Armored Core V Review
Lack of sense defile From Software’s latest imagining of combat mechs.
The Armored Core series has always been about portraying addictive, arcade-esque sci-fi warfares with giant robots, something the Japanese studio excelled in representing for generations! We’re talking here about a franchise made by the developers of the masochistic death-simulator Souls games, From Software. Hence one can’t overlook the fact that we’re off to no casual ride whatsoever. Now, Armored Core, a classic series that spawned thirteen installments, returns again this generation without adding some fancy subtitle, but keeping the numeric label in line with the last four installments. Armored Core V, while retaining the deep gameplay elements that veil any form of simplicity, it does expand the experience further by moving forward into a more online reliant formula.
Armored Core V is still the same mech-combat title diehard fans are familiar with, although is clearly influenced by the movement into a more multiplayer-focused medium. Once you start the game, you’ll be connected online and asked to create/assemble your own team in order to jump right into the missions or join an online session. But here’s the problem, for an installment that prides itself of being a team-based multiplayer mecha-combat title, the online portion is barely functional. It was painful to sort out an online session, if not impossible. Despite this, the very few chances I had to enter a multiplayer lobby were wholly compelling, albeit could be hard to stand a chance against enemies whom mostly are AC veterans. The thing is, the absence of enough players online is a concerning matter, especially after I have found that the single-player won’t keep me hooked for a long time.
About the story in Armored Core V, well nothing here screams this will garner prizes for having the finest, most ambitious plot of the decade. No, in fact, it’s quite the opposite; ACV prods a storyline that is tediously generic. Set in a future that endorsed the development of such machineries, there’s a conflict between two corrupt factions, and you serve as a mercenary for the resisting group, and… well that’s it. The story then develops at a very stagnant pace, and doesn’t progress anytime sooner. Don’t blame yourself if you didn’t grasp a meaningful understanding of the storyline, I somewhat lost interest in knowing more about it thanks to the dull, badly-paced narration from one side, and due to the missions becoming more monotonous as you keep advancing.
Speaking of missions, they can be as simple as clashing with these opposing, mad futuristic looking machines. No puzzles or mind games are involved; just good old blowing the living hell out of them fools – and boy the explosions can be wicked! The missions, however, are divided between story and order chapters, but unfortunately, the story is not engaging enough and often feels unimportant – as mentioned before, mostly due to the vague explanatory of objective and because of it being plagued by a bland, uninspiring introductory narration, which becomes quite daunting by time. The cutscenes are boring and lack a rational sense of what is really going on.
Despite all this, for players whose only concern is engaging in unmercifully, unthought-of rigorous difficulty levels, as well as a bounce of repeated trial and error, the next story missions in Armored Core V are perhaps what you have been long seeking after. Sadistic is the term I would use for the baffling rise in difficulty. Not even the epitome of customized mechs would transpire through the heaps of floating missiles and gunfire. In between story chapters, you’ll be facing cool bosses, gigantic ones (of course). One of the mechs gave me a slight deja vu that I’ve been in this fight before – turns out it was an imagery of a real-life equivalent of Mega Man, but a giant, mean one with bigger hands, posing in an even more futuristic outfit, and yes, can rely on powers other than just a Mega Blaster arm cannon. I won’t spoil more! As for the order missions, bare of any story elements, this is the perfect break to collect money and garner Team Points, although the chapters could become quickly wearisome due to the very basic form of objective.
What made things even worse is the lack of a proper tutorial system. I do understand that simplicity doesn’t have a place in-between From Software’s self-punishing motto, but it’s clearly ACV was meant to be stuck in the past in terms of presentation, for a reason I don’t really grasp. To make my argument valid, I don’t believe defining a hardcore title should solely rely on creating unnecessary sophistications, especially if you put into concern a franchise that has always been molded upon the niche foundation. Something ought to be carried over to Armored Core V, but unfortunately could fail by deterring newcomers. Simply put, yes, the learning curve of the game is incredibly steep and the lack of tutorials doesn’t make things any better.
Understanding the controls scheme is equally confusing and consumes quite a lot of time to memorize the entire combinations and their right executions during the-so-many-different-clashing-situations. For example, when you run out of energy, it doesn’t give you even one clue on to how to restore it back. At the beginning, during one mission, it pissed me off really bad that I almost punched my frog, but I didn’t! Luckily, I reminisced over the blessing that is called Google; and turns out it was as simple as switching into Scan Mode – a function will turn your TV into an ugly arctic color graded HUD scene. Nonetheless, it helped me get a swifter recharge, save some energy… oh yeah also guided me to the objective! Basically, figuring how these robots operate whilst diving into the middle of the battlefield can be quite frustrating, especially if you’re new to the mecha war business.
Don’t get me wrong, the fun will start flowing (sluggishly) right after you achieve a respectable level of time investment. Good thing, the response of your robot is as accurate as it gets, and can be quite rewarding when part of mastery is attained. It’s also worth noting that the game boasts a lavish, highly-detailed customization workshop, giving us extensive selections to build an unmatched mechanical beast. Existence of varied patterns and color pallets as well as the ability to mix and match any color are just the tip of the iceberg. The most intriguing chunk of the game was the ability to create my own Armored Core while throwing piles of customizations onto that thing. The Custom Workshop can be that fun and presumably is a place many will find themselves tinkering with for hours.
Visually, Armored Core V is repulsive, and looks incredibly outdated. If it is to be compared with recent console titles, I’m sure this will be mistaken for a PS2-developed title, except perhaps for that HD bump, which doesn’t really help much in providing a subtle detail to the already bland urban environments. Then again, the Armored Core franchise was never popular for having breathtaking visuals.
What you’ve been reading thus far was me mostly criticizing the formula From Software consented to the game. Even so, for a lot of players, especially to those whom acquainted with the series, the majority of the listed issues won’t be a substantial breaking factor, or even hinder down the level of enjoyment they’re bound to absorb. Yes, for newcomers, Armored Core V is a difficult game, frustratingly difficult. Yet it can be rewarding to those willing to put their precious hours not into learning a new language, or a skill, but to master a mech-combat videogame.