Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin in its native Japan) fans have no shortage of media to enjoy through 2016 and to look forward to next year. The manga has not yet wrapped up, the anime series will reportedly return with a second season in April of 2017, and the hack-and-slash video game Attack on Titan, developed by Omega Force, was released in North America this August.
But the game, which is available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Microsoft Windows, is not the only video game tie-in the franchise has. From fan-made browser games to a 3DS title, there’s been a few attempts to transform the series’ dystopian monster-horror into something playable. The 2016 game has received critical praise and has sold more than 280,000 copies in Japan alone, but I wondered how it stacked up to its brethren.
If you’ve never even heard of Attack on Titan, it centers around humanity being forced to live behind massive walls in their struggle to survive against enormous humanoid creatures called Titans, who mostly wander around mindlessly eating people and destroying things.
The key characters in the manga (and anime) are members of an elite military trained to fight Titans. The series is creepy, the stakes are intensely high, there’s a lot of body horror and weirdness, and the characters look approximately fifteen so you’re constantly terrified for them.
All of the games have you play as the characters, fighting Titans with your double blades and omni-directional gear, which uses questionable physics to let you grapple onto objects and propel yourself in any direction for maximum Titan-slaying maneuverability. Also, it looks cool.
The newest game is more expansive than others produced by fans and licensed professionals alike. While there are similarities in gameplay to the Attack on Titan Tribute Game by Feng Lee, such as a multiplayer option, the ability to ride horses, and some obvious stylistic similarities, the Omega Force is much broader in scope. The new game has a strong emphasis on narrative and on tactics, whereas the Feng Lee fan game focuses on the physics of combat and movement. There are more playable characters in the official game, as well as the ability to level characters and loot enemies for equipment upgrades.
While Feng Lee’s game is fun, challenging, and very well designed for a fan work, its scope is limited to one-off missions, and it looks a little chibi-like to boot.
There’s another fan game, the multiplayer Geudin’s Attack on Titan, which is still an early access game and has yet to implement Titans in its gameplay. Once it’s been updated and officially released, it may prove to be a stellar multiplayer experience—and judging by the visuals, the art and design is great—but that remains to be seen.
Having not played the 3DS release, Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains, I turned to the internet fill me in, and the verdict wasn’t good. And it seems pointless to compare a handheld title to a console-and-PC game, so I’ll avoid the comparison entirely.
The biggest similarity the 2016 game has is to the anime: the show’s first season was reproduced as the game’s narrative, with many of show’s lines being reused in the game—and the voice actors actually provided new content for the game, further cementing the link between the two titles. If you’re already a hardcore fan of the manga or anime, the game is probably perfect for you.
But if you’re unfamiliar with Attack on Titan, how will you find the gameplay experience? The good news is that because the content retreads season one of the anime (or volumes 1-19 of the manga), you’ll play a truncated version of the storyline. You’ll also get the chance to deepen your familiarity with individual characters as you unlock and play them, as each character has a different play style and unlockable abilities.
For some gamers, Attack on Titan may be inaccessible, whether it’s because of the monster horror, the subtitles, or just an aversion to playing a game based on media they aren’t familiar with. But for those who give it a chance, I think they’ll come to enjoy it, as the combat is original, the story is engaging, and using the omni-directional gear to fly around the battlefield is super fun.
The bottom line is that Attack on Titan is an immersive, well-produced game with unique combat, and it certainly doesn’t require a preexisting knowledge of the franchise to play. It also far surpasses the scope of other games based on the series. (Although I want to note that checking out the fan games is a fun compare-and-contrast, and you should definitely do it, if only to support indie devs.)