Quite often we get stuck with inferior video game adaptations of TV shows and movies. It’s a rarity for any of them to accurately reflect the source material without ruining it in some form or another. Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom, is a true testament of what can be done with a team that is passionate about the source material, even if it could have benefited from some more time in development and a little more variety.
Not too long ago we got our grubby mitts on Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains for the Nintendo 3DS. Its depiction of the characters and the universe of Attack on Titan was pretty spot on, but the limitations of the console and lack of any decent gameplay in between all the plot meant the game fell very short. Now we have Wings of Freedom produced by Omega Force, the team behind Dynasty Warriors and the One Piece video game titles.
Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom has two modes of game-play: Attack Mode is the games campaign story and Expedition mode is a co-op affair to which I had not been able to test at the time of the review due to the low pre-release player count. The campaign’s story stays extremely close to that of the animated series. The basic premise of the plot without too many spoilers:
Over 100 years before the beginning of the story, giant humanoid creatures called Titans suddenly appeared and nearly wiped out all of humanity, devouring them without remorse or reason. What remains of humanity now resides within three enormous walls: Wall Maria, Wall Rose and the innermost is Wall Sina.
The story follows Eren Yeager, his foster sister, Mikasa and their childhood friend Armin. After the wall which protects their hometown is breached by the Colossal Titan they follow a path that leads them to eventually joining the Survey Corps (A military regiment that exits the walls and tries to eradicate the Titan’s). Little does Eren or anyone else know that he, himself can assume the form of a Titan. Co-operating with the government and its people to take on the beasts and find a solution to the Titan’s that continue to eradicate human-kind.
The idea of a game sticking so close to the plot of a series may sound like a turgid affair, but here we find even more added detail and background to the sometimes convoluted plot of the show. I found more back story helped me understand this universe and even clarifying some actions of certain main characters in the series. It shows how much love went into making Wings of Liberty and it only permits the series to grow on you even more. Now to the actual gameplay.
The main focus of the game has a third-person perspective as you take the role with one of four main characters, Eren, Mikasa, Armin and Levi. The controls are where this game shows its colours. At first I was frustrated with the button combinations, after going into the options and finding I could completely re-map every button till I was comfortable with my choice was a fantastic design move. The buttons consisted of holding down or tapping a button to fly around the map with your VME (Vertical Manoeuvring Equipment). The first time I sailed through the sky was rather invigorating, such a rush and it took me back to the brilliant web-swinging days of Activision’s Spider-man 2 game. It may get a bit clunky at times, especially when coming up against other obstacles and terrain (getting too close to them nets you some wonderful environmental clipping).
Other buttons are used for your blade attack and to lock onto a target, usually being your choice of Titan limbs to dismember. The directional pad being used for health, gas cylinders and blades was a really nice feature that doesn’t get in the way of your main controls. The animations and tension that is gained while standing still to refill or take out a new set of blades is fantastic and a quick break from all the frantic action.
Once you get past learning the mechanics on the training grounds you are thrust straight into your first main mission. This, along with all further levels requires you to first talk to NPC’s and stock up or upgrade your equipment before heading out to slaughter more Titan’s.
Speaking with Logisticians lets you purchase materials and these materials are also collected during missions (Striking the right Titan’s limb rewards you with rare materials), which are then used for developing new equipment or to mod your existing gear. I found this a pretty fun distraction, however, no matter how many funds or materials you have, you can only buy one new Weapon or Gear component in-between each level. Upgrading weapons and adding the mild RPG elements is a nice touch and a break from all the hack n slash between missions. The more you progress however, the more you realise it offers little in any significant way other than visually. All you have to do is focus on keeping your weapon Blades sharp and your gas tank full.
