Reviewed on: PS4. Copy supplied by publisher.
Oh, wait… that title doesn’t work as well written down… I could have deleted it, but then you wouldn’t see the inner workings of how we write at LoadScreen, the key is to start with a pun in the headline and then dribble on your shirt until the rest of the review writes itself. ANYWAY! Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom far exceeded my expectations, and proved to be a colossal load of fun that stays true to the source material. Oh, also there will be minor spoilers for AoT in this article if you haven’t read/seen it yet.
Fans of Attack on Titan may have been wondering how the popular manga and anime franchise would translate to the wonderful world of video games. Not that this is the first outing for the franchise, in 2015 the critically panned Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains made its way onto 3DS, however Wings of Freedom offers the power of console and PC to fully realise the high paced combat the series is known for. Developed by Omega Force, the division of Koei Temco best known for the Dynasty Warriors series, Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom offers a bountiful supply of gameplay that will please fans and maybe even tickle the fancy of newcomers.
InWings of Freedom there are two main modes, Attack Mode, which follows the main story, and Expedition Mode, which allows for offline solo and online multiplayer missions. Attack Mode is a faithful albeit condensed version of series one of the anime, and it’s surprisingly well done. I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting the battle of Trost District and venturing out with the Scout Regiment. Throughout Attack mode you take control of staple characters from the series, including Eren, Mikasa, Armin and Levi. Each hero has their own feel and special abilities. As you’d expect Mikasa and Levi are pros at zipping around solo and taking out large numbers of enemies, whereas Eren has his Titan ability as a main asset and Armin plays as a squad leader, ordering his squadmates where to attack. Each character brings enough distinction to give the game a different feel, whilst sticking to the core elements of the title.
Throughout Adventure Mode you relive some of the AoT’s most iconic battles. The music is exactly what you expect from the show, and the dialogue uses the Japanese cast, so prepare to read a lot of subtitles. This can be slightly annoying when characters are talking about key plot points during battles, as it’s near impossible to read and fight at the same time.
Expedition Mode adds longevity to the title, and it’s probably my favoured mode to play. You can take your pick of unlocked characters, allowing you to really branch out and try new strategies on the battlefield with their unique skill sets. Although it’s great playing through the story in single player, the AI relies on you to execute almost every single kill, so it’s a welcome addition to have a multiplayer option with other sentient players taking out Titans and helping the war effort. Any bonuses you earn in Expedition mode are shared with Adventure mode, so it’s fantastic if you want to level your characters for the story. Both modes score you on performance, and reward you with materials or new character abilities. As you chop your way through enemies you boost your regiment level and the level of whichever character you were playing, unlocking costumes and skills as you go.
The gameplay has a very similar feel to the Dynasty Warriors series, with open battlefields and a range of tasks that need to be completed to succeed (usually cutting Titan’s necks). Along the way side missions will pop up, offering bonus items or new squad members upon completion. Before battles the player can wander around camp talking to NPCs, upgrade weapons and gear with materials found throughout missions, and undertake survey missions or replay past skirmishes. It’s way more than I expected from this game, and it’s a welcome addition.
When in the heat of battle the player has use of 3D Maneuvering equipment that swings them around the map, it can be used in either movement or attack capabilities, and it feels fantastic to control. Each grapple tethers to a rooftop or tree, making movement tricky at times, but incredibly fun to plan out. Getting your head around the controls can take a bit of time, as it’s fast paced and there is a lot to take on board, but once you have the movement basics down, attacking becomes somewhat simple. To take out a Titan you can hook onto an arm or leg to lop off the limb (which occasionally contain materials for upgrades) to slow it down, before hooking to the neck and finishing it off with a swift chop to the nape. Of course you can just go straight for the neck if you don’t care so much about resources, but you’ll be punishing yourself later on when you need upgrades.
Combat isn’t a solo venture, even in single player. As you take on the enemy you can recruit members to your squad, who will either fan out, guard an objective, or focus on your target depending on what you order them to do. Each teammate has a ranking, and higher ranked players can be recruited by saving their lives or helping them through side missions. The team mechanics really come into their own when you play as Armin, or any other character with the Tactician’s Eyes skill, as they can directly control AI and tell them where to attack with an almost RTS feel.
The type of map you play in depends on the point of the story you’re playing, and they vary from cities to remote towns and open fields. Each shakes up the way you approach a battle without altogether ruining your strategies. When battling in the open you have less points to tether to, so you often rely on fighting from horse back, which gives you the speed you need to weave in and out of fights uneaten. Each map looks great and true to the anime, as does the entire style for that matter.
Resource management is a large part of Wings of Freedom. Your 3D maneuvering equipment runs on gas canisters, which deplete if the player is being over zealous with them. Sure you can kill a Titan quicker by coming at it after a speed boost, but you’ll be using up precious gas. Refilling canisters leaves you vulnerable for a few seconds, which is more than enough time to be snatched up or stomped on.
Aside from gas you have to manage the durability of your weapons. Cutting through necks all day long wears down a blade pretty quickly, and they need replacing fairly often. You also have restoratives, that bring you back around when injured. These become just as vital as your arsenal, as injuries restrict your movement drastically, leaving your player hobbling along and ripe for the picking. When you’re low on all your items you either need to talk to a designated friendly NPC to restock, hope to stumble upon a dead soldier to loot, or complete a side mission. Of course upgrading is always an option to alter durability and your carry limit of items. All in all the resource mechanics in Wings of Freedom set it apart from other hack and slash title. Engaging a pack of enemies requires thought, as you certainly don’t want to zoom into a fray with low supplies.
There is also Titan controlled combat in Wings of Freedom. Playing as a Titan isn’t as fluid as the standard gameplay, but it comes with a whole load of destructible surroundings, and smashing enemy Titans through fully collapsable buildings is the best kind of stress relief. The sheer amount of times you have to fight the infamous Female Titan does become somewhat of a grind though, and that’s in both forms of combat. But hey, it’s true to the anime, and you know just how much anime shows love dragging out boss battles *cough cough Frieza saga*.
The only real fault with Wings of Freedom is that there is maybe too much going on, your screen can be extremely busy especially in crowded battles full of objectives, and this can be overwhelming. However this is really a small gripe with a game that far exceeded my expectations and fulfilled the AoT fantasies I never knew I had.