The original Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom was one of my favourite games of 2015, I found the strange combination of weird naked giants, sharp swords, cute anime characters and extreme violence intoxicating, AOT was a game that appealed to me on many levels.
The title was not without its faults and had a few rough edges, but overall the game was an enjoyable romp that provided many hours of violent fun, I found the game's story and lore captivating to the point that I decided to watch the entire anime series which I enjoyed immensely.
Fast forward to 2018 and Koei Tecmo has released the sequel, creatively named Attack on Titan 2.
Because of my positive impressions of the first game and new found love of the anime, I approached Attack on Titan 2 with optimistic enthusiasm, I am happy to report I was not disappointed.
The story in AOT 2 centres around the lives of a number of trainees in the 104th cadet corps. These cadets are in training to join one of a number of military units trained to defend humanity against the titans. These units include the military police, the garrison regiment and an elite reconnaissance team named the scouts. These soldiers are specially trained to fight the titans - basically large naked humanoids with oversized heads, the creatures range in size from 3 to 100 metres tall and have an insatiable appetite for eating the humans living in safety in cities and towns surrounded by huge walls for protection.
The soldiers use Omni directional mobility gear (ODM for short) a kind of mobile winch system attached to the users body by a harness to jet around the map at high speed, inflicting damage on the Titans using razor sharp swords with disposable blades.
You play the part of an unknown soldier known only as "our man", with the bulk of the story told from his (or her) perspective using exerts from a diary found in the aftermath of a titan attack.
Anyone familiar with the first season of Attack on Titan will feel right at home, The story follows "our man" as he/she trains in preparation to fight the titans, working alongside familiar characters from the anime series, including fan favourites such as Lt Levi, Armin, Eren and the deadly Mikasa.
The first thing that strikes you about Attack on Titan 2 are the visuals, which are much improved over the original game. AOT ran at 900p on the original Xbox one, with the enhanced X sporting an increased frame rate. I cant say for sure whether the sequel is native 4K on the X, I'll leave those details to the genius team at Digital Foundry, but I will say the game looks great and is a big step up from the original title.
Level of detail is increased across the board, shaders are higher quality and the characters all sport an increased level of graphical fidelity that makes the game look superb. There are a few rough edges dotted about in the form of the odd lower quality texture and some graphical pop in on some of the more open maps, but all things considered, the graphical upgrades over the first game are numerous and worthy of mention.
Weather effects are included for certain missions, blood and particle effects are increased in number and detail and the titans themselves animate better, Overall the game looks great especially in motion.
Just like the graphics, the game's audio has been enhanced over the original title These improvements are certainly more subtle than the graphical changes, but the audio has nonetheless seen refinements in many areas.
The sounds of a sword connecting with a titan's nape are stellar with a satisfying twang, equally impressive are the sounds of explosions and the noise of your ODM gear as the lines are reeled at high-speed as your character boosts around the map.
Without a doubt the most impressive aspect of AOT 2's audio is the games music, the sweeping orchestral score is backed by operatic like vocals, it sounds magnificent, epic even, especially in the midst of some of the larger battles, it makes for some of the finest music I have heard in a game since Nier Automata.
Fans of the original will find the the improvements Koei Tecmo have made to AOT 2's gameplay welcome.
The game starts by asking you to create the character of "our man" and unlike the original game, where you could only play as characters from the anime now you have full control over the creation of your character, You can still play as mainstays from the series just like the first AoT game but to do this you must select one of the games other modes, called quite literally "another mode". The character creator itself is comprehensive allowing you to choose between male or female, edit hair, eyes, nose and other physical traits before selecting clothing and giving your character a name.
Once you finalise your character the game begins, after this you are free to edit any aspect of your alt at any time you wish. One of the major frustrations I have with games like Destiny and Monster Hunter World is the inability to edit your character after creation, so having a game that allows this without losing progress and at any time in-game is a huge plus in my opinion.
The ability to edit your character is not the only thing that has changed for the sequel, the majority of the games mechanics have also been overhauled. fluidity and speed of movement have been refined, traversal around the maps feels better and the ability to capture Titans is new, also added is the ability to mount devastating stealth attacks on enemies from a great distance allowing for massive bonus damage.
The games central hub has been upgraded too with many new areas and additions, the original hub area in the first game was relatively barren with little to do except upgrade weapons and have the odd conversation with the series main characters. For the sequel Koei Tecmo has gone all out, adding many more NPC's to interact with. Relationships now need to be built to gain access to additional skills, useful items and deadlier attacks to help dispatch the titans.
Theres a lot to love in the game's weapon tree too, fans of monster hunter will feel right at home with weapons that are distinct and upgradeable using materials gained from severing titan limbs and finishing levels with a high skill rank.
Once you complete the story mode, new options open up in the games main menu including "inferno mode" which is basically a much harder version of the game that awards greater rewards for titan slaying and mission completions, beware though, this mode is hard and requires you to have built up your character in story or another mode before attempting, you have been warned.
There is multiplayer in the game, and the various modes all work well with numerous options for teaming up and working either with or against your friends or randoms, one of the more interesting modes pits two teams against each other, with each team competing for the final killing blow on titans to reap the rewards and take all the points for your team, its an interesting spin on team versus that works well.
So is the game perfect? No, it isn't. Like the first game there are some rough edges worthy of mention.
I'm currently around 60 hours in and despite the fact there's far more going on than in the original, the game can still feel repetitive at times.
Also, the western version of the game features Japanese voice acting with English subtitles. This isn't an issue during the games hub areas, but can be problematic during intense battles when you're not always able to read the subtitles due to what's happening on the battlefield, this can lead to you missing critical information and failing a mission, its nowhere near as prominent as problem as the first game but can lead to issues from time to time.
As I mentioned earlier despite the huge improvement to the game there are still a few rough edges graphically, with pop in on some of the more open levels being the most obvious.
If you're a person that's just not into Japanese RPG type games, AOT 2 is probably going to do nothing for you either. As I said at the start of this review, the game is a strange combination of weird naked giants, cute anime characters and extreme violence, Personally I love it as it's quite unlike anything else, but it's not going to be to everyone's taste.
Attack on Titan 2 is a great game that fans of the original will love. The gameplay is much improved over the first title, the upgrades to the games graphics and audio are a welcome addition. It's not a game for everyone but gamers looking for a fast, fun title with excellent mechanics and a great story will find much to like here.
(Tested on Xbox One X)