Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 15th of March, 2018 (JP) & 20th of March, 2018 (EU & NA)
In the slow, dull months of the Switch’s life; an unexpected, strange, yet oddly charming anime-based title has stolen the show. A.O.T 2 (not Attack on Titan 2; yes it’s weird, yet aptly named), is Koei Tecmo’s brand new multi-plat action game for the Switch.
After watching the anime for the first time a week before playing the game, A.O.T 2 does a damn good job at retelling both of the seasons from the show from an alternate point of view. The game combines a massive 20+ hour hack-and-slash campaign – more than half of which will be rehashing the first season of the anime and the first game – with an addicting multiplayer and intriguing, yet repetitive combat system. For probably the biggest release of March, in terms of content, this game is fully worth the money you’d shed for it, especially if you’re a fan of the source material.
However, to fully grasp the game, you don’t require the previous background of knowledge most anime-based games expect you to know off the bat. The key events from the first and second season of the anime are really well portrayed, however, it is noticeable (if you’ve seen the anime), that a lot of the smaller details, side-plots and political intrigue which make the events more interesting and heartfelt are absent from the otherwise wholesome experience. If you’ve played the first Attack on Titan game, Wings of Freedom; there’s really not much you’ll miss out on if you decide not to purchase the sequel. As far as the combat mechanics and story goes, a lot of it is recycled from the previous iteration; with around 60% of the story being a complete replay of the first season, however, from a slightly different perspective. This tends to drag on the already slow start to the game; leaving more to be desired from the campaign if you’ve been loyal to the first game.
The story of A.O.T 2 is simple, yet rich; you take control of a soldier who is fighting against Titans – huge, creepy monsters that have attacked humans for centuries and are now invading the safe haven that they had established. Being the only thing keeping humanity safe from these flesh-craving, distorted giant humans; guarding and protecting the walls of the kingdom are imperative, and it’s your job to do so alongside key characters from the popular anime as mysterious events unfold. The hack-and-slash styled gameplay fits well with the story and theme of the anime, and is executed in a way which is satisfying and true to the source material.
You make use of gadgets known as ODM (Omni-Directional Mobility) gear which allows you to swing around the vast landscapes and towns in a very smooth way. The best comparison to this movement system would be games such as The Amazing Spider-Man and Prototype. By pressing Y, you can hook onto the nearest surface and propel your character forward with considerable speed, by continuing to press the button, you can swing from one object to another, which after learning its small hiccups and limits, is extremely satisfying to master.
Your ODM Gear is not only your mobility, but your offense as well. Using R to lock onto a Titan and then using the right stick to focus on a specific body part, you can latch onto it, using the ODM, allowing you to strafe, boost or attack. Once locked on, you will be propelled towards to selected body part, and with a perfectly timed attack, you can deliver some considerable damage to a Titan. Pressing B before attacking at the right time will allow you to gain speed while you slash through your enemy, increasing the damage of your attacks.
Once the button presses and combos are deeply understood, eviscerating titans can become very satisfying and simple, however, this is also one of the weak points of the combat system. In the anime, Titans are portrayed as these incredibly dangerous creatures, where fighting it poses a real risk, and so strategy has to be ensured before engaging – however, in the game, fighting a normal Titan can be as simple as one sword slash to the nape of the neck (the only way to properly kill a Titan) which can take less than 15 seconds at most. The only thing that adds depth to the already simple combat mechanic is the introduction of Abnormal and boss Titans; and even then, it still feels extremely repetitive after doing it for 20+ hours.
The Titan variety adds some interesting mechanics, but not enough to keep the player enticed – Abnormal Titans are variants that have a more wild and unpredictable nature. They are usually a lot faster and tougher to kill than regular Titans, but still can be overcome with a few well-timed sword swipes. Some Abnormal Titans require a bit more strategy, and by strategy, I mean that there will be specific targets on the Titan that light up and have to be destroyed before being able to chip away its health completely.
Boss Titans are the combat’s savior, however, they’re very limited and you won’t be able to experience much of them throughout the campaign. Alongside the combat mechanic, you also gain the ability to ‘capture’ Titans using a net item. This item allows you to trap Titans and transport them back to HQ, where you can gather information about what you’ve caught and fill an encyclopedia with all of the specimens. Smaller Titans can be caught outright, while larger ones will have to be immobilized before capturing (usually by severing the legs).
Sometimes when fighting a Titan, specific body parts will be shown to have precious materials – this, unfortunately, is the only motivation for wanting to sever body parts before going for the nape. If the body parts, which have the material symbol are severed, the end of the quest will reward you more materials than usual. A.O.T 2 tries to incorporate a ‘tower-defense’ mechanic into its core gameplay; this is present during most battles, where SOS calls from cast members will show up and an option to help them to gain a flare or two to allow you to summon towers of your choice.
There’s a wide variety of towers to choose from, such as bomb towers, machine guns, mining towers and supply towers, however, during the entire playthrough of my game, I found myself never using any sort of weaponised towers – what’s the point in building them if they don’t kill Titans and most Titans die in one hit regardless? The only tower I ever saw myself using was the Supply Tower. These towers are important for the success of most missions, as they refill your Gas, Blades and Health. As you deal damage, use the ODM Gear or get hit, all of these meters will deteriorate, and having backups of these to switch out mid-battle is extremely vital. They add a layer of depth to the combat, but at most times, just hinder your freedom in traversing the map and killing Titans.
