The musuo beat-‘em up has proven to be a remarkably versatile genre. With adaptations that span the Gundam, Fist of the North Star, One Piece, Dragon Quest, and Zelda properties, Omega Force has crafted the figurative ‘Guile’s Theme’ of the hack-and-slash world, as musuo seemingly goes with everything. So when it was announced that the Dynasty Warriors developer was creating a game based on Attack on Titan, it seemed likely that the team would apply their signature mechanics to depict the Survey Corps valiant struggle for survival.
But thankfully, Omega Force didn’t follow the path of least resistance, creating a game that has only surface-level similarities with the Warriors franchises. Most importantly, the release of Attack on Titan for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and PS Vita expresses the exhilaration of hurting through the air with the Omni-directional Mobility Gear- an elaborate contraption that uses grappling hooks and a body harness to allow soldiers to maneuver around targets. Pleasingly, the sensation of being a nimble, undersized combatant who is able to drop humongous, human-devouring, crazed Titans is realized, elevating the game above most anime-based adaptations.
Initially, controlling your solider feels precarious, as a tutorial sends you hurting toward mock enemies. But soon, navigation becomes intuitive, as you grapple and subsequently reel yourself in, with each hook affixing to parts of the landscape. Pleasingly, it never feels too automatized, with players having to recover after the sporadic environmental snag slices through a line. In execution, it’s much closer to the sensation of swinging through the air in the Spider-Man games that striding across Han-era flatlands as Cao Cao, as players bound over buildings.
Likewise, confronting the game’s Titans feels radically different than pushing buttons to cleave through a crowd of lesser soldiers. Early on, you might be able to land a blade in the nape of the Titan’s neck, to deliver the killing blow. But since your maneuvering gear uses gas canisters and your blades grow dull with usage, a direct attack isn’t always the best strategy. Titan limbs contain resources that allow players to replenish their items, as well as upgrade your gear to allow for longer aerial durations and more resilient weaponry. Occasionally, you’ll even employ devices like smoke bombs or rain fire on foes, adding variety to your defensive duties.
If there is a similarity to be found between Attack on Titan and Omega Force’s larger body and work, it’s found in the game’s mission structure. Although Titan doesn’t have the encyclopedic cast of the Warriors games, there’s distinction found among the game’s ten playable characters. Some grow stronger with each limb they cleave off while other can order nearby allies to attack, who confront a titan with the pint-sized zeal of Gulliver’s Travels’ Lilliputians.
Likewise, missions reflect the fluidity of Warriors’ battles. Occasionally, units known as logisticians will come under attack. As they resupply players with a number of essential items. While coming to their aid isn’t required, allowing them to perish definitely elevates the difficulty level, as the loss can leave you underhanded. Pleasingly, these aren’t the only side-quests, with semi-random events emerging, potentially pulling you away from the main task at hand.
As invigorating as Titan eviscerating is, there are a few problems that weight the title down. Like most games, enemy counts gradually enlarge- which can lead to aiming and camera issues, especially in tight areas. During encounters with clusters of elevated foes players need precision, between having to manually adjust the game’s perspective with the right stick and some minor framerate issues, expect the occasional bout of frustration.
Fans of the source material might be miffed that Attack on Titan’s exposition barely pokes past the first season and the trio of OVAs. Sure, there are a few new Titans to confront, but largely the game mirrors the narrative structure of the series, as young Eren Jaegar becomes a Titan hunter to avenge the death of his mother. The manga and anime were cloaked in metaphorical themes, from isolationism to the obligation of a teenager to grow into a contributory adult. Naturally, the game tries to hit the same story beats, but when narrative is mostly sandwiched between sorties, there’s an obvious deficiency in detail. Moreover, the sense of hopeless in the game is tempered by the player’s budding ability set. It’s difficult to feel discouragement when you’ve just neck-knifed a procession of Titans.
Visually, Attack on Titan does a proficient job of harnessing the power of the PlayStation 4 hardware. Save for the aforementioned framerate dip, the title is a visual stunner, adeptly aping the aesthetics of the Wit Studio/Production I.G anime. Undoubtedly, the highlight are the game’s eponymous antagonists, with the art and animation teams doing a commendable job at bring the dreadful amalgam of adult head and chubby baby body to life. Small touches, like the accumulation of viscera on the player’s body help to convey the savagery of Titan.
Completion of the game devotes a gratifying dividend, with the game adding new objectives and rewards to each of the game’s missions. Another component is the game’s Expedition Mode, which allow players to select one of the ten protagonists for an online game session. Mercifully, any items and funds carry over to the solo campaign, making multiplayer a diverting way to level up your team.
While Omega Force could have easily contextualized their Warriors games, Attack on Titan branches off in an unexpected direction, mirroring the trajectory of its Mobility Gear wearing protagonists. Comprehensively, the risk pays off, with Titan successfully emulating the exhilaration of fight and the tension of asymmetrical combat. With a satisfying campaign, a likeable multiplayer mode, and post-game additions that add a bit of variety, fans of the property will definitely want to hunt this title down.
Attack on Titan was played on the PlayStation 4 and PS Vita with review code
provided by the publisher. A platform comparison is forthcoming.
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PS Vita, PC
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Koei Tecmo America
Release Date: August 30th, 2016
Price: $59.99 (PS4), $39.99 (Vita) via retail and PSN, $59.99 (Xbox One)
via retail and XGS,$59.99 (PC) via Steam