There are only a handful of times where I truly felt torn on a game, based on the number of annoyances I've had versus the fun I've had with its gameplay. Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains is based on the hit anime of the same name that seemingly took US anime lovers by surprise, and caught popularity quick. Like the show, it presents a world overrun by said Titans, and their insatiable hunger for human flesh and their potential for mass destruction, as well as the small population of humans trying to fight back. Like the anime, the game captures fastness and fluidity of zipping through the air and slashing Titans to the ground, but it comes with a slew of issues that keep it from being an amazing game.
The game retreads the anime storyline through the point of view of five different characters, whose missions will unlock gradually, telling the story in some sensible order. However, it was actually the story mode that almost made me give up on the game. This mode is undoubtedly the weakest part of the game as it presents nothing new, especially for those who have already seen the show. Being able to play as Eren Jaeger or Mikasa Ackerman is only somewhat cool, until you realize that all of the characters are essentially the same, and only differ on the surface level.
What was also infuriating was that the Story Mode levels present you with some crazy challenges early on, despite their low difficulty rating. This might be entirely subjective, but it wasn't until my 20th or so attempt at one of the missions that had me defending an area from incoming Titans that I finally grasped the nuances of the combat and actually got good at taking multiple Titans on. And I just had to get through these missions, since the best part of the game, World Mode, is locked away until you get far enough in the Story Mode.
World Mode on the other hand, was exactly what the game should have been from the very beginning; Letting me create my own character, taking on missions to collect materials and money, build an army, reconstruct and upgrade some of the base's facilities and continually upgrade my characters with better stats. It was like a completely different game, thankfully.
World Mode is actually quite similar to Capcom's Monster Hunter, in that you prepare yourself for combat by outfitting your character with weapons and sub-weapons, upgrade their equipment, buy additional consumables and then take on missions to get more of said materials and rinse and repeat. The missions are divided by Normal Missions and Scout Missions. Normal Missions are your standard missions that aren't too challenging, but provide you with the ability to gain more humans for your army. Your army size then dictates the ability to take on tougher missions with better rewards. Scout Missions on the other hand are tougher, give better rewards, but will also use up a chunk of your army, whether you win or lose. That means you have to be taking on Normal Missions in order to gain a bigger army, to then be able to dispense it for bigger Scout skirmishes.
In between missions you'll have the opportunity to level up your character with ability points, buy consumables, recruit NPCs to join you on missions, visit various facilities for equipment upgrades, upgrade those facilities to provide better equipment and even join up with people online to take down Titans together. The latter unfortunately, I can't report on, as I was unable to successfully connect with any other players, even now once the game is officially out. Needless to say, you should mostly get this game for the single player experience, unless you already have a group of friends that are planning on buying it.
But it's the gameplay that ultimately makes the game. As I said before, I initially hated it. It felt cheap and unfair, but as I played, it started to click. The big star of the combat is your ODM, or the Omni-Directional Mobility gear. This device attached to your hip is how you zip through the environment like Spider-Man. Essentially, the lines would hook themselves onto buildings and then propel the user forward. Sure, the game takes liberties with this as buildings aren't very essential to its success, but it's still very satisfying to fly past Titans, dodge their incoming attacks and then home in on them with a deadly sword strike.
The way Attack on Titan handles combat is rather simplistic, yet graceful. Sure, you can slash your sword when on foot, but it would be for nothing. The Achille's Heel of a Titan is actually the back of its neck. Taking down a Titan is usually a two step process: Take out one of its legs to immobilize it, then when it's on the ground, strike at its neck before it has a chance to regrow it. While that may sound easy, the Titans are no pushovers. Just when you think you have a clear opening at their leg, they'll sweep you up and eat you at a moment's notice, unless someone manages to slash you free. You're constantly dodging their swipes while trying to aim for the sweet spot.
Once you actually do engage in aerial combat, it becomes a mini-game of sorts where you must press the attack button when an indicator stops in the middle of a red circle on screen. The bigger the opening you have and the more successful attacks you chain together, the bigger the red circle will be, allowing you to deal critical damage. It was all rather overwhelming at first, but like I said, once it clicks, it becomes grossly satisfying.
Graphically, the game's certainly no looker, in fact, the best looking models in the game are the Titans themselves. Each one of them being a grotesque giant with blank stares that will undoubtedly creep you out each time you see them. Also, if you enjoy being able to actually play the game, keep that 3D slider all the way off. The game's framerate takes such a bad hit that simply zipping around the city is near-impossible, let alone taking a Titan on.
The sound design on the other hand is pretty fantastic, with lines taken directly from the show (no English dub here folks) to give it that authentic feel, as well as putting in some of the show's songs in during missions. Story Mode and World Mode are accompanied with the anime's first and second opening respectively, which is also pretty great.
I'm glad I gave the game a chance, since my first impression of the game was quite bad. While the Story Mode won't hold you over, as I suspect, the World Mode is the game's saving grace. It's unique approach to combat also won't be for everyone, and admittedly I was ready to outright quit at some point, but once it clicked, I ended up quite enjoying the fast and frenetic nature of zipping by Titans, maneuvering around their deadly attacks, and homing in on their weak spot.
Difficult yet rewarding. Fast yet tactical. Attack on Titan is a game that rewards players by sticking to it and learning its intricacies.