REVIEW: Attack on Titan 2

Apr
04

REVIEW: Attack on Titan 2

Attack on Titan 2 comes out slashing and flying though the air in what looks like the world’s most deadly Cirque Du Soleil show, and I love every minute of it.

Steam: Released
Type: Single-player
Genre: Action, Hack n Slash
Developer: Omega Force,
KOEI TECMO
Publisher: KOEI TECMO
Release date: Mar 14, 2018

Ah, the Joy of a Hook Drive and Wait Up This Looks Familiar

His face, that was what I remembered of the anime. Eren’s face is the embodiment of determination fueled by hatred for an enemy.  It has an insatiable rage and unwillingness to give up even in the jaws of death.  In a sense, I think the fanbase want a part in that.  To be a Scout with the blades and the gear, an aerial assassin ridding itself of the scourge of the Titans.  It’s a thrill just to think of it. Now we have the newest installment of that vision come to life, Attack on Titan 2, and it’s fantastic.  However, if you have Attack on Titan you will find that Attack on Titan 2 will contain an essentially upgraded version of the same game for the majority of the gameplay.  There are some differences I’ll note later, but if you have the first game, then be warned that you’ll be seeing a lot of the same cut-scenes and playing many of the old missions all over again.  That said, if you don’t have Attack on Titan, then by all means grab Attack on Titan 2.  It has a brilliantly unique combat structure and looks and plays with a sort of balanced choreography that few games ever achieve.  Most of all, the game embodies the core drama of the anime with the literal blood, sweat, and tears of every character and does a substantially good job at making this less of an anime adaptation and more of an original franchise of it’s own.  In my opinion, this will likely be a candidate for the best anime-based game of 2018.

 Story

Attack on Titan 2 is based on the anime series and, as such, incorporates the majority of the specific key moments from the anime within the storyline.  That said, unlike Attack on Titan, in this new version of the game you immediately start out as a member of the military writing in a journal on a rooftop when suddenly you find yourself in some action from far within the storyline rather than the onset of the series.  All this from the first person perspective, and frankly, this envelopes you into the gameworld substantially more than the beginning of the first game.  It almost feels like a Dishonored scene set in Attack on Titan and you’ll see these new first-person cut-scenes again throughout the game.  They are completely original scenes, not included in the anime, and fully animated in 3D with what I can only guess as the original voice actors.  It’s a wonderful start to the game and leads into the action right away, albeit if you’ve never played before you may be at a slight loss about how all this works at first.  However, shortly after this small tidbit of gameplay you are drawn out of that action sequence to be taken to a scene where someone is reading your journal.  It’s many years in the future and now the Attack of Titan history is simply being read off as your personal account by someone who I think is a historian.  From here, you begin the core game again from the beginning of Season One of the anime.  The only problem with that, for me anyway, is that it’s very much the exact same Attack of Titan game that was previously released.  You watch the same cut-scenes and it even feels like the same fights with minor changes.  The difference here is that instead of being able to play as Eren, Mikasa, or any of the other characters from the anime as it happens in the first game, you are a custom character inserted into the anime itself.  Basically, you are now in the storyline.  It’s a much more personal take than previously, but I still have to say again that the levels are left almost the same as before.  I’m only halfway through the game and will be following up with a second review to discuss the second half of the game with, from what I’ve been told, about 20% more story with Season Two involved.

One thing to note, your character is not exactly engaged with the world as your lines are mostly voiced for you.  However, there is a Friendship Meter which addresses this.  With the Friendship Meter, your character can choose specific reactions to a conversation with actual members of the anime.  You will befriend, or offend if you choose wrongly, those members and unlock special talents from them along the way.  I unlocked some talents from Jean, but I’ve yet to answer everything correctly enough to get much more than that.  I think I got some dexterity and resourcefulness by helping out a few so far, but nothing amazing. It’s interesting and sort of pushes players to learn more about the psyches of each team member.  Granted, you only get one try at doing it.  In combat, you are only as good as you know your party members.  So, the more you know them the better you’ll be in combat.

If you’ve seen the original anime, you will know exactly what is going to happen next at every corner.  For those who have not watched it, you’ll be in for a good story with some tension and drama that are signature features of Attack on Titan and what made it so famous in the first place.  I won’t bother spoiling it, but in short humanity is dying from the appearance of giants who eat people and they have to fight back.  You’ll find out the rest as you play. There is also the matter of the Titans themselves, who are often sort of odd looking and aloof.  The scary bit is watching them smile at you with a disturbing grin as they eat your teammates alive.  The eyes is what gets me, it’s like seeing someone purposely look at you as prey and overwhelm all ideas of getting away from their obvious bloodlust.  This makes killing them all the sweeter.

