We may be a little late to the party on this one, Attack On Titan: Wings Of Freedom actually released on the 26th of August, after all. But Pure PlayStation’s Dom O’Leary likes to take his time when working-over large naked men, so deal with it. Anyhow, if you don’t know yet; the game, based on the critically acclaimed manga and anime franchise of the same name, is a new take on the Musou games from developer Omega Force and publisher Koei Tecmo (Dynasty Warriors, Warriors Orochi, and a thousand spin offs). Pretend you’ve read nothing about this game elsewhere, and find out what our flesh hungry reviewer thought of his time within the walls below.
Attack on Titan presents an interesting proposition to me; not only does it represent a significant change-up in gameplay from your normal ‘Warriors’ game, it also promises to offer a faithful representation of a fantastic anime series. I’ve long learned to be wary when it comes to licensed franchises being made into games though, so my mood going into this one could best be described as cautious optimism. Optimism soon turned to delight, as I found a fantastic reproduction of the source material, and an innovative take on 1 v 100 gameplay. Read on with me, friends, to find out whether this promising start developed into a great overall experience, and to answer probably the biggest question that hangs over a game like this; if I never watched the anime or read the manga, will I have any idea what’s going on in the game?
Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom had me hooked from minute one. I have to be honest, I’ve been keeping an eye on this one since its announcement, and as far as I’m concerned; the game lives up to everything promised about it in the run up to its release. There’s fast-paced, unique gameplay, a coherent (if somewhat streamlined) retelling of the story featured in the anime series, a ton of content; characters, weapons, items, horses, and a comprehensive gallery for series fans. There’s also an original prologue story that unlocks after beating the main storyline, a bunch of additional missions, side missions, and maps, an online co-op mode and a new game plus. Whew, I’m out of breath.
At first, the game takes a linear path as you control the series main character, Eren Jaeger, from his training to his first fight against the Titans. To tell a pretty faithful recreation of the series’ storyline, the game then jumps you between other mainstay characters and pits you in various missions against the Titans. After a while, you open up the opportunity to take a break from the story by tackling an extensive set of side missions known as ‘Survey missions’. You’ll also earn the opportunity to purchase and craft various equipment upgrades, which transfer between characters, as you level up both your character and the ‘Regiment’ in general.
The missions take a format that many among you may recognise; you’re sent to a battlefield – a wide open map filled with enemies, and you’ll tackle various main and side tasks as you wipe them out. So far, so Warriors. Where the game massively differentiates itself is how you tackle these enemies. Taken straight from the source material, you zip around on gas-powered, projectile wires known as the Omni-Directional Maneuver gear (or ODM for short). This allows you to essentially swing around like Spiderman, while you take swipes at your giant enemy’s limbs with the attached twin swords.
The tasks you’ll be given are just about varied enough to stop the formula getting stale, and later on (through a series of events I won’t spoil for you new people) you’ll get the ability to fist-fight with the giants toe-to-toe, which serves to increase the variation in gameplay, and is ridiculous fun. The true strength of this game, however, is in how the gameplay, missions, dialogue, cut-scenes and vignettes all come together as a cohesive package; whether you’re a series fan or not, there’s a story to follow, and the missions you’ll tackle and your abilities all make sense in context.
Controlling the ODM Gear can take some getting used to, but once you’ve got the hang of switching targets, boosting and attacking you’ve got the basics. Once you’re past that hurdle, there’s much more depth to the combat to dig into, if you like that kind of thing. On easy mode, you could beat the game with these basics, but to get any further on harder difficulties, you’ll need to get the hang of; managing resources, giving squad orders, using items and buffs, and your specific character’s traits to augment your slicing skills. Variation of skills between characters is also a nice touch; some are strong, some are fast, others are better leaders, and it’s all faithful to these character’s roles in the source material.
The enemies themselves, the eponymous Titans, also deserve a special mention. They are truly one of the most disturbing antagonists I have ever seen in the original manga, and that is lovingly recreated here. Their perpetually grinning human faces on top of grotesque, gigantic, naked, (mostly) masculine frames are a fantastic use of the familiar/unfamiliar juxtaposition so popular in modern horror. Enemy design is massively varied, too – as evidenced by the huge amount of unlockable statues of the beasts you can later decorate your base with. They range from 10 foot giants to 50 foot monsters, and some special ‘boss’ type enemies with different abilities and patterns also appear later on in the game.
