This analysis contains no spoilers
I just finished my first and second playthroughs of NieR: Automata and it has quickly become one of my all time favorite games. Probably the one of the biggest reasons for that is the combat system.
At its core, NieR’s combat system is a simple duel-wield light and heavy attack system. Which is great, I believe most systems in games should have a simple, easy to understand core, but there are a few things that add a great amount of depth to it.
The first thing is the assortment of weapons you can equip. You have light swords, heavy swords (one of which is an axe), spears, and even your fists. This lets you switch up the combat to your playstyle. You can have two light weapons for a fast paced, hack n’ slash playstyle, two heavy weapons for more of a slow, brute force style, or have one light and one heavy to have a more balanced experience.
Another thing is the aerial combat. NieR lets you double jump and fight in the air. You can easily take on hovering enemies this way and send grounded enemies up into the air. Learning how to mix ground and aerial combat can let you temporarily isolate a single enemy with little worry of getting hit yourself.
Now, these two things are great but they aren’t exactly unique. By far NieR’s most innovated addition to its combat is the use of two weapon sets. At the press of a button you can switch up what weapons you’re using based on two weapon sets you put together. You can switch weapons in combat and sometimes even mid combo. This adds a huge layer of creativity and depth to how you approach combat. If you’re hacking and slashing your way through enemies and decide you need to hit harder, simply hit up on the d-pad (or whatever else you set it to) and switch to your heavy weapons. Sometimes you have to wait for your combo or animation to finish before the game actually switches the weapons, but it never stops you from attacking so the action is constantly moving and flowing.
A few more things I want to add: combos, dodging, and your pod. As I’ve been mentioning, NieR let’s you combo attacks together so you can constantly attack enemies and get bigger and better hits if you understand the flow of combat (or if you prefer to button mash, that works too). Dodging in this game is fluid and doesn’t break the flow of combat. You can dodge an enemy attack and immediately begin attack again. It also has a sick animation. Finally, the pod. Your pod follows you around and can shoot things. Sounds kinda boring, right? Well, you can attack while shooting because the pod is a separate entity. So if you have to back off or chase down and enemy, you can keep shooting to get some extra chip damage in there. You can also constantly shoot an enemy while beating them to death to speed up the process.
All in all, NieR has one of the most fluid combat systems in any game I’ve played (Platinum games always does a great job with combat). It lets you choose how you want to play and doesn’t restrict you in any way. There’s so many other things I didn’t go in depth about here because I have yet to fully understand it. If you haven’t already, check the game out if you’re a fan of action RPGs, hack n’ slash games, or just great stories and characters.