Hold Attack out of nowhere and left me confused. Funnily enough the Hold Attack with the Light Attack can not be dodge-cancelled immediately so this is quite the issue in combat situations.

Another thing is, the Counter of the Light Sword is not very precise… it sometimes completely misses the target because you’re too far away or too close, since this attack doesn’t seem to be directional towards an enemy unlike 2B’s counter.

Generally 9S isn’t too versatile in terms of ground combat (which is also established storywise), but that is no excuse to make the Controls less reliable to me.

That said, 9S has an exclusive mechanic for himself that pretty much substitutes for the missing elements:

Hacking

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First off, Hacking gets first introduces as 2B against Simone (The Opera Bossfight) in probably the coolest way possible, as Simone tries to hack you and you “temporarily” take 9S’ role as the one defending against the Hacking. It’s something that comes out of nowhere, makes sense, and ultimately the whole Hacking Dynamic makes the whole Simone bossfight the best bossfight in the game. More about the enemies later.

However, once you start playing as 9S you will realize two things.

  1. Hacking gets boring pretty quickly.
  2. It’s OP as fuck

Hacking works like the various Shoot’Em’Up Sections, once Hacking is initiated you get thrown into a virtual world as some kind of cursor, have to shoot these gray things, for small enemies it is only the core, for larger ones, you have to shoot other “enemies” to remove the barrier of the main core.

Unfortunately there isn’t much more to it. You can get hit 3 times, and unlike in the Shmup Sections in the game, you can’t use Light Attack to remove the bullets near you. However, if you fail the hacking attempt, you get thrown out of it and lose a bit of health.. and I really mean only “a bit”. On Hard Mode, I lost about 20% life for a failed hacking attempt, which is a minor inconvenience in comparison to the usual 50-60% of HP loss you suffer when you get hit by an enemy attack. The penalty for a failed hacking attempt is just goes way too easy on you and if you have Auto-Heal equipped, it even heals you during the Hacking Process, making it even less punishable to have mutliple failed hacking attempts in a row.

Not to mention, it gets pretty stale after a while, sure initiating it against larger enemies is longer and the hacking process is more difficult, but the mentioned issue with the Punishment just makes it a very unbalanced Risk-And-Reward System.

Having a successful Hacking Attempt will blow up the enemy (if it can’t kill it, they take huge damage) and cause area damage to enemies nearby. You can even make it stronger by using chips to modify it, but for me it was already strong enough as it was.


Suggestion: Hacking

This is something which will appear more often throughout this article. I’m no Game Designer (yet) but I still want to give my thoughts on how certain things could be improved from the state they currently are.

Hacking in Nier Automata is even on Hard unbalanced as the Risk-and-Reward System has not enough Risk for way too much Reward.

My suggestion would be the following:

Instead of decreasing HP, the player instead temporarily loses one of his mechanics. And this comes with a system of priority, meaning, with each failed hacking attempt, 9S loses a more important mechanic. For that there has to be a priority ranking from less important to very important:

  1. Sprint
  2. Mid-Air Jump
  3. Lock-On
  4. Chipssystem
  5. Long-Ranged Attack
  6. Pod-Programs
  7. Attack
  8. Dodge
  9. Jump
  10. Death

Now this is the order in which mechanic you will lose (except 10, you do not loose the mechanic to die, you just.. die) with each continuously failed attempt at hacking a small enemy.

However, Medium and Big enemies will not only be more difficult to hack, but also will increase the punishment.

Medium Enemies let you go through 2 levels, Big Enemies 3, each one increasing in difficulty, when you defeat one level, you get the option to bail out before the next one as health won’t get restored between the levels. The Effect will be smaller, but you do not loose 2 (for Mediums) or 3 mechanics (For Biggies) at the same time if you fail in the next level.

If you successfully hack an enemy completely all your mechanics will get restored next to the usual hacking effect.

With that, 3 things should be guaranteed:

  1.  The player gets punishment for failed hacking attempts but he can redeem it by successfully hacking again, however the punishment becomes harder for each successive failure.
  2. The risk for hacking bigger enemies is higher.
  3. The player can still survive with multiple failed attempts, even on Very Hard, without directly seeing Death.

With that the punishment for failing should be at least on the same level than the reward from being successful and Hacking in general should be a bit more exciting. You would also have change the general gameplay of the hacking sections to make it less stale over time, but here I have no idea how to improve things.


 

 

Generally… 9S Combat feels very dumped down in Comparison to 2B/A2, and while this was somewhere the intention, that doesn’t mean it is good. I remember when I was in Route C/D, the character switched from A2 to 9S and I almost lost all motivation to play, because playing as 9S is just.. kind of boring.

Pods

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If there is one thing I never really got much use out of, it has to be the pods. I used the Wire Podprogramm quite often and shot a lot with the Gatling Pod, but other than that, I rarily ever used it or really felt the need to use it. So it came to me as quite a surprise when I found out there is much more to the Pods than it seems at first.

This video is from Mike Kob.. you probably know him if you read the blogpost about God Hand.

Each Pod comes with it’s own Standard long-range attack, either a rapid fire gatling gun which you get at first, a Pod shooting Homing Missiles or a Laser to cut through your enemies. Standard stuff at first, but enhancing them to max level gives each of them special abilities that you activate by charging those attacks.

