Nier: Automata demo gives an exciting and promising taste of what’s to come
Nier: Automata is still a little way off, due to release on the 7th march, however a demo has been made available recently to try out a small section of the game so players can finally try out the quirky RPG action the game has been presenting to us in videos and screenshots over the past few months.
First off, I’d like to say good on Platinum Games for providing a demo at all, let alone this early on. It’s a good opportunity for A: them to showcase the progress they’ve made in an area of their game, and B: for us to actually see whether we like it – I know that’s a bit of an obvious explanation, but single player demos seem to be more of a thing of the past for some reason, only a few opting to provide that testing experience.
And while the demo isn’t quite as all-encompassing of the experience we are being promised as you may have liked (it’s a decidedly linear demo, so there’s no look at how the game plays as an RPG experience) it does a good job of presenting its combat, and there’s a fair amount of time to try it out (lasting roughly 20 minutes).
The demo plonks us (or more accurately throws us, as literally the first scene sees our character hurtling through a wall), an android tasked with fighting alien invaders who have taken Earth, on what appears to be a massive factory site. Our task being to search for a weapon that is being created here by the enemy, and of course destroy it.
We’re immediately faced by a wave of robot enemies, given no more than a practical on-screen hint as to how to use our weapons, before being unleashed to hack and slash our metal foes into oblivion. That’s probably the best way of describing Nier’s combat system – hack and slash. It’s very reminiscent of other cheesy action game Metal Gear Rising which features similar fast paced combo sword action, particularly with how you sprint around the arena.
There’s a small selection of combos available to you as you switch between light attacks, heavy attacks, jumping in the air, dashing and so forth. You even have a little robot that fires a steady stream of bullets, whittling away at enemies’ health bars. Particular useful, it seems, for when we run into our first ‘boss’ encounter but a few minutes later.
A giant mechanical arm with a rotating grinder bursts through the wall and goes straight for us. We can lock onto the arm and continuously shoot as we run around getting used to the machine’s attack patterns. When the arm ceases it’s attack we can dash forward and get in a few slashes with our sword before dashing back out and doing it all again. The attack pattern/boss fight formula is a very familiar one, however it’s still an exhilarating confrontation. Also you’ll have multiple of these encounters throughout – the last being a full on boss battle to conclude the level.
The combat is so fluid and visceral, with enemies staggering at your attacks and then exploding on death, and it creates a very satisfying experience – one that will most likely benefit from the range of difficulty option available to you at the start.
After the giant arm we proceed outside, revealing this vast site filled with factory buildings and shipping containers. I must say, some of the early footage of the game concerned me about Nier’s visuals – with them looking a bit dated, poor textures and so on – however, the lighting and oddly colourful scenery is the first thing to strike me. I say ‘oddly’ because it’s not exactly a vast green land filled with flowers and snowy mountains in the distance, it’s a brown concrete environment slapped next to an empty ocean, but out of that the rusted brown and scorching sun has actually been made to look pretty good. It’s still nothing to shout home about – the textures leave a lot to be desired – but it’s certainly better than I had anticipated, leaving me excited to see some of the other environments (deserts, cities overgrown with vegetation, and so on).
We continue on through the site battling smaller foes – quickly realising the demo is a rather linear one (it is very much a case of follow the path and kill whatever tries to stop you). There’s currently no interaction with any of the RPG mechanics, however looking at the menu you can see the skills section, item and weapon lists, and hints of a levelling system, so it’s all definitely there – it’s just a matter of ‘to what extent’.
There’s a small variety of enemy types faced throughout the level which require different tactics in order to defeat. Some stick to their position and fire at you, pushing you to press the attack, dodging as you do; some will come straight for you, charging their attack before unleashing a flurry; and there’s also a shielded enemy that is initially immune to your robot friend’s bullets, forcing you to destroy the shield with your sword or flank them from behind. It bodes well to see even this little variety in a short demo – hopefully there will be plenty more interesting foes to face in the full game.
The final part of the demo, and certainly the most dramatic, sees this ‘weapon’ we’ve been looking for reveal itself. Turning out to be a gigantic machine/platform that rises out of the sea, we’re chased across a collapsing bridge, stopping briefly to deal with the machine’s arms in similar fashion to previously in the demo. When we face the Goliath head on, however, it becomes apparent our attacks aren’t doing enough damage, which is when another android pal turns up in a mech suit to help us out. Long story short, we end up taking on the boss ourselves in this mech, thrusting us into a sort of bullet hell shoot out. In delightfully OTT fashion, we end up ripping off the Goliath’s arms and using them to bash it to death. There’s a bit of an unfortunate surprise when the demo comes to an end, but I’ll leave that for you to discover if you play it.
Honestly, the demo has really enthused me about the game’s upcoming release. We’ve still yet to get our hands on any RPG mechanics, so it will be interesting to see what happens there – how will these linear levels fit in to the overall experience and so on. But the combat is fast paced and incredible fun – at the very least we’ve got the makings of a good action title on our hands. If you’re looking forward to the game’s release at the beginning of March then I’d recommend trying out the demo for yourself, which is still available on PSN. Otherwise, we’ll keep you up to date on any interesting new information. You can look forward to Nier: Automata releasing on PS4 and PC on the 7th March.