I still find it hard to believe how games liked Armored Core and other mech based titles have such a small following when compared to the triple AAA titles that have been dominating the market such as the Call of Duty and Battlefield series.
All the ingredients are here: robots, explosions, tactical team based combat, customisation options. The one thing I think that Armored Core V and other similar titles are missing is that they are not very accessible to new players. There is just so much packed into this game but with hardly any explanation as to what is going on. Mech lovers rejoice. This is arguably one of the best mech games you will ever play, but those new to the series may struggle to get over the first hurdle.
It is important to mention now that if you are not into multiplayer games then you will not get your money’s worth here. While there are single player missions to play through, in comparison to how much content is focused on multiplayer, you will barely scratch the surface of this game. If you are playing offline there are just ten story missions to play through. Go online and there is a further whopping 83 “Order” missions that you can play in co-op with a friend.
The tutorial does very little to help a new player. I’m sure it would act as a sufficient refresher for series veterans but I feel this is a missed opportunity to welcome new players. All it really explains are the basics; movement, firing, boosting. While this may be sufficient in most games, in this one there are just so many things left unexplained. It makes learning the intricacies literally a game of trial and error. Add to this the high difficulty curve and once again you are asking an awful lot from a new player.
The high difficulty in Armored Core V is hardly surprising when you consider it’s from the same developers who brought us Dark Souls last year; From Software. Like Dark Souls, Armored Core V can be brutal but at the same time it’s also very rewarding when you finally overcome a particular challenge that has had you stumped.
The main focus of Armored Core V is “World Mode”. This is completely online, so once again if you’re not online then you are missing out on what has clearly had the most love and care put into it by From Software. It’s in this mode where the game practically turns into an MMO. You have to either create a team or join an existing one – I highly recommend getting a group of friends together as tactical gameplay gets you everywhere in this game. Lone wolves will struggle here. The aim of this mode is to claim territories, and when the game boasts more than 10,000 of them you know you’ve got a lot of work to do. You fight over territories with other teams online but here’s the kicker, your territories can be invaded even when you’re offline. You can setup an AI team of mechs to defend your territories while you’re away but they simply can’t compare to actually defending territories yourself, so the game does a great job of getting you to stick around.
You can have up to 20 players per team and everything each member does individually contributes to the team’s overall effort. Sadly there are no modes that allow all 20 members to fight in the same battle, now that would be a beautiful, if a little hectic, scenario. The more team points you get, the more territories you can attempt to conquer. You do so by gambling team points though, so there is just as much pressure on the attacking team to win as there is on the defending team.
Operator mode is excellent. As the operator you get a top down view of the map and act as eyes in the sky for your four team mates. By using voice chat it’s down to you to advise on enemy positions and how they’re advancing. It’s great when played with a team who are working together and it feels great when your team wins after following your instructions. If you get sucked into World mode then you could be here for a very long time. The scope of this game is incredible but it will live or die depending on how many people stick around.
Now onto the stars of the show – the mechs themselves. These things look absolutely incredible. So much care and attention has clearly been put into how they look and how they move. With weapons equipped to each hand and shoulder mounted missiles, it’s an understatement to say you feel empowered. Don’t get too confident though, remember you’re fighting against opponents with the same amount of equipment. After you get over the initial “this mech feels very clunky, oh wait it’s a mech it’s meant to be clunky” feeling, you do get used to and even appreciate how these juggernauts navigate themselves around the battlefield.
Customisation is also a huge part of the game, so much so that I think enthusiasts could spend as much time building new mechs and poring over stats of load-outs to equip to them as a car enthusiast does playing Forza.
There is just so much to do here. Shape, size, load-outs; there are just so many variations. Light mechs can naturally move quicker whereas the heavier ones can soak up more damage. You will rarely see two mechs alike when playing online. Whatever you choose though, your mech will always be vulnerable to something. It’s like playing rock, paper, scissors with giant robots. You can save up to 50 of your creations and it’s important to have a few different builds on stand-by as you will not get far with just one.
The environments aren’t the highlight of this game in my opinion. A lot of it is very brown and grey. However, it’s a fitting pallet given that it is a battleground for giant mechs. They just don’t look as polished as the mechs that inhabit them. Maybe it was a decision that had to be made so that the game wouldn’t drop in frame rate, something I am yet to see it do so far; a great achievement.
Overall I think that Armored Core V is a game brimming with potential. It has a huge fundamental fault though; its difficulty curve. When a game like this relies so heavily on a strong online user base, doing too little to help new players get involved feels like a missed opportunity. People who give it the time required to master it, however, will find an awful lot of content here. The mechs look incredible, the explosions sound tremendous, and there’s nothing quite like giving your team orders in Operator mode. It’s a real shame there’s such an accessibility issue but sadly if you want to get into this game then you will have to commit to it fully, sadly I can’t see many people getting past the first hour but for those who appreciate it’s majesty, It’s glorious.
MLG Rating: 7/10 Platform: PS3/ Xbox 360 Release Date: 23/03/2012
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a physical copy of Armored Core V by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on a PS3. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.