David vs. Goliaths
When a murder occurs with no apparent motive, the death feels empty and senseless. Seeing loved ones go off to fight a war with no known purpose questions their involvement. A full life lived in a bustling town but surrounded by a fifty meter wall which you cannot exit is a life lived in a prison. These are just a few of the powerful truths presented in Attack on Titan , a story whose core lies far beyond a mere fight for humanity’s survival. It is the blistering questions of “why” that not only gnaw at each character’s sanity, but also entice readers of the manga and viewers of the anime to cling to every new chapter in hopes of having these questions answered.
The game follows the key points of the first season of the animated series, and does so without compromising the integrity and intensity penned by writer and illustrator Hajime Isayama. Whether you’re a devout follower of the series keen on reliving the harrowing moments in an interactive setting, or an intrigued fledgling fan (like myself) gasping at each new revelation, the game promises a firm grip will remain on the controller.
The story centers primarily around Eren Jaeger, the emotional protagonist intent on eradicating every Titan and embracing the freedom of the world outside the walls; Mikasa Ackermann, Eren’s adopted sister who wields skill and power far beyond what her reserved demeanor portrays; and Armin Arlelt, Eren’s friend whose lack in physical skill is compensated by his keen intelligence and tactical prowess. These three, along with a bevy of secondary characters, all provide compelling backstories and unanswered questions waiting to be exposed. They each draw you into a personal relationship, which makes the vulnerability of their lives to being devoured by Titans, literally, cause all the more apprehension.
The Titans are giant, naked humans of varying sizes whose sole and mindless intent is to eat every person they find. These Titans have brought humanity to the brink of annihilation, and after breaching the wall of the last human bastion, the threat of extinction prompts newly graduated Eren, his cadet classmates, and the rest of the military into a final resistance.
Each mission is straightforward – repel the Titan onslaught. Doing so requires mastering the omni-directional mobility gear – a hip-mounted harness that allows you to swing through towns and forests much like Spider-Man through the streets of New York. Engaging the Titans consists of latching on to their gargantuan bodies and rotating around the beasts in something akin to a Star Wars snowspeeder doing laps around an Imperial Walker with a harpoon and tow cable. Sound exciting? That’s because it is, interminably. After finding the rhythm of controlling your airborne mobility, locking on to the limbs of a Titan, thrusting towards it with a gas-powered boost, and hitting the attack button at the precise moment to inflict major damage, you’ll find that even after slaying your thousandth Titan, the next one is just as satisfying.
However, the game banks on this singular enjoyment, rarely straying from this format. Sure, there are a few abnormal Titans with more erratic movements, and the occasional focus on defending a location or saving a teammate in peril, but even these deviations require slicing the Titans at the vulnerable nape of their neck to accomplish the goal. The only “big” change in the action is when you are in control of a muscle-ripped Titan yourself, pummeling other Titans into submission and pulverizing every nearby building in the process. It’s a satisfying break from the standard slicing combat, but not overly complex.
At the completion of most missions, you are sent to a small hub area where you can chat with some of the characters and craft and upgrade your equipment. But don’t get too excited, because the crafting system is relatively remedial. By collecting materials through cutting off specific Titan limbs and clearing objectives, you can create new weapons or enhance your blades, scabbard, and omni-directional mobility gear. The improvements bolster specific stats such as weapon damage, gas consumption, and anchoring distance, but the choices are somewhat simplistic. That could be seen as a blessing as well, since you can quickly tailor your gear and get right back into the action.
Apart from the campaign, there is an Expedition Mode that contains a sizable number of missions separate from the main storyline, which can be tackled solo or with up to three friends online. The tactics don’t change, but the thrill of cooperative Titan takedowns and attempting to outscore your teammates is alluring enough to keep you sharpening your skills. It also helps that materials acquired and items crafted in the Expedition Mode can be carried over to the story campaign, and vice versa.
Character models and animations have made impressive gains in graphical quality with regards to Japanese art styles in video games of late, and Attack on Titan is a prime example of this. Considering most of the cast is outfitted in the same uniform, the superb work on facial expressions gives each character their own individual presence, and the fast and fluid combat animations combined with in-game cinematics add to the immersion into the dark fantasy. However, despite the near flawless character portrayals, the environments are substantially bland. Buildings are dull, gray and brown hued, and lacking any notable details. They mostly serve as barriers that shatter at the slightest touch of a Titan, but even the destruction animation lacks authenticity, looking more like something out of Blast Corps or a similar 1990s demolition-based game.
Attack on Titan ‘s music score marries action and drama perfectly, instilling uptempo energy when engaged in combat, and tapping into the melancholic aftermath when the carnage and corpses are discovered. The dialogue is intense and well acted, but is entirely voiced in Japanese with English subtitles. As a presentation I rather enjoyed the original voice work, being able to keep pace with each character’s emotional state. However, having to divert my eyes during cutscenes to read the text, and pausing the game in the middle of a mission to read what my allies were shouting while I was focused on defeating a Titan, broke the pacing far too often.
There is no question why Attack on Titan is garnering such acclaim in many different media forms. It has an interesting cast, a gripping narrative, and is shrouded with questions that just beg to be answered. The gameplay, while repetitive, is enjoyable nonetheless. If you have even a shred of interest in the series, immersing yourself in this video game will satisfy your craving to be a part of story from start to finish.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.8 Graphics
Character models are well drawn and expressive. However, the rest of the scenery is bland and destruction is poorly animated. 4.4 Control
The control scheme is not complex, but does require finesse, and is comfortable when you find your rhythm. 4.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music provides the appropriate atmosphere, the sound effects are sharp and potent, and the voice acting delivered well. However, with no English voiceover, having to constantly break the action to read the text can be irritating. 4.5 Play Value
Though the gameplay is repetitive, it never seems to get boring. The story will keep you moving forward towards the credits, and the plethora of Expedition missions will satisfy you long afterwards. 4.2 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best