2B has access to two main offensive capabilities: Pod and Melee. 2B’s Pod is a more refined, fast-paced, and streamlined version of the original NieR’s Grimoire Weiss and its Sealed Verse Dark Blast, and so it’s only fitting that she can utilize both her weapons and her Pod simultaneously. This multi-attack mechanic complements NieR: Automata’s fast-paced Action RPG elements and can dish out massive amounts of damage by utilizing the Lock-On System.
Firing the Pod requires holding down R1 and manually aiming the Pod’s reticule with the Right Analog Stick, which ends up occupying the thumb and thus Jumping or executing Light and Heavy attacks is, at best, awkward. NieR: Automata fixes this problem with the Lock-On System.
The Lock-On Convenience
The Lock-On System allows us to target a machine with our Pod while simultaneously executing Light and Heavy attacks by removing the need to manually aim the Pod’s reticule. The Lock-On System doesn’t take control away from the player, but instead gives the player the option to comfortably utilize the Pod during combat. Being able to fully utilize both of 2B’s offensive talents while Evading between enemies requires a great deal of user input, so giving the player the option to reduce that user input for a more streamlined and controllable handle on 2B’s movement and utility is improving the system at nobody’s expense.
Furthermore, NieR: Automata gives full control over the lock-on. When a locked-on machine is destroyed, the lock-on shuts down and doesn’t auto-lock or dynamically lock onto the next target. While this may sound inconvenient, it further instills full control to the player and avoids placing the player in forced and often detrimental situations, unlike Witcher 2’s dynamic targeting system.
The Flight Units
The use of the Lock-On System in the Flight Unit segments is nonexistent. The Flight Units have two forms — the ship form and the mech form. The ship form has no use for the Right Analog Stick and thus there’s no issue with maneuvering and attacking reliably; however, the mech form utilizes the Right Analog Stick in aiming its guns, similar to 2B’s Pod.
The mech form replaces the Lock-On System with shooting straightforward, and thus the projectile direction depends on the movement direction. This is an overlooked feature because of both the limiting nature of shooting toward the movement direction and the awkwardness of having to use the right thumb for both aiming and Light or Heavy attacks. Our right hands have to form hand puppets if we ever hope to utilize the simultaneous offensive methods that NieR: Automata was designed to offer.
The Flight Unit segments have no verticality unlike 2B, so perhaps it can be forgiven for not including a lock-on — except that the only way for 2B to obtain that verticality is to jump, and since jumping is located next to the Light and Heavy attack buttons, verticality is a trivial matter.
Lock-On At Long-Range
The Lock-On System’s long-range aspect operates differently because multi-attack is nonexistent at long-range; i.e., the player can’t use Pod fire and execute melee attacks simultaneously.
The Pod fires in a straight line when not locked-on and scatters its shots when locked-on. This only further instills the entire purpose of the Lock-On System — to be utilized in close-combat where the multi-attack concept exists. Melee combat cannot be initiated when firing from afar, so to compensate, the Pod’s fire must be aimed manually but to a much higher degree of accuracy. Manually aiming gives the player something to do while positioning from afar whereas manually aiming becomes a nuisance in close-combat when everything is within melee-range. Two entirely different situations are accounted for by simply tweaking the accuracy.
The Lock-On System perfectly complements the close-range multi-attack mechanics that NieR: Automata offers by reducing the user input necessary for the player’s right thumb. Despite its failings at providing a more comfortable way of simultaneously attacking and firing in the Flight Unit’s mech form segments, it succeeds at providing an easier way to simultaneously fire 2B’s Pod as she slash-and-hacks machines throughout her missions.