I've been staring at this chart for hours, and I just can't make sense of it. Isn't Armored Core V about giant robots shooting at each other?
I don't know what ancient and mysterious review scale these other outlets are using; the review outlet in my head subscribes to the 'giant robots = base score of 80' school of game criticism. I thought it was universal. Apparently I was wrong.
Either that, or From Software has managed to transform the world's most winning formula and somehow broken it (I'll add an 'again' for those of you still reeling from the last game). We're not cooking a five-course meal here. This is gaming cereal: pour giant robots into the bowl, add milk.
Maybe they forgot the milk?
PlayStation Official Magazine UK
It really takes some doing to make a game where you're a flying 25-foot-tall robot with rockets for feet and mini-guns for arms dull like sipping asparagus soup. So congrats to From Software, because it's churned out yet another snorefest of a mech-murdering sim with all the sleep-inducing properties of a premium horse tranquiliser. I don't know how it does it.
Wait, of course I know. It's because every Armored Core since PS1 has been resolutely pap. And cue the big surprise: numero cinco is a load of mechanised cobblers, too. The root of this shooter's problems lie in a total lack of variety… plus the fact that guns are pitifully insubstantial… and every single city you rampage through feels like Noddy's Toytown.
Official Xbox Magazine UK
It's easy to spend hours tinkering with all the options, painting your creations and testing out new toys. It's more compelling than you'd expect, but the menu systems don't do it any favours, a theme that sadly runs right throughout the game. There's no option to immediately equip parts you've just bought, so you'll need to sit through another two loading screens to get to the main component menu.
While sister-game Dark Souls is also wilfully obtuse, it has a charm that this can't match. Take away the simplicity of swords and shields, and you're left with the far less tangible world of sci-fi weapons. Built upon the most niche foundations, the game's world map feels equally daunting. Story Missions sounds like the best place to start, but a sharp spike in difficulty quickly beats you down.
Cheat Code Central
Most of your time will undoubtedly be spent in the assembly room, pouring over screens full of statistics and tailoring your preferred craft, which is guaranteed to be unique from anyone else's thanks to the robust customization. There are six weapon slots-two for each arm and one for the shoulders-as well as an ultimate weapon slot. But there are also two bay units, a head, a core, arms, legs, FCS (Fire Control System), a generator, a booster, and recon units to equip. So, as you can see, it is extensive, and each body part is varied itself. Weapons are categorized in groups such as pistols, rifles, shotguns, plasmas, etc., while the base of your Armored Core could be bipedal, quadrupedal, a tank, or more. Each equipment piece has different factors such as weight, energy (consumption, output, and recovery), and many other criterion, as well as a specific defense. Firepower is classified into three energy categories: Kinetic, Chemical, and Thermal, and understanding and utilizing proper reconnaissance on the battlefield could be what tips the scale.
The amount of prep time required is made worse by the missions. Missions are divided between story chapters and orders, both of which allow you to bring a friend along. The story missions, which are the longest missions in the game, are a confusing mess of disembodied dialogue and unexplained objectives. Difficulty also quickly becomes an issue, since even the most agile mechs can't dodge the unavoidable barrage of missiles, bullets, and plasma blasts you'll soon be facing. This leads to a frustrating game of trial and error, requiring you to restart from the last checkpoint, change up your loadouts, then fight your way back to the problem area. To make matters worse, you can't buy new parts during missions, so if you don't already own the right equipment to get you through a tough encounter, be ready to start the mission over from the beginning.
Order missions fall on the other side of the spectrum. Devoid of any story elements, order missions are all about making money and earning Team Points. They're also so short that you spend more time setting up your AC than on the battlefield. I engaged in numerous one-on-one AC battles that were over in less than a minute, while the longer search and destroy order missions took around five. The variety in order missions is far too limited, and I quickly grew tired of having to complete them for points and money.
AC5's main really cool yet poorly documented idea is its approach to online play. It does away with the usual separation between online and off, so if your console is plugged into the net, you'll always be online in AC5. You can take on the 10 story and 70+ side missions by yourself or with members of your online team, and either choice will earn experience points for the team. Leveling up your team unlocks new parts in the store and lets you try to wrest areas of the world map away from other teams in Conquest mode, which you'll then add to your growing territory to defend from similar player-led incursions.
This Conquest mode is intriguing, a direct evolution of the territory capture in From's early yet warmly remembered 360 mecha game Chromehounds. It's just kind of unorthodox and strange, and without decent documentation you'll have to fake it till you make it before you understand everything. Truth be told, we're still unclear on some of Conquest mode's specifics.
Overall, Armored Core V is definitely a game worth checking out, especially if you have any love for mech themed video games. Again, it's remarkably more similar to Chromehounds than the last couple Armored Core games on consoles, but there's enough of an Armored Core element here that it won't completely turn away loyal fans of the series. Even if you're not at all familiar with the franchise I think it's worth a look, provided you have the patience to put up with learning the ins and outs of mech building.
We've reached maximum mech density!