Review: Attack on Titan / A.O.T.: Wings of Freedom

Trost District Warriors

Koei Tecmo has been killing in recent years with its licensed spin-offs of the popular Warriors series. Hyrule Warriors and Dragon Quest Heroes both took the visual style and well-known characters of their respective series and added in Dynasty Warrior’s chaotic, meaty combat, and both were utterly fantastic games.

Its latest effort, Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom, completes the hat-trick by offering something slightly different to the standard gameplay formula and makes something that fans of the original anime and manga series will enjoy. It might be a bit tricky for newcomers to get to grips with, though.

 

Attack on Titan follows Eren Yeagar, a boy who joins the army after his home village is attacked by human-eating, nigh-indestructible giants called Titans. Titans can regenerate from any injury they receive, with the exception of a well-timed slash to the nape of the neck. They’re big, drooling, and creepy as hell.

Because even the smallest Titans are at least three metres tall, Eren and friends fight by using Omni-directional Movement Gear; gas-powered grappling hooks that allow for humans to manoeuvre quickly around their much larger enemies. Scenes of soldiers zipping around and pulling off fancy acrobatics is one of the high-points of Attack on Titan, and the game does a really good job of adapting the ODM Gear in a way that balances that visual flair with something that’s actually controllable in-game.

Adapting the ODM Gear in a way that balances that visual flair with something that’s actually controllable

Holding down square (on PS4) will activate the gear and let whichever character you’re playing as move quickly through the environment. R1 will lock onto a nearby Titan, at which point the right analogue stick can be used to target specific body parts. While taking out the limbs won’t kill a Titan, dismemberment can stop them from attacking or moving to a less ideal location.

Combat relies on you picking a target, reeling yourself in with the ODM Gear and pressing triangle at the right moment to slash. It takes a little bit of getting used to, but by the end of the game I was pulling off risky stunts in narrow areas while facing multiple Titans and coming out on top.

 

This new take on combat is probably the biggest difference between AOT and other Warriors-like games. A complaint levelled at most entries are their tendency to devolve into button-mashing, but that simply isn’t an option 99% of the time here. While the mission structure and level design are still the large sandbox maps littered with timed side-objectives, Attack on Titan isn’t about mowing down thousands of enemies in a single combo.

Instead, it’s about situational awareness, choosing the right target, and executing your attack flawlessly. Despite the movement being much faster thanks to the ODM Gear, it still somehow feels slower and more mechanically demanding because of its reduced body count. It’s really nice change of pace from the likes of Hyrule Warriors, yet manages to remain engaging right up to the end credits.

 

It feels big

There’s a hell of a lot to do before those credits, as well. Outside of the main story missions, there is a full co-op mode for up to four players online or offline that sees the player explore Titan-infested territories (with completing missions giving rewards that carry over to the single-player mode), an extensive series of equipment upgrades to work towards, and an encyclopaedia of the various characters and concepts of the series itself. While it doesn’t have the almost infinite vastness of standard Warriors games, it still feels big.

 

The single-player missions follow the first series of the anime pretty faithfully, with an epilogue continuing ever-so-slightly on from it. Despite this, Wings of Freedom is really not a good place to start if you’re a newcomer to Attack on Titan. The first five-ish episodes of the anime are explained in very brief cutscenes and then it’s straight into the tutorial.

From there, the story is told through in-engine cutscenes, which are often scene-for-scene remakes of the anime. Sadly, they just don’t compare to the gorgeous art style and fluid animations of its source material, and so a lot of the stand-out scenes from the show lack the same emotional punch. For people already invested in the series it is cool to see, but it still isn’t the best way to experience the story.

 

My biggest problem, though, is the localisation job. The game’s been out in Japan since February, and yet those extra months of translation work still haven’t stamped out the frequent grammatical mistakes. Some of these translations are so bad that the entire meaning of important scenes has changed, some characters seem different to how they act in other mediums, major character Jean is at one point weirdly and vaguely homophobic out of nowhere, and a lot of the dialogue feels incredibly flat.

 

For the pre-existing fans, though, it is very nice how some of the events of the show are recontextualised. For example, the OVA Ilsie’s Notebook: Record of a Fallen Soldier, which was released after the original anime run, is placed into its chronological position here and so shines a light on how important it was to wider events in a way I hadn’t really noticed before.

Some of the major plot points are also explored from different perspectives to that in the anime and manga, which really helped cut down on the pacing issues the source material has. Pulling the focus away from Eren and giving Levi, Armin or Mikasa some missions for themselves helped vary things, especially in the notoriously slow second half.

 

Pulling the focus away from Eren and giving Levi, Armin or Mikasa some missions for themselves helped vary things

Newcomers to Attack on Titan will have a hard time getting to grips with the story and may be better just watching the anime first, but for long-time fans, Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom is chock-full of fanservice. Zipping around Trost District, tearing up Stohess and exploring the Forest of Giant Trees was a joy, and I still want to go back to it and relive some of the coolest moments. As both a fan of Warriors and of Attack on Titan, I am really happy that this takes the best bits of both and manages to make something new and exciting.

A copy of this game was provided by the publishers for the purposes of this review.

Platform: PS4 (reviewed), PS3, PS Vita, Xbox One, PC

Developer/Publisher: Omega Force/Koei Tecmo

Price: £36.99

Release date: August 26, 2016 (EU), August 30, 2016 (NA)

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Joe is LPVG’s resident hardware nerd. If it’s overpriced and has gaudy RGB lighting, he’s probably drooling over it. He loves platformers, MMOs, RPGs, hack ‘n slashers and FPS, with his favourite games being Mirror’s Edge, Left 4 Dead, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Oblivion and Dead Space. Don’t ask him about his unhealthily large Monsters Inc memorabilia collection. Seriously, just don’t ask…

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