Given the cult popularity of the Attack on Titan anime series, and the relative success of the first game, it’s not surprising that we’re starting to see clones arrive in the market place. Of course, there’s an appeal in hacking and slashing through giant enemies so it’s perfect game fodder. Modus and Iron Galaxy bring an adventure set in a troubled land where massive creatures are destroying the world and you are the only hope for salvation. Failure will mean the Extinction of everything.
Putting you in the leather boots of Avil, you are one of the last remaining hopes of humankind in defeating the invading Ravenii – monsters hell bent on destroying everything in their path. Guiding you and the kingdom through the perils these massive creatures pose is your magical partner who can communicate with you over great distances and setup escape portals in villages and towns for the inhabitants to use, and is so memorable I’ve forgotten her name and can’t find it after searching the entire breadth and depth of the Internet (even IMDB doesn’t recognise anyone but Avil’s voice actor). However, writing about my failings in retaining important game information is preferable to booting it up and finding out, which probably gives an indication of where this review is going…
Comms for your current scenario come in the form of text and a nicely depicted still of the character talking, done so that it doesn’t interrupt the flow of the game. They act as both tutorial and mission brief, as well as rapidly becoming something you despise. Ancillary characters will berate you for missing objectives or not being quick enough, which is pretty much how the game is setup – it’s about fast paced movement and planning after some trial and error runs of the current mission. With Avil being the only person able to save these settlements from Extinction, and the people popping up on screen needing his help, it’s painful how quickly they descend into hurling abuse and threats. Were it real life I think I’d be doing one and leaving the ungrateful A-holes to a horrific demise. It doesn’t work as a motivation tool, and doesn’t encourage hitting the retry option either, though they’re not the entire reason for skipping that, the mechanics and camera manage to ruin the game experience as well.
The point of the game is to scale the Ravenii and deliver a killing strike at the base of the neck once the power meter has fully charged. They can’t be stopped any other way, and this is important because how quickly the meter gets to max dictates whether the mission will be a success or a failure. Incidentally, the game doesn’t tell you clearly enough in the tutorial that energy is earned from attacking the Ravenii, only that it comes from saving civilians and dispatching smaller creatures. That little nugget of info may save you from a major amount of frustration on the 4th level. Regardless, there are several weak points to target – arm and leg joints – which will take the limbs off and crash the beast to the ground, and these are sometimes protected by armour (which gives a boost to the power gauge). Slow them down with some surgical strikes, then scale them to finish them off. It’s straightforward enough and that’s the issue because there’s no variety once you’ve seen the initial armour types and know how to deal with them. Of course, getting there is the biggest challenge because the camera doesn’t like to move to a useful position and tends to lock in too close to the giant meaning you miss the house sized fist coming to smash you into the ground. Scaling relies mainly on a grapple that auto flies out to anchor points which 9 times out of 10 don’t make themselves accessible even when you know you’re looking right at them. And the finishing blow won’t get delivered often because you’ll fall off the shoulders or get swatted away by an un-dodgeable hand. It’s very frustrating and especially after the first couple of missions once the novelty has worn off.
The art direction is interesting and the destructible environments make a lot of sense because you’re supposed to be keeping people alive and buildings intact. Using a cell shaded technique emphasises the anime aspirations, though with the lack of reference material to support any backstory or investment in the universe, it falls a little flat. Despite the very nicely done cutscenes that punctuate story progression, there’s little character in the game itself. The environments are bland and sparse; the music and dialogue forgettable; and the combat away from the Ravenii just button mashingly tedious. Even with randomly generated challenges in the story missions (and randomly generated stages outside that), there’s not enough to keep you hooked for long periods of play unless you’re a glutton for punishment.
A few nice ideas coupled with a smooth framerate can’t make up for the lack of innovation as Avil progresses through the story. It should have been a clear indication when I saw nearly all the upgrades were available for purchase from the first level that things weren’t going to evolve over time. Extinction is an apt title because this game feels like it’s heading that way right from the release. It’s not terrible by any means, but the £45 price point implies there’s more to be had, and if you spend more than half that on it you’ll probably feel short changed.
A PS4 review copy of Extinction was provided by Iron Galaxy’s PR team and the game is out now on Xbox One and PS4.