Set on Earth in 11945 AD, the 2017 video game Nier: Automata takes places thousands of years after humanity was forced to escape to the Moon after an alien invasion. Its story follows 2B and 9S, two highly advanced androids sent to Earth by humans to investigate and fight the aliens’ non-sentient combat machines, which have started to exhibit human-like behaviors.
The game’s new novelization, Nier: Automata: Long Story Short, isn’t a substitute for the original game, though it’s about as faithful as a purely textual adaptation could be. That’s not only because of how important interactivity is to the story the game tells — including side quests that offer more context — but the way its multi-ending, perspective-hopping story repeatedly loops back to provide the player with a different outlook on the events of the game multiple times time.
Spoilers ahead for the game and book.
Long Story Short follows the structure of the game quite closely: it focuses on 2B until the combat machines Adam and Eve are defeated, then jumps back to see those events again from 9S’s perspective. As in Nier: Automata, you don’t know exactly what’s going on while you’re initially following 2B. It isn’t until the second playthrough — or chapter — when 9S takes center stage that we get more insight, thanks to its hacking abilities.
Much of Long Story Short is told from a third-person perspective, specifically when the focus of the story is on 2B or 9S, but you’re still privy to their emotional state and motivations in a way that you aren’t during the game. This is where a lot of the new information offered by the book stems from, and it’s something that leans into the strengths of the textual medium. Where knowing glances or subtle facial expressions might hint at what a character is thinking in an interactive and visual medium like a video game, in text, they are often stated to the reader in a more explicit or revealing way.
But it’s when the book changes its focus to Adam, Eve, and A2 that it really gets interesting and offers Nier: Automata fans something substantially new. Unlike 2B and 9S, these characters are written in first-person, which offers far more insight into how they think about the world — and themselves — than the game, especially for more enigmatic characters like Adam and Eve.
Long Story Short is less a substitute for the game and more of a complementary piece in a different format that adds some additional commentary to the original experience. In a sense, it offers fans of Nier: Automata — a game that became richer each time you looped back to see it in a new way — one more playthrough to enjoy. If you’re eager for one more go-round and a slightly different way of looking at its story, this is one worth reading.