The follow-up to Attack on Titan (2016) is finally here! How does it hold up in contrast to the sequel? Does it manage to be THE definitive AOT experience? Well, let’s dive right in and take a look!
You play as your own custom character (nicknamed “our man” by the anonymous narrator) as we are taken through the detailed diary entries that present what took place during your time as a soldier in the Attack On Titan universe. Conveniently, your character just so happened to be following Eren, Armin, and Mikasa through the series at the exact same time. Small world, eh? In terms of your own story motivation, your mother and father were both killed during the first season of the show when an armoured titan barged in and destroyed parts of the wall. The story itself is basically a retelling of seasons one and two as you accompany the cast to battle titans and help preserve humanity.
First of all, the gameplay is quite similar to the first entry. But, there’s a slight difference… This one’s called AOT 2. All jokes aside, zooming around the map slicing up titans is invigorating once you’ve gotten into the rhythm of it. Propelling yourself into the air to pull back down onto an oncoming enemy feels extraordinarily rewarding when done perfectly. Earning medals and points at the end of a mission feels great and nailing the combat feels addictive enough to jump right back in and beat your previous rank. Accompany this with a small tower defence mechanic, where each tower you build can aid different parts of the battle, makes you stop and think what would be useful or efficient.
However, getting used to the navigation in the game isn’t exactly as easy as you’d think. Using your grappling hooks to zip through the world sounds like we’re going to get something akin to Spider-Man 2 (PS2), and we do!… sort of. Throughout my time with the game, I would periodically find myself stuck at the bottom of a building trying to reel myself up to the top, all because I either missed my opportunity to double jump over an obstacle or because I landed on the ground and needed to spring back into the action.
Choosing to include season one rather than jumping to season two (considering this is the second game) does help people who are new to the franchise jump in and get a decent grasp of what happens in the story. Is this the optimal way to experience the AOT narrative? Probably not. The animé and manga are always going to be the best way to enjoy the plot, mostly due to the lack of pacing restraints. The game needs to be able to balance it’s narrative without overshadowing its gameplay, or, at the very least, not keep the player bored as they wait out exposition. AOT 2 manages to keep its plate spinning act up quite well. The aspect where things seem to fall short is when you placed in the hub world.
The hub world consists of multiple NPCs that you can develop bonds with to gain more skills, places to upgrade and purchase new gear, focus on upgrading stats, and even replay older missions or go out on scouting missions. Walking around the barracks and training rooms at first is exciting; seeing familiar locations and speaking with favourite characters can bring some laid-back fun as you slowly grow and become better. After a while though, you’ll want to spend less and less time in that area and focus on priorities.
This mantra flows through your brain. UPGRADE SHOP. CHAT TO NPC. UPGRADE STATS. NEXT MISSION. It does feel quite repetitive and makes you more motivated to get back into the battlefield, rather than talking to multiple NPCs about their problems. I can understand what the team was going for in this area. These characters are interesting and I would love to know more about them, but we only get the minimum when it comes to development (outside of the main cutscenes) and it ends up being another thing you have to do to gain more skills.
What makes a nice change is the character creation suite. Here you can create a person you could believe would fit right in the AOT universe… or you can create a monstrosity of a human being by messing with every attribute. Little details like the size and shape of the pupils are greatly appreciated. This amount of freedom is worth it to see what your imagination can come up with. However, skin tone seems to have been an issue as you can only change the colour from pale white to a darkish tan. This doesn’t help with the inclusion of other cultures, and it especially ruins you being able to run around as a giant, blue-headed titan killer.
While we are on the custom character, inserting them into the story is probably the best step that could be taken for the sequel. Putting the player into the situations as themselves or as an amusing looking persona would lead to some added investment and even allow you to develop your own personality throughout the game. Sadly, there is a slight caveat with the presentation. If you decide to play as a female character, that doesn’t change how characters perceive you. You will ALWAYS be referred to as “Our man”, “Him”, or “His” and etc. Not a problem if you’re playing as a guy. But if you want to play as a female? Sadly no dialogue changes happen due to this decision. I doubt this was done purposefully, rather this was more than likely an oversight. Which sadly if you did want to get immersed in this game as a woman, you’re going to be left feeling disappointed.
Overall, while the game is flawed in areas it still manages to create an enjoyable experience that keeps reeling me back in. The combat has engrossed me to the point where I feel I want to go back and S rank each mission, each scouting quest, and nail every elimination perfectly. This feeling doesn’t normally happen to me too often, but aspects of Attack on Titan 2 have urged me to complete this game fully. Will its flaws in navigation and representation hold people back? It is likely, but what we’re left with when you get down to the gameplay is a solid depiction of what it’s like to take up arms, fly into the sky and protect your home from these frightening anomalies of nature.