Armored Core V
Developer: From Software
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 (Reviewed)
Release Date: March 20, 2012
Price: $59.99 – Available Here
Whenever someone is growing up there is usually always one thing they believe is the best thing in the world, and that is giant robots. These robots are even better when they have weapons attached to them. The Armored Core series has long strived to capture the thrill of giant robot combat by giving gamers tons of customization options and plenty of action. From Software’s efforts have been met with middling results over the years but they have returned to give us Armored Core V. Does this giant robot series deserve its fresh coat of paint or should it have been left to rust?
Armored Core V follows the futuristic war between the Resistance as they battle against an oppressive dictator known as “Father.” With the world torn apart by war the Resistance must do whatever they can to free the land from his rule. If this doesn’t sound like an exhilarating plot then you’d be completely correct. It is extremely obvious that the single player story mode for the game is not the focus of Armored Core V, as the story is not only convoluted and uninteresting but brief as well.
The only highlight about Armored Core V’s storyline is the fact that your AI teammates are somewhat interesting to listen to and are given a small amount of personality development. Unfortunately this is the best part what can be seen as a single player focused mode tossed in to give those without internet connections a small chance to still enjoy Armored Core V despite the obvious focus on multiplayer.
One thing that Armored Core has always been known for is extensive customization and there is thankfully tons of different pieces to customize your core with. While I will speak shortly about the impact core customization has on actual gameplay, fans of the series will be glad to know that there are plenty of differently designed core pieces and weapons to choose from.
That being said, it is unfortunate that From Software seemed that the best way to go with the color palette was to find the blandest colors imaginable and toss them in the game. Armored Core V’s environments are various shades of brown and gray and become repetitive very quickly. In fact if you play through the game long enough in various missions and online you’ll notice plenty of battlegrounds recycled, which creates tedious and unimaginative combat situations.
While the characters themselves are a bit of a highlight in the story, the voice acting in Armored Core V can be seen as something barely tolerable. The voice actors are absolutely terrible and feel like they are simply going through the motions and are looking for a quick paycheck. In fact there will be some times in the game you will wonder how many characters one voice actor/actress is taking care of due to how similar they all sound.
Thankfully, Armored Core V’s cores sound wonderful whenever they are in combat with realistic seeming sound effects that make the battlefield come alive. To accompany the combat there is some decent background music but nothing that will likely be remembered when the level finishes.
Now the Armored Core series has always been one that has had a small to significant barrier of entry for new players as it features plenty of customization and various little mechanics that new players will find difficult to understand at first. What makes it even stranger however is the fact that Armored Core V has seen fit to simply forgo any in-depth explanation about any of the game’s systems outside of a basic tutorial teaching you how to control your giant robot.
This makes things only more confusing when gamers are presented a choice of what team they wish to join when they start up the game. You see, at the time of this choice you are given absolutely no explanation of what these teams will mean or what affect this will have on your gameplay experience, let alone the fact that it factors into the game’s online mode.
This poor explanation makes the introduction to Armored Core V’s significant online focus a very difficult mode to come to grips with at first. Still when players to become a member of a team they will realize that the online mode’s gameplay options are extremely expansive and provides the meat of Armored Core V’s experience.
These teams that players can join will feature around 20 players on average and feature an interesting guild type setup. If other members of your team are online you can jump into their missions and help them out or if you begin a mission solo then the rest of your team is given notifications so they can lend you aid as well. You can even sell your abilities to another team temporarily for a bit of quick cash to help out.
The main purpose of these teams is to conquer territories. Every team can hold various territories in the world, of which there are thousands of. Whenever you take a territory for your team, either through solo or combined combat your team’s name will be shown on the game map which is a nice feature as it shows what teams are currently dominating the world.
The way territories are claimed from or defended against other players is a bit complicated however as there are some strange gameplay mechanics at use here. Your territories cannot be taken simply by having enemies attack and win the battle. Instead you will need to take part in a Defense mission to keep a hold of your territory and if you happen to fail that mission then it will be claimed by your opponent. Though if you fail to enter a defense mission before the territories defense points fall to zero then you will also lose the area.
In the end this mechanic is more than a little strange as it features very little sense of progression and barely any accomplishment besides seeing your name on the territories owned. This is made worse by the fact that From Software implemented a mechanic that won’t punish players for not spending all their time on the game. You see, when you invade an enemy territory and defeat all of their forces and win the battle, you will actually have to wait six hours to see if they were able to defend your attack. This is made worse by the fact that this timer can be extended through side-missions.
This can create a lot of frustration as you are forced to wait and see if you are even able to win a territory or have to wait for the countdown to end. Now this is only the situation when players are not online to defend their territories. When others are online and willing to defend their territories and also try to attack yours it creates an interesting and exhilarating battle management system as you lay your claim to the world, though it is an issue at the moment that not a lot of people are actually online at the time of this review.
Enough about the gameplay modes however, what about the bread and butter to every Armored Core game… the customization? As mentioned before there are tons of different pieces to equip onto your core. What you equip can change depending on what type of robot you want to play with of course, as you can fight with bi-pedal robots or those with quad-legged ones as well. To accentuate the various body types there is a wide range of weaponry as well with so many choices that it is very easy to create one to fit your exact play style and create a unique core of your very own.
Another interesting mechanic with selecting your equipment comes down to what type of weaponry you wish to use. There are three different weapon types which are Chemical Energy, Kinetic Energy and Thermal Energy weapons. These weapon types all handle differently and have their own advantages and disadvantages which also factor into how well various enemies are equipped to defend against these weapon types. This provides a certain depth to the customization that means you will need to spend plenty of time modifying your core to keep it fresh for every battle.
This is great for the game as there is going to be plenty of action and creating a core that handles exactly to your specifications will be essential to winning battles. Thankfully the difficulty of the controls for Armored Core V has been toned down slightly so newcomers will find it easy to control their core once they actually enter combat and take on their opponents in what can only be seen as satisfactory mecha action.
While Armored Core V has been made a little easier to handle as far as controls go, the game itself can still be seen as a very hard to understand game that offers practically nothing in the way of explanation for how to be successful in the title. To make matters worse, environments and even battles can become repetitious very quickly. However those who look past this can find an online multiplayer game unlike any other on the market today where players can team up with others to take over various territories with highly customizable and destructive giant robots.