A perfectly timed dodge is already a thing of beauty. Adding kick-ass slow motion afterwards makes it even better. I’m convinced there’s no better feeling in all of video games than a dodge into a slow motion action move. In games, I’ll spend all my points upgrading my dodge in hope of chasing this highly specific, action-fueled high.
Recently, we played Nier: Automata on Kotaku’s Twitch channel. Yoko Taro’s android masterpiece is best known for an intense plot and stylish costume design, but it also has some killer combat. One of the best mechanics is the “perfect dodge.” By pressing the dodge button right before an enemy’s attack hits, your character will phase through them in a sort of teleporting effect. Action pauses for the briefest of moments before your character flips to the side, leaving the enemy open for a counter attack. It’s not just stylish; it feels good too. The momentary lull of a perfect dodge provides powerful punctuation to fights that the game wouldn’t have otherwise.
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A solid dodge is only one half of the equation, though. The best video game dodges follow up with slow motion. The best example is Bayonetta’s “Witch Time,” a mechanic that rewards players with a period of slow motion if they time their dodge just right. It allows players to feel as competent as their character. Witch Time is an extension of Bayonetta’s character, allowing players to move with her confidence. It is a moment of supreme control, where they can do anything they want as a follow up. Nier: Automata has a similar feature called “Overclock,” which is unlocked using an equippable item call an Overclock chip. The duration can be extended by equipping more chips until you have several seconds where the battle turns calm. It’s both empowering and peaceful. There’s an intoxicating sense of control.
Even the slightest variations on this mechanic can help redeem combat systems for me. When I initially played God of War, I struggled with that I found to be stiff action that only became slightly better as I unlocked new abilities. That changed once I found the Amulet of Kvasir. Much like the Overclock chip, it adds slow motion to a well-timed dodge. The effect is disappointingly understated, to the point I called it the “Bud Lite of Witch Time” on Twitter. However, even the most basic version of Witch Time is better than most mechanics. With the added control from this new ability, I was able to turn God of War’s combat into something more expressive, transitioning smoothly from combo to combo as I received extra time while dodging.
A good dodge can bring gameplay to new heights and help less intuitive games click. It’s a break, a two or three second vacation from chaos. There’s nothing better than those precious moments when you become queen of the battlefield.