Attack on Titan 2 (Xbox One Review)
Imagine your life is completely changed because of one event. You’re walking down the street, living your life, nothing out of the ordinary ever happens. Then all of a sudden, a series of events so catastrophic begin, leaving you with nothing but determination and a thirst for revenge.
This is the beginning premise for the main protagonist of Attack on Titan, Eren Jaeger. One day, he is living his life behind the massive stone walls of his hometown of the Shiganshina district, curious about what happens outside of his home. Eren yearns to be free, desperate to join the survey corps, the military’s scout regiment, and explore outside the walls.
Eren’s life is changed when a massive 60 metre Titan appears outside the walls in a bolt of lightning, and kicks a massive hole in the “indestructible wall”. Through the debris walk in the Titans. Giant humanoids who appeared 100 years ago, nearly wiping out humanity. How did they push the human race to the edge of extinction? By eating them. Eren watches his own mother be devoured by a massive smiling Titan, and vows to destroy every Titan in existence.
The story for Attack on Titan 2 uses the source material well. Our playable character was there the day Shiganshina fell, and watched as a massive boulder killed his/her parents as the Armoured Titan smashes through another gate. Your character then vows to join the military to find the armoured titan and kill it. Yes, your motivations are similar to Eren’s. However, it feels more personalised as you were there and saw the Titan smash through the wall, and seen the boulder land on your parents. Every pre-rendered cutscene is shot in first person, placing you in some of the series most important events.
Attack on Titan 2 retells the story of the first and second seasons of the anime, with your custom created character at the focal point. You get to experience the gruelling training of the 104th Cadets, take part in the Battle of Trost and experience the 57th Expedition beyond the walls. In the previous game, you play as the characters involved in that part of the story, so replaying these story beats in the sequel does feel like a bit of a slog at first. However, if you are new to the series, or looking for a fresh take, then you won’t have an issue. You can understand why this is done to flesh the game and story out. The first season of the anime is 24 episodes long, while the second is only 12. What you get is a game that is a complete package, retelling the anime letting you be involved. Yes it does take some liberties, but these changes don’t mess with the ethos too much. however, if you are a hard core fan, this could be a minor gripe.
Base building is now part of the missions, with different areas dotted around the maps for you to build supply bases, artillery, etc. This is a change from collecting supplies from NPC’s who would be loitering about waiting to assist you while Titan’s swarmed around and ignored them.
The biggest new feature is the friendship meter. Your character can interact with the characters of the show, and the game encourages to build relationships with your comrades and get to know them. This can be done by answering optional distress calls during missions, or saying the right thing during dialogue options. As you friendship level grows with a character, you unlock skills for your own character to boost your attributes on the field. Trusting those around you is a key part of the show, and the friendship meter really does bring this to life.
Learning from your mistakes and growing as part of the group is a key theme of Attack on Titan, and this is evident in the control scheme. Attack on Titan manages to get the feeling of zipping around the world bang on, but at first it can be a bit daunting. There is so much going on and you are moving at 100 miles an hour, trying to focus on Titans and avoiding being eaten. However, as the game progresses you get used to the control scheme and you are up there with the best, slicing down Titans quickly and proficiently.
Survey Missions return from the first game. These small campaigns have you take part in 2-5 smaller missions taking down Titans, or rescuing villagers. These missions are great for grinding for regiment funds and materials for you to upgrade your weapons and equipment. You earn more funds based on how successful you bring Titans down. Bring a Titan down without making a mistake or being grabbed by it, you’ll earn a gold medal. Make an error, it’s a silver medal. Two, bronze. Materials can be earned from mining bases over the course of the mission, or from chopping off certain Titan parts. They aren’t going to make it easy for you though.
Compared to the first game, the Titan’s AI has improved, if even this is not obvious. You will be fighting different variants of Titans, both in height and intelligence. Pure Titans will chase you down the moment they see you. You need to use your wits to zip past them with your omni-directional mobility gear (ODM Gear) to get the correct angle to slice of different body parts, and ultimately slicing the nape of the neck (the weak point). Abnormal Titans show different behaviour. They may ignore until you attack them, or crawl around the floor making it harder for you to get the correct angle to kill them.
You might have the advantage of speed when taking the Titans on, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a threat. Their unpredictable behaviour means they could look placid, only to leap up and grab you out of the air. You have a small window to break free yourself, or have a comrade swoop in and get you out. Having a Titan stare you down is terrifying, with those massive eyes glaring unemotionally at you, its mouth slowly opening as you frantically slice at its fingers.
Attack on Titan 2 does its best to replicate the animation from the show. The Titans are terrifying to look at, from their grinning mouths, to the way they slowly clamber towards you. Character animations in game are smooth, but other than in the cut scenes, facial expressions rarely change. Characters could be witnessing a comrade close to being eaten, and would still have the same expression on their face when telling a training session was hard.
You will notice this during in game dialogue sections, and during battles when calling for assistance. It’s best to point out that the game is completely in Japanese, with subtitles. If you aren’t familiar with the story and happen to look away, you may get a bit lost with what is going on. This isn’t a bad thing, as anime is predominantly better subbed than dubbed over with English actors.
There is also a slight issue with Titans not appearing on screen until you are closer to them. You can see them on the map, but they won’t appear on screen until you within vicinity. It does take away from the immersion at times, especially when you are looking off in the distance and only see trees, or buildings being destroyed with nothing there.
One of the main criticisms of the first game was the dragged out epilogue. Every epilogue mission was spread out between doing numerous survey missions, meaning it took the same amount of play time to complete as the actual main story. This time after the credits roll, you have the choice to dive straight into the epilogue, or carry out some survey missions, improve your gear and then take on the final mission. Completing the epilogue opens up the new game plus “Inferno Mode” and brings more powerful Titans to Survey Missions. There is also the strangely named “Another Mode”, which lets you play Survey missions as all your favourite characters, which you will unlock as the story progresses. The game has an online co-op mode, however at the time of writing the servers were not up yet.
Attack on Titan 2 is perfect for fans of the series who have dreamed of joining the Survey Corps. Having your character be part of the main cast, slaying Titans does not get old, as the action is fast-paced, and the story is intriguing. Yes, it can be a bit of a slog replaying the first few missions, but playing as your own character doesn’t make it feel repetitive as you are experiencing it through your own eyes .If you are new to the series then you will get an overall experience which is full of action, but light on the political intrigue that makes the series so great.