In all honesty though, I really never found a reason to upgrade the Pods, The Melee Combat was good enough as it is and I never really thought much further than that in combat. This is also partly to blame on the enemies as they’re just not very exciting to fight against but more about that later.

Similar things go for the Pod Programs. Pod Programs are basically special skills which have a cooldown timer. I’m really not a fan of “Waiting for your Special Attack to recharge”, but your standard moveset is more than effective enough to make up for it, I’m also letting it slide cause this is no pure Beat’Em’Up like Bayonetta.

The Pod Programs can be charged, if you have multiple Pods, up to 3 times for more effectiveness. The effects can reach from more damage to wider effect area.

Check out the video above to see every ability. One let’s you shoot a laser, one let’s you create a ZA WARUDO Bubble where time is slowed down or alternatively a point of gravity where enemies are getting sucked in. The variety is there and you really get some cool abilities, but again, the basic combat is already good enough that it is really not worth waiting for these abilities to come back, and in some cases, they just don’t do much more but just making enemies die faster… and even on Hard they die fast enough (with the exception of the bosses of course).

So yeah, Pods are cool but they just don’t really add that much at the end except some more stuff to combo with or some extra damage.

Chipsystem

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My chipset during the Route C Playthrough

If there is one thing I would consider really great in Automata.. next to the variety of your own abilities, it is the Chipsystem.

If the Podprogramm are the active Skills, the Chips are the passive Skills. It’s a system where you can customize your Androids abilities to somewhat fit your playstyle, but of course with a limit. Each Chip requires a certain amount of Slots, and there is a only a finite amount of Slots one can have. Next to that there is also a Limit to each Chip Ability itself. For example, you can only push the “Weapon Attack” Chip so much that you gain an Attack of +100%, but you can not go further than that.

There is of course a variety of abilities and boost you can give your android with this system. The standard Defense and Attack Boosts, Movement Speed increase, Dodge Distance increase (which does not influence the invincibility frames of the dodge!), but also some special Skills can be used with some specific Chips.

This is also where you can rediscover some pretty common Platinum Games elements again, “Continous Combo” which lets you Dodge Off-set easier, “Overclock” is the Time-Distorting Dodge from Bayonetta aka it slows time down when you hit a perfect dodge (Insert JoJo reference here), then there is the “Counter” ability where you move the stick into the enemy direction when you’re getting attack to block and counter the attack, works the same as in Bayonetta.

However, I need to address the Overclock ability..


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The Overclock ability is one the reasons why I see this game as rather unpolished, next to the Prologue and 9S as a playable character (and several other issues I’ll cover later).

The Overclock ability slows time down when you perfect-dodge an attack. This goes for EVERY attack, this means every enemy attack will trigger the slow-down. Since there is also no penalty for dodging consecutively too much, so spamming Evade is almost more profitable than being precise with it.

However, to “compensate” this (I’m not sure if that was intended..) , when time is slowed down you can still get hit.. and get full damage as well as full impact.

If you wonder what my exact problem is.. let’s say it feels very awkward to get thrown away 10 meters by an attack that hit you with the speed of around 1 centimeter per second, this especially goes for enemies that have an attack that goes on for several seconds, like the Small Stubbys “I-whip-my-arms-around” attack.

And of course common sense would say “Just don’t run into an enemy attack”, but then again… the attack of the enemy is relatively very slow compared to you, so it doesn’t look dangerous and it doesn’t make sense that you take full damage, at least for the Melee attacks. The enemy Projectiles which are already slow are also giving you damage, but it’s a bit more plausible in that sense.


The Chipsystem is very cool and you are able to form your playstyle with it. I for example went for lots of defense since I found dying in two hits on Hard Mode a little bit harsh, as well as the Overclock Ability and Deadly Heal as well as Auto-Heal (regenerates health over time when you’re out of combat for a certain amount of time)

Similar to your own mechanics, experimenting around with what you have can be really profitable, so try out and see what you can do.



 

Putting all these factors together, means on an advanced level: When you are able to master the idea of Mid-combat Weapon and Pod-Switching and also take into consideration the physical impact of everyone of your strikes and slashes as well as all the other things about the Combat… you might be able to do stuff like this (BIG STORY SPOILERS IN THAT VIDEO):

The ability to express yourself by comboing the enemy with the games mechanics… also, donguri is such a god in action games, this is unreal.

 

The Shmup Sections

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BOOOORIIIIING

Last but not least there are the Shoot’Em’Up Sections and I’m going to make this fairly short.

If you have the Deadly Heal equipped as well as the ability to mash Light Attack as well as Evasion, you have basically won.

Since all the enemy projectiles are getting eliminated by the Light Attack, it is really only that what is necessary to get out of a tricky situation, you have to occasionally move around a bit and things something can get a bit chaotic, but overall those sections are absolutely no problem and also happen to be the most boring part of the game.

There is also an entire bossfight based around the Shoot’Em’Up sections, which looks pretty cool but that’s where the good things stop…


 

Enemy Mechanics

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Adam and Eve are the best looking bosses in the game as well as the one with the Best Soundtrack… unfortunately they could be also dubbed Mr.Lame and Mr.Bullshit.

If there is one thing I would call the big gist of problems in Nier Automata, it has to be the enemies.