Gameplay

Your primary gameplay consists of using ODM hardware strapped to your body, essentially a harness with retractable hooked cables that are also propelled by pressurized gas cylinders.  In other words, you move like Spiderman using a jetpack on his legs.  It’s phenomenally fun and does take a bit of practice.  Once you get the hang of it, though, it’s literally an aerial ballet of movement as you sway side to side to find the right angle of attack.  I can’t think of anything other than Spiderman that is similar to this and I feel it’s harder in fact than the last Spiderman game I played, the Amazing Spiderman 2.  Think of it more as acrobatics.  You not only have to manage to get around the Titans without being gobbled up, but you are trying to look for potential angles of attack and often have to swing in different directions to find that angle, all the time checking on your teammates angles in case they have a better shot.  Sometimes it takes too long and you lose your momentum.  Other times, you are swatted down by the Titan or blocked by a tree or building.  When there are several Titans all at once, you will find it quite difficult to get a good momentum and angle at all because they will block you or knock you down at every available moment.  It’s quite a bit different than most games when several Titans are attacking at once.  The closest I can think of is imagining an airborne Shadow of Mordor attack where there are more Orcs than you can handle, its that intense at times.  Moving from building to building is pure joy and hooking onto a Titan, especially a feisty Strong Abnormal, will likely give you some epic battles to be satisfied with once completed.  With Attack on Titan 2, the controls seem more fluid and more responsive than before.  I’d even say it’s a bit harder to play than the first one.  Now, I have to confess that I bought Attack on Titan for PS4 about three months ago and didn’t get very far simply because I had several games to review and was bogged down with work.  But, I can say I prefer the controls and aerial movement in Attack on Titan 2 more than the first.  I’ve progressed further in this Steam version for PC than I did on my PS4.

For attacking, you will have different options.  First and foremost, there are your blades.  These can be upgraded, reinforced, and developed as new options when unlocked in RPG fashion.  I generally lean towards the ones with the highest damage rate and decent durability, but that’s just me.  One thing to note, your blades wear out and have to be replaced often.  Make sure you upgrade to carry at least 5 blades when you can.  You should also keep a look out for supply bases or make some of your own as time permits, especially near your objective Titans to destroy.   There will be times, however, when you may run out of blades and the battle is not finished.  Since you begin the battle by locking onto your target, simply unlock the target and get as many blades as you can and come back.  There is a problem with this, though.  If you leave, the Titan may damage the building you are protecting or kill an important character.  If this happens, it is Game Over and you have to start from the last checkpoint again.  So, do your best to keep the Titan in one place.

Your next method of attack, and one that you should learn to use often, is utilizing your teammates.  Now, at the onset of a mission you may only have one or even no teammates.  In that case, you must rescue some to get them on your team or find some strewn about the area.  Once you have at least three, preferably four, you can tackle even the largest of Titans without too much worry.  If downed or in a bad angle for attack, simply assign one of them to attack your target location and they will often cut off a limb or even kill the Titan completely. Some of the more powerful characters have special attacks that are a joy to see.  Levi, in particular, is like a steel bladed ace in the hole with tremendously powerful attacks followed by one of your own.  The downside is that once used, it takes a long time for them to cool down before you can use them again.  With that said, you want a mix of teammates with a powerful one ,1-2 regular ones with shorter cool-downs, and possibly a healing one.

I say possibly get a healing teammate because I found it rather hard to die in Attack on Titan 2.  It wasn’t for lack of trying either, I am no ace player.  Several times per mission I’d get gobbled up by a Titan.  You have two options in this case, one is to press a button as fast as you can to defeat the Titan’s strength meter or simply call on help from a teammate, if they are not cooling down.  With the help of a teammate, the Titan is usually killed on the spot unless it’s a rather big one.  When you escape the clutches of this Titan, your health begins to beep that you are dying.  This isn’t dire news, though, because you can still attack as much as you want.  As long as you out-press the strength button or call on a teammate, you can’t die.  Trust me, I’ve tested this.  Even with falling debris, I was fine.  I’ve replenished my health only to get moving faster.  Now there is a more deadly situation where you are low on health and you are out of blades.  You could run of to get more, but remember sometimes the Titans can damage the areas too much or kill a character.  I got myself into one of these situations and what I did was use my teammates over and over, hacking away slowing as I could ( your blades still cause damage, just minute amounts), and just waited. Eventually, you will kill it unless your teammates are all cooling down and you lose the strength button contest.  On top of this, there is a strategy where you could potentially get gobbled by a Titan repeatedly and have your teammates rescue you each time, causing maximum damage to the Titan.  I did this and it’s annoying, but it worked when my blades were all broken, I was out of health, and the Titan was close to the building I had to protect.  So, there is an allotment for those players, much like myself, who are not particularly awesome at playing this game but still enjoy the gameplay.

