Burning up the sales charts in Japan last month NieR Automata was released in the west on the PS4 earlier this week and is due out on PC later this month. NieR is the latest role playing game from Square Enix and Platinum Games. NieR’s commercial success in the East is a nice change of pace for Platinum Games which has taken a beating lately due to their missteps with recent titles Star Fox Zero, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan, and the cancellation of high profile Microsoft exclusive Scalebound. This is our NieR review in progress.
NieR looks like it can provide the course correction Platinum needs. Blending action, role playing, and twin stick shooter elements NieR innovates in some creative ways. The world looks interesting in its post apocalyptic drab from the opening. It’s hard to say anything looks beautiful on the PS4 after releasing so close on the heels of Horizon: Zero Dawn. And yes, I did say NieR incorporates twin stick shooter. This a call back to the aerial combat stages from Drakengard.
When your first dropped into the world you’ll command your airship as B2 and fend off waves of attacking enemies while you try to establish a beachhead for your small force. Things go wrong, as they are want to do in games, and you’ll exit your ship and progress on foot. When you are on foot the game will play more like a traditional action role playing game. Early enemies are a variety of robots ranging from the small to the fantastically large. The final boss of the first stage is the size of a city unto itself, and turns out this behemoth isn’t unique.
Adding twin stick shooting to an action RPG isn’t the only innovation NieR has on display. It also has a variety of difficulty modes ranging from so hard you die if you are hit once, to so easy the game literally plays itself. There are also two difficulties in between. As you progress through the game you’ll create loadouts for yourself based upon chips you collect. In the easiest modes you can set these chips to automatic and all you have to do is move and the AI takes care of attacking and defending for you.
Even when not in ship mode combat is fast and frenetic. B2 with her two swords and her robot companion Pod laying down a stream of fire. Adding to the sense of adventure is the camera shifting from a third person over the shoulder to side scroller to a top down perspective. These different views typically give you a good view of the action and keep the camera from becoming stale. I did notice a few issues where enemies could be hidden by obstacles in the top down mode but you could usually find them easily enough since they would be shooting at you. Not good if you were in the hardest mode but not game breaking if you are on normal or easy mode. You’ll also encounter platform puzzles and quests in true RPG fashion.
Another throwback present in NieR is the lack of automatic saves. The first time I played I spent about 45 minutes and died on the boss of the first stage. That was game over. No continue, no reload, the game ended. The end roll credits ran and I received a grade of W. As you progress you will find save points, make sure you use them. At this point I took advantage of the AI and it was more fun than I expected. You’ll also encounter a multitude of endings depending on how you finish the game. Some as it turns out as quick as a few minutes in.
Will the fun hold up over the length of the narrative? That’s what I aim to find out this week, and we’ll post our final review next week. For now, it might be safe to believe the hype.