If you’ve kept up to date on popular Japanese anime, it’s very likely that you’ve at least heard of Attack on Titan, as the series has been a pretty huge hit. Naturally, a video game adaptation was released for the 3DS in late 2013 to capitalize on the show’s popularity, and though it’s taken some time for the game to receive an English release, Atlus has finally localized Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains as an eShop exclusive.
Fans of the show are likely wondering if the game is worth a look, and my answer after playing through it is that honestly, it’s a bit hard to say. While the mode that focuses on retelling the anime’s plot is simple to a fault, an alternate mode unlocked early on offers a lot more depth. Unfortunately, my overall experience with the game was brought down by gameplay that while competent, is also dreadfully monotonous, and not even the more in-depth window dressing of the alternate mode could save that.
Sticking closely to the source material, Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains takes place in an alternate world with mostly feudal-influenced architecture and rules. The notable exception to this is the existence of the Titans, grotesque giants who feast on humans. The game’s story mode retells key events from the anime through the perspective of five key characters trained to fight the Titans, most notably Eren Jaeger, a new cadet with a deep desire to eradicate the giants.
The idea of reliving iconic moments as multiple characters may sound exciting, but they generally don’t control or play differently from each other. The story is only represented through still pictures and some clips direct from the series, but focuses only on the events connected to each level you play. In other words, it feels more like a truncated CliffsNotes of the story, and leaves out both the big emotional beats and events that let you know each characters’ personality and quirks. It will likely leave fans wanting more and newcomers confused. Those who have watched the English dub broadcast on Cartoon Network may also be disappointed that there’s only a Japanese voice track here, as well.
The core gameplay does a good job of recreating combat against the Titans, as players are always equipped with mechanical leg braces that can shoot wires into nearby structures, allowing characters to rapidly swing among the rooftops Spider-Man style. A lock-on targeting system allows players to aim for different body parts on each Titan, and even though only a perfect slice across the back of the neck can actually slay them, it’s still often a good idea to go for areas like the leg first, as the Titan’s pained reaction often results in them bringing their guard down.
The controls are easy to get the hang of, though camera control can be problematic without a Circle Pad Pro or the C-stick on the New 3DS, which are both supported by the game. Players also have to take another factor into consideration when it comes to combat, and that is a Quick Time Event of sorts before making each strike where the attack button must be pressed while a shrinking ring falls within a circular border.
It’s all competently done, but the game’s biggest problem is a general lack of variety. The Titans rarely mix up their own attack strategies, and players generally can take down all of them with a slice to the leg followed by the neck. A game can be efficiently put together but still not work due to repetition, and this is a definite culprit of that.
The shallowness of the Story Mode doesn’t make the repetition any easier to deal with, but the other notable component, World Mode, is actually sort of interesting. A far more open-ended and in-depth experience, the mode has players design a custom character, choose from a list of missions and partake in many RPG-like gameplay elements outside of battle, including levelling up stats, purchasing and crafting improved equipment, and hiring AI-controlled partners, along with support for local and online co-op play.
The added depth is welcome, but the missions still generally play out the same way as the campaign, albeit with a slightly bigger emphasis on teamwork, which generally boils down to you or a partner attacking a Titan after it grabs a partner as a potential snack. There’s a healthy amount of content to World Mode, but it’s hard to appreciate it when the core gameplay is still bland.
The game looks adequate both graphically and as a 3D remake of the hand-drawn series, and it’s a nice touch to have some of the shows’ best vocal background tracks accompany certain levels. There are still some problems, though. In larger environments, I found that many Titans had erratic framerate issues when displayed far off in the background. Playing with the 3D on is also not recommended, as it causes the overall framerate to drastically drop.
Overall, Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains isn’t an awful game, and even has some good ideas that a sequel could build on. It just relies far too much on the same old mechanics, ultimately giving the battles a feeling of boredom, which is the last thing you’d expect to feel facing a flesh-eating giant. Fans of the series may still want to give the game a look if there’s ever a price drop, but for those unfamiliar with the amine as well as those that value variety in their games, I’d suggest passing on this one.
This review is based on the 3DS exclusive, which was provided to us.
Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains has some good ideas in its robust World Mode, but monotonous gameplay and a half-hearted Story Mode lessen its overall value.