I’m fond of the Dynasty Warriors (or Musou) series of slash-’em-ups, but even I’ll admit that sometimes it feels like they could use a little more spice. Like…flight, for instance, or giant enemies. What if you flew around slashing away at giant enemies instead of taking out entire armies on foot? Well, Koei Tecmo’s take on Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan offers pretty much exactly that: a Musou-style experience with a unique take on combat that lends it a taste all its own.
Attack on Titan follows the story of the anime (and live-action films) of the same name, but if you aren’t familiar: humanity lives in a city surrounded by several layers of giant walls. that’s because outside of those walls roam Titans, massive humanoid creatures whose only desire is to chow down on some long pork. Titans are enormously strong and practically unkillable, since any damage not dealt to a specific spot on the nape of the neck rapidly regenerates, even including severed limbs.
Hungry Titans don’t always stay outside, either, so it falls to the various Military regiments of the city to deal with attempted incursions as well as venturing outside the walls to discover the world beyond. We initially follow Eren Yaeger, a recruit with a personal grudge against the Titans as his mother was killed by one when he was young. As the plot continues, though, we grow to learn and care about his fellow Military members as well.
As mentioned, Titans are tough cookies and it’ll take more than just a big gun to bring them down. The heroes use a set of equipment typically called the Three Dimensional Maneuver Gear (or Omni-directional Movement Gear, or 3DMG, or whatever it’s being called in the latest localization) to even the odds. Essentially this is a belt system with grappling hooks and giant gas canisters used to facilitate swinging about like Spider-Man, allowing the user free movement in three directions to dodge attacks and gain access to the critical weak point on the back of a Titan’s neck. Battling Titans involves using the Gear along with a set of deadly sharp swords to strike that weak point while keeping in mind that the slightest misstep could cause death in any number of ways.
This is simulated surprisingly well in the game! Doing the tutorial is a must, but once you’ve gotten the hang of swinging about and rocketing into the sky with the 3DMG then the experience is unlike many other games. You can shoot around at a shockingly fast clip with some practice, launching yourself across entire maps in seconds and nimbly dodging grabby Titan hands. I don’t often use the word “exhilarating” but it really does apply here; the freedom of movement you’ve got is impressive.
You’ll need it, too, since there’s no health bar here; one hit will wound your character, assuming they’re not just killed instantly by failing to escape when grabbed, and two hits without healing up is death. Bringing down a Titan typically involves swinging up around it and dodging its attacks on the way, connecting a line to it from the 3DMG, then shooting down using your momentum to land a killing blow on the nape of its neck. You’ll also need to manage your gear’s maintenance while out on the field; the essential gas used to blast off with the 3DMG can run out and your blades can dull with use, so you’ll periodically need to replace both with the help of logisticians around the battlefield. Meanwhile, you’ll need to pay attention to combat conditions in order to assist your allies or take out TItans who are attacking a vital strategic point.
All in all, it plays out a bit like a Musou game with much more involved combat. Taking out Titans does eventually become something you’re used to, but I never felt like zooming around got especially dull. There’s a campaign that follows the plot of the anime; if you want a change, there are also missions where you can control a Titan of your own for reasons that should be familiar to fans of the series; I found these to be weaker than the regular missions, though the variety is nice. Teaming up with your friends for missions in the game’s online multiplayer is much more fulfilling, as there are plenty of stages available and it runs fairly well aside from some odd microphone-related bugs.
I played the PC version of Attack on Titan and, frankly, it looks and plays incredibly well. Note: I was also lucky enough to experience the console versions at E3 earlier this summer, so grab your gamepad of choice and swing away! I appreciated that the game accurately represented the show as well; we’re at a point where games can pretty reliably look like anime, and that’s put to good use here. Voice acting and sound are on par with any other anime-based game, so there’s little to complain about. I’m not hugely familiar with the show, but I was taken in by the game’s portrayal of the plot, so I wouldn’t say that you have to be a fan to enjoy this one.
For all the game industry’s flaws in recent times – and there are plenty, don’t get me wrong – at least we can say that licensed games are steadily shaping up. We saw this with the Batman Arkham titles and we’re seeing it here with Attack on Titan: games that really give you the experience of starring in your your favorite movie or anime. Fans of the series should consider this one a no-brainer, while anyone else would do well to try the game out and experience its unique and enjoyable movement mechanics.