Last year’s riveting action-RPG Attack on Titan 2 bundled up two first seasons of an anime hit Attack on Titan, based on a popular manga of the same name. In a rather ingenuous move, the game let you make your own character who joined the franchise cast in a desperate war against monstrous titans that torment the remnants of mankind. The Final Battle expansion adds events of the anime’s new third season in a Character Episode mode as well an alternate take on the war, a Territory Recovery mode, where you reclaim lands lost to titans. Also, the Final Battle adds thunder spears and guns to the weaponry that change the nature of fights.
What made Attack on Titan 2 so terrific was its exhilarating third-person action. The controls and the camera movement were revised from the first game and the new gameplay became second nature as you swung between gigantic titans. Suspended in the air by wire-operated omni-directional mobility gear, brave cadets of 104th Cadet Corps buzzed around towering enemies and stung vicious attacks on them like angry bees performing a deadly ballet. Blood spluttered in hectoliters as you delivered final blows to the titans’ most vulnerable area, the napes on back of their necks. The game’s story mode featured grandiose narration and awesome cutscenes that were easily better than anything seen in the anime adaptation. All good comes to an end, though. As a slight spoiler, after sacrificing his or her own life to help Eren and his comrades escape, your cadet was listed as MIA.
The Final Battle’s Territory Recovery mode features the same superb action but without overlying narration. There are little conversations between characters you meet up in the base and you are briefed during expeditions as what to do but nothing more. All the same, the action is as enthralling as before. In fact, I didn’t even remember how fast and enjoyable the gameplay is. The Territory Recovery mode is bit like an alternate reality of the franchise. It introduces a new regiment you get to name yourself and choose an emblem for, and features several characters under the same banner, even those who were exposed as traitors during the second season of the story. What’s best, though, you can play with the cadet you made in Attack on Titan 2. I jingled with joy when I saw my Pihla in the commander selection screen!
Perimeter by perimeter you take back lands from the titans’ clutches as you move around on a tactical map regulated by a turn limit, like in a board game. There, you engage in expeditions to wipe out titans and procure materials. I noticed that during fights the chatty AI buddies are more capable and show more initiative than before. Successful missions increase camaraderie between you and your squadmates and among them, too, granting skill bonuses and currency. When the turn limit is nearing its end or your comrades are too tired to continue, you return to the base to do daily business there. As expeditions go along, you can expand the base and its crew, and nominate people to different posts based on their natural talents. You can also upgrade equipment or create new gear but that means grinding lots and lots of materials from expeditions. All in all, the Territory Recovery mode plays out like a perfect Attack on Titan experience.
What about the main attraction of the Final Battle, then? Unfortunately, the Character Episode mode is where things go all wrong. It shows such a complete lack of effort that it felt like a bad joke at the expense of the series fans. What was so brilliant about Attack on Titan 2 was that it was a comprehensive and detailed take on the franchise. It didn’t require any prior knowledge of the manga or the anime to be able to enjoy and understand it. However, with the Final Battle, it’s quite the contrary. What we have here is a disjointed summary of the anime’s third season, making everything feel like complete nonsense.
Gone are the gorgeous cutscenes of the previous game. There are only a few fully animated scenes as most of the narrative plays out like a visual novel, featuring still screens with voice-overs. What’s worse, though, is that those few parts you get to play are badly motivated and poorly executed. When the core gameplay is replaced, for example, with artillery shooting, it’s so awkward that it’s only embarrassing. The Character Episode mode is divided between viewpoints of the Scout unit, 104th Cadets and the Warriors, with narrative bits and gameplay segments going parallel between them. It feels like the developers took one scene from here and another from there without much coherence or cohesion. At worst, the character episodes water down even the most dramatic story beats by choosing wrong moments to play and even fall into repeating them but only with different characters. Speaking of them, you can’t choose them or their equipment as they are predetermined for each playable episode. However, regiment points and resources you collect can be used in other game modes.
The third season introduces human villains in a form of military police’s notorious anti-personnel squad, led by obnoxious Kenny Ackerman. Fighting against people is nowhere as motivating or exciting as battling titans. Likewise, the new weapons, thunder spear and guns, lack the dangerous flair of the blades and are not all that all well implemented to the gameplay either. They trade the exciting and unique airborne action for shaky run-of-the-mill gunplay where your position around the enemy doesn’t matter much. Also, losing you own character’s viewpoint is a big minus. Following established franchise cast’s exploits didn’t feel that captivating. Well, Levi fans are in for a treat as he’s heavily featured as a playable character. As it goes, the story gets a bit silly and is dramaturgically like from a grade school essay with awkward transitions and too surprising chances. To be fair, it’s not completely the Final Battle’s fault despite its disjointed storytelling. Much of the blame, of course, is on the original manga.
The Final Battle is a very divided experience. On one hand, the Territory Recovery mode features the same blisteringly fast and thrilling action which made Attack on Titan 2 so great. On the other hand, though, the top billing of the expansion is a big disappointment. Season three content is made with a shamelessly little effort, botching up the upheaval and drama it could have had if it were handled properly. Asking a whopping 50 bucks for the expansion alone is a daylight robbery. However, as a bundle with Attack on Titan 2 and the expansion together, it’s a worthwhile choice for those who haven’t experienced the superb action of the game before.
Video game nerd & artist. I've been playing computer and video games since the early 80's so I dare say I have some perspective to them. When I'm not playing, I'm usually at my art board.