Standard Enemies

The standard enemies are almost all cannonfodder. When you’re on the same level as them and at least put some effort into killing them, they usually do die by perfoming the simplest combo you have once, when you have Attack Boost and and your weapon is at max enhancement you will kill most of the small and medium enemies without even finishing a combo.

But of course, the enemies are not all the same. The medium Bipeds for example come with sometimes various weapon equipment that changes their movelist with the exception of their stomp.

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I consider the Medium Bipeds to be the most fun standard enemies to fight against.

Each weapon comes with it’s own moveset, so Bipeds with the Axe can leap great distance for an attack, while Spear Bipeds have a Stinger attack that goes way further than it first seems, which can get annoying but is far away from bad telegraphing. Then there also the Bipeds that have a long-range weapon and can really cover you in a barrage of bullethell.

It is quite fun to move around the latter ones and find a good opening to close in (I use the wire for that) and beat the shit out of them.

In terms of aggression the Medium Bipeds are completely ok, in terms of Defense… let’s say they die a bit too fast for my standards but they’re still ok. They can also occasionally evade your blows, though it doesn’t happen often enough to become a problem and it doesn’t happen too often to become an annoyance. However, I noticed that this happens more regularely with the Heavy Launch Attack than with others, more of then with attacks that can breake their poise… so let’s use this a transistion to talk about the enemies..

Super Armor Balance

Super Armor is, for the ones that do not know, the ability of an enemy to be hit with attacks from the player without their stance being broken. Or basically you attack an enemy they attack through your attacks to hit you and you scream “Bullshit!” at the screen.. it is kinda that, just that Nier Automata is mostly fair about it.

Hitstun is also something that appears in connection with Super Armour, it is basically what happens when the enemies does not have Super Armour: They get stunned by a players attack. Finding a clear balance between Super Armour and the enemies abilites is the art of making good enemies in these kind of games.


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Little excourse to Bayonetta and these two fuckers, who arguably the best enemies in the game.

The enemies “Grace & Glory” in Bayonetta for example move a round a lot and are generally very agile, dodging your attacks, try to approach you in a Zig-Zag Course and thus keeping you always on your toes with a big variety of melee and ranged attacks. However, to compensate for that, they have very low Super Armour and can get stunned by almost every attack (making attacks that trip or launch them very effective!).


 

The Medium Bipeds are very balanced out in that regard. They weirdly enough always get hitstunned when you attack them while they are idle, but they gain superarmour once they initiate attacks. However, they end up being one-trick ponies in the longterm as all melee-types are usually exposed by a perfect dodge (except when their super armor retains during your counter, in that case, you get almost directly punished for countering, except when you are using the Light Sword with 2B/A2, which catapults you in the air and out of the danger zone) and because melee-types usually can only do melee, the moveset varietly usually only comes when you have multiple enemy types in the battle.

And this is mostly fine if they were beginner enemies.. which they aren’t. The weakest enemies are the small stubbies and the small biped which are an even weaker version of the before mentioned mediums without the abilitiy to evade. And above the medium bipeds, we have the Goliath Class Enemies who are mostly giant bulletsponges with big obvious attacks that only get threatening if your reaction time is that of a stone and some bullet shooting enemies. Melee Combat enemies just don’t get threatening unless because of their sometimes unjustified huge damage output on “Hard”, since enemies who are 1 – 3 levels over you can one-hit you… more on that on “Difficulty”… or due to a big numbers advantage.

Now the Melee enemies are mostly just not challenging, but how about the far-ranged ones?

Far Ranged Combat and Bullethell Segments

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The Projectiles usually move pretty slow while some enemies also have beams that cover large distances almost instantly.

Frankly said, your movements are not nearly as precise as in a pure bullethell shooter like Tohou or excee3rd, but you also don’t have the gimmick that the projectile needs to hit a certain pixel on your character to INSTAKILL YOU like it is quite usual with bullethell shooters. Performing a perfect dodge on the bullets is possible in the Shoot-em-up Sections, but for ground combat I do not think it is, at least in my 10 000 times I dodged through the projectiles, I did not trigger it once. With that and the fact that you usually are not right next to them when the fight starts, enemies who do not have melee attacks but only ranged attacks are far more dangerous as they do not become one-trick-ponies like most of the melee-type enemies.

That said though, when you find a way to quickly close in to these enemies they stop becoming a threat pretty quickly so they still are not exactly too threatening in the whole picture.. and believe me, you will find a way pretty quickly…

Enemy Modification/Special Enemies

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Aren’t those Shields cute?

Next to “different weapons” enemies can have a certain gimmick that brings some variety into how you approach. Some enemies have a shield that can only be broken via Melee attacks, sometimes these shields are electrified so you have to first shoot them to stop that because if you attack melee into that, you are going to take immediate damage. This is honestly a way better attitude than how Bayonetta handled it, as some enemies there can’t be directly attacked at all when they’re on fire as you take immediate damage from that causing a harsh inconsistency in enemy variety. Overall these modifications don’t change too much overall but they they mix things up a bit and that is always welcome considering how stale the combat can be after a while.

