Ever since 1997, From Software has been steadily feeding the world with its unique brand of robot action with Armored Core, spanning across 14 different titles on different consoles. Featuring the ability to heavily customize your AC with hundreds of items, ranging from weapons to boosters to all sorts of trinkets, and also being able to participate in large scale battles, it was the mech fans ultimate dream. Little by little, however, the series has lost its stride, each entry a simple rehash of the previous title. Stiff competition has also come in the scene, pushing the Armored Core series aside. But now, a new entry in the cult favorite mech saga has appeared, simply titled Armored Core V. Could this new entry help rejuvenate the aging series and breath life into it?
In Armored Core V, players control the “Rookie,” a AC pilot recruited amidst a brutal war between Father (a totalitarian dictator) and his City Police, and the Resistance. Participating in various small and large scale battles, the Rookie and the rebels fight to take down the ruthless Father before all hope is lost. In reality, the story behind ACV is pretty bland and non-important, as all of it is literally padding between story missions, working as a backdrop to tie things together. The real meat of the title is obviously the gameplay and deep customization options.
In the game, players can choose between playing 10 Story Missions and 85 side missions known as Orders. While story missions concentrate on the plot and ACs blasting through interesting scenarios with evolving objectives, the Order Missions concentrate on short one-sided objectives which are usually either about destroying all the opposing forces in one area, or defeating rival AC pilots. The difficulty rises as one progresses through the missions, providing steady challenge throughout the length of the game. Both mission modes can be played co-operatively online, allowing players to tackle more difficult missions together, and if a friend is not present, the game features an interesting mercenary system, where players can sell their services and be hired to assist others in missions.
There is also Conquest, a mode in which teams can attack territories in order to take control of them. By taking over areas, teams can gain team points if they win, and lose them if they fail. Although completable in single player against the A.I., in reality it is a more multiplayer oriented ordeal, as players can take on other players territories around the world and prove their dominance in grueling battles featuring up to 8 ACs duking it out on the field and 2 leaders issuing commands in real-time. Leaders of teams don’t get to compete in the battles, but they do get to issue commands, plan strategies, select routes and locate the enemies, micromanaging to assist in the team’s victory.
In order to survive the increasing challenge present in the game, players have access to a workshop in which they may purchase a wide variety of items for many uses. Split into many categories, they range from different types of weapons to mech body parts and accessories that can be purchased to improve various stats, making the ACs faster, stronger, and more. By completing missions or conquests, pilots can level up their teams by earning experience points, which in turn unlock stronger items for purchase in the shop. Thanks to this system, players can improve their machines constantly for a wide variety of uses and eventually create the robot of their dreams. There’s also the ability to change the aesthetics of the AC, being able to pick individual colors for all of the machines limbs and place stickers on the body.
The game plays fast and feels like a Micheal Bay film, full of loud explosions and all sorts of rapid gunfire. However, if played as solely a single-player experience, the game can grow repetitive quite quickly. Missions are generally composed of AC pilots navigating from one point to another, killing some enemies, and repeating the same routine over and over again until the game is completed. Occasionally there will be a boss battle that adds some variety to the gameplay, requiring smart use of tactics and weaponry to take them down, but they still boil down to the same repetitive gameplay of taking a few shots at the boss and then hiding behind cover.
Playing online is where the real fun is at. Here is where the most frantic of battles are held, and it’s pretty exhilarating, although it can be overwhelming at times if players don’t have a clue of what they are doing or are too under-equipped to compete. I had a blast playing as both leader and AC in the online portion of the game, enjoying the quick paced action and strategic combat it offered. It was pretty nerve racking squaring off against experienced AC pilots, and the competition offered improves the game tenfold.
Armored Core V is a fitting return to form for the classic mech combat series. Although the single-player aspect of the game and paper-thin plot is weak and uninspired, the addition of a much improved and strong multiplayer aspect does wonders to the title, allowing people to compete against each other in heated battles and take on missions together. If you like robots fighting against each other to the death and the ability to heavily customize them, then Armored Core V is just the game for you.