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Review - Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom

I recently had the chance to play Koei's latest Animé based game - Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom. Right now you're probably wondering if it's worth picking up and if it even does the Animé justice, so read on as I give my own personal thoughts on this and more, as I share my experience with you all.

When I first caught wind of Shingeki no Kyojin (Japanese for Attack on Titan) on Crunchyroll, I couldn't help but look forward to the release of its very first episode. It was fast paced, interesting and incredibly fresh in design. I was lucky enough to catch wind of it before the hype train and "Shippers" got involved and instantly felt compelled to ride it out until the end of the season. So, the main concern I had when Koei announced Omega Force (Dynasty Warriors) were working on an Attack on Titan title was "will it actually be good?"

In an industry where many companies try to cash in on the success of popular Animé series, fans will be quick to jump on these titles, only to be left with a foul taste in their mouth, as to be quite honest the games just generally aren't very good. I own several One Piece titles (Unlimited World Red on PS3, Romance Dawn on 3DS) and have played and owned some of the better PS1 and PS2 Dragonball titles, but they rarely end up being anything more than a disappointment. Dragonball Z: Budokai and the Budokai Tenkaichi series were admittedly some of the better Animé titles out there, but up until Xenoverse, Dragonball failed to capture the essence of the show while the One Piece titles have been nothing but lacklustre in everything but looks. So how exactly does Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom fare?

To begin, the story of Wings of Freedom is a condensed take on season 1 of the Animé. It covers all of the main points and once you're done with the story, you're left with a series of Survey Corps quests that eventually unlock the final epilogue missions, surpassing that of the Animé as it follows the Beast Titan and the rampage to come. I'm not going to go into too much detail on this due to spoilers, but Eren does transform and you get to fight in both duels with the Female Titan. The beginning missions can feel repetitive, but only because you're slaying Titans mission after mission. That is what this game is about afterall.

As you progress through the story, some of the more iconic scenes are shown as cutscenes and it's a nice touch to see where exactly Levi and Erwin were during Eren's transformation. As the main plot rises to its climax, the game manages to maintain a great deal of buzz throughout. In a sense you get to know the characters a little better than in the show due to extra dialogue as you spend time with them over the course of the game. You can see first hand just how obsessed Hange is with her Titan capture ideas, you'll fight alongside Levi's hand picked team of Elites (Petra, Gunther - who I nicknamed "Onion" back in the Animé, due to his hair, Oruo and Eld) and also get to experience the devastating power of Eren's Titan form, all while keeping a close eye on Bertholdt and Reiner.

The main campaign mode is titled Attack Mode. In here you'll find all of the story missions (and then some), where you're ranked from C to S in every skirmish (S being greatest). Once you're done with a mission, if you're unhappy with your score or want to unlock an extra Boss Titan that you previously missed, you do get to replay these missions at any point. Additionally, you can take part in Survey Missions which consist of Rescue/Escort, Defend and Assault typed objectives across multiple areas of the world. Some locations offer plenty of grapple points to move around the map in your 3D Manoeuvre Gear (such as the iconic forest area and the inner settlement area of Wall Maria), while others offer barely any anchor points at all (such as the plains), forcing you to almost entirely depend on your trusty steed.

On most of the battlefields, signal flares are fired. representing different points of interest. If you race to the aid of a fellow Scout, provided you're successful, supplies will arrive and the member you saved will become a team member for the remainder of that mission. That is of course unless you decide you want to enlist someone else with better stats, simply achieved by pressing circle next to the person you want to recruit.

Speaking of which, there are a number of RPG-like mechanics that are all very much stat-based, which you'll need to get to grips with in order to stay alive and remain at the top of your A-game. Over the course of the game you'll find Pedlars that specialise in transport, equipment and materials. Transport is where you can purchase horses. Horses are the only form of transport in the game (other than 3DMG and your own feet....), but the idea is to just keep buying better horses as you go along, with speed and stamina being the only two attributes you really need to pay attention to. The material Pedlar allows you to sell any unwanted materials you've acquired and also stocks materials for purchase, which you'll need to upgrade your equipment.

On the subject of equipment, this Pedlar allows you to upgrade your blades, scabbard and 3D Manoeuvre Gear (titled Omni-Direction Gear in this). You can get better gear in a number of ways - unlocking new developments, enhancing current equipment with funds and materials and fortifying equipment with funds and unused equipment. My experience with this showed that enhancing is the best option as it makes the biggest and most noticeable differences on the upgrade front, but if you're lacking materials you can use unwanted gear to upgrade your preferred gear in slight increments or just buy something better altogether if you find something more impressive than that of which you already own. Your blades primarily account for your damage output and weapon durability, your scabbard determines a couple of things but most importantly how many blades you can carry and then your 3DMG determines your anchor range, reel speed and pressure. Pressure essentially determines how fast you can move by simply boosting and reel speed determines how fast you can reel into a Titan for a devastating attack.

