On paper, Nier sounds like a strange game. It’s an action RPG where the player controls the titular protagonist who is on a quest to cure his daughter Yonah from a disease called Black Scrawl and takes place 1312 years after the year 2049. Nier is accompanied by a talking floating book known as Grimoire Weiss, “female” warrior Kaine with a mouth that could make a sailor blush, and Emil, who has something in common with gorgons and ends up looking like something retrieved from the nether regions of Tim Burton’s mind. This game is actually about as weird as it sounds, but that is part of the charm that has made the title nier and dier to many gamers. The emotional story, memorable characters, humorous dialog and fantastic soundtrack have made it a cult hit among action RPG fans, and because of this there is a certain level of excitement over the upcoming Nier: Automata, which recently received a playable demo.
The demo for Nier: Automata follows two androids, 2B and 9S, inside of a massive abandoned weapons factory that is now run by machines. The player takes control of 2B as she (do androids have genders?) travels through this factory on a mission to take out a Goliath-class weapon. Immediately upon playing this demo the familiarity of its predecessor is apparent. 2B has a floating mechanical companion that can provide fire power assistance as she battles the robotic enemies as they shoot the familiar orb projectiles. Nier was no slouch with a sword, but watching 2B in melee combat is truly a thing of beauty as she is able to dispatch her enemies by using her blades with the finesse of a ballerina trained by ninjas. The explosive action on screen is accompanied by a beautiful choral infused soundtrack, which was one of the more memorable aspects of the original.
The world of Nier: Automata appears to be more technologically advanced than its predecessor. This shouldn’t be too surprising as this title takes place 9929 years into the future, though things appear to have fallen into disrepair since the last time players got to visit this world. Instead of a wise cracking spell book 2B has a floating gun turret. The NPC android that assists 2B during her mission, 9S, has a pretty sweet flying apparatus that is equipped for battle. Humans are no longer on Earth, and the androids left behind are at war. The factory where the demo takes place is enormous, and is completely overrun by hostile machines.
The gameplay of Nier: Automata is very similar to Nier. The bulk of the demo plays like a beat ’em up action RPG, where 2B has a strong and weak attack that she can string together in combos and can jump and dodge, all while using the right bumper to provide support fire from her floating gun turret. Platforming is thrown into the mix, though nothing really too elaborate was encountered. There is a section of aerial combat that was actually quite fun and added some variety, and the scale of the enormous enemy that was fought in this dogfight fashion was an impressive spectacle to behold. While this was a sudden shift in play style the transition was seamless, suggesting that the execution of incorporating multiple game genres is improved this time around. The battle controls in Nier: Automata make combat as enjoyable to control as it is to watch.
The demo for Nier: Automata is contained to the mission inside the factory and took about an hour to complete, though 45 minutes is probably more accurate if the player isn’t constantly taking screenshots. During the demo 2B has only one companion that only communicates with her a few times. The humorous bickering among NPCs in Nier was something enjoyable about that game, but I must stress that just because it was absent in the demo does not mean anything regarding its absence or inclusion in the final game, though it would be disappointing if we do not get anything comparable to Grimoire Weiss and Kaine going back and forth. Nier is a personal favorite from the previous console generation, but looking at it objectively, it did have a few rough edges. A game cannot be judged on a single level demo, but the content of the demo indicates that Nier: Automata will present a world that is different from its predecessor but will retain its essence but with more refinement. The odd motif of covered eyes seems like it will be more prominent, and the graphics look to be of a much higher relative quality than the original. The overall soundtrack cannot be judged based on a single level, but what was included in the demo sounded like the natural progression of its predecessor’s score. So nier, far, wherever you are, if you were a fan of Nier, this demo indicates that we can be optimistic about the upcoming sequel.