It is likely that you are reading this after having never played the original NieR that was released nearly seven years ago. Even if you have, NieR: Automata is vastly different than the first game in several different ways. While amazing yet strange occurrences like switching from a third-person action RPG to a top-down schmup (shoot ‘em up) in an instant are still here, controls and gameplay are remixed with PlatinumGames' signature fast and furious flair.
This makes NieR: Automata a fresh experience for everyone playing it, without even mentioning the challenging difficulty of the game. Automata, also, doesn’t explain a lot of its elements, leaving some mechanics deep in the menus and others for you to simply figure out on your own.
With that, here are five of our tips to get you started.
1. Dash, And Dash Some More
As soon as the game begins, you are free to run around and fight enemies to your heart’s content. Almost immediately, the game lets you know that you have access to a dash mechanic, mapped to R2. Dash is pretty self-explanatory, causing 2B to leap a few feet ahead instantly. However, there is surprisingly a lot of depth to be found from this singular and necessary ability.
Dash is not just useful for quickly traversing across areas, but basically required in battles, especially in the case of bosses. Lacking a dedicated parry or block button, dashing is your best bet when it comes to dodging enemy attacks. The game even knows this, evident in how 2B phases out of the attack when timed perfectly. This opens you up to attack and gain a crucial counterattack.
Countering right after a perfect dash throws you and your opponent up in the air for a few seconds, giving you some valuable time to whack away as you please while your enemy is completely vulnerable and unable to fight back. Considering there will be many fights with hulking, giant machines that can squish in a single blow and side quests where you have to defeat enemies without being hit once, this is a crucial component that is worth practicing from the start.
Outside of combat, there is a way to non-stop dash across the map without having to press the trigger over and over. By just barely pressing down on the trigger ever so slightly, 2B will dash and dash until you let go or press down too hard. Whether intentional or just a small glitch that passed under PlatinumGames’ nose, it is a quick and easy way to travel.
2. Online Besties
Once the game world opens up, you get the option to turn on or off the online portion of the game. It is recommended that you turn it on immediately, as it is a pretty useful mechanic that can make the game just a tad bit easier for you. Much like Dark Souls’ online functionality, playing online in NieR: Automata allows you to see other players’ dead bodies throughout the world at the spot of their death.
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Again, similar to the Souls series, seeing one or two dead players is helpful in warning you of dangers ahead when exploring unfamiliar areas of the map. However, that isn’t all, as you can actually interact with the bodies, too. First, you can “Pray” for the player, granting them a small boost. From there, you get the options to “Retrieve” or “Repair” the player’s body. Retrieve in particular gives you a random set of bonuses based on what your fellow player has equipped and heals your character instantly.
Meanwhile, repairing revives an AI-controlled version of the dead player to fight alongside you until it is killed or self-destructs after a certain amount of time has passed. The ghost player is helpful in tough fights and it grants a small bit of XP to your 2B after its demise.
3. Android Update
Upgrading in NieR: Automata is not explained well at all, made worse by the fact that almost all of it is hidden away in the menus for you to find and is seemingly complicated from first glance. There are several things that you are able to upgrade in the game, including your pod companion, weapons, and more.
Weapons are upgraded by finding the appropriate merchant and giving them the required materials and money. This is pretty straightforward, but the rest of the upgrades are not, such as your skills.
Under Skills, you’ll find places to upgrade your Pod and Plug-in chips. Finding abandoned or destroyed pods in the game world will allow you to switch at a moment’s notice to a different one, containing different weapons and abilities, such as a missile launcher. Plug-in chips are more complicated, but are basically your character’s abilities. Like a computer, 2B is an android with only so much storage space to contain these abilities.
At the start, this capacity is only 40, limiting what you can attach. Chips range from taking up 1 storage space to much higher, depending on the ability and strength of it. The types of chips are anything from passive upgrades like raising attack or defense to adding electric shocks to your attacks to even the different elements of your HUD like HP, XP bar, etc.
This allows for lots of customization options. Don’t want HUD clutter from things like the mini-map or objectives? Go right ahead and delete it to free up more space for abilities. The possibilities are vast. Because of this, it can become too much for some players, but if you are overwhelmed, the game has automatic chip sets to help you out. You can choose from a balanced, attack, or defensive focus and the game will set the appropriate chips for you to use.
4. Art Of Battle
Without a doubt, PlatinumGames has easily developed the fastest, most intense, and robust combat in an action-RPG in recent memory. Not only are bosses as cinematic and crazy as you would expect in a JRPG, the normal enemies you encounter aren’t a walk in the park either. For example, entering the game’s first area called the “City Ruins”, it is possible to die from just a little moose; just ask the multiple dead players lying around.
Fighting in this game requires concentration, on-the-fly strategy, and understanding of the game’s core mechanics. Your Pod flies beside you all the time, a companion in the harsh world and something that is integral to winning each battle. Holding down R1 causes your Pod to constantly fire its main weapon and L1 launches its program, usually a more powerful move with a cooldown.
Trying to balance concentrating on your targets and attacking them while also aiming your Pod’s weapons can be a tough job, but that is lessened by using the lock-on feature. Simply pressing L2 will target an enemy and now cause the Pod to auto-aim its weapons, only requiring you to make sure to hit R1 or L1 to fire them. Note that this isn't available on the harder difficulties.
Enemies will shields will block projectiles, requiring you to hit them with your melee weapon to knock them away so your Pod can fire. As the game goes on, the enemies become even smarter, doing things like adding electricity to their shields so it’ll electrocute you when you hit them. This electricity can be nullified with projectiles, then hit the shield with your sword, and you are free to defeat the enemy however you like using the Square (your light weapon) and Triangle (heavy weapon) buttons to chain together combo attacks.
5. Quick Tips
- Lore and story-buffs, upgrade even your most useless weapons as each one’s level unlocks more of its background story for you to indulge in.
- While exploring and not wanting to use the infinite dash glitch, just one dash will cause your player to run faster than before.
- Avoid running into larger rocks or vegetation while sped up due to dash, as they will slow your speed down.
- Pressing L3 and R3 will cause your character to self-destruct and damage enemies. This is useful in certain death moments.
- Downed enemies can be insta-killed by pressing O when near them.
- Dying makes you lose items, but you they can be regained by returning to your old body before you die again like in Dark Souls.
- Auto-save doesn’t exist in NieR: Automata so make sure to quicksave and save often.
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