Monday, May 28, 2018

Attack on Titan 2 (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC) Review

Featuring enemies taller than even Shaquille O'Neal, Attack on Titan 2 promises intense encounters with gigantic Titan monsters. Does it deliver? That's what the SuperPhillip Central review hopes to answer.

They Might Be Giants

Attack on Titan 2 may leave fans of the previous game in the cold, as most might expect it to be purely a retelling of season two of the anime. In actuality, season two's story contents is reserved for the last quarter (if even that) of the game. Instead, what players will find is that the bulk of the story-related content in Attack on Titan 2 is based off of the first season of the anime, which in turn, made up all of the content of the original game. Even a large number of cutscenes in the first Attack on Titan game is recycled for the sequel. Still, what's here follows the anime very closely, and even if you're not a habitual watcher of the series, you can gather a grand idea of what's going on and every major happening in the anime by playing through the game.

There is one caveat to this, and that's how slowly the story moves. The pacing is not quite perfect, making the story require several hours or so between major moments, which may put off plenty of players. However, the actual gameplay itself--though  a bit repetitive, as I'll soon explain--encourages you to push forward and experience everything Attack on Titan 2 has to offer in its 10-15 hour story.

Attack on Titan 2 sees you playing as a custom character serving alongside and interacting with the main characters of the anime. Many scenes play out in a first-person view in your character's perspective, really bringing a personal touch and sense of close involvement to them. You can even grow closer to your fellow squad members by participating in Persona-like personal events, which unfortunately don't have much to them other than giving you a choice of two to three responses to make, with one of those usually being the obvious choice to make for your "good guy" persona. Even further, these personal events occasionally are required in order to progress through the story of the game. They're not major annoyances, and they do earn you helpful battle skills through increasing your relationships with Attack on Titan's characters, but they do slow down the pace of the game overall.

Don't be so sure, Eren. You haven't known my character for that long yet.
Thankfully, outside of progressing the story and learning new skills, characters that you grow close to will have a higher proficiency with you in battle, and this is where Attack on Titan 2 shines. The battles aren't your typical Musou/Dynasty Warriors-style affairs where you unleash your blade upon hundreds of enemy fodder. Instead, you're taking on a smaller number of much bigger foes in the titular Titans. On easy difficulties, it's a simple as riding around in the air with your Omni-Directional Mobile Gear to maneuver yourself around a Titan's backside to perform a killing blow to their weak point, the nape of their neck for an instant kill. Of course, you need enough speed and proper timing to effectively slay a Titan in one slice.

There is also the ability to perform a sneak attack on Titans by holding onto one of the shoulder buttons and keeping them in your sight until a target shows up. Performing a sneak attack requires exact timing to score a perfect kill, and you need to stay aware of nearby Titans. In preparation for sneak attacks, you're vulnerable and can also anger nearby Titans more easily. Angered Titans in rage mode are much more dangerous creatures than they are normally, and have no qualms in grabbing you, preparing to scarf your character down.

An attack from above is sure to give this particular Titan an untimely end.
On harder difficulties, it's better to target a Titan's limbs, slashing them off one by one to weaken them. Targeting is as simple as locking on to a part with a shoulder button, and then using the right stick to focus on your desired location to slice into them. Titans come in all forms: small, normal, and large sizes. The larger and rarer Titans require you to damage their glowing green weak point before you're able to do sufficient damage to their necks.

Large Abnormal Titans require you to damage their green weak points
 in order to do a prominent amount of damage to them.
Missions in Attack on Titan 2 come in similar varieties with simple objectives to complete. Sometimes you're escorting a character to a specific destination, while others you're defeating specially marked Titans on the radar map, or rescuing endangered squad mates on the battlefield from Titan threats. This is all the while speeding across the expansive maps by foot, by air (with the helpful grappling hook-esque Omni-Directional Gear), or by horse.

Going from Titan to Titan, killing each that stands in your way, might sound a bit repetitive to some, and that's because... well, it totally is. The gameplay variety is limited here, and battles aren't the most fluid due to some occasional but obnoxious frame-rate issues which can slow battles to a crawl when a ton of Titans are at your position at once. Different types of Titans and some minor tower-bulding and tower-defense elements alleviate some of the ennui that can seep into the action sometimes, but for me, I had to play Attack on Titan 2 in bite-sized bursts, which was perfect for the system I played the game on, the Nintendo Switch. The aforementioned frame-rate issues aren't limited to Nintendo's newest home console either, as I've watched videos of both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions as well, which also suffered from poor frame-rate when the action heats up.

Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum, look out, Super, here this Titan comes!
After the conclusion of a given mission, you're awarded with a rank based on your skill in battle. This depends upon how long the battle took you, how many Titans you've slain, and how many side-missions you completed. The best rank is an "S", and that rewards you with the best materials and money. I didn't like not being able to see what the required time limits, Titans to kill, and side-missions to complete were in order to gain an "S" rank, as I'd usually kill too few Titans in a rush to beat what ever target time was required of me, or waste too much time killing a lot of Titans that I was too slow to get an "S" rank in the time category. It was frustrating, as these missions take a good deal of time to complete. Sure, 10-15 minutes might not seem like a lot to many, but it adds up after subsequent retries and missions played.

Coordinate with your squad mates to put Titans away more quickly.
Materials are used in Attack on Titan 2 as a resource to create new weapons and gear. As you move through the game, more weapon and gear types will open up to craft, making your character even more powerful than usual than just by his or her increased experience level. Weapons and gear can also get upgraded to make them stronger, improving their abilities as well. Such stats that improve include how much gas they take with regard to gear, blade length with regard to weapons, among others. Though, as expected with a game with materials to collect, many times you'll find yourself replaying missions just to grind for specific materials to create that one weapon or piece of gear you have your heart set on. However, when you do finally get to create it, it makes for not only a mighty boost to your skills, but also it proudly displays itself in battle, which is a nice touch.

By playing through the story mode, you unlock characters to play as in another mode in Attack on Titan 2, conveniently called "Another Mode". This mode allows you to choose from an exhaustive amount of characters from the show to take control of in non-story-based missions to increase their stats and abilities. Beating the story mode in general, unlocks a more difficult challenge in "Inferno Mode". This ultra hard mode follows the story mode of Attack on Titan 2, only with some minor changes along the way, ones that I won't spoil in this review. So, if you're worried about a lack of content, don't be--there's plenty to see and do in the game. Though, fans of Dynasty Warriors-style games probably already expected that.

"Eliminate all the Titans." Sure. And after that, I'll rebuild this tower all by myself, too.
Attack on Titan 2 may suffer from performance problems in heated battles, a slow-paced story, and reoccurring bouts of repetition, but generally speaking, I still found a lot to enjoy about the game. That's even without being a consistent watcher of the anime (and that's putting it lightly towards my total ignorance of the plot and characters of the show before playing this game). Attack on Titan 2 may not be Tecmo Koei's best offering, but it's certainly not the worst. What we have here is a slightly above average interactive interpretation of the popular Attack on Titan anime series with enjoyably hectic, high-flying action with a dose of drawbacks, some of which are just as intimidating as the Titans in this game.

[SPC Says: C+]

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