Now before I talk about this, I need you all to promise me something: promise you will not stop reading after the next paragraph. Because I guarantee the next thing I say is going to make a chunk of you want to stop reading. Okay? Here we go.
I do not care for Attack on Titan. I think it’s an overrated anime that tries far too hard to be edgy and dramatic, I think Eren Jaeger is a lousy protagonist, and I have extreme difficulty taking giant smiling naked people seriously. And before anyone says anything, yes, I watched the entire first season back when it was airing, so this is not a half-baked opinion.
There is one aspect of Attack on Titan that I actually really like, and that is fighting Titans. Zipping around on crazy Spiderman grappling hooks and digging giant box-cutters into giant naked people? That mess is awesome, even if I think it’s silly. So I think you can understand my intrigue at the prospect of an Attack on Titan game. All of the Titan slaying action I like with a bit of Dynasty Warriors-style seasoning, plus all of the melodrama trimmed out? This game was basically made for me. So, as I do my best to keep my biases at a minimum, I present to you Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom, developed and published by Koei Tecmo.
Here’s the basic background for Attack on Titan for the maybe two of you who don’t know. In an alternate history (or maybe the future, I dunno), the entirety of humanity is under the constant looming threat of Titans, gigantic humanoid monsters whose sole purpose in life is eating people, breaking stuff, and just generally being the reason we can’t have nice things. For defense, humanity lives behind three gigantic stone walls, so high and impenetrable that even a Titan can’t scale them. One day, however, a Titan so big that it’s actually taller than the furthest wall appears out of nowhere and kicks a hole in it, letting all of the little (comparatively) Titans in, and forcing humanity to abandon their homes and retreat behind the second wall. Caught in the middle of this is young Eren Jaeger who, upon seeing his mother devoured by a Titan, swears revenge, claiming he will one day kill every last Titan on Earth (a claim he is very frequent in reminding everyone of). Years later, he has joined the military and trained in special Titan-killing weaponry, ready to take on the naked menace. The story is extremely streamlined in the game, which I actually appreciate, condensing about ten episodes worth of plot into about two hours of gameplay and cutscenes (don’t worry, though, it goes beyond what the first season of the anime covered). The game uses a cel-shaded style which I think gels well with both the Titans and the humans, highlighting the Titans’ bloated, sweaty bodies, and the humans’ rage, doubly so when they’re covered in Titan blood. There’s no English dub option, unfortunately, but the Japanese voice cast does reprise their roles for the most part, and it is all subtitled in English, so I don’t think anyone will be bothered by that.
Imagine if you will an extremely lopsided game of Dynasty Warriors, in which the enemy team that is trying to conquer your territory is made up of giant monsters, while your team is made up of, well, you. That’s the basic formula for Attack on Titan. Gameplay takes place in large maps, sometimes in towns and cities, sometimes in fields and forests. Titans appear in scripted locations, and you’ll be tasked with various objectives, such as killing them, escorting civilians and priority targets, and defending outposts. Periodically, smoke signals with shoot out, signaling a soldier in need of backup. These side-missions are time sensitive, but if you can do them quickly enough, you’ll be rewarded with supplies or additional troops to aid your cause.
As a member of the military, usually Eren, sometimes someone else, you are armed with the omni-directional movement gear, or ODM for short, a pair of waist-mounted grappling hooks that allow you to maneuver at high speed around dense terrain. With a quick press of a button, the hooks launch and attach to the nearest landmarks, shooting you into the air. Thankfully, you don’t actually have to aim the hooks; as long as there’s terrain to grapple, you’ll grapple it automatically. When you approach a Titan and lock on to it, you’ll get a target readout of its legs, arms, and its major weakpoint, the nape of its neck. Once you’ve grappled onto the body part of your choice, you can strafe around to find a safe angle (preferably one far away from the Titan’s mouth), then shoot yourself forward. With a precisely timed button press, you’ll swing your swords and damage the targeted part, lopping it off if you’re lucky. You can stop its movement by cutting off its legs and prevent it from attacking by cutting off its arms; by strategically damaging tricky Titans, you can make your run for the nape all the easier, not to mention earn valuable salvage by destroying certain body parts.
For every Titan you subjugate, you’ll receive medals and money that can be used during downtime to purchase and upgrade your swords, sheaths, and ODM. In addition to dealing more damage or making you move faster, you’ll also want to upgrade to increase your capacity. The blades for your sword and propulsion gas for your ODM are limited, and during combat you’ll need to periodically swap them out, or suffer major penalties to your abilities. You can resupply from special soldiers on the field, or salvage parts from dead soldiers.
It doesn’t stop at acrobatic box cutting, though. Eren has an ability known as “Titan Shifting”, which allows him to transform into a Titan while maintaining partial cognitive control, kind of like a fleshy, naked Ultraman. During certain missions, you’ll be able to play as Titan Eren, engaging the other Titans in titanic fisticuffs. Well, I say “fisticuffs”, but it’s rather one-sided; Eren’s raging combat style makes short work of most low-tier Titans, and the bigger, smarter ones can be subjugated with a bit of dodging and retaliating.
If you’ve got friends, you can play online with three of em’ in expedition mode, in which you take on missions to explore outside the walls and- what else? Kill Titans. You can play as any character you’ve unlocked in the story mode, and earn experience for them that, in turn, unlocks new abilities, like improved ability to command troops or more damage dealt when attacking at certain angles. Any money and salvage you earn in expedition mode also carries over to story mode, and vice versa.
As much as it kind of annoys me to admit it, this game is… really good. Fighting individual Titans is simple and streamlined, but every slice of your blades on a Titan’s neck feels heavy and satisfying, as it should. Zooming around with the ODM is nice and easy, which is good, as side-missions do pop up frequently. Despite the size of the maps, though, I was never in a position where I couldn’t get where I needed to with time to spare. I only ever got stranded a couple of times due to trying to grapple at weird angles, but a slight shift in positioning was all it took to right myself. If I have to make one tiny little gripe, it’s that the PC port (which is the version I played) is a bit wonky in places. It’s a much better port than One Piece Pirate Warriors 3, especially since it has proper controller support, but I did see some nasty screen tearing during cutscenes, due to a lack of VSYNC in the options menu. I never noticed it during the game proper, though, so like I said, tiny gripe.
I still don’t really like the anime, but I can admit when I’m beat. Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom is a rock solid game. It’s fun to play, with a difficulty curve that’s very easy to pick up but takes concentrated effort to master. It’s a bit steeply priced for its content at sixty bucks across all platforms, but if you can get it for the right price, there’s plenty of giant, naked fun to be had, for both fans of the series and detractors of the series, apparently.