Attack on Titan has quickly become a global phenomenon. The manga, turned anime, movie, spinoff series, and pretty much every other form of media you can think of has captured the public consciousness of not only its native Japan, but the US and many other countries as well. In the interminable wait for Attack on Titan season 2, fans have gobbled up all of these various forms of media, but video games have largely been left alone. Well, there was an Attack on Titan game for the 3DS, but it was terrible. Now Koei Tecmo is tackling the franchise, with the makers of Dynasty Warriors firmly placed at the helm. Can they avoid the missteps of the past and deliver the experience that fans have waited so long for? Kind of, yeah.
Attack on Titan the game tells essentially the same story that is found in the anime, which you should really check out if you haven’t already (there will be minor spoilers for the anime in this review). Humanity has been besieged by giant enemies called Titans. These humanoid figures wander around, squashing and gobbling up any humans they can get their hands on. After a losing battle against the Titans there are few humans left, and they are all housed within a three walled mega structure. 100 years of peace later the Titans are a threat once again, as the outer wall falls to a new threat, the Colossal Titan. Eren Yeager is there that day, and watches as his mother is killed by a Titan. Vowing to eliminate all Titans from the Earth, Eren and his friends Mikasa and Armin join up with the Scouts, a group dedicated to going beyond the walls that shield humanity from the Titan menace, facing them head on.
Attack on Titan is very much a game made for fans of the series. First up, it is gorgeous, with a cel-shaded art style that mirrors the show. Aside from making things not pop-in so close to the player, or solidifying the fairly solid framerate, there’s not much to be improved on visually at all. The music is also spot on, borrowing from the fantastic anime soundtrack. As far as the plot, you’ll get a decent idea of the story being told, and the world in which these interesting characters live, but it is not presented in a comprehensive fashion. It’s more of a highlight reel sort of thing. The game does take its time on occasion, presenting some very enjoyable cutscenes to watch, and it even delves into story bits that were left out of the anime. But if one isn’t already familiar with the story of Attack on Titan, this game will likely be a bit confusing, and will definitely not serve as a substitute for the show or manga.
If you are a fan, then Koei Tecmo’s Attack on Titan is the game you’ve waited so long for. The action of the series might seem impossible to put into video game form, with characters performing immensely chaotic maneuvers and fighting massive enemies. However, while the gameplay available here isn’t perfect, it is about as close as could be expected, given the tall task asked of the developer.
The roots are very firmly set in the Dynasty Warriors series, with players tossed into huge, open battlefields. Enemies are scattered about, but you have a good number of allies by your side to help. Depending on the mission you might have different objectives, but almost all levels require you to fight and “subjugate” a good number of Titans. The combat is the real star of this game, taking the visceral and frenetic action of the series and distilling it into a form that works in a video game.
Players use the iconic Omni-Directional Gear to swing around the city, tracking down Titans on the mini-map. Once near their target, players enter combat mode, centering the camera on their nearest foe. At this point you’ll have to use some strategy, will you take out the Titan’s arms or legs, or go straight for the back of the neck, where you can make the killing blow. Controlling yourself during these combat sections will take a lot of time to get the hang of. Even once you do, you’ll still mess things up well into the game. There’s just so much going on on-screen, and most of your actions have to be done in a split second. This mirrors the action from the source material, of course, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating when you hit the wrong button, or have to fumble around with the camera.
Swinging and gliding your way around the city functions a bit better, but still has its own trouble spots. It is a truly wonderful experience when you get into a groove, working your way through the alleyways of the city, or blasting yourself over rooftops. When the system doesn’t work as you intended it to, often slamming you into a wall or down to the ground, it can be frustrating, and really dampens the exhilaration that the game so expertly crafted before that moment. Despite those minor missteps, the Omni-Directional mechanics are an Attack on Titan fan’s dream come true. The developer even paid close attention to the small parts of the experience, like how the wires always attach to real objects, and if you get stuck in an open space you can’t use it anymore.
One problem with all of this is that the action, while intense and gleefully frenetic, does get a bit old after a while. There just isn’t much to differentiate one Titan battle from another. Attack on Titan tries to rectify this with different types of missions mixed in. Many missions will have you play as different characters, with each feeling quite different in their capabilities and strengths. Armin, for example, is better at leading others, so instead of giving general orders to his teammates, he can actively direct them as to what they need to do. Other missions mix things up by letting you take on the Titans as a Titan yourself, or putting you in special circumstances, such as open fields that utilize your horse. These help keep the action feeling a bit fresh, but if that base Titan combat doesn’t grab you like it should, the game will become utterly dull after a few hours.
Another way that Attack on Titan tries to keep players engaged is the crafting, customization, and inter-mission areas. After completing each mission the player is sent to a neutral location. Here all the current characters stand awkwardly around, arms hovering by their sides. You can chat with them to get some story pieces, but most will likely just skip this part and head to the next mission. Before you do, you can craft new weapons and gear, or upgrade your current ones. This is a nice addition in theory, but in practice it is just a bunch of cumbersome junk that I only jumped into when I felt like the missions were getting a bit too tough, which was rare since the game isn’t actually all that difficult.
There’s just too many different factors to keep in mind for this system. You have currency which is gained after missions, and materials, which you can gather inside the level by various means. There are two different shops, when there really only needs to be one, and the interface is unintuitive to say the least. You have to go to the upgrade screen to see what objects you might need, then to the material shop to try to buy it, or convert other stuff you have to what you need. After a few times trying to work this all out I found it best to just buy new items when they were available and looked better than what I had, and upgrade stuff as I could, rather than actively planning it all out.
Finally there is a multiplayer component to Attack on Titan. Side missions, which are also optionally playable inside the single player campaign, can be tackled with other players online. These largely play out like the regular story missions, but with three of your friends taking on the Titans with you. If you have some actual friends that you are going to communicate with, this should be a pretty cool little game. Playing with random players online mostly just feels like a regular single player mission, but with more powerful NPCs running around, taking out Titans.
Koei Tecmo’s Attack on Titan is certainly the game that fans have been waiting for. It delivers so much of what fans love about the show, and really does a great job of putting you right into the action. Of course, that action is extremely chaotic and repetitive, which also means the game can be as well. This is a problem when it leads to fumbling with the controls, or having to frantically work the camera. However, that is a small price to pay for an Attack on Titan experience like this.