Review: Attack on Titan 2 (Switch)

Breaking the anime-to-video-game mold with innovative gameplay.

By Andy Hoover. Posted 03/30/2018 08:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
1-Up Mushroom for...
Fun, unique gameplay; tons of content including co-op; in-depth character customization.
Poison Mushroom for...
Gameplay can grow repetitive; lack-luster visuals; story sticks too close to the anime.

The developers at Omega Force have a long history of adapting popular anime to video games, though more times than not, this process has meant finding a way to meld the franchise with the mechanics of its long running Dynasty Warriors series. They’ve done this with Fist of the North Star, One Piece, and even several times with the massive Gundam universe. However, Attack on Titan undoubtedly presented an interesting challenge, because their battle tested formula of one vs. one thousand action doesn’t exactly translate to a series about people zipping around on pneumatic grappling hooks while battling giants with swords.

For the uninitiated, Attack on Titan takes place in a world vaguely inspired by medieval Europe albeit with a few minor changes, such as the fact that humanity lives behind a series of walls due to the appearance of titans, giant humanoid creatures with creepy, ever present smiles and a taste for human flesh. To combat these monsters, humanity developed omni-directional mobility gear, hip mounted devices that shoot spear-tipped cables which pull and swing the user through the air so they can attack their foes sole weak spot, a small section at the base of their neck, with swords. These weapons and their corresponding tactics might not realistically be the best option should such circumstances actually occur, but they helped the anime stand out and present a very unique gameplay opportunity. Thankfully, the designers were quite successful in turning this concept into fun and satisfying mechanics.

At first glance, the main gameplay in Attack on Titan 2 will look familiar to Dynasty Warriors fans as they find themselves in large, open levels with ever changing objectives to accomplish and new enemies to face constantly pouring in. However, instead of combo-ing your way through hundreds of mindless grunts on the way toward hardened commanders, you will have to strategically dismantle numerous titans that often present varying levels of threats. Locking onto a titan presents its legs, arms, and neck as targets which you can then launch anchors into so you can swoop in for an attack. However, you’ll have to adjust your angle of attack based on potential obstructions in the way, such as trees, buildings, and even other titans; then you have to time your attack as you fly by the target so you can maximize damage. Given the fact that titans can only be killed by attacking the nape of their neck, that might seem like the best target, but you are often encouraged to go for limbs first as that can slow them down and limit their ability to fight back; they can also reward you with extra items for the game’s crafting system. Some enemies even require you to go for limbs before you can start chipping away at their neck’s health bar. Also, blades eventually break and cylinders of compressed gas that power your gear eventually run out, so you’ll need to keep an eye on your supplies and escape the fray now and again to reload.

A few other interesting ideas make the combat unique. First, you can gain a squad of support characters as you accomplish objectives around the battlefield who you can call in for support. Most swoop in to attack on your order, while others offer support abilities that often mimic the effect of the otherwise limited supply of items you carry. After being called in, each character has to go through a cool-down timer before being used again with the most powerful ones requiring several minutes to recharge. Also, the game approaches health in a unique way as instead of being given a simple health bar, you are given a limited time to escape from titans who manage to grab you; this can be done either by calling in your aforementioned allies or repeatedly hitting the attack button. If you get grabbed repeatedly without using a healing item, your window for escape will shrink.

While these mechanics are unique, some of the problems from the Dynasty Warriors games still manage to find their way in, with the worst offender being repetition. Missions do include a number of different objectives, such as going after specific targets or escorting allies, but almost all of it comes down to taking out titans. There is an additional level of strategy in setting up various types of bases across the map that can allow you to resupply items, mine for resources, or man a cannon, but this is a very thin layer to the gameplay. Also, there are times where the action can grow frustrating, such as when titans partially clip through buildings or each other, thus making some of the targets on them inaccessible. Personally, these issues did little to dull the excitement of the original gameplay ideas, but it’s easy to see how other gamers might be much more annoyed.

Outside of combat, the game presents some light RPG and social-sim mechanics. As mentioned above, you can gather resources to construct and upgrade gear, and these options do add a layer of strategic consideration. Some sets of gear might provide more durable blades, others enhance your lock-on range, while others might use less gas, so you have plenty of ways to customize your play style. The customization also ties into the relationships you develop with your fellow soldiers who fans of the show will undoubtedly recognize. By helping them out in battle or interacting with them between fights, you will build up friendship levels with dozens of characters which also unlocks skills that can be equipped. As you level up by completing missions, you’ll be able to equip more skills. Finally, additional points can be earned through a number of activities that can then be spent upgrading your base stats or investing in various temporary bonuses or more effective bases.

An odd facet worth mentioning is how the game handles its story. You play as an original, fully customizable character, but the story still focuses mostly on the events of the anime. This means that your character is pretty much just along for the ride as Eren, Mikasa, Armin, Levi and other major characters are the main focus of everything. Your character does get a few moments to shine and the aforementioned friendship system gives you some nice little vignettes with most major and supporting characters but, for the most part, there really isn’t much in the way of meaningful story content beyond what’s in the TV show. On the plus side, most of the story cutscenes are very well done and at times actually look better than the show’s animation.

As for the visuals during gameplay, they are mostly disappointing. The character models look decent and you’ll occasionally come across some beautiful vistas, but once you start moving you’ll also notice the really short draw distances as buildings, trees, and titans materialize before your eyes. Thankfully, this never really hampers gameplay, which is something the camera does every now and again when you find yourself having to maneuver in tight areas or when you’re surrounded by titans. The music generally fares better as the guitar heavy tracks during battles propel the action, while the softer, more medieval styled tunes during down time are often legitimately beautiful. Unfortunately, the game only includes Japanese voices, so get used to having to read what characters are saying in the midst of battle.

Including the main campaign and other content, Attack on Titan 2 gives players plenty to do. The story is plenty long as it is, probably about 20 to 30 hours, but there are also Scouting Missions that can be tackled either alone or with friends. These missions are usually a little shorter in length and simpler in structure than story missions, but they play out with several in a row where your options for gaining new skills and boosting stats is limited between missions. Playing online can be fun, though having three other players generally makes them too easy. Unfortunately, local multiplayer just allows for wireless system link and not split screen. However, fans of the show might be glad to learn they can play as their favorite characters in this mode, though you do need to progress through the story to unlock them all and some of them have such ridiculously good stats that they are pretty much broken right out of the gate.

While it has plenty of flaws, Attack on Titan 2 actually presents a surprisingly compelling package. As an adaptation of the anime, it does a good job of capturing the series’ signature sense of action and as a game in general, it presents mechanics and ideas that are entirely unique. The game’s issues with repetition and presentation would likely make it tough to recommend to all series loyalists, but given the gameplay, it becomes a much more interesting experience that might be worth checking out to those looking for a different sort of action game. It definitely won’t appeal to everybody but, for plenty of gamers, Attack on Titan 2 could prove to be a refreshing surprise.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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