TL;DR: High octane, extreme Spiderman-like building to building swinging speed, large stakes, and terrifying humanoid creatures, are all reasons the Attack On Titan manga and anime are so popular. There is a lot a game needs to do right to get the epic feeling down. Then, to have to do it on a handheld, well, that is easier said than done. Humanity In Chains is a valiant effort from Spike Chunsoft and Atlus but it fails to capture the blade slashing magic for the most part. Repetitive combat, story mode, and wonky camera hinder the whole package. That isn’t to say that there isn’t here enough for fans to enjoy. It is obvious that this is a love child, because the music, the cutscenes, and the amount of lore is impressive. World Mode in particular is the knight in shining armor for this misadventure, though it still suffers from gameplay issues. Even if you are into level grinding and are a fan of the manga or anime, you might want to wait for a meaty price drop on this one.
When considering what you want out of an Attack On Titan video game adaptation what are the first things that come to mind? Most people would probably answer: traversal and bulbous man-eating giants, which can be considered staples of the series. The good news is that the traversal is fantastic most of the time. Going in I was worried that there would be no way to get this down, especially considering that it is on the Nintendo 3DS hardware. But I was wrong, it works pretty well most of the time. Every now and then you may get stuck on a wall or a tree, but that wasn’t enough to hinder the experience. Maneuvering around the world and buildings is as simple as hitting a button and aiming in a general direction. Clicking the button multiple times will keep you elevated and fling you across the world, recreating the smooth fast paced lunging seen in the manga. It is a far cry from the magnificent ariel swan-like moves seen in the show of course, but what you get is still great. The only issue is the camera going wonky when zipping around.
“It is a far cry from the magnificent ariel swan-like moves seen in the show of course, but what you get is still great.”
Disappointingly, the Earth shattering Titans are more brittle target dummies than they are death impending omens. Aesthetically speaking, they aren’t terrible looking, as the designs go from hilariously goofy to really creepy looking–which is accurate to the manga. Their bodies look jaggy and funky, but you do have to take the fact that it’s on 3DS into account when looking at the graphical fidelity. There was a lot of care put into creating different designs, which is evident by the Titan log that will document a new beast along with their measurements. Definitely a nice touch.
What’s disappointing, however, is the fact that most of the Titans are slow and pose very little threat. The only time they cause massive damage is when you attack them from the front where they can grab you, and all you can do is hope an ally is near by to free you. There is no counter move to this. As long as you complete a spin attack or attack from behind, you should have no trouble. Only the abnormal Titans seemed to care about doing any real damage. Even then, they don’t cause much destruction by design. Buildings don’t crumble and the only time you may have trouble is when you’re surrounded by a group of abnormals.
“Only the abnormal Titans seemed to care about doing any real damage.”
Now onto the two main sections. Humanity In Chains is split into two parts: “Story Mode” and “World Mode”. The latter of the two is locked upon booting up the game, which is unfortunate because the first mode isn’t exactly the game’s best foot forward. Story Mode ranges from the beginning of the anime, all the way through the end of the first season. Interestingly enough, you can experience the same story through a different set of eyes, since the mode is playable through 5 different characters– Eren, Mikasa, Armin, Levi, and Sasha (a.k.a. potato girl). Since it is still Eren’s story, he has the most missions with 12 and every other character has at least 6 missions of their own. Before each mission, you get a short explanation of what is going on in the story, and a short cutscene from the show, which does a great job of raising the game’s excitement.
What isn’t so fresh is that, since you are playing through the same narrative, the story, text, and video are the same for each character, forcing players to read and watch the same videos over and over again. Every now and then it will change, but not by much. Sasha is the only one that diverts from the repetitiveness, because her story focuses on her food obsession.
“With a whopping total of 42 missions total in story mode, you will be repeating the same arduous tasks plenty of times.”
If that isn’t enough to bore you to sleep, there are only 4 uneventful mission types in story mode: kill Titans, collect items, save allies, and race. Settings and numbers may change, but each mission is pretty much the same, with the exception of some of Eren’s. Missions tasking you to kill Titan will give you a certain amount of giants to take down, or a couple targets you must defeat to complete the objective. Collecting items is a more tedious venture. Without any indication on the map as to where said items are, you must search every nook and cranny for a small shiny blue dimmer on the floor. Saving allies is as straightforward as it sounds. You run around to revive downed friends, and that’s it. Racing, which could have been the most exciting and testosterone-inducing mission type, instead has you running back and forth around a square map, from checkpoint to checkpoint. With a whopping total of 42 missions total in story mode, you will be repeating the same arduous tasks plenty of times. The things you are rewarded with are: costumes, gear for World Mode, and a mission rank that doesn’t mean much.