Even Later in the game your given the choice of a horse to ride around in levels. The option to choose the right horse with sufficient stamina and speed doesn’t really matter in the long run as they all roughly seem to play the same style also, just with slightly better haircuts. It definitely is a much needed transport, without it, your left running miles on foot trying to look for the next anchor point. Sadly, despite the speed of horse, the sensitivity of its controls seems to be in overdrive. One minute you’re having a smooth ride and the next you have turned a hard left into a fence at the horse’s waist height that’s impossible to jump over. I found myself disembarking my ride and jumping over the fence myself and then calling it back.
During your Titan slaughtering, you can acquire side missions and depending on the missions or people you rush off to assist during each level will determine what rare loot and drops you get when your complete. I found that going out of my way and saving more comrades netted me with some exclusive costumes for the characters I assisted, which can then be used in the co-op Expedition mode. (Survey missions with friends)
The missions play out the same from the beginning of the game to the final mission. You are tasked to kill Titan after Titan after Titan. Destroying them one by one until a big bad Titan enters the arena to finish it all off. There are no collectibles, no wandering off to search open lands and lush landscapes. No other sandbox game activities on or between missions. This may cause some to put the controller down after a few rounds and possibly not pick it up again for quite some time. For others, like myself, I found it a breath of fresh air. Yes, it can become quite stale on long gameplay stretches. But to not have to worry about searching huge maps and collecting 100 pigeons is a break from most other major titles released the past few years. This has an action arcade feel and it’s not afraid to be just that.
Overall the graphics and animation are true to the anime. The aesthetics are pleasing to the eye. I did have a few minor issues with character clipping and at some points stopping all together, leaving me the ability to take out a boss battle while it didn’t even blink or check the time on its watch. It does still bring some old school graphical bad habits of the past though. The visual use of blood which is left dripping on a character after completely decimating a Titan, to only have it disappear after a few seconds? I would have loved finishing a battle with worn out clothes and dripping in blood. Maybe it caused some memory dumping issues? For the most part the game did what it was supposed to do in terms of graphics, music, sound design.
After countless hours of aerial combat, getting to the end of the game and the final few boss missions, were by far some of the most tediously grinding and frustrating battles I have ever had to encounter in a video game. I would hate to know how this would have turned out on anything harder than the easy mode. But if you can get this far, you know you’re in it for the end-game.
So, after completing the main campaign around the 8-hour mark (Easy Mode), a whole new area of goodies opens up. Back at the barracks (home hub) you can acquire new side quests to go out and complete for extra content such as helping Sasha find ingredients for her new food fetish. This unlocks a little more extra story and insight into the aftermath that series 1 left behind. I did enjoy finding an NPC that required materials to build real models of Titans for me, which you can then display in your home area.
Just adding that little bit of replay-ability and giving it purpose. That is if you’re not completely worn out of the gameplay just yet.
I will leave the review on one more major issue I did have at the time of writing, the entire games language is in Japanese. Yes, we have English subtitles and no I don’t mind reading the anime this way. But to have such a massive title released without the care of an English dub is a huge disservice to a ton of the games plot and gameplay here. Trying to read subtitles in the heat of battle (flying around and focusing on enemies) you miss a lot of dialogue, I mean a lot. All the in game banter of your favourite characters go right over your head and it’s a big disappointment for me. I know other titles such as Dragonball Z and Naruto have had the option of both English dub and original language in their games before this. I don’t know what happened here and I hear that publisher Koei have nothing to do with dubbing, but that is no excuse here. For that alone, it gets a slightly lower rating.
It all comes down to this, despite its extreme repetition, the game is a wonderfully crazy, over the top slasher fest. If you know what you’re buying into here, then Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom will shine. The other positive feature is that it stands tall as a terrific companion piece along-side your collection of Anime and Manga versions of the series.
Score: 6.5 out of 10
Highlights: Excellent adjustable controls & awesome combat
Lowlights: No English dub language option, Repetitive gameplay mechanics.
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Koei Tecmo Europe
Release Date: August 25th, 2016
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3 & PS Vita
Attack on Titan Wings of Freedom was reviewed on PS4 and is rated MA-15+