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How Square Enix committed to its most eccentric game in years.
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Eccentric mask-wearing Nier director Yoko Taro may have put the final nail in the coffin for developer Cavia as Nier sales were too poor to keep the company at bay, but that didn't stop Taro from somehow getting a bigger budget sequel greenlit through Square Enix with PlatinumGames (Bayonetta, Vanquish) on developing duties. Amazingly, this offbeat sequel to a game few played was so successful that it saved the acclaimed action game studio.
Hot on the heels of Ariana Grande's star turn in Final Fantasy Brave Exvius comes the mobile hit's latest crossover: Nier: Automata.
Nier: Automata is an absolutely splendid game full of mystery, suspense, wonder and whimsy. It's also got a host of bizarre technical problems on PC.
Many assumed these fixes would be ironed out in the weeks following the game's 17th March launch on Steam. Yet nearly four months later, there hasn't been a single official fix to the game.
Fans on Reddit have been understandably frustrated by the lack of updates, despite the game selling over half a million copies on Steam.
Gravity Rush 2 will soon let you dress up physics-manipulating heroine Kat as Nier: Automata star 2B.
UPDATE 25/04/2017 5.12pm: Nier: Automata's DLC first DLC add-on, 3C3C1D119440927, is set for release next Tuesday, 2nd May, on PS4 and Steam.
Nier: Automata has breached the one million mark in sales, publisher Square Enix has announced.
This combines both physical and digital sales worldwide on PS4 and PC.
These figures are almost definitely an improvement over the original Nier, though sales figures for that remain iffy. It reportedly sold about 134k copies in Japan in its first seven months, whereas Nier: Automata managed 198,542 on PS4 alone during its launch week in Japan.
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Nier: Automata's PC port was panned for its performance, among other issues, by our tech experts at Digital Foundry, yet a resilient fan has come through and released their own mod that smooths out many of this version's most central problems.
The mod, created by Steam user Kaldaien, fixes an issue in which the game would display the wrong resolution. In the official release a glitch would cause the 1080p resolution to display at 900p then stretch it to 1080p. This mod fixes that, so you can enjoy Platinum Games' latest opus in all its visual splendor.
Another flaw in the official release was the framerate, which would frequently drop to under 60fps even on very powerful rigs. Kaldaien's mod optimises this too.
Widely acclaimed when it launched - receiving a Eurogamer Recommended no less - it's the PC version of Platinum Games' latest title that we'd been waiting for. Even running with the raw power of PS4 Pro, resolution is limited to 1080p, but more worryingly are the frequent glitches and stutters - especially prevalent during the game's more open areas. Our hope was that the PC version could power past these limitations - but alas, it's not to be. And on top of that, some wobbly conversion work introduces new issues, some of which we can't believe we're seeing.
It's no secret that I love Nier: Automata. Yoko Taro and Platinum Games' peculiar action-RPG surprised and delighted me in ways few games have, though it's not without its faults. One of my biggest gripes with the game was its difficulty level, frequently punishing Hard mode players with one-hit kills, lest they do a lot of grinding or passively pummeling enemies with bullets from afar (yawn). The game's Very Hard mode is even more insane, resulting in an instant death from a single blow, even if it's a slap on the wrist from a low-level minion. And yet, people have found ways of besting its biggest baddies on Very Hard mode. Some even instill further challenges on themselves just to make the game harder.
[Note: This piece contains many spoilers for Nier: Automata's structure and mechanics, though plot spoilers are kept to a minimum. There are still some though, so if you're already a Nier convert and know you're going to play Automata beyond the credits, you may want to avert your eyes.]
Yoko Taro is a strange and brilliant man.
If there was ever a game that didn't need a sequel it's Nier. The cult classic sci-fi fantasy fever dream by masked madman Yoko Taro did a lot to endear its niche but dedicated audience. Its peculiar blend of open-world adventure, hack-and-slash combat, and bullet hell shmups supplanted into a strange and harrowing world that refused to conform to usual sci-fi fantasy tropes was among the most audacious and surprising retail releases in ages. Yet as much as I adored Nier, it felt like a complete story. It had a beginning, middle and end. Then another end. And another.
It wasn't the most technically accomplished game, but its hodgepodge of influences blended together to make something wholly original. There's never been anything like it since. Until now.
The question, of course, is whether Taro would be able to make lighting strike twice. His follow-up to Nier, Drakengard 3, was a fascinating failure; a game with tremendous ideas and abysmal execution. With Bayonetta and Vanquish studio Platinum Games certainly there's promise of a more polished product (or at least a more refined combat system), but the concern remained that it might come at a cost. Would this big(ish) budget sequel to an aggressively off-kilter curio be too dumbed down? Too safe?
UPDATE 22/02/2017 4pm: Nier: Automata is out on the Japanese PlayStation Network and not only does it have English subtitles, its voice-acting is in English as well.
Even stranger, this is the default setting, so you don't even need to navigate any Japanese menus to alter its language options.