 

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Who thought these things were a good idea…

And then there are certain enemy types that go a little bit away from the norm. Some enemies are incredibly annoying like those worms, ESPECIALLY in the version where their body consist of sawblades which means you can’t approach them at all. These worms have always a certain spot where they take damage, which switches places over time. They float around in the air, or constantly bounce around which is very fun to fight against on Hard Mode where you do not have Lock-On available, those bouncing enemies are also the ones that have the sawblades and even the homing missiles from the pod have a hard time actually hitting the target. As you can probably imagine, this is a very fun enemy to fight against with manual targetting and totally does not drag itself out for way too long.

Luckily, you can avoid all encounters with these enemies so it is not THAT bad…

Other enemies include some spiders who can glue themselves on walls, have a single melee attack (at least I only saw one in my playthrough… once again they die too fast) and sometimes shoot bullets, they are.. ok,nothing special. Then there are also flying drills who are.. just that, flying drills. Most special type enemies are not worth mentioning (mostly because they die too fast) except the worm ones because of how stupid they are and the following:

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Pretty sure I was supposed to run away here… but these enemies are a bit too fun.

There are also other Android enemies who have the same moves as you and they are pretty much the most fun to fight (this time without sarcasm) against, outside of the normal enemies. That is due to a certain balance between player and enemy, though Androids become quickly one-trick-ponies as well, as they are even more exposed to the counters than the Medium Bipeds are (unlike those they do not have attacks that can not be interrupted). However through their extended combo ability and most of their moves being from you, their moveset variety is almost on point (they miss some ranged attacks) and you have to be constantly on your toes, especially when multiple ones are present. In addition to that the telegraphing in their attacks is much more subtle as the typical red glow and audio cue from the machines are missing. Talking about that…

Telegraphing

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Bright Glow before an attack is once again typical for Platinum Games.

Is good. That’s all I would really want to say here, but we have to go a bit deeper here.

Most of the enemies in this game telegraph their attacks by a red glow and a clear overexaggaration in their animation. This makes the enemies very fair to fight against and you almost never have the feeling that the failstate of dying was not your own faults.

There are some exceptions though, the Medium Bipeds with spear have an attack that covers a huge amount of distance so that you can be caught offguard by them because you thought you were out of there ranged when they suddenly charge in from 10 miles away. This is however not too bad as the attack itself is very clearly telegraphed, just not the distance it covers. There is also this weird horse enemy you can encounter when you are in the Forest Castle, it has a superfast attack that is not telegraphed at all, neither with a red glow nor a good overexaggaration in its attack which is simply said not good. It’s luckily only these two attacks which I can really criticize here, at least from the standard enemies, so thumbs up here.


Overall, non-boss enemies never get really dangerous on their own (if, then they are annoying). That is not necessarily a bad thing, as they’re standard enemies, but even in number count of 3-10 they still are a piece of cake, only at the 10 mark the overhelming amount of enemies can cause you to get corned. Enemies just die too fast in this game to get exciting even without attack boost and don’t tell me I should play on “Very Hard” for that, because I don’t want to be punished with immediate death for a single mistake. I do like being challenge but I dislike not being able to redeem my mistakes.


 

So there is one thing missing here… aside from Standard enemies and Special Type enemies there are..

Bosses

*sigh* Platinum is usually known for their exhilarating and exciting bossfights but in Nier Automata there is only one bossfight I would call that.

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The Opera Bossfight, Simone.

It is creepy with all those dolls, it is exciting as you have a dynamic switch of perspective when a bullethell sections starts, you get introduced into Hacking in the coolest way possible and Moveset Variety as well as Good Telegraphing is on point. Only issue is that this is a “Small vs. Big ” kind of bossfight so the boss has superarmor up the ass, but can still get stunned for short amount of times, even though I think those stuns are scripted… it is more a matter of taste here.

However, none of these good aspects reappear for any of the other bossfights. Most of them are just dull “Small vs. Big” fights, like the Goliath tank or those giant balls who sometimes even have the gimmick that you can’t fight them and you have to wait for a while before you can actually fight them.. or you can’t go anywhere near them because you get electrecuted by the lake it’s sitting in. It’s not very intelligent to take away melee combat, even temporarily, from the player when it is the thing that’s the most fun in the game.

But there are also Duel Bosses in this game, bosses who are the same size as you and… let’s get right on my biggest problem.


 

Adam: A failed re-occuring boss

Remember when I called Adam “Mr. Lame” at the beginning of this section? We finally get to the part where I explain why.

Adam is a boss or more accurately a type of boss that you meet 3 times.

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First enconter

The first encounter is in the desert and is the first boss after the prologue. We have an interesting development during this fight, as Adam starts at Level 1 and can’t do shit but evolves over the fight, gaining levels and abilites. This is probably the best way to introduce a boss and makes this fight really fun as you’re slowly getting used to his abilities and you intuitively gain a grasp on how Adam works one by one.

He starts to attack you first without any defensive capabilities, then gains the ability to put up a shield when he is pressured. Attacking this shield causes a counter, either Adam sends bullets you shot at the shield at you, or he’s doing a direct counter which breaks the shield. However you can evade that counter, which exposes him to a perfect-dodge counter.

There is also a phase where you get introduced to his long range attacks, while you are on a ground which interrupts your sprinting quite often as you stumble over the rubble, so you have to take care of your mobility.

