In one of the most eyebrow raising instances of video game ‘journalism’ in recent history, Vice writer Dia Lacina recently authored a piece that begins with words of praise for the new auto-battle system featured in the recently released Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139…, but ultimately devolves into an odd rant in which she expresses frustration with the concept of physically playing a video game.
Although, ‘devolve’ may not be the appropriate word, as in her article, published by Vice on April 26th bearing the headline ‘Auto-Battle Is the Best Version of Combat in the New ‘NieR Replicant’‘, Lacina wastes no time airing her grievances with playing video games, particularly the fact that you have to press buttons for things to happen.
The article opens with a bizarre contradiction as a means of complaining about Nier Replicant’s gameplay, as Lacina writes, “It turns out that I don’t love pressing the dodge button at the exact moment I needed to. Parry Timings? Okay maybe in Sekiro where parrying somehow manages to be an art form, religion, and exacting science.”
She clearly flip-flops between whether she likes or dislikes the mechanic.
“But the rest of the time,” she continues, turning her attention to the idea of consecutive button presses, “I don’t care how loose or tight the window is—it’s rarely interesting enough to make it worth fussing over. And how engaging can a SQUARE SQUARE SQUARE combo really be? Even if you get fancy and throw in a CROSS and TRIANGLE at the end—does it really matter? Hell no.”
Lacina then turns her attention to Nier Replicant’s Auto-Battle system, a returning feature first introduced in Nier: Automata which lets players swap out control of their character with an AI, allowing the game to play for them.
Recalling how she discovered the feature after dropping the game down to Easy Mode in order to avoid “[slogging] it out with heavily armored Gestalts in the desert” (the main combat loop of Nier Replicant), Lacina next lavishes the Auto-Battle system with praise, ecstatic that its inclusion relieves her of having to play the game.
“You know what I can’t do? Perfect dodge 100% of the time,” wrote Lacina. “I can’t perfectly parry 100% of the time either. And not having to worry about how many times I pushed SQUARE or TRIANGLE was not only an emotional quality of life improvement, it took a massive load off the aging joints and ligaments in my hands.”
She adds, “At 38, with the amount of console games I have to play for this job, anything that takes stress off my hands is a godsend.”
Following a brief description of how Auto-Battle allowed her to “step back and play fight choreographer to an extremely cool AMV of my own making,” Lacina makes what is perhaps the most baffling claim in her piece.
“The more I think about it,” asserts Lacina, “there are very few games outside of the original Xbox Ninja Gaiden where the act of pressing individual buttons is all that meaningful.”
This last bit, quite honestly, makes absolutely no sense, as the ‘act of pressing individual buttons’ is the core trait of the medium, as said act is the primary means with which one interacts with the game. Not only that, but each button press results in various actions taking place upon the screen, something quite meaningful to the idea of ‘playing a video game.’
For Lacina, who has made a career out of being a video games journalist, it seems as if she doesn’t really want to play video games.
By her own admission, she preferred only being allowed to “engage relationally and positionally with enemies” and found Nier Replicant to be more enjoyable when she didn’t have to deal with “the fiddly bits,” but could instead just focus on the “audio-visual spectacles” without having to worry about “hyper-focused spreadsheet optimizations.”
Given this, one is only left to wonder why she would continue to engage with a medium whose central feature she so despises. Perhaps Lacina would find more enjoyment in critiquing film or television, as these mediums can provide the flashy ‘spectacles’ she enjoys so much without requiring any active engagement from the audience.
This presumption is even further supported by her conclusion, as at the end of her article, Lacina asserts, “Honestly more games need to steal this. Yes, even Dark Souls.”
What do you make of Lacina’s opinion of Nier Replicant’s Auto-Battle system? Let us know your thoughts on social media or in the comments down below!