Attack on Titan is an anime in which a race of man-eating giants threatens to wipe out humanity. Koei Tecmo has made this into a game for Xbox One, all three modern PlayStation systems, and PC that not only captures the feel of the show, it actually plays so well that non-anime fans will enjoy it as well. Who wouldn't want to swing around like Spider-Man, stabbing giant monsters?
Enter the Titans
The Attack on Titan game (known as A.o.T: Wings of Freedom in Europe) is based on the anime and manga created by Hajime Isayama. In this reality, gigantic (and disturbingly derpy) creatures called Titans appeared out of nowhere a century ago and drove humanity to the brink of extinction. Titans want nothing more than to eat humans. They can't think or be reasoned with and are nearly invincible.
Humanity retreated behind three concentric 50-meter walls. After new, more powerful Titans suddenly destroy the outermost wall, the surviving population decides it's time to stop living like caged animals. Utilizing a technology called Omni-Directional Mobility Gear (or just "Gear" for short), a promising team of military cadets hopes to discover the key to eliminating the Titans and reclaiming their world.
Attack on Titan features two modes: Attack (story) and Expedition (multiplayer). Attack mode is single-player. It follows the first season of the anime, beginning with a tutorial stage depicting the training of Eren Jaeger and the 104th Cadet Corps.
The story plays out via a combination of prerendered and in-engine cut scenes bookending each chapter. These cinematics feature Japanese dialog with English subtitles. The lack of an English dub is disappointing given that home video releases of the anime come with both English and Japanese audio. But the game does a nice job of condensing the show's story into videogame form, and players can skip through the dialog if they prefer to jump into the action.
Between missions, players will explore base areas that help flesh out the game's world. You can talk to NPCs, purchase and sell equipment, and upgrade your existing equipment. After beating the game, you'll unlock a permanent base from which you can play chapters with the characters and outfits of your choosing. Completion also unlocks new optional side missions called Requests and a handful of missions that take place during Season 2 of the show.
Although you start out as Eren in Attack mode, you'll play as several other characters throughout the story as well. Humans have a high mortality rate in Attack on Titan, so characters come and go as the narrative progresses.
Each character has unique stats and levels up independently, learning new abilities as they progress. For instance, the fierce Mikasa has the useful ability to chain together hits, whereas diminutive, bad haircut-having Armin can order NPC troops to attack rather than fighting directly. Character levels and equipment carry over between Attack and Expedition, which is great.
As for the multiplayer Expedition mode, it initially offers three playable characters. Progressing through Attack mode will unlock a total of 10 characters from the show:
- Eren Jaeger
- Mikasa Ackermann
- Armin Arlert
- Jean Kirschtein
- Conny Springer
- Sasha Braus
- Christa Lenz
- Hange Zoe
- Erwin Smith
Although Attack on Titan comes from Omega Force, the same developer responsible for Warriors Orochi 3 and other Warriors/Musou games, it plays quite differently. Missions do take place on square maps and involve heading from point to point as they progress, but the actual combat and even the movement system are completely unique.
Our heroes can walk around on foot or ride horses when necessary. But for the most part, they get around using the Gears they wear around their waists. These miraculous devices shoot out tentacle-like grappling hooks that latch onto things and propel the wearer forward. This lets you swing across high distances and at great speeds, similar to the Spider-Man and Bionic Commando games.
On Xbox One, you fire the Gear's grappling hook by pressing the X button (which can be remapped in the Settings menu). You can only swing around when there are things nearby to hook onto, such as buildings or trees. Objects (especially trees) sometimes get in the way of the hook's line during battle, causing you to fall. That gets annoying. But for the most part, swinging around at high speed is incredibly liberating.
The grotesque Titans come in varying shapes and sizes. You deal with these beasts by grappling onto them and slashing with your swords when you get close. The strength of the blow depends on speed, distance traveled, and timing of the button press for your slash. Holding the jump button while grappling increases speed and thus damage, but it consumes more fuel. If your fuel runs out or sword blade breaks, you'll need to pick up more from Logistician NPCs on the battlefield.
Each Titan's limbs can be individually targeted with the right analog stick and severed. This generally slows them down and makes them less dangerous. Some limbs are marked with an icon to indicate they contain a resource to harvest. These resources can be spent at your base to buy and upgrade new weapons and gear, sort of like you do in the Monster Hunter series.
To actually kill a Titan, players must target the back of its neck and slash it with their swords. The challenge is in getting behind the monsters and hitting it without getting grabbed. Some missions feature overwhelming crowds of Titans. Certain types of Titans have armored necks as well. Well-aimed grenades will expose their weak spots.
Some missions allow players to man cannon turrets as well. These do tremendous splash damage, so a shot that lands anywhere near a Titan's head will kill it. Cannon shots even destroy buildings, as can Titans.
Separate from the main campaign, Expedition mode can be played solo or online with up to four players. The team meets up in the multiplayer camp, where they can buy items and upgrades from vendors, talk to NPCs, and select missions. Each player can also buy Titan models, huge statues that appear on the outskirts of the camp. They don't do anything, but I like that everyone can see each other's models.
Expedition has two types of missions: Survey and Expedition. Survey consists of over 60 missions divided up by map. The team receives a letter grade based on side mission completion, kills, and completion time. The better your rating, the more resources you get to spend on equipment.
Expedition missions are sets of missions the team can take on without returning to camp. They're a lot more time consuming, but they also offer better rewards.
On the whole, multiplayer is a lot easier than single-player. Teams will generally spread out across the map in order to quickly eliminate enemies and complete side missions. Everyone needs to score a few kills of their own if they want to get an S Rank, which further encourages the divide and conquer approach. Teaming up might not be tough, but it's still a lot of fun.
Attack on Titan offers 43 Achievements worth a total of 1,000 Gamerscore on Xbox One. The Achievements encompass a variety of tasks that you'll mostly get over time anyway, such as recruiting 100 NPC allies and using 100 items during battle. The Achievement for killing 10 Titans within one minute might require some effort though.
Long-term Achievements include S Ranking every Attack mode mission, maxing out your overall player level, and completing all Expedition mode Survey missions. Surprisingly, there doesn't seem to be an Achievement for getting S Ranks in all Expedition missions. But there is a Platinum Trophy-style Achievement for completing all other Achievements, which will probably take a while.
Attack on Titan is a surprisingly strong adaptation of the popular anime. Koei Tecmo's Arslan: Warriors of Legend also perfectly captured the feel of its source material, but it did so within the Warriors/Musou framework. The Attack on Titan developers had to reach outside of their comfort zone and create a totally different combat and grappling system.
The end result is a lightning-fast, bloody action combat game that anybody can enjoy. The missions don't have a tremendous amount of variety – whether you're on offense or defense, you're still just running around killing Titans. But as long as the grappling mechanics and combat grab you, a little sameness won't matter so much. Swinging across ruined cityscapes and slamming into gargantuan monsters at high speeds is exhilarating, especially with a friend or three.
- Faithful adaptation of the anime
- Exciting and fast-paced grappling mechanics and combat
- Lots of missions and an intuitive crafting system enhance replayability
- Mission objectives could use more variety
- Game sometimes crashes on multiplayer 'Join' screen
- Armin needs to cut his hair and man the heck up
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