Most people know From Software for their work on the recent, punishing Souls series. My relationship with them goes back much further. In the glory days of the PSOne, I was obsessed with constructing my own giant robots with a plethora of parts. Perhaps it was my love of Transformers, or just a deep-rooted need to control massive automatons; whichever the case, I became obsessed with their Armored Core series. Armored Core V rekindles my love for the series, but not without a few snags that are still lingering in its design.
One of the biggest changes to the series over time has been its persistent online functionality. With each game, From Software continues to integrate the online portion more into the campaign. With ACV, the line is almost non-existent. You start the game by choosing a pilot name, badge and info, then you are thrust into the world and tasked with creating a team of up to 20 players. Your team will be able to fight alongside you whether you are tackling story missions or simply taking on challenges. You can also hire mercenaries to fight if friends are unavailable, or become one yourself.
The online is robust, with tons of missions, or sorties to the AC faithful, and plenty of challenges that earn you points along the way. The points are used to unlock new missions and items, and there are a variety of ways to earn them. Story missions are, by far, the longest, as well as the least enjoyable. These missions go on far too long with confusing objectives and even more confusing dialogue. Let’s be fair, the game never makes much sense, and when they are screaming at me in such a serious tone, I feel compelled to take their nonsense seriously. I shouldn’t.
Conquest mode is by far the star of the show. Here, you and your buddies can partner up to take on other teams to vie for control of territories around the world map. What is really cool is that you can take these missions on even if the opposing team isn’t online. Instead, you will face NPCs and any defenses they have setup. You can play up to four players, with a fifth eyeing the battle from above, making strategic decisions for the team. It requires massive dedication, but the payoff is great. Capture mode allows you to wager your points against other teams with great rewards for winning.
Of course, it wouldn’t be an Armored Core game without massive customization, and this entry is no exception. You can customize everything on your AC from legs to boosters to multiple arm weapons. The points you earn can unlock new items, and each mech can be tailored to any given situation. You can also find garages during story missions to change your loadout. I will be honest, not having really dove into one of these games in years, the menus and options are overwhelming. You really can customize almost everything, and the dodgy menus certainly don’t help. Obtaining parts and testing them in battle is half the fun of these games, though, and there is more than enough here to keep you entertained.
So much of Armored Core is focused around the details of battle, and this is a game that plays well. The standard shooter controls apply outside of a weird camera movement when shifting left to right. The reticule will move entirely to the other side, disorienting you until you get accustomed to it. Scan mode allows you to locate the waypoint and garages, and weapons controls are all handled with the triggers and bumpers. Your AC no longer has unlimited flight, but you can boost on the ground as long as you want. Even with all this maneuverability, dodging missiles is simply not going to happen. I recommend investing in some good armor to keep your mech from going down at every encounter.
Speaking of difficulty, this game ramps it up fast. Not only do you have to contend with the seemingly endless depth and counting on other players, but also enemies get super tough, super-fast. If you are not a dedicated player, you will likely visit the game over screen more often than not. It is also worth mentioning that if you intend to fly solo, this game is more than likely not for you. Sure, the first few missions are good fun on your own, but after a while, the long objectives and team-focused challenges really stick out as the highlights of this title.
Visually, the game sports a dreary futuristic look that doesn’t exactly set the world on fire. The destruction is nice and explosions are fun, but the environments lack any really diversity most of the time. Barreling up the same corridor or city street has limited appeal, not to mention the maps are much more claustrophobic than past games.
Armored Core V is really designed to be enjoyed one way, and only that way. If you have a dedicated group of friends to play with, then I highly recommend giving this game a whirl. The missions are varied, and teaming up to take over territories is truly a blast. However, if you intend to fly solo, there is no happy medium to the game’s structure. The story missions are far too long and difficult, while everything else is too short to warrant investing the time into customizing your mech. Online players will have tons to see and do for months, everyone else should probably steer clear. The tagline doesn’t lie; Come Heavy (with dedication), or Not At All.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.