Disclosure ‐ A copy of Attack on Titan 2 was provided to us on Xbox One by Koei Tecmo
Comic Sans is a disgraceful font
Despite its penchant for cliffhanger endings, Attack on Titan is a series quite close to my heart. The unique world, its characters, political turmoil, and ludicrous giant genital-less humanoids arouse a deep
sexual tension excitement from within me. I guess in that case it’s probably surprising that Attack on Titan 2 (AOT2) by Omega Force is the first video-game rendition of the series that I’ve played, though, I’m not complaining. Indeed, in most respects, AOT2 captures the dramatic and playful essence of the show. The overall experience is one which had me humming along to the score as I focused on the speedy, efficient, and tactical manner of slitting ‘neck napes’ alongside my favourite characters. Notwithstanding its technical and gameplay flaws, A.O.T.2 proves to me that a game doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel to provide a shitload of fun.
Differing from the original game, which had players taking on the role of the show’s protagonists, Attack on Titan 2 lets you create and customise your own character who tags along throughout the narrative. The character creation tool is far from ideal, although, considering the majority of game time is viewed from behind your player’s back, I doubt too many people are going to mind. It did allow me to equip my guy with a sweet Solid Snake eye-patch and wear a double-breasted vest though…
From the outset, the implementation of a non-existent character into the show’s timeline can feel a bit convenient, however, overtime the feeling of ‘being involved’ starts to sink in, which is enhanced by the first-person perspective that permeates major cutscenes. Indeed, the quality of story-telling is outstanding; it’s nothing new if you’ve watched the show, but given the space between my last viewing, the refresher course – tied with my own personal involvement – was tremendously fun. AOT2 encompasses both Season 1 and Season 2 of the show, as well as a short epilogue. Overwhelming credit goes towards the original CGI cutscenes which faithfully recreate the events of the show in an anime-game stylistic mix. Even the character dialogue during battles provide entertainment and give weight to the monumental effort of fighting off the Titans.
“ODM is the most exciting traversal experience I’ve had since Spider-Man 2 on the PlayStation 2″
In addition to the joy of the game’s story, the core gameplay tenants of AOT2 are just plain fun. Swinging through cities, villages, and farmland at breakneck speed with the use of the Omni-Directional Mobility action (ODM), is the most exciting traversal experience I’ve had since Spider-Man 2 on the PlayStation 2. On the surface, the mechanic may seem fairly simple, however, quickly you’ll discover the necessity to dart around Titans, latch onto specific limbs, and air dash in for the kill. In this sense, the fundamental experience of the AOT2 offers ample opportunity to be in awe of your supreme Titan slaying skills, especially in synchronisation with the emphatic orchestral soundtrack. Depending on the difficulty, Titans can be frighteningly smart, quick to respond to your movements, and can even catch you with their hands or mouth.
On occasion, Titan abilities were very frustrating, but once I engaged all the tactics/items at my disposal, as well as the game’s ‘dodge’ mechanic which activates a satisfying QTE, the difficulty became a more rewarding challenge. Similarly, throughout the battles you can enlist random and story-based characters to respond to your commands. Once you get the hang of sending an order mid-flight, the result is even quicker and fluid Titan kills, which maintain the pace of the battle and help you clean up the peskier of foes.
That being said, the gameplay isn’t without its flaws. Technical glitches often result in Titans abruptly leaping 100 metres into the air, getting stuck in terrain, or allow them to grab hold of you despite the extreme distance between their grasp and your body. What’s more, the Titan ‘enrage’ mechanic is just downright annoying; you’re stuck targeting them and have no choice but to flail about, trying to get hits in as they scramble and suffer from clipping issues. Perhaps I’d be willing to excuse these flaws were it not for the game’s unpleasantly grainy and low-textured graphics, which still result in poor framerate issues during intense actions scenes. Indeed, it doesn’t help that there is an extreme level of texture pop-in, to the point where trees literally appear 10-20 metres in front of you as you’re charging through the field. One can assume the developers had to settle for certain visual failings in order to ensure Titans had a draw-distance priority, however, on current-gen consoles the latter shouldn’t have to sacrifice the former, which resulted in a game that looks ‘visually lazy’. This is especially true in the town sections where NPCs still pop-in metres in front of you.
Ultimately, I think where player opinion will diverge the most is with regard to the game’s general mission structure. Given that AOT2 is a Koei Tecmo published title, it fulfills the promise of their Dynasty Warrior lineage, with very repetitive, objective-based battles. Whilst the mission parametres fit in quite nicely with the narrative, in the end, you’re still going to be killing a lot of Titans, then killing a boss Titan, then securing a route for retreat and so on. The good news is, boss Titans do pose a more interesting mix to the combat than the previous game, as they present weak points that need to be targeted first before you can do significant damage. I guess for me, as a fan of the series and someone madly in love with the ODM system, the mission structure didn’t bother me that much, with the exception of the Battle of Trost, which just outstayed its welcome for an hour or two longer than I wish it had. In the end, whenever I felt worn down by the repetitive nature, I took a break for a while and came back with a reinvigorated desire to spill some more blood.
“Whilst upgrading and buying new gear can be fun, it isn’t until the end game (post-18 hours or so) that variation in equipment and their ‘niche’ uses are actually relevant.”
In between missions, players are thrown into the ‘Town’; an environment where you can interact with characters from the show, increase friendship ranks, buy gear, equip skills, and conduct survey missions. It’s a welcomed addition, albeit rudimentary at best. Talking to your friends is fun, and whilst the conversations don’t reveal any mind-blowing revelations about the characters, it was still nice to chat with them and experience a little more of their quirky personalities. Actions performed with individual characters in the fields of battle (rescuing, commanding etc), as well as general conversing in the town, will sometimes attribute a skill to your character. These skills are mostly throw-away stat buffs, though there are a couple that give your character a bit more combat variety. The amount of skills you can equip is dependent on your character’s level which will increase over the course of the game as you garner experience from completing missions, which are attributed a rank up to S, and SS at endgame.
Whilst upgrading and buying new gear can be fun, it isn’t until the end game (post-18 hours or so) that variation in equipment and their ‘niche’ uses are actually relevant. Similarly, each piece of gear uses different materials, which means that there’s usually one piece of equipment which is obviously the best choice because you’ve gained access to the materials for it, before the materials that you would use to upgrade one of its contenders. As such, throughout a lot of the game, I found myself using equipment I didn’t really want to use because they had the highest damage or air-boost etc. However, upon completion of the AOT2, the game’s Inferno mode (essentially New Game Plus) opens up, along with more equipment and the opportunity to max out every item, giving them a more competitive edge. Within the Story/Inferno Modes, there are also Survey missions, which act as unrelated side-battles that rise in difficulty as you complete more.
Given that I am reviewing AOT2 ahead of its release, I was unable to try any of the Coop or Multiplayer components, however, supposedly players will be able to hop into their friend’s story missions, and there is a competitive mode which pits teams of players against each other in a ‘who can kill the most within a certain time limit’ mode.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the 18-hours I put into AOT2. If you aren’t a fan of the series, I can understand the shortcomings of the game being enough to turn you off, however, if (like me) you’re passionate about the original anime, there’s a wealth of fun to be had in this faithful video-game rendition. Unfortunately, a part of me will always wonder how good the game could have been, given an extra year in development.