I’ve played through the NieR: Automata demo 3 or 4 times now (once on Hard with no weapons, even) and I’m still not sure I love it. I don’t usually enjoy Platinum Games’ releases but I love the ultra-weird anime universe of NieR and especially its soundtrack. The music is very much in place for Automata but that was a given since the first teaser where original composer Keiichi Okabe was confirmed for the sequel.
The combat gameplay seems dense and involved — expanding on NieR’s penchant for turning into a shmup — but it’s hard to tell with only 3 weapon choices in the demo. All of the weapons have upgrade levels that will expand in the full game but even on the Hard difficulty it was pretty easy to button mash through fights. Simply holding the Square button initiates an automatic (and elaborate) 4-hit combo animation but it doesn’t feel especially rewarding without working for it. Dodging attacks is super simple as every enemy telegraphs their intent with flashing red eyes and the window for the counter is super wide. Hopefully the final game is a little more nuanced as the team has shown in a few different livestreams.
One intriguing element that I only found by digging into the menus is the Plug-in Chip system. It’s basically a system of passive skills but all of the UI interface options are in the list. I can imagine trying to squeeze in a powerful buff and disabling, say, health bars or the mini-map to make it fit. Your OS Chip is also in the list and I can confirm the game definitely ends if you remove that critical system. You also pick up a ton of crafting materials in the demo that you can’t do anything with and unlock shortcuts to previous areas implying that we’ll be running through these maps multiple times.
I came out of the demo more looking forward to the features I couldn’t actually put my hands on than the gameplay that was there. I’m still undecided but I recorded a brief playthrough without commentary for anyone else interested in the game. Of course, you can try it yourself for free by grabbing the demo from the PlayStation Store. Let me know what you think if you do check it out.