Wot I Think – Attack On Titan: Wings Of Freedom

Occasionally I used to think, “Wouldn’t it be cool to play a modern Spider-Man game that let you swing and swoop over and between buildings in a city?” No longer. My itch has been scratched. Attack On Titan: Wings of Freedom is basically Spider-Man vs. Godzilla, and it is unexpectedly great.

The Godzillas in this instance aren’t giant lizards, but enormous, naked, occasionally skinless humans, and they are much more terrifying than any radioactive reptile. It’s their grins which do it, recalling the glee of a small child reaching for some helpless pet rodent. Regular human beings are the rodents, who have been eaten by the titans in such large numbers that what remains of humanity now lives in a single city behind three gargantuan walls.

The Spider-Men and Spider-Women, meanwhile, are a squad of soldiers trained to fight titans using swords, twin grapples for swinging and climbing, and gas canisters for forward momentum. You control different people in different missions but the basics are always the same, requiring you to swing and dash over rooftops, grapple on to titans, and slash off their limbs before felling them with a final blow to the nape of their neck.

Conceptually, of course this should be great, but it’s unexpected in part because Attack On Titan: Wings Of Freedom is an anime tie-in game. The show is good, carefully unspooling its mythology and considered world design across the first season, but there’s not a lot of precedent for successful adaptations. It seemed unlikely that the game would be able to capture the wild speed of the grapple-and-gas movement.

Yet it does. Pressing a button will fire two grapples into nearby scenery and begin to reel you forward, while pressing another button will expend some of your gas supply in order to let you speed up the reel or dash through the air. Using these two actions in tandem lets you quickly speed from one side of a large city district to another, and there’s pleasure in trying to be as efficient and smooth as possible by dashing at the apex of your ascent and attaching your grapples at just the right moment to give you the largest swing onwards. Landing neatly on the rooftop you were aiming for feels good.

What feels great is chaining movement with attacks. The same grapple-and-dash are used to attach yourself to the titans, but the difference is that while connected to the arm, leg or neck of an enemy, you’re able to use the left-stick (and you’ll need a gamepad) to rotate yourself relative to your chosen target. Let go of the left-stick and you’ll start to move forwards. This lets you position yourself at the right angle to get close without being snatched and eaten.

In one mission, I’m on one side of the level and see a green exclamation mark appear on the minimap, indicating that one of the other character’s from the show is having difficulty somewhere else in the city and needs help. A couple of taps and I’m in the air and swinging in their direction, vaulting over buildings to travel as the crow flies. Once I’m within range I can see the titans this ambient side mission requires me to take down, and I target and grapple on to one of them immediately. I dash to reel myself in, building speed for a stronger strike, and swing my swords when I’m close enough to slice off one of the titans legs. It tumbles, crashing through a building – most of which are destructible – in the process. Before the titan can get up and start trying to limp-shuffle toward me, I attack to its weak spot at the nape of his neck and land a killing blow.

This has all happened without me touching the ground. I complete the entire objective like this, taking down two more titans before swinging off towards the next green exclamation mark.

As missions progress, you will occasionally need to stop and re-stock. Your blades become dull, your gas supply depletes, and your health can be diminished by being grabbed and crushed by the titans. Each of these things only takes a moment to replenish if you have the necessary item in your inventory, and your inventory can be quickly stocked via characters positioned around the battlefield. In between missions, you’ll be let loose in a safe area in which you can talk to main and tertiary characters from the show. Some will trigger cutscenes – shot-for-shot remakes of scenes from the show which have been animated, like the rest of the game, in 3D designed to look like 2D animation – while others let you buy and sell materials you gather by cutting off titan limbs, or use those resources to craft new and upgraded weapons, grapples and gas propellant.

But otherwise, this is a game about speed, and flow, and that simple combat loop described above repeated. Different characters have slightly different abilities – Mikasa is good at everything, Armin is slightly better at giving commands to teammates and bad at everything else, Eren is tediously angry all the time – and on harder difficulties you’ll need to spend more time re-connecting broken tethers to titans and slashing at their weak spots, but these things don’t fundamentally change the game. The only thing to add variety are a few missions which give you control of a titan and thus let you smash buildings freely yourself.

