Michael Leparc On April 19, 2012 at 11:30 am

Armored Core V ScreenshotFor whatever reason, mech games have fallen somewhat out of fashion this console generation. Microsoft and FASA have puzzlingly decided to shelve the MechAssault series after a fantastic run on the original Xbox, and other promising franchises like Chromehounds met their end far too soon to really make a mark. One would assume by natural selection that the Armored Core franchise lives on because it is the best, but that determination is easily questioned by the series’ current release, Armored Core V. What we’re ultimately left with is a game that teases us with what other mech franchises could have delivered had they had just stuck around a bit longer, in a package that while rewarding for veterans to unwrap is just too much to ask of the average gamer today.

I’ll be honest, I actually tried to look up the story online, because I can barely make any sense of it from the game itself. It’s told through a series of cutscenes during the story missions, but there’s no faces put to any of the characters, and unfortunately two of the main ones you hear from are women that sound so alike they may well be the same voice actor. What I could make out from the mishmash of dialogue is that there is a “Corporation” run by the “Father” that is a classic tyrannical regime. The Earth is desolate outside of the cities due to the relentless drive for production, and you’re with a band of rebels scouring the dusty plains for resources and punching back where possible. Somewhere along the line this involves fighting trains loaded with turrets and a mech taller than any building around.

While the story is sparsely explained, it’s even worse on the gameplay front. Yes there is a tutorial mission you could say. Unfortunately it only covers the most basic of the basic as far as what each button does. From there on, you’re on your own. Now that may be part of the charm, much as it is in a game like Dark Souls, but considering all the things this game is trying to do and the fact that it was never marketed as a cruel experience with a steep learning curve, it really just feels lazy on From Software’s part, especially since most of the difficulty in the story missions just comes from having something thrown at you that you had no reasonable way to prepare for and no immediately logical way to adjust to. Unlike Dark Souls it’s hard to admit that failure is entirely your fault since you can’t necessarily understand what just happened.

Everything is freeform in this as Armored Core V is structured as a game that strikes down some of the wall between online and offline. From the very beginning you are encouraged to join an online team which you can do missions with (this is entirely unexplained and it took a good half hour to really figure out the difference between a rendezvous and hiring mercenaries and really get the multiplayer on). Besides that you can tackle story missions at your leisure (even co-oping them with one friend), mixing in “order” missions (short trials that earn you money for upgrades/repairs) as well as invasions and competitive matches against other teams of up to 5 on 5, with each team having an operator give directions. Your mech is fully customizable between each mission with a wide assortment of guns and swords as well as slots to put them in, up to two weapons on each arm, shoulder mounted rockets, even an ultimate weapon. You can even change your legs out for tracks for higher load carrying ability. Once you get the hang of dropping in and out of multiplayer sorties you begin to see the promise a game like this has, as everything ties together. It’s a shame it’s hidden behind so many incomprehensible menus.

Once you’re in the game mostly revolves using scanning mode with a right thumbstick click to find your objectives, then entering into glide mode with the left shoulder to reach them faster, possibly having to scale buildings by jumping off their sides with the A button along the way. Each trigger controls an arm weapon and you can switch them by holding the Y button while pressing them. The X button allows for quick dashes to dodge projectiles and the right shoulder button handles the shoulder mounted weapon. The reticule is a big circle in the center of the screen that auto locks on targets as soon as they’re in range, which really simplifies the targeting but doesn’t actually make things any easier. The rest of the HUD is pretty cryptic as ammo, health, and energy (which powers your jumping, gliding, and energy based weapons) are all represented by bars running along the edge of the circle with no labels at all. While I admire the attempt at minimalism it’s incredibly impractical during the height of battle. All in all, encounters mostly depend on striking hard and fast first while dodging any responses. It’s not any worse than most mech games, but not much better either.

Just as the gameplay is a mixed bag, so are the visuals we’re treated to in this game. Cutscenes don’t look too bad and they help you gain an appreciation for the personalization and customization you put into your mech, but overall they still feel like an early launch title’s graphics at best. In the battlefield it gets even worse. Buildings look flat, and the color palette is extremely limited to dark grays and browns other than the blue of energy weapons. There are destructible elements but they all kind of blow up the same way. The only attention to detail is paid to the mechs really, which makes you feel like you’re playing in a set made of cardboard cutouts. Surely we deserve better from a genre usually known for cutting edge rendering. Still I wouldn’t call it an ugly game, just not one that catches your eye outside of a few boss encounters.

As I mentioned before, the voice acting in this is mostly regrettable and hard to distinguish. Perhaps it’s not a huge loss given the story and the often silly lines they’re given, but it’s something that can really add to the atmosphere if done right. Sound effects wise there’s not much to complain about, but I don’t recall the soundtrack much so chalk that up to the forgettable category. Again it’s all certainly passable, just not up to the level of a AAA title and feels like an opportunity wasted to make something a little more epic and original and fitting to a mech game.

I can see where From Software was going with this. Armored Core V is almost like an MMOG in that there are teams competing over territory and the line between single player, co-op, and competitive play is blurred since everything you accomplish in one can be carried over to the other areas of the game. However, leaving all of this up to the user to discover with hardly any explanation means it’s going to be lost on the vast majority who pick up the game, and because they didn’t think about how they were going to explain this to people, it’s all designed nonsensically to boot. Even the graphics and sound aren’t up to the level to make up for this, so it comes down to whether you appreciate Armored Core V’s style of mech battle, which as a biased Mechwarrior veteran I didn’t particularly find to my taste as it felt more like a plain old third person shooter with some more technical bits. If you’re a diehard AC fan then I could see how some of the changes may be up your alley, though I hear some are put off all the same. The mech genre could do a lot better than this, unfortunately.


There’s more to it than it appears on the surface, and the overlap between single and multiplayer has potential, but ultimately too much is left to figure out on your own.


It looks like a launch title, and that’s at its prettiest during cutscenes.


There’s not a whole lot to get wrong on this so it’s good enough.


If you really love mech games, specifically Armored Core games, and love fiddling around with all the bits then it could be worth it, but for most gamers this is just poorly executed, albeit with plenty of promise.

Comments are closed.