Attack on Titan Review – Yeager Bomb
A titanic effort let down by the fact that it’s maybe too authentic.
Developer: Omega Force Publisher: Tecmo Koei Format: PC, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One Released: August 30, 2016 Copy provided by publisher
The problem with an Attack on Titan game is that it’s really hard to keep the experience authentic without it becoming fairly repetitive while struggling to offer a decent challenge.
Originally a manga series, the story of huge lumbering creatures that eat people before being cut in the neck by angry teens with hookshot belts is harder to turn into interactive fun than it sounds.
Omega Force’s Attack on Titan does an admirable job of recreating the feel of the anime upon which this is primarily based. As one of humanity’s defenders, players get to control a variety of characters and slice their way through hordes of creepy, naked, smooth-crotched hungry boys.
Taking out a Titan works exactly how it does on the show – attach anchors to the Titan’s limbs and surge toward them with swords drawn, using a timed slash to cut that limb from existence. A Titan’s down for good as soon as the nape of the neck is targeted and cut, instantly killing the gluttonous nudist where it stands.
That’s how you deal with almost every Titan. Over and over again. For far more hours than is necessary to drive the point home.
Attack on Titan is not a bad game, and as a representation of the series it does fine work indeed. It does, however, highlight the problems inherent in making a Titan game.
You don’t exactly “fight” a Titan. These lumbering people eaters have one job – to grab little humans and gobble them up. Those fighting the Titans have one objective – zipline to that neck and cut it. It’s hard to add much variety to such a dynamic without rewriting the script entirely, and in choosing to remain faithful to the source material, AoT is left battling valiantly to keep the thing fresh.
Mechanically, human-on-Titan combat works out well, even if it’s somewhat chaotic. Once locked onto a body part, players must fire an anchor and reel themselves in, gaining enough speed to effectively cut that part off. Doing this requires maintaining distance, maneuvering mid-air to maintain line-of-sight to shifting targets, and cutting at just the right moment.
It’s more complex than Omega Force’s usual hack n’ slash offerings, but once you get the hang of the right buttons to press and make sense of the game’s overwhelmingly detailed HUD elements, it’s a deceptively simple process of locking, anchoring, gaining speed and slicing.
Getting around the huge maps involves utilizing the series’ iconic (proper iconic, not Ubisoft iconic) Omni-Directional Mobility Gear to gain high speeds and height, leaping over buildings and surging forward by expelling gas from hip-mounted canisters. It’s essentially a grappling hook machine that can make a Spider-man of anybody.
In fact, controlling a character works similarly to how one webswings with Peter Parker in a variety of Marvel-flavored games, using timed button presses to swing from structure to structure.
Due to the game’s strictness on using momentum to get the most out of the swings, it can be a little awkward to get the hang of motion initially, but any clumsiness soon gives away to satisfying swings and bursts of speed. At least until you hit a wall and the game freaks out trying to get you to run up the side of it.
On the subject of clumsiness, one problem that never abates is the general anarchy that is omnidirectionally propelling around a space while attempting to remain focused on evermoving Titan limbs. The camera is routinely unhelpful in this regard, desperately attempting to keep up with the action.
Titans themselves are prone to getting stuck in scenery or floors and their erratic movements can be annoying to line up attacks against.
There is no doubt the game is doing its best to cope with the task it set itself, and as a result the combat comes off not as shoddy or slapdash but almost suited to the task and not quite making it.
Aside from the random punch or kick, Titans don’t do much to defend themselves, which is again true to the source material. The only real threat they pose is a grab attack that, once connected, squeezes the player in a fist and initiates a brief button-mashing interlude to escape before getting munched.
It’s annoying, but it rarely feels like danger is imminent.
Instead, Attack on Titan ups the stakes by populating every stage with side missions and emergencies from characters not quite so adept at staying alive. Completing missions allows strong allies to fight alongside the player in a mission or awards vital supplies, so they’re always worth doing.
Subjugation of Titans is graded, awarding extra points for cutting them down cleanly and efficiently without missing or botching attacks, lending at least some added pressure.
Adding a little spice to the mix is plains combat, which disables the ability to use the Omni-Directional gear unless near Titans. These areas give the player a warhorse which closely follows behind and can be ridden at any moment. A fun nod to the show, but horse stamina drops fast and even upgraded forces feel a bit too slow.
The better one performs, the more money one gets to purchase new equipment and upgrades between missions.
Both blades and gas canisters require frequent replacement in the field as they degrade with each use, so it’s important to regularly upgrade equipment to improve their effectiveness and resource management.
I admire the work put into making Attack on Titan feel as varied as possible, but there’s no escaping the glaring repetition issue when Titans are so rarely threatening and they go down almost the same way every time. Even more complicated Titans aren’t particularly unique – they simply require certain limbs lopped before before their nape is exposed, which just drags an already samey fight out.
At least you get a chance to play as a Titanic Eren for some more involved brawling action, but it’s not all that frequent and it gets old quick.
Getting old is Attack on Titan‘s biggest problem, which is a shame because it’s dripping in tons of raw content for those who equate raw playtime with quality.
As well as an extensive story mode that unlocks loads of playable characters with their own additional skills, there’s a massive selection of optional battles and online coop missions. Loads of stuff to do, but all of it revolving around gameplay with limited potential, restricted by its own authenticity.
In short bursts, Attack on Titan can be a fun distraction. It definitely looks and feels like the animated series, runs through its narrative nicely, and features lots of stuff to unlock, upgrade, and play through. Sadly, almost every mission feels just like the last one, and with very little to shake up the process.
Such is the curse of an Attack on Titan game. Unless someone gets really creative, attempting to emulate the way that world works is looking set to produce some enjoyable games undermined by the fact that cutting a giant man behind the neck really isn’t thrilling enough to sustain hours of gameplay.