A Beginner's Guide to 'Attack on Titan'

A quick rundown of what the famous manga and anime is – and why it could be a badass game.

Even if you’re unfamiliar with Attack on Titan, it’s hard not to notice as a major hit manga and anime. Its poster children are stories-tall monsters, often skinless in advertising, whose dead-eyed stare and rigid, vacant grins can be freakishly unsettling. It’s become so popular since its debut in 2009 that it has spawned multiple games, novels, and even a live-action film. Now Titan is coming to multiple consoles at the end of the month, giving potential fans a chance to check out what they’ve been missing.

It turns out that you don’t have to bone up on any deep mythology to understand what it’s really all about. These titans, heavily inspired by Francisco Goya’s disturbed paintings of giants from the 19th century, are a race of monstrous beings that appeared sometime in the future and immediately gorged themselves on the flesh of most of humanity; the series picks up one hundred years after the creatures appeared in a massive European-style city where the remnants of humanity huddle in fear.

The settlement is protected by three concentric walls, large enough to keep the house-to-building-sized titans out of reach. Naturally, as the narrative begins, an appropriately named Colossus Titan breaches the city’s defenses, allowing the smaller titans to come pouring in. They eat a significant number of the city’s inhabitants, an event that turns tragic for one of the series’ main characters.

The titans themselves are a mystery — they evidently don’t need to eat, yet will devour humans on sight (mostly in gruesome fashion). Even weirder, they don’t show any signs of real intellect, though the grim setting and subject matter go a long way towards giving even their inane flailing a sense of dread. And did I mention they’re naked? Yeah.

As far as proper plot goes, the story follows several cadets in the Survey Corps, who use rope-like acrobatics — propelling several meters through the air using steampunk-esque gas canisters and dual grappling wires — to slingshot themselves high enough to slice through the one weak point in a titan’s hide, the nape of the neck. Yes, its about the most anime display you can imagine.

You can probably see how this would make for a cool game. Omega Force, Koei Tecmo’s team famous for their long-running Dynasty Warriors series, has seemingly adapted the grappling from Survey Corps’ so-called Vertical Maneuvering Equipment into a fast and fluid form of traversal, where players can zip across the city skyline while killing titans in their wake. (The game also lets you play as a titan yourself, but saying anything else would be spoiling something.)

Depending on the titan you’re taking down, your strategy may require some strategic shakeups; even just swinging around the games levels looks pretty exhilarating. Like the premise of the show itself, Titan’s gameplay seems easy to grasp once you understand what you’re looking at.

Narratively, titans can also regrow parts of their body, making them even harder to kill; yet it wouldn’t be much fun if you couldn’t target limbs in a game about killing massive monsters. From what’s been shown, the violence seems somewhat muted (no comically over-the-top geysers of blood when you cleave something off here), at least not to the graphic level seen at times in the anime.

Koei Tecmo Games

In terms of the basics, that about covers it. The storyline and characterizations can get into some interesting issues – the Colossus’ breach at the beginning causes some citizens of outer districts to flee inward, creating famine, for instance — and the titans are creatures as disgusting and terrifying as they fascinating. (Attack on Titan isn’t above the occasional anime archetypes, either.)

While how the design might evolve over the course of its campaign is at this point unclear, Koei Tecmo’s trailers seem to have found a good balance between strong gameplay and dedication to the source material. At the very least, you just need one look at the beastly titans to see it’s authentic.

Koei Tecmo’s scheduled to release Attack on Titan on August 30 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, and PC.

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