Square Enix revealed a rather unexpected surprise earlier this year at E3 in the form of a sequel to their 2010 action role-playing game, Nier. Yesterday at Paris Games Week, they gave it a name: Nier: Automata. Fans are sure to be please that the minds behind the original dark fantasy will be returning for the sequel, from director Yoko Taro to composer Keiichi Okabe. Square is also happy to announce that the project is a joint collaboration between Square Enix and Platinum Games, who is renowned for its snappy and fluid combat systems in games like Bayonetta 2 and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. You can see how Platinum will apply their expertise to the Nier series in the trailer below:
Originally conceived as a spinoff to the Drakengard series, Nier had a lukewarm sales performance overseas. It also received tepid review scores from multiple gaming websites. But Nier nonetheless captivated a cult following due to its sparse and cryptic storytelling that left much to the player’s imagination, set in an unhinged fantasy world brimming with dark energy. Nier also drew players in with its offbeat blending of RPG and action-adventure genre conventions, which constantly kept players on their toes. Director Yoko Taro intended for the original game to be an experiment in surprising his players, and he intends for Automata to do the same.
The original Nier followed a man who wandered the world in search of a cure for his sick daughter. In Automata, the Earth has been invaded by aliens, and humanity has been forced to flee to the moon. To retake its homeland, humanity has sent androids back to Earth to do battle with the aliens and their robotic constructs in a landscape bleaker and more sinister than seen in the first game. The girl seen in the trailer above, 2B, is one of these androids. Though characters from the first Nier are slated to return for Automata, the only playable character revealed thus far is 2B. Taro is currently balancing how much of the story he will unveil before launch and how much will be left to the players to discover, which is no easy task when you’re out to surprise your playerbase.
One other major issue that Square Enix would like to address in Automata concerns the original game’s technical shortcomings. Square Enix producer Yosuke Saito felt that Nier’s lack of technical polish held the game back from receiving favorable reviews:
I remember at the time we brought out the game, people were starting to know how to use the PS3 and 360 and get some good quality out of them, says Saito. “Development of Nier was delayed a little while, and in the first year when we were doing the base engine for the game, it didn’t take shape for a long time. Maybe we came out a bit later than the other games that we started in development as our contemporaries, so we were against games that were really, really good. Maybe that linked in to why we didn’t get a great Metacritic rating at the time. It’s certainly one of our regrets.
This time around, Square Enix plans to have the game run at a silky-smooth 60 frames per second. Additionally, Square Enix’s partnership with Platinum Games on the project comfortably splits the workload between Automata’s action sequences and its role-playing segments, granting Taro the time and resources to fully flesh out Automata’s world.
Certainly Platinum Games is renowned for making great games,” says Saito, “They’ve got a very good reputation, and the games they produce people can be very confident that they’ll have a good experience. Having them onboard for Nier was very important to this project. The other great thing about Platinum Games is because they’re so talented it really frees up Mr. Taro to do what his best and write the story, and get that weird stuff out of his head. It’s really comfortable for him to work with them, because they’re just so good.
Taro and Platinum Games designer Hideki Kamiya are reported to be quite chummy, too, with the former saying that he “likes drinking with [Kamiya] around the office […] There’s quite a lot of dirty conversation going on.” With two wild masterminds from two of Japan’s gaming powerhouses behind Nier: Automata, there’s no telling which direction the new game will take. But it will almost certainly be one fans will have never anticipated.
Nier: Automata will be releasing in 2016 for the PS4.