Attack On Titan re-tells the events of the anime’s first season in a condensed form. While the world was experiencing a moment of peace, the manlike Titans suddenly appeared out of nowhere a century ago. Composed of great strength and the power to regenerate rapidly, humanity has been ill-prepared to face such dangerous beings whose sole focus is the destruction of mankind.
Shortly before they appeared, the citizens built three fortified walls that are now act as a garrison to protect themselves from the cannibalistic beasts. But fate always has something else in mind. One day, a colossal Titan appears practically out of thin air at the outermost wall. With one swift kick, it destroys the wall like it was made out of construction paper.
Other Titans begin to pour in, and by the time people have evacuated to the next barricade, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed – a third of the remaining population. As civilization awaits its extinction, a brash young boy and his friends vow revenge upon the demons that murdered their family and friends. Years later, after his graduation and enlistment into the 104th Cadet Corps, Eren finds out the colossal Titan has made its return. They must now fight even harder to retake their livelihood.
Anyone who has played one of the recent Dynasty Warriors games will be familiar in AOT’s approach to gameplay. Before the battle begins, you will be able to run around a designated area and speak to different people. Not only does this offer the essential character development, but this may also trigger important cutscenes. It’s a nice way to catch a breather before heading into what could be another emotionally draining experience. This from the perspective of children living in despair with the weight of the world on their shoulders.
The gameplay is fairly straightforward. Every Titan comes in either two sizes: short or tall. In order to subjugate a Titan, the player must cut at the nape of its neck. At times, this proves to be challenging on the tall Titans acting as boss characters who simply refuse to die. In those situations, you will have to take measures in slicing off a Titan’s legs to restrict their mobility or slice off its arms to prevent them from attacking. Think of it like Shadow of the Colossus (minus speedrunning strats) – there is a level of strategy involved.
Those unfortunate enough to be attacked by a Titan and brought to a near-death state have a couple options at their disposal. While in this state, they can either avoid combat entirely to help restore health, or use items to speed up the process. There is also a Focus Time event where time slows down, giving you the ability for one last attempt at finishing off the Titan, or enough time to hightail it.
Additionally, Titans have the ability of regenerating any damage done to them, including any parts that are destroyed. Thus it is important to deliver a quick series of combo attacks with large amounts of damage. Like Monster Hunter, a Titan’s limbs may contain crucial materials to help upgrade or develop new equipment.
Although it was exciting at times learning the makeup of a Titan and which exposed body parts were ripe for the slicing, the camera had trouble keeping up with the quick movements of my person as they whipped around the behemoth at a rapid speed. There are also trees and houses which instantly break your anchor line, forcing you to fall to the ground. Thankfully, the game tries to give you more than enough space to land a blow without forcing the player to create that distance themselves.
And since you are battling Titans and not random hordes of enemies the Musou series is known for, you better be comfortable flying around at a rapid pace. There are also side missions introduced with smoke signals, requests from fellow soldiers, and scouting excursions to help pad the amount of content, which is where players will spend most of their time.
You won’t be alone on this dangerous operation. Key characters from the anime work as Team Members who will act according to your orders. By issuing a command such as Fan Out, Escort, and Focus, there is a semblance of control that can be critical. They may also provide items that can restore blades, fuel, and health.
The number of Team Members at your disposal starts off small to help introduce the mechanics and grows as the story proceeds. I found this to be imperative especially when dealing with the more difficult encounters.
There are different opportunities for players to upgrade the equipment they carry into battle. This includes investing into new developments or modifying existing equipment into a higher performance versions. This is done using materials gathered from combat or a shopkeeper and delegated Regiment Funds.
The blades players use are rated by their ability and durability. Scabbards and canisters determine the amount of fuel and the number of weapons you will have in combat before they must be replenished. This also plays a big role in how quickly the character moves around which can be critical. There is a clear direction of enhancement in ability in combat which gives the game a lot of its enjoyment.
The equipment you purchase and modify carries over to the rest of the playable characters which is essential considering the game keeps changing the player’s perspective after almost every battle. One moment you will be playing Eren on the run from a giant Titan, the next you will control Levi providing support. Each character has their own unique trait, such as Mikasa’s ability to perform follow-up attacks and Armin’s skill in issuing orders.
There is a certain amount of satisfaction seeing an enormous Titan crumble to the ground in a mess of pieces, especially after leveling up your character to an overpowered state. However, there’s not a lot of replayability to be found here once the story is done with other than earning more medals and unlocking trophies. This is a huge step up from the mess that was released on the Nintendo 3DS a year ago.
Fans of the series will find a lot to enjoy here. Some cutscenes last for mere seconds and don’t do a lot to contribute meaningful context. A lot of the significant moments are glossed over, including the very serious opening scenes that captivated anime fans across the world (and casual onlookers as well), or removed entirely, like when Eren first meets Mikasa. I suppose it was for the best since this game couldn’t bestow the brevity.
I can’t say the game does an exceptional job introducing the story to newcomers. I would highly recommend checking out the anime or reading the manga before heading into this one. For those that can’t be bothered, there is a healthy amount of detailed descriptions for characters and story beats accessible through the main menu.
The biggest downside is how the story suddenly cuts off as the game only encompasses the events of the first season and many of the OVAs (we must wait until next spring for Season 2). There are bonus missions you can unlock by completing all of the side missions available in the game that encompass events following the anime, but it will take a lot to endure their monotony.
Outside of the main story, players can partake in multiplayer through Expedition Mode. After choosing one of ten playable characters, including Sasha, Hange, and Erwin, you will be able to hop into an online or offline session. The benefit here is being able to take equipment, materials, and Regiment Funds from this mode over to the story mode. It’s a fun way to hang out with some friends while beefing up your roster’s stats. Just don’t expect anything more than a simple extension.
The voice acting is exceptional just like it was in the anime proper. I will say Eren leans a little too heavily into the intensity even in casual conversation (seriously, I would have a difficult time being around someone so imposing). Then again, he has seen real hell in his short life. Although a lot of the soundtrack is borrowed from the anime, there are original tunes that blend in nicely to help craft the extreme atmosphere you would expect from a species fighting for its existence.
The visuals are nothing short of stunning. Omega Force performed a wonderful job in their adaptations of nailing the look of the anime. Thanks to the power of current gen hardware, the cel-shaded characters and monstrous Titans stand out. The effects are also something to marvel at that compliment the style the show is known for, especially seeing your character flying around soaking in blood after a fierce encounter. I will say the detail in the environment is nowhere near as impressive as the models.
As I mentioned in my hands-on impressions, the controls do take a little getting used to. But once you get the hang of it, the experience can be breathtaking. Being able to swing around at great speeds while dealing out carnage without a moment of respite brings a warm sense of accomplishment. And even though the mechanics are a little sloppy at first, after a few upgrades, you feel like an ultimate badass who can take on a Titan of any size. Attack On Titan combines its solid core design into an entertaining tour-de-force full of drama, exhilaration, and spectacle.