The only issue is, that Adam’s bright glow melts with the background a bit too much which causes the player to have to look really closely to indentify an incoming attack but other than that, telegraphing is spot on.

Overall a great first encounter with Adam and I thought I would get more than that on future encounters, that he gets tougher, gets more abilities, maybe even changes his behaviour up a bit. Unfortunately this doesn’t happen at all…

 

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Second Encounter

The second Encounter is a 1 vs. 1 fight against either Adam or Eve, depending on who you are playing as, as 2B it is Eve, but that doesn’t make any difference as there are no differences between Adam and Eve’s mechanics, at least in this fight.

This fight takes place in a 2D Space, one dimension of movement is removed from your mobility, you can only jump and move right and left. Some people say that this already some variety but I disagree here because of the way the dodge counter works. wether you are left or right barely matters as the dodge counter always homes into the enemy and in the case of Adam and Eve, always stuns them. With that your position barely matters after dodging so the experience remeins mostly the same. I could go more into detail about this, but let’s get back to what I want to talk about here.

This fight is with the exception of the limited movement options the EXACT same than the last phase of the first encounter. Well, maybe not completely the same, after all Adam has pants now… and he gains a grabbing ability, where he dashes forward trying to grab you and a pretty teleport ability with which he can get up and personal with you.

However, these two new abilities change absolutely nothing about the dynamic of the fight. Adam’s behaviour barely changes, and he can get pressured way too easily, as the erection of his shield ceases all movement of him, allowing the player to get close and attack that shield, which in most cases leads to him doing the counter, if that doesn’t happen he just breaks the shield without any consequences whatsover. This pattern is way too effective against a midgame boss like Adam is here at the moment. This gets combined with the problem that every hit of him can trigger the perfect dodge counter, and Adam in is in 99% of the cases getting stunned by it.

Overall, this fight is a very underwhelming encounter against an enemy that was introduced via a mechanic in which he “evolves” throughout the fight, but I’m letting it slide because this isn’t a full committed fight, aka the fight ends after dialogue ends… funfact, playing with 9S I killed him multiple times, but he just casually gains life back as if nothing happened, so you don’t need to fight in that encounter at all.

 

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Third encounter, he wears even more clothes now.

The first phase of the third encounter goes down like the following:

He stands around throwing stuff at you and occasionally teleports to another position when doing that. There isn’t much more to it, except that the hitbox of the attack where puts up a shield which he than launches at you, is a bit weird when you stand right in front of it.

Once again you have to wait till a dialogue is over to let the real start fight… Can i just say that I hate that? I want to play a game, not watch a movie…

And then he falls back into the exact same patterns as in both encounters before. Once again with only 1 or two attacks addded that add nothing to the fight. Ok, I will give him that the Snap Attack, where he suddenly teleports and uses the teleport for an almost snapping attack that comes two times in a row, which can really catch someone off-guard.. if they for some reason don’t use their long-ranged attacks at all

Too easy to pressure, the balance between Aggressor and Defender is too much in favor of the player and Adam becomes just incredibly boring to fight against…

Some of you might wonder why exactly this a problem to me that the fight stays the same. My answer is pretty simple: The player gets better in the game, but Adam doesn’t, he doesn’t evolve with the Player and gets stuck behind which also goes against the concept of Adam “evolving” over time which has been introduced to great effect in the first encounter.

It’s a huge dissappointment in terms of Bossdesign, however…


Suggestion: Making Adam a more interesting boss

“Who does this guy think he is that he actually dares to challenge a Developer on his design philososphies?”

Without a doubt this is going through some of your minds right now, and I don’t want to justify myself. My experience in actual Game Development and Design is an absolute 0, even with my desire to go into that kinda stuff. But the latter is the reason I want to do this, I want to give this a shot, even if it is challenging my favourite game developer out there right now. If that sounds arrogant to you, I can’t do anything about it, but at least give me a fair chance to give suggestions.

Anyway, this will get its own blogpost where I go more indepth because we are already at 8500 words… but here is my suggestion about how to improve Adam as a boss.

First off, I have to reference a video by the Youtube Turbo Button talking enemy design in Bayonetta. The 4 aspects of what make a good enemy according to him are:

 

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If you payed attention in the part part before you might notice which two factors I am criticizing the most about Adam: Aggression and Defense, while the former mainly became a problem thanks to the latter.

I said before that Adam’s first encounter is completely fine as it is, with’s mechanic of letting him evolve, frankly said, the first encounter can stay the exact same.

The same goes for the second encounter as I do not feel like Adam really wanted to show his true nature yet.

However, it is the third and final encounter where this becomes a problem.

One of the biggest issues mentioned is “too easy to pressure” and the fact that the player too easily falls into a pattern.

This is mostly thanks to the Shielding abilities Adam has. He can put up two kinds of shield depending on whether he is pressured via Melee or Long Ranged Combat, that look differently but do the same, at least I do not remember any gameplay difference in what these Shields do to him.

However, putting up the shield completely immobilizes him and ceases any movement and lets him become absolutely passive. When you shoot bullets at the shield he will fire them back at you and when you attack the shield via melee, Adam counters you which also breaks the shield.

