GAME NAME: Armored Core V
DEVELOPER(S): From Software
PUBLISHER(S): Namco Bandai
RELEASE DATE(S): 23 March 2012
The Armored Core franchise dates back to 1997 and while the creators of Demons Souls, From Software, have created 14 incarnations of the series this is only the fifth linear release, hence the Armored Core V title.
As can be expected in a game which focuses on building up and customizing a battle-bound Mech you are initially subjected to a lengthy and frustrating tutorial. Hours upon hours need to be spent learning tactics and experimenting with various weapons and add-on components before you can prepare for battle. After all this training and a series of ridiculously easy battles you are ready to deliver carnage in either a single or multiplayer environment. This is where you realise that you will need to go back to the drawing board and yet again spend a good few hours perfecting your Mech.
Armored Core V now focuses a lot more on tactics and the skilled use of level features as opposed to finger frenzy button mashing as seen in some previous installments of the series. Don’t let anyone tell you that ‘size matters’ as you will more often than not have an advantage over your opponents in a smaller, quicker Mech rather than a heavily armoured behemoth. This becomes notably evident with boss fights where you often need to use the environment to stealthily avoid attacks from larger opponents. These boss fights sometimes find themselves bogged down by confusing objectives however. Enemies move around quickly and you are forced to strategise and (once again) consider your weapon and Mech design very carefully.
It becomes clear very early on in the game that the developers intended for a large portion of gameplay to happen online. For this you will generally submit your Mech for various missions along with one other teammate. This is all good and well but doesn’t deliver many new options from regular single player gameplay. Invasion missions on the other hand let you team up with four other teammates, one of whom should be (strategically speaking) an operator, acting as a marksman to guide the rest of the team throughout the mission. While this is by far the highlight of Armored Core V’s online gameplay it is unfortunately short lived and unavoidably repetitive.
Sending your Mech into the face of danger is highly rewarding as you spend most of the game fine tuning your robotic warrior to the point of obsession. This unfortunately doesn’t make up for the ordinary environments and all too monotonous gameplay. The team point system is also highly frustrating and spoils the experience by letting everything feel like work rather than fun.
Overall Armored Core V is not a particularly a worthwhile experience. Far too much time is spent focusing on updating your Mech as opposed to the actual gameplay but this will admittedly be appealing to some players. The level design is disappointing and results in quick cheap thrills. In order to take part in a meaningful mission you first need to go through numerous meaningless ones. The online aspect is entertaining if you are willing to invest a lot of time and effort to make your battle even remotely significant, making Armoured Core V a highly acquired taste.