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August 2018

Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Developer: Omega Force
Release Date: Aug. 30, 2016 (US), Aug. 26, 2016 (EU)


PS4 Review - 'Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Sept. 23, 2016 @ 3:00 a.m. PDT

Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom is an action title, based on the anime series, letting you play part in humanity’s last stand against these overwhelmingly powerful beings, the Titans.

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Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom is set in a postapocalyptic world where all of humanity lives in a city-state that's surrounded by three walls. The walls exist to protect them from the Titans, human-eating giants who seemingly seek the destruction of mankind. The story follows Eren Jaeger, who loses his mother when a Titan tears a hole in the wall and attacks one of the outer rings of the city. Filled with anger and hatred, Eren joins the army and dedicates himself to destroying the monsters. He's unaware that he has a power that could change the tide of the battle — or bring about humanity's final destruction.

The basic structure of the game is similar to Dynasty Warriors. You're thrown onto a large map populated by Titans and must complete missions, most of which involve going to the location and killing Titans before they can devour the soldiers or civilians you're sent to protect. Sometimes, you're given more specialized missions, like escorting someone to a location or baiting a Titan into a trap. Every stage grades you on the number of enemies killed, how many missions you complete and how quickly you do it. Getting an S rank yields additional rewards, including valuable crafting materials.

Attack on Titan's gameplay is basically half Spider-Man, half Monster Hunter. Your character has access to Omni-Directional Mobility Gear or, in layman's terms, waist-mounted grappling hooks that allow them to swing around the map by holding down a button and aiming in a direction. The game swings you in the direction you choose to go, and you can also expend fuel to move faster. The controls aren't perfect, so sometimes, you'll fly directly into a wall.

When you encounter a Titan and enter Combat mode, you lose the ability to swing freely but can launch your grappling hooks into its flesh and swing around. As soon as you stop holding a direction, your character zooms in toward the body part you've latched your hook onto. Get close enough without getting grabbed, and you can attack. The faster you're going, the more damage your attack does. Certain characters can perform special attacks or chain attacks.

Titans aren't vulnerable to most regular attacks. Attacking the arms or legs weakens them or slows them down, but the only way to get a finishing blow is to attack the nape of the neck. They're not fast enough to stop you. Certain Titans have defensive parts that must be destroyed prior to slashing it through the neck.

Fortunately, you have plenty of help in the form of allies and items. Allies join your party after you help them. When you perform an attack, allies follow up for additional damage, though there is a short cooldown after each attack before they can do it again. Certain characters can command allies to attack manually, but it's mostly an automatic thing. Allies can also be commanded to defend targets or attack Titans on their own, but most of the time, you'll want them to focus on your target.

You can also use items to weaken Titans. Flashbangs and sonic grenades can stun Titans for a short time and expose them to nape attacks even if they have their defenses up. You also can build up a decisive battle meter; when activated, it replenishes some of your resources and powers up your team. The more you use decisive battle in a single stage, the more powerful it gets, so it's worthwhile to use it regularly.

You need to be careful about your resources. The skin of a Titan is incredibly hard, so the swords used to slash their necks are like giant X-Acto knives in that they're  designed to extend more pre-sharpened blade segments when previous ones break. If you run out of those segments, you'll have to change the blades, an action that leaves you vulnerable. Likewise, the gas that fuels the grappling hooks is limited. You carry extra tanks, but they also need to be swapped out and leave you vulnerable.

Attack on Titan doesn't have a traditional health system. Getting hit puts you into a damaged state, during which time you're vulnerable to death but have several chances to dodge attacks with a focus mode. You only have a limited amount of focus, and it's entirely possible to get killed if you're not careful. You can back off and use a healing item to recover, but only if you retreat in time. Titans can also grab you, at which point you have to mash buttons to escape before an untimely demise, though allies can rescue you. It's very rare to die in Attack on Titan, and I had to go out of my way to see what happened if your focus runs out, as the game is very generous.

