I finally bought a wireless receiver for my wireless 360 controller so I could play this without having to deal with the c̃aͧͤ̊̈ͦ͆ͫ̃n͌ͩͬͮ͑̐̀͏͢c̶͂́eͫ̆̑͒̓̉̾ͣ́rͥ̍ͩͫͬ ̑̃ͥt̷̡͂̏̈ͥ̋ͬͣ̀͆h͌̒͐̑̚͠a͛͐̽͋̂̃ͬ͒ẗ̸̨́̓ͯ̒ͫ ̨͗͛̈̍͞҉iͦͬͥ̀͝s̡ͬͨ̉̽͐ͪ́ ̨ͧ̽ͮͣ̈͛̊͢͝dͪ͗͊ͨ̾̀͡ö̡͆̅̿͒̀̄̒̀uͭ̑b̓͘lͦ̕͟ë̴́ͮͤ͂ͩ-̷̢̄ͪͫ̚t̄̑̂͏a̍̆̽́̉͒҉p̔̉͌́͏̕ ̶ͥ̅͐͆̊i̎̈́̎̊̅͠n̡̈͆͆͋̽̄͜p̶͗͗̉̾̄͛̍̑u̔t̶̐̒̐̿ͨ̅s͛̆̌ͩͯ̓͂͂̂͏ ̷̃̎f͋̇ͦͥ͐̐͑̉͏҉͞oͬ̄̚͞͞r̢̎ͨ͋̋ͮͣ̂͆ ͑͛̉͛ͣ҉̷̧fͦ͒͋ͧ͠uͬ̆͆ͦͧ̋č̊̌ͥ̔̌̈́͂͏k̔͌̔͐̉̎̎̀͟i̵̎ͩ͂ͭ̄ͫ҉ň̨͗ͤͩ̉ͥ͒͌͗͜͝g͑ͧ̎̃̂ͨͣ̎͘ ̉̾ͭ̂͗̈́͘d̵̨̈́̇o̶̅̃͗͟d͌̃ͤͭg͐͠͏́ī̵ͫͣ̔̓̔ͭ́͠nͩ͞g̸ͯ͠, so now I have a much easier time of spamming my dodge button.
I'm only 12 hours in (no endings achieved yet), and I gotta say it starts rather slowly with having you going around doing sidequests before dealing with serious story stuff at a pace like in the prologue. The sidequests do show an overall more variety than in the first game in terms of what you actually do, but it's still largely the kind of quests you'd be doing in an MMO even though there are some decisions you can make which don't seem to affect the plot strongly (unfortunately). The world design is okay-ish? It's not that huge to the point where walking from point A to point B takes way too fucking long, and there's still plenty of secrets and items you can find through exploration even if the exploration feels rather underwhelming when most of the shit you find in chests ends up being a meager amount of gold or the umpteenth material only useful for upgrading a weapon you probably will never use. Aside from some hard to reach areas which you have to do some tricky jumps to reach, there's not a lot of hidden stashes protected by powerful foes or something. Unfortunately the world is barren enough that you'll mostly have to rely on point-of-interest markers do 'discover' some stuff.
But one thing that irks me the most is that Automata has next to no sense of natural quest progression. What I'm talking about is that out of the zillion quests you might accept at one time only a few of them are actually more suitable towards your current levels than others. So what ends up happening that at one point you'll be facing enemies who are ten levels higher than you, have ten times more HP than you, and kill you in one hit. In any other WRPG like Gothic the presence of really strong enemies you can barely put a dent in meant that you just had to take another approach or get stronger before you come back, resulting in soft-locked areas where you aren't blocked by invisible walls but just really strong opponents.
Unfortunately interesting things only present themselves in the world if you have accepted a quest which involves you fucking about in that area, meaning that in a previous point in time you might have explored that very place already and found nothing, but now it's inhabited by enemies ten times your size, making the world feel rather artificial and lifeless (no pun intended). But instead of appearing like threats you should avoid until later, the combat in Automata is forgiving enough that you only need to dodge when the flash appears and continue your eternal quest to bring the enemy's infinite HP to zero. One encounter pitted you against one guy with a lot of HP, and it just came down to dodging at the right moment while continuing my small sword light+SSL+SSL+SSL+Large Sword Heavy combo. It was the very definition of repetitive. On Hard difficulty most enemies your level will take you down in four hits already, so it's not like dying in two hits instead is that much of a deal when you have a zillion health items.
