NieR: Automata World Guide Volume 1 and Volume 2 are the perfect companions to anyone interested in the world of Yoko Taro’s mind. While these two feel closer to game guides rather than straight-up art books, they offer a cohesive and definitive take on the lore of NieR: Automata. Dark Horse continues to offer high-quality and well-designed books that are welcome on almost all bookshelves.
I’ve been interested in the world as created by Yoko Taro for nearly two decades, spanning as far back as the original Drakengard right up to the newest release, NieR Reincarnation. There’s something special in the work he creates and it’s hard at least for me, to not want to dig deeper and understand the lore of each game he creates. It’s unlike any other creator in the medium and Taro tends to create this world filled with existential dread by also endearing hope.
NieR: Automata World Guide begins with brief words from Jun Eishima, who has worked on several tie-in novellas to help flesh out the world of NieR. The world and lore of the game are incredibly complex and the game provokes questions that are not all answered in-game. So, the need for a guide to the world feels necessary if not informative. While I did enjoy the short stories offered at the beginning of the guide, they don’t add much to the experience because they don’t offer anything enough to flesh out the characters. These short stories aren’t bad by any means but they lack the nuance Taro brings to the table.
Much of the book offers a look at the world of NieR: Automata filled with illustrations, character portraits, and information. Inside these pages, you’ll find all the information needed to understand who these characters are, what they are dealing with, and why the world is as it is in Automata. As I mentioned earlier, Taro’s work is usually filled with dread and you see this in the dilapidated, overgrown buildings you’ll see in-game and told through the illustrations in NieR: Automata World Guides.
Some of my favourite pages focus on the characters within Automata, including 2B and 9S, two of the protagonists. Learning not only about them and the roles they play within the overall story is a great addition to the guide and they are not only fleshed out a bit, but because the guide is just as much a strategy guide, you get a glimpse of how powerful these characters become. Every environment from the game is covered so if there’s one in particular that stood out to you while you played, NieR: Automata World Guide has all the information and lore expanding on those locations. A neat little easter egg I enjoyed is the Pods from within the game continuing to offer hints and context to the reader, just like they do for 2B and 9S.
Exploring the Abandoned Amusement Park in NieR: Automata was one of my favourite sections when playing the game back when it launched. Years later, rifling through the pages of the NieR: Automata World Guide does a wonderful job at bringing me back to that place, only this time with a lot more context available to understand the area better. Revisiting the Forest Kingdom too feels like returning to a place that fills you with a sense of wonder.
The second volume features Descent Reports and explains the story, the characters and also the endings. Each ending in NieR: Automata varies, some expanding the narrative. You get a breakdown of the archives, the weapons, the mailboxes, and the brilliant weapon stories (giving you a neat understanding of each weapon). There’s even a world chronology to gain a better understanding of how far into the future Automata is and what’s happened up to the start of the game. To close out the second volume is a Q&A with Yoko Taro and three more short stories.
Overall, I’m glad these tomes exist and while they may not be for everyone, I certainly am glad I have them. Yoko Taro is such a brilliant mind that his creations always beg to be explored, better understood, and discussed. What does it mean to be human? What will happen to our planet if we do nothing?
NieR fans will certainly eat this collection up and there’s so much to love about this pairing. With the recent release of the upgraded remake of NieR Replicant, I’d love to see a third World Volume bridge the two console games together.