NieR: Automata manages to make movement smooth, fluid, and effortless through only one button press. Its ingenuity in creating a hybrid system that encompasses the entirety of movement is a carefully well-thought-out system that complements the combat, animations, and overall pacing of the game.
Sprinting and Evading are tied to one button — R2. Standard walking and jogging is done with the Left Stick, which is common in any game with dynamic movement. The Evade is comparable to a dash and feels smooth and responsive. Suiting the name, Evading right when an enemy strikes (albeit a very forgiving hitbox and timing) triggers a Perfect Evade. A Perfect Evade allows for one of three follow-up Counters depending on the succeeding button press.
The most ingenious part of Evading is that it leads directly into Sprinting. During combat, Evading, if it’s not timed with an enemy’s strike, allows for repositioning either around a single enemy or from enemy to enemy. Evading occurs instantly. It interrupts any attack currently in progress, meaning (1) there’s no end lag between killing an enemy and moving to the next one and (2) there’s more opportunity for repositioning around a single enemy. Combat flows naturally with minimal button inputs from the player (see: Multi-Attack & Lock-On System) because Evade leads directly into Sprinting and interrupts any active or queued attacks.
Perfect Evade Leniency
The Perfect Evade’s forgiving hitbox and timing allows for the possibility of spamming the Evade button without any consequences. There’s usually not any true satisfaction for achieving a lenient counter like the Perfect Evade because there’s no accurate timing involved. Compare this to parrying in Dark Souls 1, where timing the parry requires accuracy so it feels good to pull off. It feels reasonable and fair. In Hyper Light Drifter, several mechanics utilize timing for both movement and combat. The movement in particular feels good to pull off and allows the player to dash around the environment.
Despite this, not only does it happen to feel satisfying because of NieR: Automata‘s fast-paced nature, but both the game’s combat and mobility benefit. The combat is fast-paced and constantly moving. The enemies, although well-telegraphed, relentlessly attack from all fronts. Having the ability to Perfect Evade without much trouble in a festival of swinging robot arms is necessary to avoid the feeling of unfairness. If a Perfect Evade doesn’t trigger, either it still feels right because of the constant movement that the game promotes, or the timing was off and the punishment feels fair.
NieR: Automata’s fast-paced and lenient system comes to a screeching halt in the Forest Zone.
Inconsistency: The Forest Spears
Specifically the spear. The spear dismisses both the entire combat system’s purpose of being fast-paced and mobile, and the Perfect Evade’s leniency and anti-stun property. NieR: Automata had already established countless times that stun-locking attacks exist. The entire reason for the Perfect Evade’s anti-stun motif is to avoid stun-locks and to reward those who react appropriately.
As previously mentioned, having the ability to Perfect Evade when robot arms are flailing mad is crucial to the feeling of fairness. If reacted to appropriately, the player can get out of the situation. If the player does not react, more damage is dealt. The spear is severely inconsistent in this aspect since it forces the player into an unavoidable situation of having to wait for the robot to stop attacking. This takes several seconds. Several, excruciating seconds of being taken out of combat. I had to rely on random chance in the clip above where a boar and a moose helped me out of an enemy stun-lock.
Overall, the Evade mechanic is the perfect mobility solution for a fast-paced game like NieR: Automata. Perfect Evading is handled in a way that feels fair while maintaining the game’s pacing.
However, if there’s one takeaway from NieR: Automata’s Evade system, it’s that it’s the most elegant way of incorporating a sprinting mechanic that I’ve ever seen.
I would be curious to see how the game would pan out if the Perfect Evade needed precise timing and if the machines had single-strike or slow attacks to compensate, similar to Dark Souls.