The wall shakes again; citizens on the other side knowing they should be running, but they’re too scared to move. Rock and dust crash down, and a hole appears. The wall has been breached and danger is pouring in. The citizens have been shaken from their shock and are running, but many of them won’t escape. They’ll end up dinner, swallowed whole or brutally bitten in half by the terrifyingly malformed, naked, grinning titans–massive beasts that seem to only exist to terrorize and devour humanity. With one look directly into the camera, there’s a rush of nightmares that only the eerie titans can provide.
If that paragraph sounds familiar, that’s because I’ve written it before. That’s exactly how I began my Attack on Titan review back in 2016, and it’s an apt way to start this one off too. Attack on Titan 2 isn’t quite the new game you might think it is. Instead of starting where things left off at the end of the first game (which covers the first season of the anime), Attack on Titan 2 starts all over at the beginning again. When I interviewed Producer Hisashi Koinuma at a preview event earlier this year, he indicated that the tutorial would act as a sort of recap of the events of the original stories, which is true if you consider three out of the five chapters of the campaign to be a tutorial.
The majority of Attack on Titan 2 retreads the same path as the first game, with only the last two chapters breaching into season two of the anime and finally moving beyond where the first game left off. Instead of taking on the role of Eren Jaeger and other members of the 104th Cadet Corps, Attack on Titan 2 sets you up as a custom hero that trained and came up with the characters we’ve grown to love and lose throughout the series. You get to see the story unfold from a whole different perspective, even if the custom character’s path in life basically mirrors Eren’s (minus the whole “bite his hand and turn into a titan” thing).
Same But Different
Just because Attack on Titan 2 retreads the story paths of the first game doesn’t mean it isn’t a wholly different game. Taking on the titans is a much more difficult endeavor to master. Titans are far more aggressive than they were the first go around, and a broader variety of titan types means different challenges to deal with. Some scuttle quickly along on all fours while muscular ones take numerous hits to remove limbs or kill. Titans also have a focus meter and once they notice you, all bets are off. The screen goes black and white and targeting lock-on defaults to that one titan intent on grabbing you and biting your head off. These moments can create a bizarre focus shift and lend to that new difficulty. An angry and focused titan is a good way to quickly get thrown off your game.
Where the first game focused almost entirely on zipping around environments and slaying titans, Attack on Titan 2 offers quite a bit more to do. Off the battlefield, there’s an entire “Daily Life” segment where you can talk to other characters and increase their friendship ranks. As friendship increases, various skills will be unlocked that you can equip, from the simple “+3 Strength” types of modifiers to utility skills that let you do things like swap blades midair. When the titan difficulty ramps up significantly between the beginning and end of the game, adjusting your skills is a necessary to make the transition into tougher encounters.
It’s not just the off-battlefield gameplay that’s been amped up though. There are new abilities and things to do on the battlefield too. Commanding a squad of scouts is easier and more useful now, and going back to some of the early missions, I managed to nail an SS ranking without once slicing a titan myself. Different team members have different abilities too, so it’s important you pay attention to what each can do for you in battle, and recruit the right ones to employ your particular strategy. There’s also a tactical strategy in setting up bases which serve a number of purposes, from resupplying dwindling items to mining for valuable resources.
In a bid that feels decidedly Monster Hunter in execution, you can now capture titans. Using a gun that fires off a net, small titans can be captured without fanfare, while medium and large titans need to lose their legs first. Apparently some special titans need all of their limbs removed before capture, but in my 20 hours of playtime, I never came across one that had to lose its arms as well before being captured. Capturing titans levels up your titan research facility, which in turn gives skills that increase damage dealt to titans. There’s also a new sneak attack, allowing players to get in to the titan’s neck quickly and deal bonus damage, although it’s high risk. Scoping in for the attack allows titans to see you and enter rage mode far more easily.
Attack on Titan 2 made me feel like I always had options. Instead of the relatively straightforward gameplay of the first game (lock-on, rush in, slice nape), I found myself using the library of skills at my disposal. Unexpected difficulty spikes cropped up whenever titans caught wind of me, and allowing them to group up created some very difficult scenarios. I still reached a point where I felt like I had mastered the game, but instead of a simple mastery, it felt like a complete mastery of the tool set.
Sins of the Past
One of the first game’s worst aspects was a cluttered HUD that tended to occlude the action on the screen. Attack on Titan 2 fixes many of those issues by simplifying the onscreen notifications. Everything’s just a little bit smaller and pushed out to the edges of the screen to allow the center to be what the center of game screens ought to be for–playing the game. The new HUD is so sleek I had actually forgotten that was one of my criticisms of the first game. A smaller HUD does create one problem, however–a very nebulous minimap. The icons are difficult to parse from the background, and it was often unclear exactly where I was supposed to be going.
Attack on Titan 2 Review - From a Different Perspective (PS4)
Japanese-spoken language during the gameplay also created some communication barriers. It was a problem the first game had, when additional mission objectives during combat were communicated via Japanese and English subtitles in the midst of a focused and hard fought battle. I know Attack on Titan has yet to receive an English dub (which is surprising to me for a series that is this popular in the West), but the localization takes a hit when players who don’t speak Japanese are forced to either miss dialogue, or stop playing to read the subtitles.
As with the first title, there’s a wealth of replayability once the campaign is complete, and tackling that Platinum trophy is going to test players as well as require a significant time commitment. Extra scouting missions can be taken on solo or with friends, and a new competitive mode pits teams of fighters against one another to see who can take down more titans. Unlocked only once the story has been completed, Inferno Mode simply seems to be New Game+ with an increased difficulty. I’m not sure what the good of going through this mode would be, though. Presumably there are materials for higher grade weapons that you can only get in Inferno Mode, but it’s not ever communicated what Inferno Mode actually is.
Everything considered, Attack on Titan 2 is an improvement on the first game in every way, but retreading old ground makes it hard to justify the “2” tacked on to the end. It’s a great opportunity for anyone who missed the first game to get a far more comprehensive Attack on Titan experience, and there’s definitely more content and improvements for those who did play it. I worry that its billing as a sequel may put off potential players, but you don’t need to have any knowledge of the first game to get into Attack on Titan 2. It thoroughly covers the narrative line from the beginning from a slightly different perspective, and it’s clear the development team took feedback from the first game very seriously. Whether you loved the first game and wanted more out of it, or are just getting curious about the series, Attack on Titan 2 is worthy of your attention. I just hope we don’t have to play through the entire story again in number three.
Attack on Titan 2 review code provided by the publisher. Version 1.00 reviewed on a standard PS4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.