So as you may have seen, the Nier Automata demo is now up for download on the PSN. I hadn’t actually played the original Nier, but spurred on by the assurances of fellow gamers that it was a really cool game, I downloaded the demo. It’s weirdly short, as a warning, clocking in at around half an hour or forty minutes, which is both good and bad.
The level and character design first off, are gorgeous. This is artsy, this is weird, and this game is throwing up every flag saying “COME AND BUY ME!” because God only knows we need some originality this console gen. It reminds me of the strange JRPGs you’d find squirrelled away on the PS3 – gothic, mixed with a little bit of mecha, and a hefty dose of straight up “what the hell.”
I mean, look at it. Weirdly sexualised blindfolded androids called 2B and 9S. The world has apparently fallen into some apocalyptic hell where machines are alive and sentient, plus old construction equipment and metal girders are determined to rip you apart. If that’s not weird enough, you’re exploring an abandoned factory where “toys,” that are smaller androids, looking a bit like Tonberries, are throwing spiky balls of red light at you. And your sexy female android is accompanied by another little one, following her about.
Are you confused yet? Because I sure was.
For some reason, I’m getting Dark Souls vibes off this – the lore and story are steadily dripped in, and the combat feels pretty close, a frantic dodge and swipe at the enemy every time they come within range, spamming Square and R1 in the mean time to try and knock a few points of damage off. I’m hoping there’s a few more features in the main game, however, because there’s literally only four commands in the whole demo – jump, slash with sword, tell the little android to fire, and dash.
And whilst the combat is wonderfully smooth and has some strange choices for camera angles at times (why on earth would a top down fight where it’s very hard to orient yourself be a good idea?) it needs to be a little more fleshed out for me to be excited about it.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s lovely and fluid, very quick and a lot of fun to play, but often confusing. Sometimes 2B’s sword will fly out to hit the enemy, sometimes it won’t, and with the aforementioned top down view, it’s hard to figure out exactly which way you’re facing. Then when the spiky red balls of death come out to play, you’re in for a bad time.
So, what do I think? I think it’s a damn good idea. I think it’s got a lot of potential, and I think it’s the kind of creativity the gaming industry needs. I reckon Nier Automata is going to go either one of two ways; mindblowingly amazing and I’ll worship it forever, or it’s going to be weird, artsy, and hipster, trying far too hard to be deep and meaningful when it really isn’t.
I guess we’ll find out March 7 (NA) and March 10 (EU) on PC and PS4.