Sie Sind Das Essen Und Wir Sind Die Jager!
Unless you’ve been living under a rock in the most isolated reaches of the Earth for the past few years, you’re probably familiar with Attack on Titan. Since taking the world by storm and inspiring such creations as the most horrifying burger mankind can imagine, and some amazingly inventive cosplay around, the series has enjoyed a fittingly monolithic presence in otaku culture. That said, it was only a matter of time before the hungry Titans took their ravenous rampage to the ripe and meaty refuges of interactive entertainment.
Based on the mega popular anime and manga series, Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains marks the series’ first foray into the realm of video games. Humanity in Chains puts players in the trusty Omni-directional Mobility Gear of a member of the elite Scout Regiment as they fight for survival against the Titans, a mysterious and monstrous race that’s pushed humanity to the edge of extinction over the past century. Developer Spike Chunsoft (the studio behind such titles as Conception and Danganronpa) brings the story of the hit series to life in Humanity in Chains, taking the player through 42 missions set around key events from the series as you assume control of familiar faces such as the shape-shifting hero Eren Jaeger, Mikasa Ackermann, Armin Arlelt, Levi, and the all-consuming vortex of the 104th Cadet Corps, Sasha Braus.
With their backs against the wall – three concentric 50 meter high walls, to be exact – humanity has been confined within this heavily fortified city as a last bastion against the Titan threat. With even the smallest of these herculean creatures towering over the tallest human, the scouts utilize the power of the Omni-directional Gear, a portable grappling device that allows them to swing through the city like a steampunk Spiderman, to even the odds. The OMG essentially functions as the core gameplay hook of Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains, allowing the Scouts to soar from building to building, quickly ascend up rooftops to escape pursuit from Titans, and even latch onto the hulking beasts as an offensive tool.
Virtually invincible, the only way to bring a Titan down for the count is to slash at the nape of its neck. Combat in Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains typically involves getting your hooks into a Titan from afar with your Omni-directional Gear, then rapidly reeling yourself in to cleave off one of their legs so that you can mount the toppled Titan and move in for the death blow by hacking at the back of their neck. However, the only way to score a clean cut on one of these giants is to land a critical hit, which is done by tapping the attack button while you’re being pulled towards a Titan, which causes a rapidly constricting on-screen ring to appear. Tapping the attack button again as it closes around a red ring in the center of the screen ensures a critical hit, temporarily stunning your quarry, and ensuring a slice to the neck is a deathblow. However, these hulking monstrosities won’t go down easy, and advancing recklessly often results in a Titan scooping you into its meaty fist and chomping your head off, resulting in a gruesome Game Over. Tilting the control stick while moving in for a strike allows you to execute a deadly spinning strike, which has a much smaller critical ring making it harder to land, but offers a sharp defense that cuts through a Titan’s defenses.
While it takes some getting used to, once mastered the combat in Humanity in Chains becomes an addicting dance of death as you latch from Titan to Titan, racking up combos and dropping numerous giants without ever touching the ground. It’s exhilarating, but sadly a lack of enemy variety over the course of the game’s 42 missions means most encounters play out largely the same, which is disappointing. Occasionally, you’ll encounter abnormal Titans, that leap like frogs and crawl like horrifying giant, naked man-spiders, but even these forms are easily felled by using the same rinse-and-repeat tactics. Even still, it’s easy to overlook the repetition when you’re soaring through the air, slashing your allies out of the Titan’s crushing grip in the nick of time and dropping towering monsters as you watch your chain meter climb into the stratosphere.
Unfortunately, this same lack of variety permeates the game’s story mode, making it the weakest part of Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains‘ package. As previously mentioned, the game puts you in control of the Titan-toppling foursome Eren Jaeger, Mikasa Ackermann, Armin Arlelt, Levi, and Sasha Braus. Each character’s chapter is chosen separately, and progressing through the story with certain characters unlocks new missions for other members of the Scout Regiment to flesh out their stories. The thing is, the vast majority of these missions in the game’s roughly five-hour campaign are recycled, and play out exactly the same as the other members of the team’s did, meaning you’ll play many the same missions at least four times as you wrap up the game’s jarringly transient campaign. However, these missions are very brief, with many being possible to complete in just a few minutes as you complete varied objectives such as defeating a special target Titan, defend a key fortification, hunt for hidden items in scavenger hunts, or race from waypoint to waypoint atop a charging steed. Eren Jaeger’s story features the most original content, as he gains the ability to take on the form of a Titan and duke it out in hand-to-hand combat against the game’s titular terrors. Sadly, there are only two missions that capitalize on this ability, making it all but forgettable.
