In Attack on Titan Eren Jaeger and his comrades live in a dire world. One where humanity is hanging on by a thread, under siege by grotesque giants called Titans. They’re new military recruits, and It’s up to them to fight back once the Titans begin to smash through the massive walls erected to keep them out.
Players will take on the roles of several different characters, who have their own strengths and weaknesses.
Movement is Everything
Battlefields are traversed using Omni-Directional Mobility Gear. Tapping the square button will send players flying through the city skyline, allowing them to get to different points quickly. The sense of movement is what makes the game stand out. Being able to blast from objective to objective while slaying some Titans along the way gives a nice sense of power in what seems like a powerless situation.
It all works well until it doesn’t. The feeling of fluidity is killed once you hit a wall, having to use the gear to get back to a higher point and start all over again. This happens sometimes as you grapple a smaller building and don’t have enough height to make it past a taller building that’s right in the way. This gets to be especially frustrating when trying to complete a time-based task.
The Omni-Directional Mobility Gear is also used to swarm around the Titans. Players are able to grapple and attack different body parts or go straight for a finishing blow at the nape. Targeting certain body parts will also yield extra materials for use later on. It’s up to the player to decide whether or not methodically slicing and dicing the monsters is worth it.
War horses are also featured prominently when the fight moves out to wide open spaces. Controlling the horses is OK for the most part, but it’s easy to hit an obstacle that the horse should clear and laughably fail at it. Only getting past the obstacle when the horse randomly jumps over it.
Another way the momentum is killed is with gameplay moments that feature stationary weapons such as cannons. It does add something new to do other than slaying Titans, but it’s not worth it. These elements don’t fit in with everything else going on, and just feel tedious.
It’s Time to Upgrade
At the conclusion of battles players are transported to camps. Here they are able to forge new weaponry, strengthen and modify currently equipped gear, and purchase stronger and faster war horses. The money to attain this new equipment and the ability of the camp to have these upgrades is earned by doing well on the battlefield.
Players are graded at the end of a skirmish based on how many titans were killed, how quickly the fight was completed and how many missions were cleared during the encounter. The better a player does the more money they earn, and the ability of the camp to produce new weapons and upgrades increases. However, money isn’t the only reward. Playable characters also receive experience points based on these factors, too.
As playable characters acquire more experience points they will receive new skills that will come in handy during the campaign. It’s not possible to choose which skills the character receives, stopping it from reaching full-blown RPG status, but it’s still nice to see the work being put into the game be rewarded with some growth.
The Story and the Stakes
The game sticks closely to the source material, hitting all the major plot points while avoiding some of the smaller details found in the anime. Fans of the show will already have a good understanding of the characters and the world, so they won’t be missing much. Players who are jumping into this world fresh will be missing out on quite a bit.
A lot of characters are missing the depth seen in the anime. Some of the cast who had a smaller role in the show are reduced to NPC status here, which is a shame. The show had a great way of making viewers care about the personalities who surrounded the protagonist, making events like deaths feel more impactful.
During the chaos of the struggle allied soldiers can bite the dust, even ones who are a prominent part of the story. During one fight the game clearly messaged that an important character had died, only for that character to be present in a cut-scene immediately afterwards. This takes away any gut punch felt by losing that soldier during battle and seeing that message on-screen.
That’s A Lot of Buttons
The control scheme in Attack on Titan is undoubtedly a double-edged sword. The game uses every single button on the controller save for L1, and it doesn’t do it in the most elegant way possible. Furthermore, players will have to juggle the controls with keeping an eye on all of their supplies, making sure to stop by resupply points on the map.
For experienced gamers this could add a nice level of challenge and tension to the proceedings, or cause frustration by some of the awkward design choices. The directional pad is a perfect example, serving as a way to navigate all usable items, select those usable items and barking out orders to fellow soldiers. It’s a lot of functionality for the d-pad and very easy to make undesired choices.
Fans of the show who aren’t accustomed to playing more complex video games might be traumatized, though, which is a shame.
As the game unfolds it inexplicably goes back and forth between pre-rendered cut scenes and using real time scenes. When it uses the latter characters look a little dead inside, even if the engine is able to display a faithfully accurate game world. Other oddities such as the camera being placed behind the head of a character while they’re speaking also diminishes the enjoyment of the events.
The Pre-rendered scenes on the other hand are much more enjoyable. Faces regain emotion and better able to convey the story. It would have been nice if they would’ve stuck with this method for as much possible and relegated the in-game engine to strictly handle interactions with NPCs.
English Voices Are Missed
Attack on Titan doesn’t have any English voices, which is a surprise given how popular the show is the US. The anime itself received an English dub courtesy of Funimation. Would it have killed them to get English voices into this game?
The reason it’s a big deal is because of the hectic nature of the game during fights. Other soldiers will relay information throughout the course of battle, and it’s impossible to keep track of everything else while trying to read the subtitles. Little tidbits that could add to the feeling of being in these moments are missed because of this.
Not only that but there are countless NPCs who will say something in Japanese and have no accompanying subtitles, leaving players to guess what it is they’re saying. Again, just something that detracts from being able to fully immerse oneself in this world.
Two Steps Forward One Step Back
The game does a good job with a lot of things. It’s able to convey an amazing sense of movement, allows fans of the series to step back into that world and delivers on some fun moments. It’s just a shame that it’s mired with a complicated control scheme, lacks an English dub along with many other rough edges.
If you’re a fan of the show who wants to jump back into this exhilarating world then this is a must play. Even with the rough edges there is enough for enthusiast to enjoy. Everyone else may want to wait for a hopefully much improved sequel.
WARNING: The latter stages of the game go beyond season 1! So there will be some spoilers. You have been warned.