But most of all, I miss the banter. They're what made the fetch quests in the first Nier bearable to me, but here nobody but 9S feels like talking to the point where he might as well be the main character. 2B is silent emotionless girl and Pod has no personality aside from some black humor-ish moments. I don't know how likely this is to change as the game goes on, but I do miss the lovable band of degenerates.
The game seems rather passive when it comes to how you should use your items. I prefer to not use them, but in some cases where I'm about to retrieve my dead body and its plug-in chips I'd really prefer to not die and not having to manually reload my save if I do fuck up in the process of retrieving my body and end up permanently losing all my potato chips. I fought really hard to fuse those high-ranking chips together, man.
I guess dodging is unique as it lets you counter attack with a light strike, heavy strike, and a pod shot, although the effects seem to depend on the weapon type. A small weapon counter attack will perform a guaranteed launcher attack, but some enemies seem completely impervious to being launched at all with no visual indication of what enemy type is unlaunchable or not (a reskin of the basic enemy type is not launchable while a boss enemy is? go to hell), so when you do perform a small sword counterattack you'll probably end up just hanging in the air like a dunce while the enemies are chilling on the ground. Not even normal launcher attacks apply in these cases. I'm probably doing something wrong here, but I wouldn't know what.
A counterattack with a large sword or spear seems to perform a straightforward lunge attack. This stuns some enemies, but most robots I fought were apparently not affected at all. You can go all out on stunned enemies for a while, but when you get close to a stunned enemy the Use prompt appears, which lets you perform a pre-baked attack sequence on them similar to the attacks you perform in Furi when you hit an opponent with a charged attack. This flurry attack is also possible when an enemy is low on health, but it's usually faster to just manually slash them until they die, and more than often you'll kill the enemy before you even see the opportunity for a flurry to arise. The thing is that the flurry attack doesn't seem to deal all that much damage in the first place, but it also ends the stun state on the enemy. So you want to deal as much damage to an enemy before the invisible stagger state runs out and then finish it off with the flurry attack.
You can also perform a pod shot counterattack, which just fires one powerful shot at the enemy. I find it to be rather slow and damage output questionable, so I don't use it too much. Most of the time I stick to large sword/spear counterattacks instead of launching only myself into the air, I think there's supposed to be a tactical choice to make here between the three options but I don't see it.
The shmup sections in this game are euroshmup-tier, fancy but not to be taken seriously. It's mostly Yoko Taro trying to shove in as many homages as he can. The usage of bullets during melee combat still feels largely the same like in the first game, where your pod will cancel most of the bullets as you close in and finish the deal, with the occasional uncancelable bullets forcing you to stay back. There's now somewhat more variety here like enemies firing large and fast clusters of bullets and other kind of shit I forgot, but most enemies prefer to just punch you. The enemy variety is rather commendable and isn't just reskinned enemies with more HP (though that does happen).
I like the plug-in chips systems and how sometimes you have to take out some of your system chips to make place for others at the cost of HUD elements. I did notice there's a Counter chips which lets you perform a parry similar to the MGR parry and then follow it up with a counterattack as if you just dodged the opponent, though I don't really see the difference between countering and dodging aside from the required inputs. Higher ranked Counter chips speak of returning a certain amount of damage back to the enemy, just where are the tutorials when you need them?
The weapon set switching mechanic is quite nice as well in terms of what you can do with it to lengthen your combo, although I wish you had dodge offset (which I hear is available as a chip).
Nonetheless, Automata remains an intriguing game. There's still a lot about the premise and story I want to uncover (and the developers' intentions for the combat design decisions) despite how the game seems to focus more on worldbuilding for the first part. I still think Platinum shouldn't bother with stuff like leveling, weapons farming in Transformers Devastation wasn't all that fun either and I'd rather Automata didn't bother with leveling at all, or instead gave you a fixed amount of health and damage output to fuck around with using plug-in chips and pods.