Nothing in the game necessarily feels ‘grindy’, as rewards and materials you’ll need come quite naturally. If you do seek a specific item, it’s as easy as slaying a couple of Titans in a Scout Mission. Scout Missions are smaller, objective-based side-missions which don’t have much influence on the main story. They’re there as more of a distraction to allow you to test your skills and traverse key locations from the story. Each one has multiple phases and objectives, which, in between, has a small downtime to allow for adjustment of gear. They are useful for leveling up your character, testing your load-out and earning resources and materials you wouldn’t usually be able to get from story missions.
Completing Scout Missions increase and enlarge the playable Scouting Area. A larger Scouting Area means more missions to complete, allowing for more replayability in the long-run. Once completing Story and Scout Missions, you are sent back to the town area, in this area you are able to play as your Soldier in their ‘Daily Life’. During Daily Life scenes, you can talk to other soldiers and citizens, change your loadout and gain skills. It is set in a very different pace to the rest of the game, and so is extremely slow and dull. The small cut-scenes seen during the Daily Life are really poorly animated and unnecessary, and so, I just found myself skipping them all as they never actually contributed to character or story development.
Throughout the game’s Daily Life sections, you will be paying close attention to the multiple facilities at disposal which will help you out during the playthrough. At most shops, you can craft and upgrade your weapons using materials gained on the battlefield. Whether gained through Titan parts, rewards, mining towers or reaching certain conditions (such as weather and time of day), you can craft a wide variety of blades, scabbards/canisters and ODM Gear. You can construct and upgrade your desired items to tailor to your play style. Whether this is from sacrificing blade durability for high damage and a large holding capacity to sacrificing your horizontal mobility for a higher speed, you can choose how you would like to play. Also in the store, you can purchase gifts to use on other characters, these allow you to raise the friendship meter for each of the different people, which can benefit you in the future in terms of learning new skills and increasing that soldier’s performance on the battlefield. It is these wide variety of choices that allow for personalisation of your already heavily customized character, and give a large sense of individuality during your playthroughs.
Character customization is a brand new feature in the second A.O.T instalment; instead of experiencing the story from a main character’s perspective, you are shifted to the point of view of another soldier in the Scouts. You find yourself in recognizable scenes from the anime, watching the story’s main plot unfold from the side. There is a very deep, yet basic character creator, which allows you to create the most personalized character you want. You can edit most parts of the face and body, as well as the clothes and accessories your character will be wearing throughout the story.
At first, playing as a character you have no connection to is a bit strange, and somewhat makes the game feel less about the fantastic story of the Attack on Titan anime and more on a watered down, increasingly bland story. The main characters don’t usually interact with you besides from a few direct cut-scenes that you can choose to trigger, and it makes me wonder why they incorporated a custom character feature if it wasn’t necessarily needed. Throughout the game, however, you become more accustomed to the fact that you’re not actually influencing the story substantially, you’re more of a spectator. This does allow for some nice nods to scenes in the anime that were not touched on, but still overall does have me longing for more in terms of the story.
Outside of the story mode, A.O.T 2 offers ‘Another Mode’. Another Mode offers a more extensive experience that includes online play to hunt Titans with other players over the internet. The online experience is actually quite good, you can meet up and trade with other players to upgrade or construct new gear and weapons. There is also a feature to receive and respond to SOS calls (which you can also send out yourself during the campaign) thar allows you to help other players complete missions in a very Monster Hunter: World-esque mechanic. The online matches have more of a competitive element, which is actually quite nice and well implemented. You can race other soldiers to slay as many Titans as you can within a specific time limit. It’s quite fun and really shows how fun fighting Titans can be when you have actual real players assisting you, rather than predetermined AI doing nothing to help.
There was a couple of slowdown issues when I played, but nothing worse than what you would get from Splatoon 2. However, it was more noticeable when playing in more cramped spaces such as the city, compared to something open like the forest and training areas. In Multiplayer, you also have the option to play as main story characters. These characters are unlocked in the Multiplayer after specific events in the Campaign and have predetermined stats and skills based on the character. This class system is really well done, and even though there are a couple of overpowered characters that I can see being swarmed within most matches, there are some interesting less-common characters that have quite a unique stat spread which would create for some interesting replayability.
The last thing I want to touch on is the quality of the Switch port and the graphics. From a distance, this game is exactly like the Xbox and PS4 versions in terms of quality. There aren’t many framerate slowdowns that you’ll find problems with, and the game runs as smooth as butter. The only downside is the sacrifice that had to be made for the consistent framerate – the graphics. They’re fine, and playable, but just don’t deliver that ‘I’m in the anime!’ feel that the other versions give you. For a Switch port, they’re impressive, and definitely put the Switch’s hardware to the test. This is probably one of the most outstanding third-party Switch ports you’ll see in terms of graphics.
Of course, playing on the Switch can feel a bit out of place, I personally remapped a few of the buttons to accommodate for the smaller bumpers in handheld mode; but with a Pro Controller the game feels on par with the other versions and the extra feature of portability is phenomenal and worth the trade of graphics. The Switch version also sports HD Rumble, which is a super nice feature – you can feel the restraint when grappling and reeling onto objects and you can feel the exact moment when you penetrate and latch onto a Titan. It feels super smooth and well done and shows that the Switch’s features were in mind when this game was being ported over.
Overall, A.O.T 2 is a great take on the anime in video game form. Even if you’re a fan of the anime or have never touched the series in your life, this game will still deliver a solid experience and surprises during the time you play it. It’s a perfectly made port in every way, which only suffers from some odd gameplay and story choices. As March’s biggest release, A.O.T 2 definitely didn’t disappoint, and I can see myself coming back to it after completing the campaign solely for its online multiplayer. All in all, if you love Hack and Slash games, or you just want a change of pace from some of the more light-hearted Switch games, A.O.T 2 is worth the pickup.
THE VERDICT: 8/10
*Review Key Provided by Koei Tecmo