Attack on Titan 2: Final Battle Review — A Colossal Rehash
Attack on Titan 2: Final Battle brings new modes that improve on its standard predecessor, but they don't add enough to detract from the issues.
If you remember the old browser-based Attack on Titan fan game by Feng, you probably remember thinking how incredible an official Attack on Titan game would be. The precise feel of zipping around with omnidirectional mobility gear and timing blade attacks to slice open a titan’s nape were both present. We had the faithful implementation of combat from the manga and anime–we just needed a bigger budget and team to make everything else sparkle.
That’s exactly what Koei Tecmo’s Attack on Titan series promises on paper. When we reviewed Attack on Titan 2 back when it released in March 2018, we felt it delivered. At least, that reviewer did. I think some of the new modes in Attack on Titan 2: Final Battle are a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, the majority of overall content in this version was present in the original and it still has problems. While this game has the precise combat I was hoping for, it suffers from numerous shortcomings in the storytelling and technical departments.
Attack on Titan 2: Final Battle essentially has two story modes. The first covers seasons 1 and 2 of the anime. It puts you in the shoes of a game-exclusive character who was present when the titans first attacked the Siganshina District. This character practically shares the same story as Eren early on in the series. They watch their hometown get destroyed and silently vow to take revenge. It’s a bit funny to imagine that they’ve secretly existed in the background of Attack on Titan this whole time. But at the same time, I couldn’t help feel that staring at the backs of Eren, Armin, and Mikasa as they experience this watershed moment felt odd. Why aren’t I playing as any of these characters? They have emotional depth and sophisticated dreams–why am I being regulated to this mannequin who has no more personality than the name and (gargantuan) body I give it?
Ultimately, this is my biggest problem with Attack on Titan 2. It’s genuinely nice to revisit the early parts of Attack on Titan‘s story. It’s a simple time when everyone is at their fieriest. Sure, some pretty heartbreaking stuff happens, but everyone knows what they want. There’s brotherhood, self-actualization, screaming, and a burning desire to carve one’s place out in the world, literally. It’s all stuff that I’m a sucker for. I didn’t feel any of that playing as my mysterious cadet. I feel distant to it all instead, like I’m watching my friends hang out together while pretending I’m in on it from the outskirts.
This first story mode gives you the opportunity to wander about, speak with various characters, and decide what they wear between missions. You can learn more about them and tighten your bonds in a way that loosely reminds me of Persona‘s social link/confidant system. You’re presented with three dialogue options: one will bring you much closer to that character’s next rank, another will bring you a little closer, and the other one won’t advance your relationship.
It’s these conversations that reaffirm the feeling that I’m playing a character who doesn’t matter. This story mode is another way of telling a tale we already know. It doesn’t do anything differently or take advantage of you playing as a character that doesn’t exist in the anime or manga. No matter what I learned about these characters or how close I got to them, everything played out exactly as I knew it would. The distance between those events and my character, the extension of me as a player, makes it feel like I’m receiving a deadened version of the great, passionate source material.
This isn’t to say that the game should give me a look into never before seen lore or anything like that. I wouldn’t expect the story to deviate from its source material even playing as an established character. What I am saying is that if this game is going to put distance between me and my favorite aspects of its story, it should make it worth it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t.
The storytelling isn’t all bad. There are definitely some moments that retain the emotional charge I was hoping they would, no thanks in small part to the music. The rise of a booming orchestra is usually perfectly timed with a character’s crescendoing speech. Those moments became more frequent as I got into the second story mode, too.
Character episode mode is new to Attack on Titan 2: Final Battle. It places you in the shoes of actual characters as they make their way through season 3 of the anime. Episodes are broken up into cutscenes and combat missions. I say cutscenes loosely, as they’re more slideshows intercut with talking heads.
The season 3 timeline can be seen through the eyes of a new group once you make enough progress with a previous one. I only saw the Scout Regiment and 104th Cadet Corps’ stories, and they seemed pretty similar apart from the character you get to play as. There seemed to be more groups, but I was told I couldn’t play those until I had beaten optional combat missions. Those, alongside the Territory Recovery Mode introduced in Final Battle, don’t appeal to me. It’s too similar to what I’d been playing all along. The only difference is that instead of watching a story unfold between titan slaughtering, you can build a base between titan slaughtering. The character customization is awesome and hilarious, and I enjoy watching these characters bond, but it just isn’t different enough.
Part of me is glad I played all the way through the first story mode because it makes me appreciate character episode mode more. The story is still what I expect it to be, but it no longer feels like I’m watching it from another room. I’m now smack dab in the middle of it.
I only wish it was longer. I finished two storylines in character episode mode in 2 hours. I got to dabble in the art of fighting as a titan during that time. By dabble, I mean it was unlocked during the final mission and that was it. Moving around and attacking becomes clunkier, but damage output goes through the roof. All in all, the tradeoff is worth it and I wish it was introduced far sooner.
The other story mode took me about 25 hours to complete. In all that time, the one thing I never got tired of was soaring through the sky with omnidirectional movement gear.
You haul ass in this game, plain and simple. Zipping around feels like Marvel’s Spider-Man in its best moments, but way faster. You might not get the lateral finesse of web-shooters, but the sheer speed once that gas kicks in makes up for it. It didn’t take long to pick up on the rhythm of launching and releasing hooks. The addition of circling around titans doesn’t overly complicate things either. I was a little intimidated at first, but once I got the timing down, cutting through napes became a breeze. It feels especially satisfying bouncing from enemy to enemy in a large crowd, narrowly avoiding bites and swipes all the while. I never used the control assist introduced in Attack on Titan 2: Final Battle that simplified combat, but I would imagine it removes a lot of what I enjoyed.
Being surrounded by familiar faces was enjoyable, too. The distance the first story mode created slightly narrowed when I was back to back with friends against a horde of titans. They seriously saved my life on more than one occasion.
Attack on Titan 2: Final Battle also introduces new weapons: anti-personnel guns and a kind of special move that brings out thunder spears. I tested both briefly, but by the time their usefulness was explained I had already spent so much time with blades that I stuck with those.
I wish I tried the guns earlier. They’re available from the very beginning if you switch out equipment at a base mid-mission. They auto-target the nearest limb on a titan and allow you to tear them apart pretty quickly. With the ability to either spray down an enemy with autofire or hone in on a specific part, they might have added some much-needed freshness early on.
Alas, missions get repetitive 1/3 of the way through the story. The formula never changes–kill these titans, establish a base, help a friend if you want, and watch out for that abnormal! Combat is fun, but after 8 hours of doing it the same way repeatedly, it’s best enjoyed in short bursts.
Unfortunately, that fun gets hampered when the frame rate starts chugging. It holds up fine most of the time but really slows down when too many titans are on screen. Combined with a camera that can stick to walls like a magnet to a fridge, I had a couple of frustrating fights. Oddly enough, the frame rate severely dipped between missions during daily life. There are certain characters I just wouldn’t talk to if they were in a district that brought the frame rate down to single digits. The character models are decent looking, but nowhere near impressive enough to make the performance issues understandable.
It’s tough to recommend Attack on Titan 2: Final Battle for fans of the Attack on Titan story. It’s too samey for fans who already know it and too emotionally stunted for newcomers who would be best served experiencing it through the manga or anime. The character episode mode is an improvement, but it’s too short. The gameplay is genuinely fun, but repetitive and sometimes held back by performance issues. Overall, it’s best suited for Attack on Titan fans who simply want to subjugate titans for an hour or two at a time.