Out on the field, things don’t get any better. Granted, if the activities within the missions were at least fun, repetition wouldn’t be too bad but alas, they are not. Epic battles against humanity’s greatest danger dwindle down to constantly replicating the same time-based button inputs. When facing a Titan, you are automatically locked on, and all you need to do is hit the Y button. Once latched on, hit the X button to go into attack mode. That’s when a red donut-like circle appears in the middle of your screen (the size of the target depends on skill of the character). Along with the red circle, your circular cursor appears on the edges, getting smaller and smaller by the second. Click the attack button once it hits the target to get a critical hit. The only things you will need to keep an eye on are the sharpness of your blade and the air tank. Keep some spare ones in your bag, just to be safe.
“The game’s saving grace here is the World Mode.”
To put it bluntly, the story mode is mediocre. The game’s saving grace here is the World Mode. There is a lot to love here. Despite not having too many options, you get to create a character and partake in some great RPG-like progression. Once you have bred your new character, you are in charge of a village, where you can choose to improve different facilities, shop for new items, and choose which assignments you go out on. Yes, the choices are virtually the same, but this time you gain meaningful rewards. Facilities can be improved so that new and improved weapons can be created, new Omni Directional mobility gear can be developed, or improve recruitment so you can have stronger partners out on the battlefield with you. As for the meaningful rewards for your troubles, you can actually gain experience points, allowing you to create the ultimate warrior. Money is also rewarded, which can then be invested in the facilities and tools of the trade. People that enjoy level grinding will find plenty of enjoyment here. This is also where you can play online with friends, and spotpassing with a fellow Titan hunter will give you new allies on the battlefield.
Your character can be anything you want him or her to be. You can specialize in maneuvering, slashing, projectiles, and even defense. Since each NPC ally also has a specialty, you are forced to strategically choose who goes out on the field with you so you are prepared for anything that comes your way. Because you are in the Scout Regime, you can choose to go on Normal or Scouting missions, with scouting being the most challenging, but also most lucrative. If you want even more of a challenge, you can play Scouting missions on brutal mode. You will basically be doing the same things either way. The only varying game type is the Survival mode. It is an endless wave mode where you are tasked with taking down a certain amount of monsters each round. This serves as a nice distraction from the norm of the gameplay.
“This is the section of the game I wish was the focus, because fiddling around in the story mode bogged down the experience.”
This is the section of the game I wish was the focus, because fiddling around in the story mode bogged down the experience. Even though it still has most of the same issues, it at least gives meaning to all of your actions, and rewards you for all of your troubles.
Graphically, the game is just okay. There are only 3 different types of maps you will be exploring–with trees, buildings, open plains–and they are rough around the edges. What is above average, however, is the soundtrack. Holy cow, does this game have a great soundtrack. Pulling the best songs out of the anime was a smart choice that made the Attack On Titan fanboy in me freak out.
My expectations going into this title weren’t high, and rightfully so. It is a large project on a small handheld, which is what I call, asking for a lot. There are some nice touches that fans will appreciate and enjoy, but having to do the same monotonous objectives over and over again is not fun. It is hard to say that the entire package holds no value, however, because there is so much to love for fans here, and half the game is actually decent. If anything, this proves that a sequel that focuses on the mission choices and Titan fights can be something special. As for now, keep this one on the back burner.
-Plenty of fan service. Fans of the series will find plenty of Titan logs, movies, and characters to keep them entertained.
-World Mode lets you create your own Special Ops Squad Leader. Even though this mode still suffers from the same repetitive mission types and weak Titans, it is still plenty of fun to create your ultimate warrior and build your army.
-Music is on point. Part of what is so memorable about the anime is the epic soundtrack to go along with the rad action. It creates an epic vibe, even if the gameplay is anything but.
-Everything is repetitive. The combat consists of repeating the same button cues, cutscenes are repeated multiple times for different characters, and the same three mission types will be repeated.
-Story Mode is forgettable. Running around as five of the series’ best characters in the game should easily be the best part of the game, but it is instead completely boring. Worst part is that you will have to play it in order to unlock the more formidable, “World Mode”.
-Titans are not the man eating terrors they should be. Only the abnormals seem to want to really cause any damage, but without being able to destroy buildings or even properly attack you, there still isn’t much to sweat about in that.
2.5 Out of 5 Burritos
This review was completed using a Nintendo 3DS copy of Attack On Titan: Humanity in Chains, provided by Atlus. The game hits the E-Shop Tuesday, May 12th on Nintendo 3DS.