It’s repetitive, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Wings of Freedom is a Koei Tecmo game and it feels, in combat and RPG-lite structure, a lot like their Dynasty and Samurai Warriors games. The difference is that where in those games each swing of your weapon strikes an army of dozens or hundreds, here you’re normally only fighting one really big enemy at a time, but otherwise it’s a similar brand of dumb, silly fun.

A larger issue is the price. It’s not something I’d normally think too much about in a review – your budget is your business – but Attack On Titan currently costs £50 on Steam, which is in my budget an absurd amount for the game.

There’s also currently at least one serious bug, which causes the A and B buttons on an XBox controller to be treated as the X and Y buttons, and vice versa. This means all of the onscreen prompts are wrong. There’s no way to fix it yet, but I got around it by plugging in a DualShock 4. The button prompts were still for the A-B-X-Y of an XBox pad, but they were at least referring to the correct positions on the pad.

Attack On Titan is reminiscent of the EDF series, but where that game aims for bombastic frivolity, its run-and-gun ant slaughter ends up feeling insubstantial thanks to a lack of feedback. Wings Of Freedom is similarly straightforward, but the satisfaction of moving and fighting is enough to sustain me for hours. I hope it becomes a series as long-running as EDF.

Attack On Titan / A.O.T. Wings Of Freedom is out now for Windows for £50/$60/€60 via Steam.

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38 Comments

  1. Gunsmith says:

    FIFTY QUID?!?!

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      I need to resupply first.

    • Eight Rooks says:

      Yeah, I’m not paying Tecmo Koei premium prices for this. I’m genuinely intrigued/pleased to see RPS enjoying it, but I didn’t like the anime much and feel it’s wildly over-rated (hint: they’re all “tediously angry all the time”). Still, I plan to pay it for Berserk Musou at some point if I can, so eh, I’m sure it’ll leave a lot of fans happy. Someone’s buying the One Piece games, Arslan etc. on Steam, after all.

      • Premium User Badge

        Graham Smith says:

        That’s not true! Armin is tediously /weepy/ all the time.

        • YogSo says:

          And don’t forget that Sasha is tediously hungry all the time.

      • bengtssonmathias says:

        To be fair, I’d be tediously angry and/or weepy all the time if someone literally ate my family.

        • FurryLippedSquid says:

          Or you were stuck in an anime cartoon.

          Whichever comes first.

      • Xzi says:

        ” (hint: they’re all “tediously angry all the time”). ”

        Well fuck, I sure wouldn’t be angry if my life was in danger every day and a giant 500x the size of me ate my mom.

    • Turkey says:

      JAPAN!

    • Carra says:

      “50 quid for an indie game?” Was also my reaction when I heard No Man’s Sky price.

  2. Sin Vega says:

    I was hoping this would be good, as it had obvious potential. Glad to hear it’s all about slashing shit up instead of idiot teenagers screaming at each other for no reason for nine jillion hours.

    “Wings of Freedom” does sound a bit tampon-y, though.

    • Unclepauly says:

      “Wings of Freedom” does sound a bit tampon-y, though.”

      Get ’em at Walmart on the Fourth of July for 50% off.

    • Geewhizbatman says:

      “Light enough for the Survey Corp. Strong enough for a Titan!”

      *insert obligatory shot of a lady titan playing tennis*

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      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      It’s a game you really have to absorb to enjoy.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Oakreef says:

    Sounds very fun. Screenshots look really ugly though.

    • Premium User Badge

      zapatapon says:

      My thoughts exactly. These screenshots look like they’re from 2006.

    • Raoul Duke says:

      Yeah, those are some amazingly bad graphics. Looks like a bad Half Life 1 mod.

  4. perilisk says:

    your health can be diminished by being grabbed and crushed by the titans

    The very concept of “health” seems counter to the feel of the series, where one screw-up is easily fatal. Maybe slightly less so for [redacted], but in general anyway.

    Anyway, whoever decided to mix fear of zombies, kaiju, and the mentally ill is worse than Stephen King when he mixed spiders and clowns, IMO.

    • Skandranon says:

      You’re pretty much right, actually – there basically is no “health”.
      Being grabbed is fatal if you don’t get out in time, and you’re immediately just “near-death” once escaped, there’s no gradual health loss or increments to be had.

      Just alive, almost dead, and dead.

      • Premium User Badge

        Graham Smith says:

        Yeah, I should have explained that better.

        There’s also a slow-mo system that kicks in when you’re injured and then about to be grabbed, giving you a chance to dodge death for longer. And when near-death your abilities are somewhat curtailed.

