Attack on Titan may come to us via Omega Force, but you can put those Musou-flavoured expectations to bed.
Koei Tecmo chose Tokyo Game Show 2015 to debut first gameplay of Attack on Titan, a much anticipated PS4, PlayStation 3 and Vita adaptation of the smash hit Japanese property.
Although the project was announced at gamescom 2015, we were told very little about it beyond what we’d learned in a series of teases – that it was made by Omega Force, but that it was not a Musou (Warriors) game.
Attack on who now?
Attack on Titan, or Shingeki no Kyoshin, is a smash-hit manga which came to western consciousness thanks to the popularity of the 2012 anime series.
The core premise of its German-influenced setting is the sudden appearance, over 100 years before the current storyline, of giant human-like figures – the titular Titans – which relentlessly attack and eat humans.
Humanity has retreated into walled cities. Lacking sufficient fire power and technology to combat the Titans, governing bodies rely on the elite soldiers of the Survey Corps. These short-lived soldiers are equipped with twin blades and 3D Manoeuvre Gear, the latter of which they use to reach and slice weak points on the 3m to 50m giants.
In the anime and manga released in the west so far, all sorts of crazy shit happens and it’s delightfully gory and tragic. Would recommend.
These slim pickings, and the explosive first trailer, were enough to gather fans at Koei Tecmo’s booth in droves to watch producer Hisashi Koinuma give first ever details of the project, and bring on a colleague to demonstrate it live on stage. (Before and after, fans could have a photo of their face superimposed on a Titan on a large display. Pretty cool.)
We can thank the 30th anniversary of Romance of the Three Kingdoms series for this one; along with The Heroic Legend of Arslan, Attack on Titan is one of a number of properties licensed from Kodansha, which publishes the Romance of the Three Kingdoms novels in Japan. The two companies are pretty chummy right now, and with season two of the anime launching next year it was too good an opportunity for the pair to let pass. Plus, many of the development team are big fans of the manga and anime – including Koinuma himself.
Indeed, Koinuma bounced onto stage wearing a Survey Corps jacket, seeming pretty excited to be there. His favourite character is Levi, he told me in a one-on-one chat before the stage show.
The first thing I asked Koinuma is how combat works. The player character is human-sized; the enemies are huge. Titans may be numerous but they don’t throng in their thousands; the horror of them is that they’re so dangerous – that even a single, small example is deadly to humans.
Well, again, Attack on Titan is not a Warriors game – Koinuma repeated this to the audience later – so it plays completely differently.
“You can walk around on the ground of course, but the main aspect of the battle system is to stay in the air. You use the 3D Manoeuvre Gear to attach onto structures and then swing up,” Koinuma said.
“You’ve got to try and stay as much as you can in the air, to get to a point high enough to attack the Titans in the weak spot.”
Seeing the 3D Manoeuvre Gear in action, it looked a lot like Spider-man’s web slinging. That probably means most of the action will take place in built up areas; the demo was set in the inner city, and a slide during the stage presentation showed the outer walls and a village near a forest, too.
When the player has a target in their sights, they attach their tether points. Now the 3D Manoeuvre Gear is centred on the enemy, and the player can jet from side to side, rotating around their foe as they select a target. Once in position above a weak point, they can jet in and slice away. Gigantic limbs flop to the ground in sprays of blood; enormous bodies thud to the ground with the dignified weight of felled trees.
— KOEI TECMO EUROPE (@koeitecmoeurope) September 18, 2015
Once you’ve slowed the Titan down it’s in for the kill zone on the neck – but it’s not just a matter of hacking away. If you mistime your attack you’ll bounce off the Titan’s hardened body, or it may brush your tethers away. If you attack when the Titan is close to an obstacle you may not have room to swing back into the air and will be vulnerable to counter-attack.
Worst of all, if you really faff things up, the Titan will simply grab you. Both times this happened during the live demonstration the player cut their way free. A more disastrous fate awaits less adept players. It’s all action; you won’t see any Shadow of the Colossus-style puzzle-solving here.
“It’s not so much a puzzle as a direct attack,” Koinuma confirmed. “Take off their body parts and try to get to the back of the neck.”
During the demo we saw the player progress through tutorial targets to single Titans to small groups; the giants move slowly, and other characters were battling as well, so it never seemed super dangerous. Most of the Titans were pretty cookie-cutter, although the last one we saw was clearly a different style of beast and proved harder to take down; where some Titans were vulnerable to a neck slice immediately, others seemed to require near total dismemberment. Koinuma told me there are lots of different kinds of Titans, and boss battles.
“It won’t be all the same-looking, same-sized Titan. There are different variations in size. Some are smarter. Some have no intelligence,” Koinuma said.
“It varies. That’ll also affect how you fight against them and how they move throughout the field.
“There’s so much variation in how the Titans look that it was pretty interesting, kind of fun to work on, making all the different ones.”
— KOEI TECMO EUROPE (@koeitecmoeurope) September 18, 2015
To be honest, I’m not super sold on this one. The combat looked kind of fun, and for all I know there’s a great deal of skill involved, but the battle we saw seemed hugely repetitive. Find Titan, kill Titan, rinse, repeat – presumably interspersed with cutscene events, as Koinuma said the game will follow the plot of the first season of the anime.
This probably isn’t a fair call to make at this stage as Koei Tecmo is being pretty coy with information. A flurry of questions fired at Koinuma – can you be a Titan, can you ride a horse – were met with polite deflections to future reveals.
So, you know: wait and see. We can probably expect to learn more when we have a date for season two of the anime.
Attack on Titan will release in the west in 2016.