There’s a new art book out from Dark Horse titled NieR: Automata World Guide Vol. 1 which fans of the Yoko Taro-directed, post-human action-RPG might have an eye on. The book features “maps, character biographies, short stories, concept art, and more!” Is this an art book worth selling some extra plug-in chips for?
The book opens and closes with short stories from writer Eishima Jun and they’re both fine. Each one captures the general tone of the game and introduces some of the key concepts like the androids’ fractured understanding of human traditions. I especially like how Eishima conveys the dynamic the YoRHa units on Earth have with their Operators up in the space bunker. Eishima has a strong handle on the game and its ideas, but I didn’t finish reading these stories feeling like I gained insight into anything new.
Most of the book’s artwork consists of a mix of concept art and carefully composed screenshots. These screenshots include angles of environments not seen in the game outside of some cutscenes, like wide vistas of the ruined city and tight angles of the inside of the space bunker you can’t normally see when running around in game. Every environment in the game is covered here, so fans of the game wanting a trip down memory lane will be able to revisit every part of the City and its surrounding areas. There are some very cute screenshots of the animals you can ride in the City Ruins which were fun to remember. The game’s lovable Pods pop up in boxes of text on or around the artwork and screenshots to define concepts or give context to the images. However, the book’s designers play a little fast and loose with placing the boxes of explanatory text. The placement never quite blocks the artwork, but it never feels totally cohesive to the layout of the pages.
Most of the environmental concept art uses mixed media with 3D modeled environments supplemented with strokes of color and line work. I especially love the concept art for the abandoned factory because of all the green and teal. Brightens up what would otherwise be a very dark environment and makes me think of aged copper. The mixed media approach gives even the concept art an unnatural feeling that could only be done with a computer; a feeling that gels with the tone of the game well and the way in which the game takes advantage of the robotic nature of the game’s characters.
Speaking of, the concept art of characters is one of my two favorite aspects of the art book. I love getting a closer look at the texture work on 2B and 9S’s velvet outfits. There are lots of embroidery details that stand out thanks to the character designers’ restrained, yet expressive approach to the costumes. My other favorite section is the one near the end which features concept art of the machines and flight units. Artwork of the flight unite feature notes pointing to different parts of the flight units and even a page showing the flight units disassembled into individual parts. This is the most detailed page in the whole book as each part has a note attached to label and identify it. The pages featuring the machines also include some inside looks at the parts within the outer shells showing parts like propellers in the Common Flyers. These pages offer no insight into the developers’ ideas regarding how these designs came to be, but the highly detailed look into the machines is neat for fans looking for an in-depth look at some of the designs.
This art book isn’t a great intro to the game for new players, but instead functions as a way for fans of the game to recall the environments and characters as a kind of coffee table memento. There’s little to no new information as the notes in the book serve more as labels than text which offers any new insight into the game. Hardcore NieR: Automata fans will probably end up picking this book up, but for those on the fence as to whether this book is worth buying, I would say wait for a sale or pass, as it isn’t required reading for those looking for a text that really adds to the game.