New to the series is a Sniper option. If the Titan is far away or unaware, you can basically do a sniper attack on them in a one hit kill.  However, you must precisely time the attack like a regular blade swipe.  Otherwise, you’d be sniping all the Titans in minutes.  It’s a great addition and makes me feel a bit more powerful than I likely ought to be.  In any case, I don’t use it as often because swinging around them is so much more fun and the AI of the Titans make it surprisingly hard to sneak up on them, especially Abnormals.

Lastly, we have bases.  You can make these supply bases, manual battery cannon shooting bases, or automatic battery cannon shooting bases.  I prefer manual ones myself, but I’ve been knocked out of a tower base before, so perhaps automatically firing ones aren’t bad.  It’s a good way to wear down a powerful Titan or a horde of them.  You can work up some strategic uses for the bases by making some automatically firing on the group while you take out ones closer to you.  It’s a good touch to the already fun combat with a smidgen of tower defense.

Titans come in many shapes and sizes, but basically, they come in four flavors that I know of at the halfway mark of the game.  One is a normal slow moving Titan. These are the easiest to kill and don’t move much.  Next, there are the small Titans which run quite fast and are much harder to attack due to their small size, but only take one swipe of the blade to polish off.  Third, there are Abnormal Titans which move all over the place and are unpredictable.  These can be a challenge since they move quickly and often in the very spot you need them to move away from.  Now, if you get a more powerful Titan, one that regenerates at a fast rate, then it becomes an epic battle where you must strategically locate the parts of his body glowing green and attack at those first, or assign your teammates to attack them and focus your attacks head on.  It’s great fun.  Strong Abnormals are the best for a long drawn out battle.

You also have flash grenades.  This are quite useful when you are surrounded by Titans and need to get them to stay still for a bit in order to work up an attack.  I don’t use them often, but consider them necessary.  You can click to the secondary item selection  ( using left trigger on a controller ), for some Titan hunting using a restraint gun as well.  For big ones, you’ll need to chop off their limbs first, but you gain XP and money from capturing them alive.

I have to mention that once you capture some Titans, you can conduct experiments in villages with them.  It’s a chance to play as a Titan ( I’m guessing because you can’t play as the the Eren Titan like in the first game ) and you can jump up and cause havoc while chowing down on, you guessed it, aristocrats.  It’s quite fun and you have to escape Eren and the military chasing you at the final countdown.  It’s fun as hell and I will do it as often as I can, it’s great addition to the gameplay.

Balancing/UI

If anything, you are a little overpowered compared to the Titans.  It’s the Abnormals that are the real challenge since they are so unpredictable when they move.  Your starter blades are brittle and weak, just keep upgrading your weapons and you’ll be fine.  However, the game balances you out a bit by restricting the much needed component materials for better weapons as you move along, keeping the number of Titans and especially the number of Powerful Titans at a high enough volume that it remains a challenge while you get better at playing the game.  There are also Scout Missions you unlock once you get into the Scout Regiment and optional missions meant for leveling up at your leisure.  I’ve been trying to get my blades above 300 damage for ages, but I can’t do it until I likely accomplish a metric ton of these missions first, which is good because it hones your skills more.  You can also upgrade your blade/gas containers and your harness for varying degrees of power and force.  This all affects the balance, but Omega Force has it so that you upgrade at just the right moment.

After missions, you can do some friendship quests and even some training to help develop your skills and level your character.  This sounded pretty good to me, but once I got to the quests where I was supposed to train, it was simply a cut scene with a short animation of me just finishing all the training.  So, you can get as OP as you want, you don’t have to actually train in mini-missions like I thought was possible.  A bit of a let-down personally, but it does speed up the leveling process.

The UI is much improved compared to the first game, I’d say it’s almost night and day better with a plethora of options and RPG-like selectables.  As I said before, if you didn’t buy the first game then right now is the best time to pick up Attack on Titan 2, it improves upon it in just about every way possible.

