NieR: Automata has the undesirable task of attempting to draw gamers away from two massive AAA releases in as many weeks. Competing with games like the critically acclaimed Horizon: Zero Dawn and what could be the biggest game release in several years in Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is, for lack of a better descriptor, sheer insanity – yet NieR: Automata has acquitted itself well.

Early reception for Square Enix and Platinum Games’ action JRPG collaboration has been exceedingly positive, with many gamers drawing a comparison between the pulsing, lightning-quick combat of Final Fantasy 15 and the challenging, tough-but-fair difficulty levels of games like Dark Souls. While some worried that stunts like NieR: Automata‘s game designer Taro Yoko asking for lewd artwork of the game’s protagonist on social media might mean the game itself would be lacking, it appears that it is just the right blend of competent, engaging gameplay and Yoko’s brand of compelling weirdness.

That doesn’t mean that NieR: Automata is simple, however, and it certainly doesn’t pull any punches. The game thrusts players directly into the Android and machine war on Earth, and combat quickly becomes complex and difficult. Luckily, for those who want a crash course on how to handle 2B and friends, we’ve compiled a handy guide of tips and tricks for character progression and combat.

This guide is spoiler-free. No plot points beyond the very beginning of the game will be discussed.

nier automata first boss

Experiment with the Camera Early

One of the most disorienting things about NieR: Automata is how quickly the game can shift between top-down, side-scrolling, and third-person action perspectives. While the game’s introductory level does an excellent job in showcasing each of these in action at different points, it is easy to forget the subtle nuances in how these perspectives play out differently. Take some time in the first level to get a grasp of each camera perspective and make sure to note how aiming with the Pod gun and movement directions change with each of them. It will save gamers a lot of frustration later on.

Multi-task During Combat

To those who have played more than a few hours of NieR: Automata, this tip will likely seem pretty obvious. When players are just starting out, however, it can be easy to forget that the Pod companion that follows 2B around is a weapon in its own right, capable of firing a constant stream of bullets at enemies if gamers hold down the R1 shoulder button on the PS4 controller.

Players should make sure they get a feel for holding this shoulder button down during combat early on, because the small chip damage the Pod represents really adds up over time. Furthermore, aiming the Pod’s bullets while also moving 2B around and doing close combat damage is one of the quickest ways to turn enemies into slag, so a little bit of practice goes a long way in anticipation of the way NieR ramps up its difficulty as the game progresses.

Invest in Storage Upgrades Early

One of the most fun elements of NieR: Automata is the depth of customization offered to players looking to refine the way they control 2B over the course of the game. NieR: Automata features dozens of different chips that 2B can install in herself to give herself various passive upgrades, and the amount a player can install is restricted by the storage space on 2B.

Players can upgrade their storage by purchasing upgrades from vendors, and the first few upgrades are relatively cheap. Invest quickly to make sure that 2B is in peak fighting performance, as the passive upgrades make a huge difference and can make previously challenging enemies a cakewalk without even needing to grind levels for 2B.

Explore the Map, Collect Everything

A lot of NieR: Automata is wandering through vast, post-apocalyptic maps and sprinting towards designated quest areas. Doing that without exploring the scenery can be very costly, however, as weapon upgrades need specific materials that are often hidden in various secret places across NieR: Automata‘s maps. Taking the time to explore every nook and cranny will not only result in weapons upgrades being far easier to achieve, but a hefty currency bonus too, making upgrade chips an easy purchase later.

nier automata 2b vs machines

Combine Upgrade Chips as Soon as Possible

Finally, NieR: Automata features a fusion system that lets players combine upgrade chips that do the same thing to form a more powerful version of the same effect. The leaps in efficiency are pretty dramatic, and while the resulting chip often takes up more storage space than its weaker counterpart, the trade-off is well worth it – the difference between the first and second weapon damage upgrade, for instance, is a whopping 4% to 8% leap for a relatively low fee.

These tips should help new players set themselves up for success in NieR: Automata, but there are plenty of other little nuances that can help even the most seasoned gamers. Got any extra advice? Feel free to share in the comments below.

NieR: Automata is available now for PS4, with a PC launch scheduled for March 17, 2017.

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