In terms of presentation, Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains’ visuals leave a bit to be desired. While the action is fast and furious, the designs for the game’s world and titanic enemies lack variety and personality. Which is a shame, especially when considering just how stylized the source material is. However, it’s worth noting that the campaign features a plethora of animation from the series during its story sequences, which looks great on the 3DS’ screen, and sets the mood for the action at hand. Aurally speaking, Humanity in Chains is a totally different story. The game features a sweeping score full of fully vocalized tracks, punchy explosions, and satisfying tearing sounds as you hack into the Titan’s meaty mitts with your trusty hatchet blade. The music absolutely drives the action, and its infectious tunes will bore themselves into your brain like a Titan’s hungry maw well after you put down your 3DS.
Where Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains‘ story falters, the game makes up for it with the extremely engrossing World Mode, which becomes available after wrapping up Eren’s 7th mission. In World Mode, players craft a unique custom character and embark on a wide variety of missions with up to four friends in cooperative local and online play. Players link up by forming and joining Special Ops Squads. When forming a Special Ops Squad you can set certain conditions for the group, such as the desired recruit class, squad policy such as whether you’re looking to gather resources and collectibles or just slay Titans, and choose whether or not you want the squad to be password protected for friends-only play.
Completing missions in World Mode yields silver coins, which can be used to purchase new weapons and equipment such as gas canisters to fuel your Omni-directional Mobility Gear, razor blades to repair your weapons that wear out over time, and even heavy artillery such as guns and grenades that are absent from the main story content. You can also spend your hard-earned coinage to hire soldiers to help on missions at the barracks, which is an invaluable asset if you choose to tackle World Mode without the help of other online Scouts. Once you really rake in the silver, you can even upgrade town facilities such as your weapons and research labs, allowing you to craft more advanced weaponry and equipment with crafting items you find scattered throughout the field.
Completing missions also garners experience levels, which awards player Growth Points. Growth Points can be spent at the Activity base to augment your character’s abilities such as their prowess with bladed weapons and firearms, as well as their maneuverability with their ODM and overall toughness. In addition to upgrading your stats and abilities, you can also personalize your character with unlockable cosmetic items and emblems that are awarded after meeting certain prerequisites, such as killing a certain number of Titans or successfully landing a certain number of critical strikes. You can also view Scout Reports, which are scattered throughout the world in the Activity Base, which fleshes out the story by providing context to events that unfolded in the Attack on Titan manga and animated series. Customizing your character to create your ideal soldier is extremely addicting, and you’re bound to find yourself replaying missions over again as you turn your tender greenhorn into a seasoned giant slayer.
The missions in the World Mode are much more varied than those in the campaign, and completing each sortie adds numbers to your army reserve, which needs to be at a certain level to unlock new missions. Players can also spend army reserves to unlock Scout Missions. These special sorties demand careful coordination with other players as you overcome seemingly insurmountable Titan assaults and bosses. Scout Missions are the heart of Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains‘ experience, testing the mettle of even the most hardened squads, showering them with heaps of experience and coins upon completion. And if you’re really looking for a challenge, you can try your hand at Survival Mode, which tasks your squad with battling an endless wave of Titans in the ultimate battle of David, David, David, David and Goliath.
For all of Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains‘ main story’s shortcomings, the game’s sublime World Mode handily carries the package with a robust and addicting online playground that soars higher than the series’ sinewy antagonist who appears in the opening moments of the adventure. Sure, the main story’s brevity is certainly disappointing, but those willing to stay for this high-flying title’s meaty end game will easily spend countless hours swinging and hacking your way to the top of the leaderboards. If you’re looking for a fresh and unique cooperative experience for the 3DS, round up your posse of hardened Titan killers and sharpen your blades for what is undeniably one of the 3DS’s most fulfilling online offerings.
Final Verdict: 3.5 / 5
Available on: 3DS (Reviewed) ; Publisher: ATLUS; Developer: Spike Chunsoft; Players: 1-4 (local and online); Released: May 12, 2015 ; ESRB: M for Mature ; MSRP: $39.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains provided by the game’s publisher, ATLUS.