The problem is that he raises the shield once he gets pressured… just firing at him with the Pod for a while is enough, and this causes this chain reaction where he becomes predictable, gives the Aggressor role volunteerily to the player and the consequence for attacking the shield remains the same the whole time.

Now let’s focus on exactly that: What do we do with the shield ability?

  1. Do not let the Shield be the only reaction to the Firing, let him also evade once in a while, or let him react aggressively to the constant pressure by suddenly teleporting up to the player as a reaction.
    1. 1. 1 If you want to be really evil you can do this: Let him put up the shield but then he teleports out of the shield and attacks you directly. Situational awareness is put to maximum here as the player might end up looking more at the Shield than at Adam, this also might involve camera work.
  2. Don’t let him become completely passive when the shield is erected. You can do that by what I mentioned in 1. 1. 1 for example or let him attack with abilities that appear outside of the field. Since the shield closely resembles the PodProgramms you can let him attack with the Hammer PodProgram for example.
  3. When the player directly attacks, do NOT let him directly counter that. Instead punish the player by stunning him with the counter (which does NO damage!) which also destroys that shield and let Adam follow up with a normal attack of his. With that the player can’t attack into the shield always awaiting the same result, therefore the pattern doesn’t get too easily readible.
    1. 3. 1 Adam should also be able to break the shield by itself if the players gets too passive. On higher difficulties more likely than on lower ones. Let him clearly telegraph the attack and make a big Area of Effect Attack out of it. Of course it also should be telegraphed somewhat which range that attack has, so having a telegraphing similar to the time-distorting bubble, where the game shows you how much area the abilitiy will cover when preparing that attack, would be ideal.

With that in mind, the issue around the too predictable and easy to perform pattern of that shield should be fixed in my opinion. As I already mentioned this will get a blogpost on its own where I discuss in more details how I would redesign Adam. But for now this should suffice.



 

Adam is the biggest problem child here, but there is also Eve who has some of the weirdest design decisions in this game.

Both Adam and Eve have for most part not the typical telegraphing of the machines, the red glow before the attack only appears during their counters, Eve especially has much more subtle telegraphing on his attacks making him a more formidable enemy than his brother.

However, who was responsible for the idea with the Platforming as well as turning down visibility temporarily during this fight? The telegraphing of some of Eve’s attacks are already very subtle so why make it even harder for the player to see an attack incoming.

There is also the issue with his attacks where he assembles android wrecks on his arms and then swings that giant arm at you. However, those adroids dissolve before he even commences the attack animation for 2 of these, which leads to the awkward situation that you get attacked by something from which you can only assume its range. Just spamming dodge here at random works but it doesn’t feel good…

It is here to mention that the first time I played this fight on Hard, the hitbox of Eve’s attacks were broken, I got hit by attacks that were not anywhere near me, turning it down to Normal than rising it back to Hard fixed that issue and from what I can hear I was the only one having this issue. This is still something I want to mention though.

Then there is the Platforming and… Why exactly? Why is this here? Climbing up some platforms completely takes the energy out of this bossfighs, not to mention that the constant rain of debris Eve throws at you is not very well telegraph as I can not look up, after all I have to look where I jump to…

Adam and Eve are unfortunately representative of the bossfights in Nier. The bosses either fail to be exciting or have some gimmick to them which makes them either even more boring or gives them an ability that royally screws with the player (It’s great when I can’t even fight a boss because he electrecutes the lake he is standing on, or when I have to wait for a shield to be deactivated just so I can actually fight…)

However, with this I want to close out this section. In short: The enemies are fair to fight against but fail to be exciting, even on the higher difficulties and become very stale after a while. The same goes for Bosses with the exception of the Theathre fight. Overall I hope you can understand why I am not happy with the enemies in this game…

Levelling and Difficulty

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Not nice anymore 😦

Levelling is also an issue that can heavily influence your experience in the game, both positive and negative.

Levelling is simple, whenever you defeat enemies or complete Quests, you get experience points, when you have enough of them you gain a Level. With each level you gain an attack boost and additional HP.

Your character is not the only thing that can get leveled. The same goes for your weapons as well as the Pods. You can level each Weapon and Pod by collecting required materials and go to a corresponding shop. Not only does this boost their stats but they also gain a special ability. The Gatling Pod can shoot stronger bullets when you tap the Fire button and can shoot a Clusterbomb when it is being charged by holding the Fire button.

I am not gonna go too indepth here, because we are already at 9800 words.

Then of course there are the enemy levels and here we have a little problem with the Open World Design of Nier Automata.

Sometimes, Sidequests like to throw enemies at you that are far beyond your level, while the next quest has very weak enemies compared to that. The enemy levels are sometimes all over the place, and I believe that is because some quests can be finished a bit too quickly…

To give you an example:

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This guy, Father Servo

The Quest of Father Servo, has the following structure:

You fight him -> He requests materials -> You give him materials -> He dissappears, he reappears after a short while with +10 levels and in a different form -> Start from the be+ginning

When you get the material request, you get an area marked where you can immediately collect those materials if you need them. In pretty much all of those cases however, I ended up already having the materials ready to continue the Quest. After the materials are gone, you leave him.. and a short time after you get the notification that your Quest got updated and he is already back.

And with short I really mean short, I think it only takes 5 minutes at maximum till he comes back and I also believe it has something to do with how far away you are from him..