Environments too are nicely varied, featuring; forests, inner towns, rural villages, wide open plains that necessitate the use of a horse in place of your gear, and narrow mountain passes that limit movement. They look good too, providing a nice backdrop to the slaughter. Many of the maps feature destructible buildings, traps, and other effects that provide some cool visuals and really emphasise the fact that your fight is having an impact on the world around you. Humanity is trapped inside walls of its own creation in Attack on Titan, and Titans inside these walls represent a deadly threat to ordinary citizens and soldiers alike – people will die in their droves even on your most successful missions.
The moment to moment gameplay is great fun and, for the most part, getting around and fighting on the maneuver gear is a pleasure. However, there is the occasional oddity where you might find yourself stuck on a small wall or similar, or disconnected from your wire, or blocked in the middle of an attack when there’s scenery or multiple enemies involved. When the action gets intense in later missions, this can get a bit frustrating. But, mostly your issues can be solved by maneuvering for better position, so frustration is kept to a minimum. The camera can also, perhaps predictably given the 360 degree movement and dynamic action, have its issues. These issues can be solved by resetting the camera with a simple button press though, which is a good way of managing something that could otherwise cause serious problems.
Like the game’s source material, the story is well paced and interesting, though it finishes in a rather unsatisfying way (exactly as the series from which the greatest inspiration is taken did). The pacing in the game, however, takes a bit of a hit once the main story line is over. The game features a prologue with an original story, told over 5 ‘episodes’, but these episodes are unlocked individually by completing the aforementioned survey missions – and there are a lot of these, rather similar, missions. The repetition is alleviated somewhat as the game allows you to freely swap characters at this point, but it still means these short-form story chunks are spaced pretty wide apart. Beating the prologue opens up a new game plus mode, which is pretty much rinse and repeat with harder enemies and all your skills and gear intact. Overall there’s a great deal of content in the game, and personally I found I wanted to plow through these missions as the gameplay involved is a blast.
It’s only later in the game that the gear you can buy, upgrade, and reinforce really comes into its own. There are various crafting parts to obtain in battle, and some can only be obtained in the new game plus difficulty. If you’re a little obsessive like me, you’ll be playing with this system for many, many hours. You can also develop your collectible character gallery at this point by completing requests and side missions and, if you like, commission a life-size statue of a giant naked monster to gawk at in your main base.
There is also an online co-op mode (which can also be played offline in single player) called expedition mode. To be honest though, it’s pretty much the same story as the main game mode, except that you can do consecutive missions to boost your rewards. Enjoyment is boosted slightly by adding a partner, but overall it doesn’t add much to the game. I can’t count this as a negative though, as the game feels like a complete package without it, and it’s a fully realised additional mode so it doesn’t detract from the game either.
Apart from the minor annoyances mentioned above, and the occasionally hilarious physics of your enemies (the only way I can describe this is ‘bobble-head’ physics, the enemy character models will sometimes pivot and bend amusingly around a fixed base when faced with complex geometry), this game is an almost perfect example of its type. For me, it is the best game that has ever come from a licensed anime franchise, the most innovative game in its broadly related game franchise for a long time, and taken on its own, just bloody good fun to play. I can’t assess this from the point of view of someone who has never seen the original manga or anime series. But, more than any anime based game I have ever played, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this game to my Japan-o-phobic buddies. Eren Jaeger wants to eliminate every last Titan on earth, and you know what? I think I might just join him.
Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom is available now as a physical disc or digital download for PS4 and Xbox One. Prices vary, but Amazon UK are currently offering the game for a cool £34.85 here: A.O.T. Wings of Freedom (PS4). or $59.99 for our American pals here: A.O.T. Wings of Freedom (PS4). Or if you’re mental, you can genuinely buy your own ODM gear here: Mtxc Attack On Titan Cosplay Eren Yeager Three-Dimensional Maneuvering Gear Full Set Silver, though we suspect it may be for display purposes only. Tell us of your desire to rid the world of Titans, or conversely, to devour us puny humans, in the comments below!
Review Disclaimer: This review was conducted using a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher. This has no effect on the content of the review or the final score awarded. For more information, please read our Review Policy.