After the conclusion of the Attack on Titan anime, it soon came to light that the show had received a massive cult following. In fact, I have an Attack on Titan wallet. It never ceases to amaze me just how many people see it and say “Oh. Attack on Titan eh? Nice wallet, man”. If I had no internet, this alone would have been a good indicator that, yes alright, Attack on Titan is bloody good. So good that Omega Force figured it was time to create Wings of Freedom.
Before I get into specifics with Wings of Freedom – a couple of things to take into account. Upon finishing the game, the credits were over with fairly quickly compared to triple A titles. Which indicates a smaller design team than we’ve come to expect from our games. Just remembering the credits for Uncharted 4 makes me yawn. They were long.
Attack On The Drawing Board
More importantly, however is the premise of Attack on Titan and how it would have taken a fair bit of beard stroking and chin scratching to translate all of this whackiness into an interactive format. The idea of riding on horseback, tethering onto a Titan sized target, killing it and hopping back on the saddle all in one fluid set of controls… This could have gone terribly wrong. While the game may not reach the high standards that many expect, it is clear to see that, at the drawing board stage, this was an ambitious project.
For the completely uninitiated, AOT is all about the surviving population of humanity, hiding behind three massive walls. For a very long time, they’ve been left alone by the things they’re hiding from. That being great lumbering humanoids with eery expressions on their faces. Yup, they’re naked. Nope, they don’t have sex organs. Convenient, eh?
Without digressing, control is first given to the player in a woodland training ground. This is all about getting to grips with Wings of Freedom’s movement system. To be clear, the player will rarely traverse the game world on foot. The survivors of humanity have come up the ODM (Omni Directional Mobility) Gear which sounds as ridiculous as it is. However, this crazy Spiderman-esque gas and tether gear gets a free pass because it’s just so frigging cool. This gear was a kind of unsung hero for the TV show. The same goes for the game. Wings of Freedom’s anti-Titan movement kit may at first feel clunky and frustrating to use. However, once the player learns the little tricks to crazy fast traversal across a map, things start to gain momentum.
Mastering Wings Of Freedom’s ODM Gear
Aside from whizzing down streets, canyons and forests, a key element to mastering this control scheme is understanding the lock-on system. Trust me, when you’re whizzing around at speeds like this, you’ll need an anchor point for the camera. I did notice, after a failed attack, the ODM Gear would become untethered from a targeted Titan, leaving you to sail helplessly into the ground. With such a fast pace as this, I had expected to re-tether before getting boots back on the ground.
After some fiddling, it became apparent that a quick burst of gas (essentially a dodge function) would cancel this out for some reason and I was able to get that tether on quickly once again after getting slapped around a bit. Then it was just a matter of learning to press the lock-on button after each hit, regardless of whether the target was on screen. Yes, this sounds messy as hell on paper. Yet, after you learn the unspoken rules Wings of Freedom expects you to learn, you’ll be slicing and dicing like a pro. This excellent movement system could have been a botched job but when all’s said and done, it’s very fluid.
Spin. Slice. Rinse And Repeat
As far as gameplay goes, this is just about all the player should expect. Every mission basically follows the exact same format. Which to start with, is just fine. Then things get a little tedious. Then we reach a point in the story where things get interesting and fight scenes feel more inspired. Regardless of this, each mission does possess a very strong sense of urgency. Different allies are dotted around the map. Faithful to the show, a green flare means “help”. So the player will have to look out for these. Successfully rescue an ally from becoming Titan munch and the player will be rewarded with different things. This could include a restock of gas, fresh blades for added damage or traps, activated around the map.
Like I said, this game has been designed by a smaller team than we’re used to and I think they were acutely aware of how Wings of Freedom could be at risk of tedium. This shows through in a few missions throughout, where the gameplay completely changes for reasons I shall not spoil here. These moments add to a sense of freshness, just about keeping the game from outstaying its welcome by the skin of its teeth. This, combined with a basic progression, loot and upgrade system will incentivise the player to forge ahead. Players will also inhabit different characters with different special abilities which also helps to keep Wings of Freedom’s head above water.
An Audience Divided
While a videogame should never have to be considered a slog, Wings of Freedom suffers from an inherent problem. People who play it will either have watched the show or they won’t. Like myself, existing fans of the franchise will instantly recognise all of the characters. Whether we see them in the fantastically animated cutscenes, or whizzing around a Titan target, us fans have some context as to who they are and what their motivations are. Sadly, for those who have not watched the show, a lot of these great characters will be wasted on them. Sasha’s madness for all things food may seem a little odd. Or character deaths in the game may lack the gravitas they had in the show. That said, a few of the show’s shocker moments are still here which serves to keep uninitiated players guessing.
While the cutscenes do a great job of mirroring the series to a tee, there’s not really enough of them. A few select “turning point” scenes made it to the cut but even they feel rushed. Eren and Mikasa’s (the two protagonists of the show) back stories go completely unexplored. The science of Titans and Hange’s experiments with Sauwnee and Beane also get omitted, aside from capturing them in the first place. When these kinds of scenes get left out, only to later be mentioned in a load screen or a line of dialogue later, uninitiated players may start to feel a bit lost. It’s at this point that I start to feel like a “privileged” player. One of the lucky ones who actually knew what was going on at any given point.
You’ll Likely Come Back To Wings Of Freedom For Short Bursts Of Epic
While Wings of Freedom may feel a little tedious, it is undeniably refreshing to play and serves up a good spectacle. With this odd combination of things, Wings of Freedom is a bit like a really strong coffee. It can be enjoyed in short bursts. I hadn’t spent too long on it in each of my sessions. Yet, whenever I went back to it, I was admittedly having fun all over again. As a matter of fact, that means it fully serves its purpose as an entertainment product. There’s even the tiniest of teases for season two after the credits, as well as many side missions to continue on with. These will allow for a continuation of the progression tree amongst different characters.
Ultimately, Wings of Freedom is like a tasty snack as opposed to a gourmet meal. There’s plenty of enjoyment to be had here. The dev team who appear to be shorter staffed compared to other titles out there may have also been working with a lower budget than, say… Well, pick any first party title. With that in mind, Omega Force has done a great job with what they had, implementing just enough variation to keep content fresh where little else could be done with the gameplay itself.