  5. stringerdell says:

    EDF is good.

    • mishagale says:

      What is EDF? I assume it stands for something?

      • Minglefingler says:

        Earth Defence Force. If you like shooting hundreds of giant insects and levelling cities as you do so whilst your comrades shout “EDF! EDF!” then you can’t go wrong with it.

  6. Toadsmash says:

    The faces on those titans are pure nightmare fuel.

  7. Premium User Badge

    DantronLesotho says:

    I really want to play this because I like the anime and the premise, and it sounds like the gameplay is a lot of fun too. But $50 is a streeetch… maybe on payday. I heard that the titans also look really samey, which I was afraid of. I would think they would have put some kind of procedural generation in their heads.

  8. Phasma Felis says:

    Is this something where you should watch the anime first?

    Also, how godawful is the translation, and is it possible to use Japanese voiceovers with English subtitles? I’m not optimistic, since the translators apparently thought that “subjugate” is a synonym for “kill.”

    • -Spooky- says:

      More like .. read the manga. Or watch the real time movie, for some bit of lore.

      • Janichsan says:

        “Real time movie”? In contrast to the slow motion one? ;P

    • Baines says:

      I read the manga for a while. It was rather slow paced, it starts to become really generically predictable, and there is a “big story revelation” point where you can tell that the manga’s popularity caused it to be shifted into “This series is popular, we must be able to stretch it out for decades” mode.

      Which honestly made it even harder to watch the anime. The manga was slow paced, but the anime felt downright glacial. Episodes were stretched past the breaking point just to end them at certain “dramatic” moments. Sometimes those dramatic moments weren’t even dramatic, but rather just something happening at all.

      The slow pace combined with knowing where it was going (and where it would eventually end up if it saw future seasons) was enough to kill my interest and then my tolerance halfway through the anime.

      • Alevice says:

        While I wasnt a fan of how long the revolution/civil war arc took to resolve, I have rather enjoyed what has come afterwards, specially the current state of affairs.

    • malkav11 says:

      I would not recommend the anime, no. People who say the pace is glacial are being over kind. This is an anime where a battle, which in anything made for human lifespans would range from part of one episode to perhaps 2 full episodes if particularly epic, takes NINE full episodes. You may be thinking “well, that must be an incredibly eventful battle!” No. It is 9 episodes of the same exact emotional beats and action that we got in the first episode of the series, with one or two additional revelations late in the sequence.

      It’s a great premise, but good lord does the show squander it.

      • Kitsunin says:

        When I watched the first season, I liked it well enough, as did my family. But I think it’s a very Dragon Ball Z-esque show, in that it wastes so much of your time, but manages to make that compelling.

        Watching Hunter X Hunter (2011) now, and it’s making me realize why so many all of those long-running anime suck. Even a fight which is the climax for a 25 episode story arc needn’t last more than a half episode! Fights can be full of interesting, creative stuff! Heck, it can turn out the climax isn’t even a fight sometimes!

        • bill says:

          Gosh. And I thought One Piece was the worst for dragging out a 30 second fight over 3 months of episodes…

          … and having every fight play out in exactly the same way.

          • Isendur says:

            Good manga with quick not drawn out battles – Psyren.
            Also – is Hillary Clinton a playable character in this game?
            That third screenshot…

    • Premium User Badge

      Graham Smith says:

      Tbh the game sticks so closely to the anime – recreating scenes shot-for-shot – that you could sorta play the game instead of watching the anime. The game cuts out a lot of the chafe from the plot and makes a lot of the incidental time-wasting optional.

      Also, by default it is in Japanese with English subtitles. I’m not even sure there is an English voice over option.

  9. santouryuu says:

    i also didn’t expect much out of this game,because it’s a series tie-in and also i felt that the dynamic manoevering the show had would be really difficult to pull off.it’s cool that it’s not bad then.and also really liked that they were able to showcase the characters:Mikasa is good at everything, Armin is slightly better at giving commands to teammates and bad at everything else, Eren is tediously angry all the time
    it might be good to just play as levi and screw the titans.also,i wonder how the titan against titan bits play out,i did see them in the trailer.

  10. fish99 says:

    I want this, I just don’t £41.49 want it.

    • anHorse says:

      This is me with every Koei game

      If they were reasonable prices I’d buy every single one, instead I own none