If you've played Omega Force's first video game adaptation of Attack of Titan, then the first few hours of its follow up, Attack on Titan 2, will feel very familiar indeed.
Covering both seasons one and two of the anime, many of its gameplay scenarios and cutscenes are exactly the same. Plus, due to the game's steadiness in introducing new features, it plays pretty much the same too. It's only once you've played Attack on Titan 2 for about five hours or so that it comes into its own, though even then, it feels more like an expanded revision of the first title than a fully-fledged sequel. Not that that's particularly a bad thing.
The most notable difference between this game and its predecessor is that you no longer jump between protagonists. This time, you create your own character and experience the story from a new perspective. And yes, that also means you unfortunately don't get to control Eren as a giant Titan. A shame, but then the general Titan-killing gameplay has been improved so much that you won't really miss it.
Anchoring onto a Titan to ready an attack, for instance, is now performed by pressing the attack button instead of the ODM button, allowing you greater manoeuvrability as you battle. Additionally, you can now pull off stealth attacks on Titans when at a distance, and even the ally system has been revised to give you direct control of up to four companions' abilities. Factor in other gameplay tweaks such as the ability to dash out of the way of attacks and follow up with a powerful counter, and you've got a game that feels meaningfully fleshed out.
The flow of the game remains pretty much you same; you head out into battle, swinging and propelling yourself at high speed while attempting to splice off parts of your foes before ultimately delivering a decisive slash to their napes, responding to distress signals as and when you deem appropriate. Then, when the mission is complete, you get an opportunity to grow your character and also talk to colleagues before heading out to do battle again. Here, however, everything as been developed and honed to be sharper and deeper than ever before, and it pays off.
The action is fast-paced, challenging and fun. You need to always keep on the move, be aware of what's happening around you, and make use of your available space to find the best angles of attack. And while on easy difficulty the game is a breeze, on harder difficulties you also need to employ a great deal of skill and strategy to bring down tougher foes. The camera can be problematic at times, but the sheer uniqueness of Attack on Titan's gameplay means you'll just live with it. Honestly, there's nothing else quite like it.
Base building rears its head during the midst of battle in this sequel too. Providing you have the resources, which are often acquired by helping those in need, you can develop a range of bases that expands throughout the course of the game, each offering their own benefits. Supply bases replenish your stocks of consumables such as blades and gas, for example, while a mining base provides you with more materials at the end of battle. And then there are attack-focused bases, like those which provide artillery fire or explode when a Titan moves into range.
It's the bits sandwiched between the battles that perhaps set Attack on Titan 2 apart from its predecessor more than anything else though. With more areas to visit and the implementation of a friendship system, there's simply more to do, and while much of it can occasionally feel a bit like busywork, it assuredly rounds out the package. Weapons and equipment can be developed, upgraded and reinforced, new skills can be earned by forming bonds with friends, and being a good scout allows you to lobby for new policies and enhance your base skills. You can even turn over the Titans you've captured in battle to increase your research level and unlock new items.
Perhaps the only thing that really annoyed me during these moments of downtime between the exhilarating action is that upon levelling up your friendship with a companion, you're often taken to a cutscene. That itself can become a bit of a chore as they're not always that interesting, but more troublesome is that when they're over you're dropped back at the starting area of the Barracks, forcing you to retrace your steps to return to where the cutscene was initiated. It's a little thing, but one that annoys after extended play.
Comprised of six chapters, Attack on Titan 2's Story Mode is rather lengthy, and as you progress through it you unlock additional characters which can be used in Another Mode. Essentially replacing the original game's Expedition Mode, Another Mode lets you play through the game's large number of scout missions with any its 3o-plus playable characters that you have available. Of course, you can play them via online co-op if you wish, and you can even play story missions via online co-op in Attack on Titan 2 too. Interestingly, there's even a competitive online mode which proves to be an entertaining diversion, in which two teams compete to eradicate the most Titans.
With its wealth of content, more refined and expanded gameplay, and clearly prettier visuals, Attack on Titan 2 is undoubtedly a worthy follow up to the original game. It takes a little while to shake the feeling of deja vu, but once the game hits its stride it comes into its own and just swallows you up, much like one of its freaky Titans. The action is unique and somehow manages to remain exciting, despite its repetitive nature, while the bits inbetween make you feel more like you're part of a world. Fans of the original game will absolutely lap Attack on Titan 2 up, but it's those who are yet to leap into its world, video game or otherwise, that will find it the most rewarding.