Anyway, in that short time he gaines 10 levels usually, while you yourself have probably only gained 1 at best in this time, which causes this…

A fight that lasts 9 minutes.. and is honestly boring as hell.

That said, I am not sure if I should criticize this queststructure negatively. It’s applaudable that the game gives you the possibility to fight a way to strong enemy for you, on the other hand this causes inconsistencies in the difficulty. If you are able to overcome very difficult sidequests like these in the state you are, the Main Storyline enemies suddenly becomes a piece of cake, mainly due to their too low level sometimes.

Talking about the enemy levels, it’s the usual stuff. The higher the level the more damage they do and the more HP they have. However, there is also another modification starting from enemies that are 5 levels above you: Their Super-Armour becomes infinite.

This means you can’t stagger them at all anymore with your basic attacks (except the Pod Melee Attack, performed by pressing Fire + Jump at the same time), and you basically can’t combo them at all anymore.

Interesting modification, though I find it a bit unnecessary to really raise that Super-Armour to infinite, after all the damage increase is already enough. I would have preffered if they would just have increased, but not infinite Super Armour, so the combo possibilites would still be there and you get a bit more satisfaction from overcoming these odds.

And since we are at Damage Modifiers…

 

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Difficulty, wohooo!

First off, a bummer: Difficulty is just a damage modifier when it comes to the enemies. On Hard they can kill you with two hits if you are on the same level as them. HOWEVER, if enemies are already 1 to 3 levels above you, they can kill you with one-hit which is the Very Hard Difficulty, where everything kills you in one hit.

The borders between Hard and Very Hard is very damn blurry and I don’t like that. It is also because of that why I find Normal too easy and Hard almost too hard, the gap between these two difficult is very big.

I also would have welcomed a certain mechanic from Bayonetta back in here to make Hard not seem like the Very Hard difficulty when you encounter some overleveled enemies: The 1 HP Save.

With that I mean, if you have more than 1 HP and you get hit by an enemy that would kill you, you instead would survive with only 1 HP left. However, this might conflict with the “Auto Use Healthitem” Chip, which activates almost immediately if you have certain amount of HP left.

There is also another thing that comes up with the difficulties, but this now refers to the player:

  1. Auto-mode on Easy
  2. No Lock-On on Hard and Very Hard

About Auto-Mode… You can equip Chips to your Android and let her do all the fighting for you… I don’t get why you would want to do that, considering that combat is one of the most important elements of the gameplay… but I guess for people who just want to experience the story, this is a fine addition.

The Lock-on is another issue. It misses on Hard and Very Hard. I started the game on Hard and frankly said, it never became a problem, because most enemies are not very agile. Camera Adjustment is very rarily needed and there is only one Enemy, Black Belt Father Servo, who tend to run around you which needs manual camera adjustment thanks to the missing lock-on and this can get annoying.

Some people call the camera in Nier Automata better than in other Platinum titles, but I do not think that is exactly the case. It is just the enemies that usually are not nearly as frantic as in those titles, which makes lock on almost unnecessary in the first place.

 

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Finally, This is also where I need to mention how the failstate of death is handled.

There are mostly no Checkpoints.. I say mostly, sometimes there are and sometimes they aren’t. Most checkpoints happen during events that are vastly disconnected to the Open World. Instead you get the so called “Access Points” where you respawn when you die, if you have saved there and you didn’t pass a checkpoint on the way to your death.

Respawning leaves a Corpse at the place of your death where you can recover your Chips you had equipped at that moment. Or you can repair your corpse and gain an helpful ally. It is also said that this corpse can attack you when you do this, but this never happened to me.

However, Unlike in Dark Souls, where you have a similar mechanic (Hell, the Access Points in Nier are the exact equivalent to the Bonfires in Dark Souls in terms of respawn mechanics), you can’t pick your remains on the fly. You are actually vulnerable and exposed for a few seconds when picking up your corpse, and Nier is far more fast-paced than Dark Souls, so this is a little bit dumb.

Unfortunately (?) the corpse mechanic gets completely scrapped in the second half of the game and gets replaced by the usual “Game Over” screen. This happens due to story reasons, but I think there could have been several work arounds. Not to spoil anything, but… don’t they have reserves down there?


 

Open World Design

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2B is floating in this picture…

The Open World of Nier Automata is pretty good. We have lots of optical different areas that also have their own design. While the Deserted City is pretty open with buildings inbetween that mostly can not be entered unfortunately, but with a lot of verticality aka you can go on the roof of a lot of buildings and explore from there, the Desert is a very fast open area that obstructs you with Sandstorm to cover the invisible walls if you approach them. Creative, but not exactly less annoying to be honest.

The differences are quite visible and gives a lot of variety to the world, not only visually but also designwise.. even if it is weird, how there is a huge desert area almost right next to a City with flourishing Fauna and the coast.

Oh what also should be mentioned: No loading times inbetween those areas, very good.

What is also very nice is how every area has their own story to it, they mostly are disconnected to the main story, the Forest Kingdom especially, but it gives each area its own identity which is not something I see often in Open Worlds. And this is the only real point of narrative you will get in this article.