Graphics/Sound/Bugs

The graphics engine feels like it’s something out of the Samurai Warriors games, and while it’s not as super-realistic as some games are, it’s still perfectly fine and impressive for the framerate it delivers along with visuals.  I won’t lie, the brand new cut-scenes designed around your new “character” are much better looking and done with some breathtaking artwork and graphic  fidelity. Beyond that, the game looks about the same as the first Attack on Titan, perhaps with some more detail in shadows or renders, but I can’t really tell.  The Titans are where I feel it outperforms the first one the most.  No longer are they wobbling giant Gary’s Mod style Titans with heads that look like Bobbleheads when they move.  That’s a major update, the Titans are substantially better looking.  It’s still rag-doll, especially once you cut off a a few limbs, but no where near as spazzy as the first iteration.

Speaking of the AI, from what I know the Titans are more deadly than they were with faster reaction times and movement meant to mimic the anime more closely.  While I can’t tell how true this is, mostly because I didn’t get as far in Attack on Titan as I am in Attack on Titan 2, they do feel slightly harder to beat and move smoother and more realistically than before.

Where you will generally enjoy the graphics are the options for character building. You have nearly limitless options here to design, and even redesign, your character whenever you are not on a mission. I loved how every detail was thought out.  I can change my eyes, distance of the eyes, depth of the eyes, pupil size, color, hair color, style,, jacket type, it’s fantastic.  It very much feels like an MMO style of character embellishment options.

For the sound, it is spot on with explosions and swordplay sounding like a major motion picture.  The soundtrack is perfectly balanced to give you the feel of the anime along with  exceptional sound effects.  The sound properly notifies you of impending events and gives you a sense of environment and game depth.  Well done.

I maintained 60FPS for about 95% of the game on my midrange PC using a 1050Ti and suggested default settings.  I was impressed because I’ve heard issues with framerates on the discussion boards.  It was surprisingly stable for me, and always keep in mind that framerate drops vary significantly from PC to PC, even if you have a 1080 card running on an I7.  I even decided to stream the game on my Steam Link via 5Ghz Wifi and had only two slowdowns in the city with debris falling.  It was minor at that.  I’ve seen, for Nvidia users at least, you may need to double check your settings that it has the GPU set as the default video rather than internal graphics.  For some, the game may not select your GPU unless you’ve checked those Nvidia panel settings.  Other than that, I’ve had some wonky camera movement.  When this happens, it’s often in battle so de-select your Titan and begin to move freely, then re-select them.

Multiplayer

I tried a few times to use the multiplayer, and only once was able to find a match on Steam over the course of a week.  There are 4×4 PVP matches, SOS matches, Titan attack matches, and more.  I was unable to access any of it because it was unpopulated.  Hopefully, this changes soon.  You can even change out your character for one of the characters in the anime in “Another Mode”, but that was the end of it because there wasn’t anyone playing.  The one match I played, with a single player, didn’t last long as they took off in a different direction, I was attacked and had to wait for the respawn.  If you get gobbled up in multiplayer, you have to wait until the match ends.

Verdict

A lot could have gone wrong with a game based on an anime.  You have to please the core fans, the gamers, the newbies, and us annoying game reviewers.  The game has to be balanced enough for fans, who may not be gamers at all, to play without being overwhelmed, but hard enough for gamers to enjoy.  It’s a very difficult balancing act and I’ve seen many games do a terrible job at it over the years.  Attack on Titan 2 is light years above those.  The anime combat delivers such a unique way of fighting, it can be tough to get bored of it.  On Normal, I’m doing just fine and if I was a better Scout I’d probably play on Hard, but I’m just an average gamer.  It’s a pleasure to play.  The wind whistling and the sound of blades striking with a split second movement as I look for the prefect angle of attack while flying through the air, it’s sublime.

I am enjoying the custom character setting for this game, even if I am not playing as the game’s characters like in the first game.  I’ve noticed a few things not included like Eren playing as a Titan or scenes playing as Levi, those you’ll need to play in Attack on Titan instead of Attack on Titan 2.  With the re-balanced combat, the better AI, the new perspective and the new scenes made just for the game, it’s a better game than the first and well worth picking up.

About dangerhighdoltage

I wish I was a gravelly-voiced action hero with a scar on every corner of my face from all the ninjas and zombie hordes massacred along my path of destruction. However, I'm rather clumsy. I can walk and chew gum at the same time at least. My favorite genres of late are butterfly field simulators and co-op Plinko carnival games. The occasional puzzle-platforming-RPG-hacknslash-owwwmyheadhurtsfromthisdamnpuzzle-storydriven game is fun too.

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