The gear available is varied. Some blades are long, some are short, some are more durable and then the same can be said for your scabbard and 3DMG. Some scabbards look insane and aside from the iconic gear of the show, there are quite a lot of new and interesting pieces of equipment on offer. You could have a scabbard that looks like wings on either side of your character, odd looking 3DMG, a Rapier, Katana or even a Duster weapon (which is clearly a nod to Levi's "everything must be spotless and clean" OCD. I like to keep things true to the show however, so I stick with the more traditional gear.

Check out some of my earlier gameplay below:

Progressing through the main campaign and completing certain side quests will unlock a number of additional items and content for the game. For example, you'll be able to unlock a total of ten characters for use in Expedition Mode (the multiplayer mode of AoT). Characters include Eren, Armin, Mikasa, Connie, Jean, Christa, Ymir, Hange, Levi and Erwin. Each character seems to have at least one unique ability. Eren can transform into a Titan (once unlocked around endgame), Armin is great at commanding attack teams to take down Titans with the press of the Circle button (once a specific battle command has been set in place with down on the d-pad) and Levi has his iconic tornado twist of doom. Each character can level up, which in turn unlocks a series of abilities (some of which other characters can unlock, while others are character specific). You can also unlock a number of alternate costumes for each playable character. Eren and Levi have cleaning costumes and multiple variations of their Survey Corps attire for example.

Once you're done with the main campaign, for every 20% of each Survey Corps mission district completed, you unlock a character within the "Muster Roll", located within the gallery section from the main menu. More importantly however, is the fact whenever you clear a set amount of missions in each Survey Mission district, you unlock an extra epilogue scene to play through, motivating you to fully finish all missions within the game.

Up next is how the game actually handles. You use your 3DMG by holding/pressing square. This will automatically attach you to the closest anchor points around you and allow for the momentum to begin. Pressing square as you look around allows for a more controlled method of transport, while holding square allows for you to continuously attach and move. Pressing X jumps, double tapping X jumps and boosts and holding X boosts your 3DMG. All of this can be combo'd together for a decently simplified control scheme. In a way it makes me miss the controls of Fenglee's fan-game, but Koei's control scheme allows for a much more fluid and aesthetically pleasing experience. R1 locks onto the nearest titan, square begins the reeling stage and then it's up to you to press X to boost in for the kill, disengage to dodge or flick the right analogue stick around to aim at different body parts on the fly. Some characters such as Levi and Mikasa have a really great ability where you can continuously press Triangle once you've landed an attack to automatically bounce back and forth to deliver another two attacks. Chain attacks are incredibly fast, stylish and actually give you a feeling of empowerment as you get good enough to drop Titans like flies.

There are occasions where you'll need to use some degree of strategy, though usually this is only when Boss fights are concerned. For example, some Bosses have the ability to harden their body parts and the only way around this is by using a Flash or Sound Grenade, temporarily stunning them and preventing them from maintaining these abilities. Other titans will block the nape of their neck with their hands, so you'll need to dismember their arms first and then go in for the kill, while the Beast Titan has so much fur, unless you set fire to specific body parts first with a Molotov Cocktail, you won't be dealing much damage to it any time soon.

The last point I'd like to talk about is how authentic this game feels to its original source. With some of the best character models and textures I've ever seen, Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom truly feels like you're playing the Animé. Scenes from the Animé and Manga have been beautifully recreated, with highly detailed backdrops and impressive lighting effects. Additionally, the character movement and animation looks and feels incredibly natural, so once you get the hang of things it feels like you're really there in the world of AoT, pulling off all sorts of badass and epic manoeuvres. If that wasn't enough for you, the music, although not amazing as a soundtrack, is great at setting the scene and giving the same vibes as the Animé and even better still, all major voice actors from the Animé have reprised their roles. Again though, there is no English dub, though this is quite common for Koei/Tecmo and with subtitles it really isn't necessary.

To conclude my review, Attack on Titan is so much more than "just another cash in". It recaptures the thrill and excitement of the Animé, encapsulates the essence of the source material and delivers one of the most fun, rewarding and addictive gaming systems to date. It may only offer a condensed retelling of the original Animé, but with such outstanding gameplay mechanics it's hard to do anything but praise Koei for their effort, as this is one of the greatest Animé to game related titles I've ever played and gives me high hopes for their next Animé title - Berserk.

Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom is out now, available for purchase on PS4, PS3, PS Vita, Xbox One and Steam.

I know by now some of you would have received your copies in the post already, but what did you think of Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom? Agree with the article? Let us know in the comments below or hit me up on twitter @CaptainCortez

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