Throughout the Open World, Access Points are scattered. The distance between them are never too big and can be covered relatively quickly. And thank god, Quick Travelling between Access Points gets introduced after a while, because the Open World isn’t exactly dense. There are secrets scattared throughout, but there is quite some backtracking involved in the game so travelling on foot between the areas can get quite tiring after a while, especially in the Grand Desert.

Other than that there isn’t much to say, Nier Automata’s Open world is good, but most definetely not the greatest one ever.


Player Progression

The last big topic I want to talk about is the Player Progression through Story and Sidequests.

The game is cut in two halfs. Your first two playthroughs take place in the first half of the game, and you get Ending A and B, although they aren’t exactly Endings, but more like.. Checkpoints of the story in a way, Chapter Endings more than real endings.

The problem here is that you have to go twice through the first half, just with the twist that the second playthrough is from the perspective of another character.

And dear god, why? Why not introduce a mechanic that lets you switch between 9S and 2B on the fly? And during the story segments where they are seperate, why not give me the choice to either go with 9S or 2B? To be fair, like that the introduction of the Hacking Mechanic during the Simone Bossfight would have no been so damn cool if it was like that, but that’s also the only real benefit of forcing the player to play through the first half again. It worked for the second half as well, so why not here?

The Second Half let’s you play as A2 or 9S, both operating seperately. Before you begin a section, you get asked “Play with A2 or 9S”? You get both experiences either way, no matter which one you choose first. So here the different perspectives are handled pretty well…

After you finish the actual game for the first time (aka ending C/D/E) you also unlock Debug Mode.

20170502214023_1.jpg
Debug mode is something everygame should shave.. just not like this.

Debug Mode is a giant dissappointment, you can’t manipulate the environment enough and you can’t spawn bosses. To fight Adam and Eve at the same time which I wanted to try, I have to buy a fucking DLC, fan-fucking-tastic.

On a serious note, I really approve that Debug Mode exists, but next time, please give it more options especially in terms of enemy spawns. But at least you can make yourself invisible and do this…

In terms of sidequests, I already mentioned that some sidequests can be finished a bit too quickly causing inconsistencies in difficulty thanks to the levelling system of the game.

Consequential, Main Quests tend to be way too easy, especially for someone like me who just likes completing stuff and turning up the difficulty higher would be a little bit sad for me cause I do not like getting killed just because of a single mistake in a fight.

 

And with that I will also end this part.. Overall, it is fine, but the forced second playthrough of the first half is really a bit stupid, because you could have worked around it in many ways…

 

 

Conclusion:

Did I like Nier Automata Gameplay? Overall, yes. The combat is fun to experiment around with thanks Weapon variety and the Chipstystem. However, the enemies unfortunately are a huge dent in the Gameplay of Automata, especially the bosses dissappoint and fail to be exciting and enemy levels are all over the place. The forced second playthrough through the first half is unnecessary and the Prologue is kind of really really screwed up.

With all that in mind, I can only call Nier Automata’s Gameplay “good”, but nothing else. To put it in numbers, the Gameplay would only get a 6.5/10 in terms of enjoyment.

If I were to include story and characters, which I have not talked about here, I could raise the score to a good 7/10 but this is really the best this game can have from me.




Closure

Boy oh Boy, what a monster of an article. The total word count is 11830 for the whole Analysis excluding the Closure. If you are a fan of the game, you might want to ask me the one or another question. You can do that in the comments but there is one question I KNOW which will come up..

“What about the story?”

Yeah, what about the story? Well, the title of this article already says that this is a Gameplay Analysis, not really a Review as a whole, but it is also here to mention that I value gameplay much more than story. For me a story must support the gameplay, not the other way around and in case of Nier Automata, the story just lost more and more relevance to me as the gameplay part just kept on dissappointing me. For a whole a story analysis.. look up something or someone else, this is the wrong blog for you.

Then, why is the title like this? “It’s not as perfect as I wanted it to be”. I have to confess here that I went with wrong expectations into the game. We have Yoko Taro and Platinum Games here, two giants in their respective area. I went into the game with an attitude “Yeah, this is going to be so good, a perfect synergy between gameplay and narrative, best of both worlds!”. Then the prologue showed that we do not have that at all… then the forced second playthrough and and and… Especially Platinum’s Qualities were not played out all too well here and while I am happy for the Yoko Taro fan’s that they finally get a game which’s gameplay is a lot better than in other Taro games so far… as a Platinum Fan, I am really not happy at the end with what Nier Automata is.

So what now? Platinum has a new IP in the works, Scalebound got cancelled and they also have some Granblue Fantasy game in the making that I am absolutely not interested in. If Platinum ends up making mainly Action-RPG’s because of Automatas Sales, I’m going to be quite sad… not every game needs to be a technical hack’n’slash, but I at least expect a very refined and precise gameplay with lots of depth and a challenging, fair and fun gameplay system, this is what makes Platinum Games for me.. and Nier Automata lacks at least 3 of these factors.

In the end… I hope Platinum next IP is not going to be as unrefined as Automata was. I made the bet with a friend that if it is going to be something resembling Zone of The Enders he is going to film himself doing the chicken dance. I just wanna archive this here…

 

And with that, it is time to finally close this out… I am going to release a concept for a technically complex third person action game in my next article OR I am doing the Adam Redesign. Also, in planning: A Bayonetta Combat Analysis.

See ya, bye bye then~

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