If there’s one thing you do a lot of in the new Attack on Titan game, it’s slaughter titans.
From Omega Force, the studio behind the Dynasty Warrior games, Attack on Titan looks a lot like them with a ton of enemies to cut through and its expansive maps. But while the game uses the same basic user interface and mission structure, I never really felt like I was playing a Warriors game. This is because the actual gameplay is not a game of hack-and-slash button mashing, but rather one of timing and quick thinking — and soaring through the air at high speed.
Flying through the landscape like Spider-Man is as easy as holding a button. However, as each of the lines you shoot out connects to an object in the game, your trajectory changes slightly and thus requires a bit of skill to master — especially when outside a large city.
When you approach a titan, you lock on to them, and then send an anchor line into its arms, legs or neck. From there you can adjust your angle for attack and reel in, pressing the attack button just before you make contact.
As any Attack on Titan fan knows, the easiest way to bring down a giant is to cut out a chunk of the spinal column from its neck. So the method of ultimate death remains the same; however, going right for the neck is not the best strategy in the long run. Most titans have some useful material or another hidden within an arm or leg (which is marked by a jewel symbol). Cutting there first nets you the item which can in turn be used for crafting new weapons and 3D manoeuvre gear. This mixes up the gameplay and grants the game a bit more strategy: Do you have the time and skill to get the items from the titans — especially if they’re in a group? Or is it a better idea for you to go straight for the necks to be as quick as possible?
(As a side note, I found my greatest enemies — more than the titans themselves — to be small trees, corners of buildings or any other object capable of instantly breaking my anchor line, leaving me to impotently fall to the ground and having to start my attack run anew.)
Besides the normal titans of various sizes, the game comes with boss titans. At first, these only have more hit points than normal titans. But soon you come across those that require you to take out the arms before attacking the neck. Of course, these too become little more than cannon fodder once the Female Titan arrives on the scene with her high speed and the ability to turn her vulnerable areas into a diamond-like surface capable of shattering your blades when you attack.
Sadly, the only other bosses are the Armoured Titan, Beast Titan and (if you complete all the side missions) the Colossal Titan. Outside of the Colossal Titan, you’ll face the other three bosses dozens of times if you do the game’s side missions.
Attack on Titan contains 20 main plot missions that cover the story of the anime in its entirety — including several of the extra OVA episodes. Then there are five more extra missions that cover events after the end of the anime, finishing with a spectacular what-if battle that really ends the game on a high note. Unfortunately, to unlock those final five missions, you must complete the game’s 66 side missions — missions that get monotonous rather quickly.
Whether main plot mission or side mission, each one has a primary objective — for example, kill certain targets, defend a location or escort a group to a location on the far side of the map. Inside each mission are optional objectives marked by green smoke that appears when another character asks for help. These tend to involve rescuing another character, defending an area for a set amount of time, escorting a civilian to a nearby safe location or just massacring a certain number of titans. The reward for these missions tends to be twofold: You get supplies and the character you helped will often join your party.
As you swing around killing titans, you can have up to four other characters with you. While you can draft nearly every soldier you run across, they tend to be weak and die easily. The side missions, however, net you other main characters that can take down titans on their own and rescue you should you get snagged by a giant fist. But while powerhouses like Levi and Mikasa are great to have around, I’d take Armin or Krista over them any day for one reason: They provide you with free supplies from time to time — especially when you need them badly.
More than anything, Attack on Titan is a game of conservation and supply management — especially in the early hours of the game. Each map has a limited number of fuel and spare blades. Sure, you could fly across the map at high speed, boosting forward whenever you hit the end of your swinging arc. Of course, each boost takes off a chunk of gas and soon you’ll blow through your spares, leaving you with little to no manoeuvrability while fighting. Likewise, you could just pound away on titans with your blades, doing only moderate damage and breaking one blade after another recklessly, leaving you unable to do damage.
Rather than that, it is best to use your boost as little as possible. For attacking, there is a way to inflict far more damage for each cut with the blade: The faster you are going when you cut, the more damage you do. To go faster, you just need to ride a longer line that lets you get up to speed before you cut it. This in turn means you have to pick the perfect moment to attack so that where you want to hit isn’t blocked as the titan moves about.
There are ten playable characters in Attack on Titan: Eren, Mikasa, Armin, Jean, Connie, Sasha, Krista, Levi, Hange and Erwin. These character each play differently in addition to having different stats. Attackers like Mikasa and Levi have the ability to reel in faster and add a spin to their attacks, letting them do far more damage than others. Strategists like Armin can choose when and where their allies attack — adding a burst of damage that way. Eren can transform into a titan (after you beat the anime’s story). In this way, the characters feel unique and not like the same character in different skins.
Playing through the story missions, I was rather entertained with its changing objectives and new maps. However, as I started into side missions, I entered into a monotonous pattern. Rescue main characters to build a good party, dismember and kill all the normal titans for weapon-making materials, fight the extra boss (the Female, Armoured or Beast Titan) that appears when all other titans are dead, and then finish off the main objectives and subsequent boss (the Female, Armoured or Beast Titan — again). The maps and main objectives changed, but this pattern did not. And while the final unlocked extra level was the best in the game, I’m not sure it was worth the hours spent grinding.
To put it another way, the main story mode of the game has exactly what I want in an Attack on Titan game. It has strategy to its gameplay, characters that play differently from one another, customisable equipment, numerous maps with a ton of different objectives to fly through and titans galore to slaughter. But while the plot missions are enjoyable, the side missions are just padding — not bad, but not adding anything substantial besides play time.
That said, I suspect the side missions would be great fun coop with a group of friends or strangers — too bad I’ll have to wait till March when multiplayer is patched into the game to see if that’s true or not.
Attack on Titan was released for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita on 18 February 2016. It is scheduled for a Western release sometime in 2016.