11 September, 2016

Review – A.O.T. Wings of Freedom

Welcome to Attack on Titan, a cruel world where kids die in droves to safeguard the decadent aristocracy and their negligent king. A savage world where – oh why even bother, the game addresses none of this…

Review – A.O.T Wings of Freedom banner

A.O.T. Wings of Freedom

The game, indeed this fictional universe, features two things; large naked people, and anime teens. The former eat the latter. The latter use pseudo-jetpacks and detachable blades to subjugate the former. And yet A.O.T. Wings of Freedom has not only left me ambivalent, but failed to arouse much of anything, even briefly, throughout my time playing.

Based off the popular anime Shingeki no Kyojin/Attack on Titan, Wings of Freedom is the property’s first console outing – Humanity in Chains released last year, though only on the 3DS, also known as no one’s action platform of choice. Unlike Humanity in Chains, Wings of Freedom was developed by Omega Force (Koei Tecmo), the Dynasty Warriors people. Over the years Omega Force have made it clear they know how to do three things; create intrusive user interfaces, milk a concept until its dry – arguably until its bleeding – and handle licensed properties with respect. Let me assure you that all of this holds true in Wings of Freedom.

Review – A.O.T Wings of Freedom cadet titans

The story mode rigidly follows the happenings of the anime, with many key scenes remade in the game’s engine, unlike Legends of Arslan, which used, to great effect, vast swaths of the actual anime. While the cutscenes are produced well enough, this heavily edited version of the Attack on Titan story misses a lot of the finer detail. Most of the emotional and character-enriching moments to be precise, in favour of more titans and more killing – and with that I feel I’ve summed up ninety nine per cent of all videogames, how depressing. The same could not be said of Arslan, which revelled in its characters and their arcs, in long anime sequences and the near-constant stream of in-mission dialog.

The Expeditions mode is a kind of skirmish; pick any characters and complete short missions. This can be played online with three other players – exactly three, the game doesn’t appear to progress with less – or solo, offline. I played a half dozen online battles and quickly realised that attacking titans with other humans isn’t much fun at all. Perhaps the larger, late game titans would be, as they require some amount of whittling down before killing – my apologies, subjugating. But the normal titans drop so fast that fighting alongside another player means only one of you will actually hit, the other is doomed to sail on past the behemoth’s smoking corpse, uselessly.

Review – A.O.T Wings of Freedom jean nape titan

For a property like Attack on Titan, the combat is perhaps more important than the content. Fortunately it’s good, certainly the act of jetting into the air and swooping at titan napes is. With later, hardier titans, the action becomes a touch more involved; you’ll need to cut arms off before you can try for the neck, for example.  But it’s mostly just a lot of neck hacking, rarely have I ever felt trapped, at the mercy of the titans. This feeling of invulnerability – a concept utterly foreign to the anime – isn’t helped by the slow breaking of blades, or near limitless supply of gas – for aerial manoeuvring. Nor by the number of kills you rack up; dozens every mission. You could play on the highest difficultly setting and eke out a morsel of challenge, but that doesn’t alter the focus of the combat.

Review – A.O.T Wings of Freedom armin female titan

While the trappings of Omega Force’s Warriors games can be seen beneath the Attack on Titan veneer, the inclusion of physics helps distance it – in my mind if no one else’s. I refer to the frame-rate ravaging destruction physics – of buildings and such – as well as the combat physics – titans tumble in interesting ways and your manoeuvre gear lines aren’t often magical, they will snap and detach.

Omega Force has spent years honing their ability to differentiate the feel and combat style of their characters – in some Warriors titles there are scores. A.O.T. has only ten playable, yet the challenge of making each unique is much greater here, for all are skinny anime teens that all use the same equipment in the same way. Nonetheless they’ve done an admirable job, by adjusting raw combat ability and using a simple trait/ability system. Standouts include the brutal and skilful Levi and Mikasa, who each have unique types of attack – they can easily cut down large titans with a single blow. And Armin, who’s suitably terrible in combat, but can order squad mates to attack specific parts of titans – it works surprisingly well.

Review – A.O.T Wings of Freedom armin female titan foot

Review – A.O.T Wings of Freedom 3/5 mediocre

A.O.T. Wings of Freedom captures the anime’s style, if not its tension. It is fun to play in a manner not dissimilar to the Warriors games; however, I never found any particularly compelling reason to keep playing. Having seen the anime and read the manga, the game’s edited retelling is the shallowest of them all. While Expeditions allows you to subjugate titans outside of the story context, there is no in-game reason to do so, no higher layer of progression – Humanity in Chains by comparison, had you creating a character and developing a camp. As a first foray beyond the metaphoric wall for Omega Force, Wings of Freedom is perfectly serviceable, but certainly nothing more.

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