One way to revive a struggling franchise is to bring on a new development team. All the better if that team has the kind of stature that helps fans forgive past mistakes. Capcom did it when it gave control Devil may cry to Ninja Theory, and now Square Enix hopes to pass on similar success Kidney automatons to platinum games.
2010s Kidney was by no means a success. A mixed critical reception was followed by subpar sales and boxed copies filling bargain bins. Combining so many complex elements into an action RPG, Kidney was way too complicated and confusing to be fun. It was a game less than the sum of its parts, albeit one with a passable story compared to other examples in the genre.
Bringing in Platinum Games should immediately improve two areas: combat – which the studio is famous for – and audience interest. After all, saying there’s a sequel to a half-hearted action RPG is one thing. Saying there’s a new game from the makers of Bayonetta, Vanquish, and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is something completely different. After playing Kidney automatons, I can confirm that the game carries Platinum Games’ signature over-the-top combat – and the fact that I’m writing about it hints at audience interest. Job done then? Perhaps.
As an android developed by the last remnants of humanity to fight an invading alien life form, the premise of Kidney automatons is a bit corny to say the least, but the combat is extremely impressive. Combining dodges, slides, sword swings and gunshots into a single combo results in a pleasantly gaudy display of explosions and flashing lights, and the slick animation is a leap ahead of that in the original. Kidney. Where most RPGs favor tactical planning over instant gratification, Automatics completely abandon that approach, something that is even Square Enix’s flagship RPG Final Fantasy XV hasn’t quite been able to leave behind, despite its real-time battles.
However, this raises the question of longevity. What I’ve played so far is very simple. Square Enix explained that Platinum Games was developed in part to make battles more exciting, but not necessarily more difficult. Combat is definitely on the shallower side of the difficulty. Support AutomaticsDue to the game’s long running time (we’re talking dozens, if not hundreds of hours here), the reduced combat challenge must be replaced by either constantly changing enemy types and attack patterns, or a regular set of new skills to learn. Ideally you would want both. At this point, with just a few minutes of gameplay under my belt and Square Enix keeping the rest of the game a secret, it’s not clear if that’s the case.
Should combat get boring, there should be plenty else to keep you busy in moments of downtime. Square Enix says the goal is for players to spend 30 percent of their time fighting, and the other 70 percent on the usual RPG nonsense like exploring, talking to NPCs, playing with skill trees, and keeping up with the plot. It’s an odd choice considering that Platinum Games’ whole shtick is cut-throat combat, but perhaps the plot – which also involves humanity on the brink of extinction after having to retreat to the moon – will suffice.
Automatics takes place in some of a number of vast, interconnected environments – from cramped, war-torn cities to bleak, lifeless deserts. It’s an open world where you’re free to move from place to place as you please, but there’s no point from which to observe the whole world. Exactly how you’ll be blocked from certain zones until you reach the part of the plot where they’re introduced isn’t yet known, but the resolution is executed with the sort of delicacy the previous game lacked.
Clearly, Square Enix is seeking mainstream success with Automatics. Platinum Games is a well-known name in the West, the existence of a PC release is a nod to these shores given that few games play on PCs in Japan, and even the story is separate from previous releases. In other words, even if the publisher doesn’t like using the term, Automatics is a reboot, and a promising one. However, if even Platinum Games can’t make it, it might be time to call it a day.
List image by Platinum Games