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October 2018

Attack on Titan 2

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Developer: Omega Force
Release Date: March 20, 2018


Xbox One Review - 'Attack on Titan 2'

by Cody Medellin on March 19, 2018 @ 11:50 p.m. PDT

Building on the fast-paced action the series is famous for, Attack on Titan 2 is a gripping sequel that features an abundance of new gameplay mechanics.

Buy Attack on Titan 2

In 2016, Koei Tecmo try its hand at a video game adaptation of "Attack on Titan." The game lacked the political intrigue of the hit manga and anime, and its strict adherence to the source material meant that fighting anything other than Titans was out of the question. However, the combat was authentic to its license, and fans were very pleased. Roughly two years later, we finally have a sequel, and while the base mechanics remain unchanged, everything else has been improved to make this more appealing.

If you're a fan of the franchise, then the setup for the story will seem awfully familiar. In an alternate version of Earth, humanity is brought to the brink of extinction by the Titans: a race of giants that have a taste for human flesh. To protect what they have left, the last civilization has huddled in an area with three walls that separate them from the monsters. One hundred years have passed, and while there has been a semblance of peace, that is shattered when a Colossal Titan creates a hole in the outermost wall and lets smaller Titans flow in and overtake the town of Shiganshima. As you witness your parents get killed in the ensuing attack, you vow to inflict revenge on the Titans by joining up with the 104th Squad.

That's the story of Eren Yeager, who's the protagonist of the series' first season. The tales are similar because the player takes on the role of a character who experienced the same events that Eren and his friends did. In a way, Attack on Titan 2 forces those who have played the first game to replay it with some different cut scenes that feature this protagonist. This title includes the story arcs and battles from the series' second season, so it isn't a complete retread, but fans should keep in mind that they'll have to repeat the first season from a minutely different perspective.

You start by creating the side character. The system is pretty robust, and players can adjust plenty of things, like face part positions, shapes, and skin tones. The variety is limited to the face, as the body type is limited to a few presets. Only your clothing color can be customized, so don't expect to have the flashiest soldier on the field.

From there, you and your squadmates try to fight off Titan attacks. Part of this involves building towers to resupply troops or create cannons to attack nearby Titans. For the most part, your Titan fights are going to be direct, whether it's an assault on them or rescuing others from the Titans. You'll use your omni-directional mobility (ODM) gear to zip around the towns and battlefield, but you can also use horses in the open field, where you can't latch onto objects. When attacking, your ODM is used to latch on to any one of the Titan's five targeted body parts, so you can propel yourself forward and deliver a heavy strike that will eventually sever a limb or kill the Titan.

The battle system works because it follows the anime experience quite authentically. There's a rush from being able to go around the field like Spider-Man, and it helps that the use of the ODM is a simple one-button affair, with the left analog stick directing your shifts. Rushing in for a strike is also exciting, since you can't blindly unleash the attack like you would in a game like Dynasty Warriors. Here, you have to plan out your attacks, since effective strikes require having enough distance to build up speed, striking at the right moment, and hoping that the moving object doesn't suddenly shift to obstruct your flight pattern. Every success feels meaningful.

Attack on Titan 2 does have a few other things that deepen the combat system. Both your blades and gas for ODM propulsion are limited in supply, and while that doesn't mean that you're absolutely useless if your blade breaks or your gas tanks are empty, refilling both makes your attacks inflict more damage. As a result, you'll take a few breaks to refill in order to deliver more kills with fewer blows. Hitting the nape is preferred, but you'll do better if you aim for the limbs first since it disables the Titan's mobility and ability to attack. You can now call upon allies to boost your attacks, power you up, and deliver their own attacks. Finally, the game now lets you capture Titans for further research, instead of outright killing them. The capture sessions only happen periodically, though.

Despite this, the combat suffers from repetition. Outside of the major foes like the Armored Titan and the Colossus Titan, you don't fight a wide variety of enemies. The Titans vary in sizes, and some are considered abnormal since they walk on all fours, but the approach to defeating them is the same, with some bosses possessing more hit points than others. Their attacks aren't varied, so you always know what their movement and attack patterns are going to be. While it would be nice to fight different creatures, that won't happen, since the source material only has these behemoths.

Between fights, you can go around your home base or various merchants. Finishing missions earns you cash and materials that can be used to buy, craft or fortify your gear. The merchants allow you to buy new materials, and while they don't offer everything, they lessen the burden of harvesting the material from the battlefield. If you're at home base, you can engage in conversations with other squad members. The correct responses will raise their friendship level with you, and you gain more moves and abilities every time that level increases. You can also use the ability points gained from leveling up to provide stat boosts or other perks, like reduced resource consumption.

With the inclusion of the anime's second season in the campaign mode, there's no need need for a lengthy epilogue. Instead, that content has moved to the main menu and labeled as Another Mission where you can handle these missions shortly after completing the first chapter. Much like the first game, you can take on these missions either alone or with others online, but we couldn't check out the online performance since the network features were disabled prior to the game's launch. You can choose from 30 characters, but most people will likely play as their created character instead since the gear, items and stats carry over from the main campaign.

As expected, the presentation hasn't changed much from the first iteration. From the audio side, the Japanese-only language option works, as the right amount of gravitas is given for each scene. Considering that the dub for the anime exists, it's a shame that the English cast isn't included. The music sounds reminiscent of what you'd hear in something like "Game of Thrones," so there's a sense of urgency and grand scale when fighting some of the main Titans. Then again, the soundtrack also includes enough wailing electric guitars that you'd have reason to believe it was part of a Dynasty Warriors soundtrack.

Graphically, the game works fine but not perfectly. If you can get over some of the goofy faces on the Titans, then their sense of scale does a good job of making them menacing. This is especially true when you see them flailing about and causing destruction to the towns. The animations for every character are nice, and the wider spectrum of colors makes the anime look seem more mature than typical cel-shaded fare. The frame rate instability means that you'll bounce between 30fps and 60fps almost all of the time, and the various jagged lines seen in the shadows and character outlines can be distracting.

If you haven't played the previous game, then you're in for a good time with Attack on Titan 2. The combat is fast but not mindless, as mashing on the attack button without thought will easily get you killed. It may lack the political intrigue of the anime and manga, but there's a great deal of story to digest, and there's a healthy amount of playable content. The lack of enemy variety means that the game is best taken in short bursts, but those with even a passing interest in the series will enjoy Attack on Titan 2.

Score: 7.5/10

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