Titan mode is activated when Eren transforms into the Rage Titan instead of entering a decisive battle. During the main story, he can only do this in designated stages, but afterward, he can do it in any level. Titan mode is so hilariously overpowered that players can one-shot most things. The only downside is that you can't farm materials as easily because Rage Titan Eren isn't one for precision.

Materials can be used to create weapons and upgrade your gear, though customization is fun but limited. You can change out the traditional X-Acto knife sword for a giant katana that is far more lethal but is much less durable. You can emphasize anchor strength or speed or gas efficiency with your mobility gear and hooks. Progressing unlocks new equipment and new gear, though most players will probably pick a favorite and stick with it for a while. It's very rare you'll have to worry about running out of blades, and the game always provides more. Grinding up items can take a tediously long time, and there's a good chunk of the story where your equipment is far ahead of the provided upgrade materials.

It's unfair to blame Attack on Titan for being too faithful to the source material, but that is the root of the problem. In the series, Titan battles are rare, short and brutal, so it gives the developers relatively little to work with in creating a video game unless they break the rules. The biggest problem is that there isn't enough variety. The first time you swing around a Titan and take it out with a single well-placed shot feels great. The 15th time is still fun, but it starts to wear on you after the 100th time. Pretty much every single enemy, every single fight, every single aspect of the game is the same from start to finish. The attempts to introduce additional Titan elements boils down to "attack a different limb before attacking the head." There's nothing wrong with a game that gets repetitive, but Attack on Titan runs out of steam quickly. Much of the problem is that the Titans aren't very interesting foes. They grab you, and either you get away or you die. There's little room for flexibility without deviating from canon, since this is based on a Japanese manga series.

Another reason Attack on Titan is less interesting than a Warriors title is because every character is basically the same. The difference in play styles between characters is very slight. Armin might be able to manually signal allies to attack, but that doesn't make him more interesting to play; it only adds an extra button press to an existing gameplay. Only three characters are worth playing: Levi and Mikasa, who are mechanically so superior to other characters that there's no reason to not pick them, and Eren, whose ability to transform into a Titan makes him distinct. The cast is small and quite similar, so once you choose one, there's no reason to swap between characters.

There isn't a ton of gameplay here. Once you've finished the main story, you can do side missions, which involve going to one of several locations and killing Titans — and that's about it. They get tougher as you go on, but that just means Titans take slightly longer to kill. Finishing the main story also unlocks Dire Titans, who are stronger than those in the surrounding area and drop rare materials. The only thing keeping you going is unlocking collectibles for your home base. Attack on Titan is fun enough for the length of its story mode, but only the most die-hard will bother to go far beyond that.

The game does offer a multiplayer mode, where up to four players can take on a swarm of Titans. It's a fun concept but suffers from the fact that the title isn't balanced around having four superpowered heroes swinging around. More often than not, the rounds end in only a minute, and there's little reason to work together instead of clearing out Titans at your own pace, since the mechanics don't encourage cooperative attacks. It's still a fun addition because there's something thrilling about zooming through a city while tearing through giant monsters like butter.

Visually, Attack on Titan is rather nice. It's a lower-budget game and a port of something that can run on the Vita, but there's some nice detail here and there. The Titans are lovingly rendered and capture the feel of the show very well. Likewise, the characters have a lot of nice, small visual touches. The game runs smoothly most of the time, though the frame rate gets surprisingly bad in a few places, especially when the destructible environments come into play. As with many recent releases, it's a sub-only game, though the voice actors are quite good. This isn't the most impressive-looking title on the market but should be more than good enough for fans of the anime.

Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom deserves a lot of praise for accurately capturing the feel of the anime and translating it to video game form. Unfortunately, once you get past the accurate representation, there isn't much to the game. You'll kill the same Titans in the same environments with the same tactics over and over, and there's little to no deviation. There's enough interesting content to last you through the story mode, but it wears out its welcome long before you finish the epilogues. Fans of the anime should get a good amount of gameplay out of this, but only the most hardcore will keep going after they're finished.

Score: 7.0/10

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