Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom
I’ve always appreciated a good Japanese anime and/or manga series. Having said that, I must clarify that I only enjoy the more mature themes within these mediums, not the silly oktaku or girly stuff. I’m talking Rurouni Kenshin and Ninja Scrolls-type fare, here, as opposed to fluff like Azumanga Daioh. So, when I first saw a few anime stills from an episode of the Attack on Titan anime series, I became very intrigued. What were these big, weird looking humanoids, and why were they at battle with those perky little humans?
Luckily, Koei Tecmo’s new game, which is based on the first season (twenty-five episodes) of the Attack on Titan anime, explains some of the history of this enchanting world. They do this by describing what’s going on in the intro to the game, titled Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom, and also reveal more bits of the storyline as players progress through the game’s main missions.
As a little background, Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin in Japanese) takes place in a world which was once an idyllic paradise for the tribes of humans which inhabited it. That is, until one day a bunch of gigantic, naked humanoids showed up out of nowhere and began attacking them. No, not just attacking them, but eating them whole. Only to regurgitate their partially digested remains in the form of globs of green goo (try saying that three times in a row) later. No, this isn’t your typical Saturday morning cartoons-type of fare we’re talking here, kiddos.
In reaction to this, what was left of humanity surrounded their last great city with three sets of immense walls. They huddled within these walls and tried to live normal lives—and did so, for one-hundred years. Then suddenly, a monolithic titan showed up on the scene and decimated the city’s outermost wall. This allowed many smaller titans to invade the premises, and basically all hell broke loose. I won’t spoil anymore of the storyline, but I’ll have to admit, it is original.
Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom puts players in the role of the Scout Regiment, which is humanity’s last, best hope against the seemingly unending tide of titans. But they’re not defenseless. On the contrary, your scouts are outfitted with flat, vorpal-like blades, and Vertical Maneuvering Equipment, sets of grappling gear that allow its wearers to swing from building to building or tree to tree with relative ease. In doing so, scouts are usually able to deftly outmaneuver their lumbering titan foes and attack them from different angles and flanks.
Unfortunately, even though humanity has the intrepid Scout Regiment on their side, along with phalanxes of eighteenth century gunpowder cannons, the titans are highly resilient, and also regenerate quickly if they do happen to get injured.
Wings of Freedom is at its best when you are in the heat of battle, faced off against the titans. I found myself gritting my teeth and clenching my hands tightly around my game controller as I swung my avatar around the rather klutzy titans in dazzling displays of aerial combat. Attaching my grapples and zip lines to walls and trees, and zipping from place to place in order to get a good angle to attack my prey from, was exhilarating. This translates to you really getting a sense that you are fighting a tooth and nail against almost insurmountable odds.
If you slice off a titan’s arm for instance, you’ll hinder its ability to attack you. Lop off one of its legs and watch it become much slower, and thus easier to target and take down. There’s just one thing—titans can only be killed outright by striking their only apparent weak point: The nape of their necks. Unfortunately, part of my teeth gnashing and controller gripping was not only due to the exciting combat system, but also in reaction to the game’s camera. If you get too close to certain objects or titans, things get really jumbled around and topsy-turvy, and you can’t tell exactly where you are for a few moments. Most of the time this didn’t detract from my overall battle tactics. Others, I ended up swinging my scout around and straight into the gaping maw of a titan. This was discouraging enough that I could imagine less patient gamers might rage quit.
I really enjoyed Wings of Freedom’s expansive maps, which lets players tackle objectives as they see fit. There are also multitudes of side-quests that you can take on if you so please. Completing either of these, rewards you with either special items or additional scouts to fill out your ranks (which will deplete over the course of the game). A couple of things that you do need to keep a beady eye on, however, is both your maneuvering gear gas reserves as well as the durability of your blades, since hacking away at legions of titans will dullen them over time. You can also level up your various characters, boost their abilities and skills, and upgrade their weapons and equipment. Wings of Freedom’s advancement system is pretty straight forward, and allow you to take on bigger and badder titans as you progress throughout the game.
As previously mentioned, Wings of Freedom’s storyline is dispensed to the player in the form of cut scenes and dialogue bubbles. These aren’t presented in much depth, and seemed to only hint at disparate parts of the main themes present in the Attack on Titan series. I’m not sure if Koei Tecmo did this in order to focus more on the game’s combat, or if they wanted to encourage people to get more curious about the anime and accompanying manga books. Fortunately, being the big ol’ geek that I am, I’d already known about Attack on Titan’s narrative, but I can see how other gamers could either become more interested in the series, or just sort of go “meh, whatever.” In other words, the game’s revelations weren’t told in the most intriguing or enticing way. The cut scenes and dialogues never really conveyed the sort of spine tingling horror and melancholic desperation that the series is known for.
Wings of Freedom certainly looks the part, however, and features beautiful anime-style graphics which do well to emulate both the anime and the manga series. The character models are also detailed enough for a large-budgeted game, although they are of a more cartoonish nature. As with many Japanese games, Wings of Freedom is a port over to PC platforms, so unless you have a relatively beefy gaming rig, you may experience a few hiccups here and there. I played Wings of Freedom on a powerful Sager laptop and it ran smoothly. But a friend of mine played it on his gaming desktop and related to me that he’d had a few frame drops throughout his play though.
In all, Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom is a more than capable action game, but somewhat drops the balls when it comes to conveying the series’ compelling melodrama and deep narrative aspects. When you’re zig zagging through the sky and taking out those evil titans without ever letting your feet touch the ground, that feeling can be quite pulse-pounding. However, it can get repetitive after a while and there might not be enough story under the game’s hood to keep players around for the long haul.