Nier: Automata – Conflicting Game Design

Introduction

Recently, I’ve beaten the game Nier: Automata. If you’d like to buy the game check it out here: Nier: Automata – PlayStation 4.While playing I noticed that the game applies the less is more principle to the game’s design through the mechanics and world to create a great experience. Although, the mechanics could be seen as a conflicting mesh of genres — that work out so well.

Game’s Mechanics

Nier: Automata has three core gameplay mechanics. The combat, bullet-hell(Danmaku games) and camera work. Now, there are other RPG systems, but these are the ones you’ll interact with most. The first one to mention is combat.

Combat

The combat system is a hack-n-slash style created by the company Platinum Games. Platinum Games is known for their strong rewarding combat system that focuses on over-the-top fast paced movement with dodging key abilities from your enemy; Bayonetta is an example of their combat system. Now, the best part about the combat is the depth. The combat has two core parts: dodging and attacking. Dodging in this game allows the player to dodge damage, but if they dodge perfectly, they can perform different counters by hitting a face button. Attacking is combo heavy, allowing players to focus on light and heavy attacks to deal damage with their four main weapon types (short sword, great sword, spear, and fist weapons). Unlike most combat systems in action RPGs, the system allows players to creative if they want with weapon combo strings against enemies while weaving in and out with well-timed dodges. This system rewards the player by showcasing mastery over the combat system by not getting hit at all while dishing out as much punishment as they want. Here’s an example below.

Danmaku/Bullet Hell

Now, the original Nier had a bullet-hell mechanics in the game allow it to be unique as an action RPG. Bullet-hell games resemble arcade shooters except, the enemies fire small bullets in patterns or shapes at the player, that create patterns on the screen. In Nier: Automata this mechanic returns; the regular combat has bullets flying at the player along with the melee attacks to add another layer of depth to the combat system. Now, this mechanic is fundamental as the basis for other gameplay components. It’s used both in an arcade shooter type levels and a “hacking” mini-game that appear frequently. As a result, the mechanic never seems “throw away”. The clever use of the camera really exemplifies the gameplay.

Camera

The camera is a core part of the gameplay experience; Nier: Automata makes the point clear. By moving the camera to a different perspective, how you interact with the game changes drastically. Going from a 3D game to a 2D platformer, and then to a top-down shoot-em-up keeps the gameplay fresh. By controlling camera perspective, you can add a lot to your gameplay to create a cohesive game. All of these blend together in the story.

Open World

Nier: Automata’s open world is quite small. There are the main city area and 3-5 other zones. Now for most, this might seem like a hindrance to exploration, but instead, it narrows the focus. The player won’t feel the world is empty; the world is packed with NPCs where it needs to be. This allows the devs to focus on more content within the defined space. As a player, large worlds can end up feeling empty, but Nier makes use of every setting. Now, to offset the backtracking — fast travel is included in the game; this keeps the player engaged since fast travel maintains the pace. Furthermore, it’s a plot point in the story. In the case of Nier: Automata, the open-world acts like a sandbox to exemplify the core game mechanics and set the stage for the story.

Story

The story in Nier: Automata comes from the creative mind of Yoko Taro. Nier: Automata focuses on a war between alien controlled machines and androids tasked with reclaiming the earth for mankind. The story goes deeper than that, but the key is that the game mechanics serve the story in every way possible. Because most characters in-game are machines, hacking is used often during the story. And, when you can’t hack you still have a large array of mechanics within the combat system because Nier: Automata rarely takes you out of the action for long. The camera movement really brings the package together, and each game mechanic is used often, or at least enough for none of them to feel burdensome or expendable. Which, I think become a core principle of creating a cohesive game like Nier: Automata.

A Cohesive Game

A cohesive game uses all the core mechanics. The core mechanics of the game don’t need to be a lengthy feature list. The important part is that they create the necessary content for your game. For example, your game’s core mechanic is platforming with strong puzzle segments? Then focus on building upon those mechanics will create a more fun and cohesive game.

Nier: Automata is a wonderful game with levels of depth to it and replayability. If you like the game check it out here: Nier: Automata – PlayStation 4. I hope you all take a look at the game yourself and take away something from it.

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