Action Gameplay

I’m still making my way through Nier, and it’s an interesting experience to analyze in situ.

Aside from the moments when it turns into a bullet-hell shoot-them-up, Nier is an action game in the vein of Devil May Cry. You have a Light attack, a Heavy attack, a Ranged attack, and a special skill. There are technically combos, I think, but I’m not sure it’s especially more productive than just mashing buttons. The only real “decision” is when to press the Dodge button. Which, by the way, can be spammed with no penalty to essentially gain infinite invincibility frames.

The end result is a relatively simplistic combat system. And it’s… still fun? I guess.

One of the common complaints regarding older MMOs like WoW is that tab-targeting combat is boring. Or mindless. 111211131141. While Nier is certainly more active from a combat perspective, I’m not sure that it is less mindless. XXXYYYXXY with some RT in there (on a controller) to dodge. If I just stood there and didn’t dodge in Nier, sure, the enemies I’m fighting might be able to kill me; conversely, most enemies in WoW can be face-tanked. But does that really matter?

The whole situation kind of reminds me of the difference between driving to the movie theater and watching the movie. The action of driving somewhere is much more involved than watching the screen – there are thousands of more individual choices and reactions necessary to drive somewhere safely. But is it more engaging? At the end of the night, which do you remember more?

And really, this is a problem with Action games even in the absence of thousands of incidental enemies you have to mow down. Furi features action combat that focuses just on bosses. I played it for a few hours, got to the second boss, and ended up setting the game down. It’s just not particularly compelling. Sure, it feels good to be able to perform the button presses necessary to avoid death. That’s a sense of personal progression.

But… I don’t know. Just like with driving, I kind of zone out the experience when I’m killing enemies in Action games. Or rather, become so hyper-focused on the moment-to-moment reactions to stimuli that I lose the overall plot. Once I get to my destination safely, the process by which I got there exits my short-term memory and becomes no more than a fuzzy recollection of time spent.

Perhaps this is less an indictment of Action combat generally, and more a specific Nier issue. Perhaps I should crank up the Difficulty slider up a notch. But I’m not sure that that would accomplish anything more than slippery road conditions would “improve” the driving experience. Common enemies would require greater focus, and yet the “reward” would be the same.

Maybe that’s just it: action combat is typically less overtly rewarding. Nier enemies drop currency and occasionally crafting mats, but it’s not on the same scale as a WoW mob. There are simply more and multi-faceted reward types in RPG-esque games than Action ones. Action games focus on the action, and generally try to reduce downtime. Go too far, and you end up the Borderlands Zone where you have to take a 5-second break after each gun drop to compare it to your equipped arsenal. That sort of thing completely breaks the flow in a way that, say, Skyrim does not.

I dunno. I’m not even through my first playthrough of Nier – New Game+ is apparently mandatory to see the rest of the plot – and I think that I had better buckle down and ignore sidequests from here on out. If I don’t, I think there is a serious chance that the combat becomes too boring to finish.

[Fake Edit]: Completed both A & B endings this weekend. Combat got more boring in B, which I didn’t think was possible. Let’s just hope C+ is a bit better…

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Posted on March 12, 2018, in Commentary, Impressions and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I agree with all that. The most intellectually demanding videogame combat I ever experienced was in EverQuest, where I was frequently required to think hard, assess the situation, make choices and act at every stage of the process. Mind you, that was when I was in an organization that liked to crawl dungeons (not camp rooms) for fun.

    It’s true that tab target can be pretty static and mindless if you get the right safe spot or the enemies are very weak. Try it in a constantly changing environment where every enemy is more than you can handle alone, more are always wandering in and no spot is safe. Sometimes it got to feel too stressful but it never felt boring.

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  2. I bought it under the same sale. I can’t say it’s any better than a Dynasty Warriors game, and they know what they are; simplistic beat-em-ups, but damn if that isn’t good after a rough day at work. Nier never lets you get to the immersion that DW provides where you just get a rhythm going and the only thing you have to worry about is making it to an objective. Nier seems to exalt in breaking that combo just as you are about to pull it off, while on the rare occasion you do get to finish, it feels…underwhelming.

    The more I think about it, Nier is more of a Michael Bay movie, where the action and plot are pretty much unconnected. Maybe the plot drives the action, but I hardly feel that way.

    Back to Slay the Spire ^_-

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    • The Michael Bay analogy is a good one. There’s a subtle, but distinct difference between witnessing a spectacle and being the spectacle.

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