ORIGINAL STORY 21/02/2017 8.47pm: Nier: Automata won't reach European shores until 10th March, but its Japanese version is out tomorrow on PS4 and it will have English subtitles.
Nier: Automata's Steam release has been confirmed for 10th March in the following trailer (via Gematsu):
That's the same day it's coming out on PS4 in the UK and Europe, though three days later than its 7th March North American launch.
Bear in mind that the Steam version is digital-only, so pre-orders won't include the Nier: Automata T-shirt director Yoko Taro is nonsensically blathering on about in a very strange ad.
Nier: Automata director Yoko Taro has released a bananas video encouraging people to pre-order Platinum Games' upcoming sci-fi adventure.
29 minutes of new Nier: Automata gameplay have been revealed ahead of its 7th March release date.
As shown by PlayStation Underground, we can get a better sense of the scope of Nier: Automata's overworld, not immediately obvious from the linear dungeon demo on PSN. There are towns, shops, platforming, exploration and fishing, just as one would expect from playing the original Nier.
One new mechanic in Nier: Automata takes a page from Dark Souls in which players can retrieve the gear of their past self, should they make it to the spot where they last fell. Since you play as an android, dying merely transfers your memory and data into another body. Find your previously fallen vessel and you can retrieve it for a bonus. Or you can try to repair it. Successfully doing so means it can help you in battle, but an unsuccessful repair will corrupt it, making your previous body turn hostile towards you. Defeat your former self and gain a bonus.
A pretty weighty demo for Nier: Automata is available to download now on the PlayStation store. It's quite a generous chunk of the game to be honest, taking around half an hour to complete - or maybe a bit less if you're super-skilled.
I'll take this opportunity to stress that I am not super-skilled; truth be told I am neither very experienced nor especially competent with action RPGs. When we were given the chance to play the demo in advance, however, I was the only one who could make it, so you've got my gameplay. Sorry about that.
All in all though, I found Nier: Automata quite fun to play. It's fairly easy to keep track of everything that's happening on-screen, while the customisation options seem comprehensive enough to suit most players. You can watch 23 minutes of gameplay in the video below - I've snipped off the final minute or so in order to avoid spoiling the ending.
NieR: Automata, Platinum Games' sequel to Square Enix's delightfully bonkers action-adventure Nier, is getting a PS4 demo on 22nd December.
NieR: Automata is coming to PS4 on 7th March, Sony announced at its PlayStation Experience keynote today.
The game is also coming to PC, though it's unclear if it will have the same release date there.
As seen on the PlayStation Twitter, the game's Day One Edition comes with six exclusive cosmetic skins.
Platinum Games' Nier spin-off Nier: Automata received some new gameplay videos via a TGS stream over the weekend.
As you can see below, the developer shows off how this sequel will retain the original Nier's penchant for camera gymnastics transforming the typical third-person hack-and-slash combat into side-on or top-down arcade affairs.
It also looks about a dozen times faster than the original Nier with your character constantly blasting a string of bullets into wayward robots while otherwise dashing and slicing the mechanical monstrosities.
NieR: Automata, Platinum Games' sequel to Cavia's cult classic action-RPG Nier, will be coming to Steam along with PS4 upon its release early next year, Square Enix has announced.
UPDATE 23/06/2015 2.30am: We have unearthed an additional 15 minutes of gameplay footage from NieR: Automata.
Captured on a stream by YouTuber Arnots HD Gaming, series director Taro Yoko walks us through a little of how the combat and game design works. It's confirmed that players can only control one character at a time, though there will be certain sections of the game where you take control of other characters. It depends on what's going on with the story.
Furthermore, we're told that nearly every enemy will have the same spherical head resembling Emil's iconic grinning skull. However, their head won't always be above their shoulders. In one case demonstrated toward the end of this video, an enemy robot has a head tucked away in their crotch. (Look around the 10:06 mark.)
It was, in its own way, the biggest surprise of this year's E3. In a year when we got the announcements of Shenmue 3, the remake of Final Fantasy 7 and the return of The Last Guardian, that's not bad going. No-one outside of Square Enix could have predicted that, five years after the original's middling reception played a part in the closure of developer Cavia, Nier was to get a sequel.
Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised. Nier was always great at wrong footing people.
"The first game, it wasn't necessarily a massive success," admits Square Enix producer Yosuke Saito, a member of the original team who's returning for the sequel. "But we really did want to make a sequel right from the start, we'd always have liked to have done that. Unless we could get together a team and it makes sense business wise anyway then we really couldn't do it anyway."
A lot of classics follow the same story: a brilliant artist creates a piece of work, critics don't think much of it, it's a commercial failure, then, many years later, it takes on a cult following. This was the case with Moby Dick. It was the case with Blade Runner. It was the case with Abbey Road. But we don't see this so often in games. If something comes out and gets mediocre reviews then sells poorly, it all but disappears and is relegated to clearance bins, destined to quickly fade from memory. Nier is an exception.