Licensed anime games have always been a bit of a hit-or-miss affair. For every tournament-worthy fighting game or accomplished RPG based on fan-favourite IPs, there’s a soulless and generic brawler hoping to cash in on the rabid fanbase of a niche property. Occasionally though a developer comes along with just the right skillset and passion for a franchise that great things happen. Attack on Titan 2 is one of those great things.
With the first Attack on Titan game, Wings of Freedom, developer Omega Force surprised many by delivering a solid take on the anime and manga series’ titan-slaying action. By nailing both the look of the anime and the feeling of soaring through the air and slicing up grotesque giants, Attack on Titan managed to please fans despite a main game that was overly repetitive and a tad shallow. With the sequel, Omega Force have wisely chosen to retain and double down on everything that made the first game great while rethinking the parts that didn’t work quite so well.
Say hello to cadet Garcia Hotspur
Although the previous game was based on the anime’s first season (season two was yet to be released at the time) and played out from the perspective of the show’s main characters, Attack on Titan 2 doesn’t continue from there. Instead, the sequel hits the reset button, starting again from the beginning of the story and continuing through the second season as well, all from the perspective of a brand-new player-created avatar. Effectively retconning a whole new character into an established story already stuffed full of personalities is no mean feat and for the most part Omega Force have done a commendable job of seamlessly integrating the player into the established story. By mostly acting as capable support to the key players in the series’ epic narrative, the player is afforded a front row seat to nearly all of the pivotal moments from the anime and directly involved in the numerous, exciting battles. For anyone concerned over not being able to play as their favourite characters, there’s also the extra ‘Another Mode’ outside of the main story mode that allows players to bring any character they desire (after unlocking them in the story) into a broad selection of missions.
Pictured: Australian politicians walking to work after a big weekend
The biggest new feature in Attack on Titan 2 is something that the developers call Daily Life. As the game progress, each major portion of the story according to the anime is bookended by a period of rest where the player is afforded the chance to freely explore the various city districts and camps featured in the series. It’s during these sequences that players prepare for the battles ahead by purchasing and crafting new equipment, spending points on training and upgrades and taking on optional missions, but more importantly it’s an opportunity to interact with the series’ enormous cast of characters. By talking, training and even exchanging gifts with story characters the player can form bonds of friendship that result in useful buffs and extra skills when strengthened. More exciting than any tangible reward though is the chance to gain a deeper insight into the plethora of unique and three-dimensional personalities that make up the various military regiments tasked with defending humanity from the impending titan threat. The choice to inject the player into the story as a new and slightly more passive observer again proves to be a wise one here as each established character is given the chance to bounce their own thoughts, dreams and fears off of a neutral party, giving Omega Force scope to explore the psychological and sociological effects of the situation on each person in a way that the anime and manga haven’t.
Soaring through cities and forests at breakneck speeds before launching at and slaughtering a titan in one fell swoop is immensely satisfying despite how easy it is to pull off and no matter how many times you do it. Which is a lot of times.
Man, these door-to-door salespeople are getting real aggressive
Narrative pontifications aside though, the real meat and potatoes of Attack on Titan 2 is swingin’ about like Spiderman and cuttin’ up some freaky naked giants, and boy is it fun. Omega Force had the good fortune to already have established fantastic combat gameplay in the first game and have kept that momentum going here with a few welcome tweaks to the formula. For those unfamiliar, missions in Attack on Titan generally consist of a series of open-ended battles in sizeable locations where the player is tasked with completing various objectives and killing as many titans as possible. Utilising the series’ trademark Omni-Directional Mobility Gear, players swing through the environment Spiderman-style from buildings, trees and anything else available to hook the device’s ropes into. Killing titans uses the ODM gear in a similar fashion, hooking into their various body parts allowing combatants to swing around the titan for an optimal angle to launch an attack. Most titans can be brought down instantly by a well-placed and time attack to the nape of the neck but as the game progresses more and more stronger and ‘abnormal’ titans will start to appear, and taking these down is usually helped by strategically dismembering their legs and arms before attempting the killing blow. Outside of a welcome change-up in the controls as far as targeting and attacking titans is concerned, everything feels pretty well the same as it did in Wings of Freedom, which is to say it feels great. Soaring through cities and forest at breakneck speeds before launching at a titan and slaughtering them in one fell swoop is immensely satisfying despite how easy it is to pull off no matter how many times you do it. Which is a lot of times.
I’m gonna swiiiiiing from a naked duu-uude, from a naked duu-uuuu-uuude
Something less exciting about Attack on Titan 2 that carries over from the last game is an eventual sense of tedium that stems from the repetitive nature of its mission sequences and a less-than-challenging level of difficulty. Slaying titans is ridiculously fun, but it’s also just about the only thing you’ll be doing in battle over the course of the game’s 15-20 hour campaign. There are a few new wrinkles during combat that help to spice things up, primarily in the form of buildable tower defence-style bases that provide things like supporting fire or item replenishment, but these are largely superfluous in a game that’s rarely challenging in the first place. Having the great story set-pieces and Daily Life sequences to look forward to is a more than adequate reward for slogging through the odd extended series of fights, but there’s a chance that someone who doesn’t find the battles as enjoyably exhilarating might not share that sentiment. Those that do get a kick out of smacking titan butt will be happy to know that all of the story battles can be played in online multiplayer simply by one player sending up a signal flare before engaging the mission, allowing others to join in. Being that I played an early review copy I didn’t get the chance to test this out but given that multiplayer was one of the best parts of Wings of Freedom, I’d say the same probably stands here.
The face of someone who’s just seen a giant, naked man with no genitals
Through all this the thing that stands out the most about Attack on Titan 2 is Omega Force’s passion and respect for the IP, and the care and attention poured into every facet of the game. This is most evident in the game’s presentation, where the developers have continued to absolutely nail the look of the anime, even more so than in their previous effort. While not a technical showcase by any means and more than a little rough around the edges at times, every character and every moment from the series makes the leap to three dimensions fantastically. The major cutscenes especially look superb and are animated wonderfully, so much so that I’d happily watch the entire series again in CG if it all looked this good. Less obvious but equally impressive are the numerous quality-of-life details that help make the game a treat to play. Things like being able to select a particular character’s name on the map screen in Daily Life to be instantly warped to wherever they are or the ability to travel back to previous points in the game to clean up unfinished tasks show that Omega Force respects players’ time and patience. In a game that lives or dies by inherently repetitious gameplay this is a major boon.
Attack on Titan 2 is a shining example of not just how to make a good video game adaptation of a manga/anime but how to iterate on previous work in a way that bolsters its successes while objectively approaching and overcoming prior failings. With a deeper and more interesting story, engaging side activities and refined mechanics, Attack on Titan fans are in for a real treat.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro | Review code supplied by publisher