The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Long before From Software was torturing gamers with Demon's
Souls and Dark Souls, the Japanese developer was keeping mech fans busy with a
steady stream of Armored Core titles. Armored Core V is the newest installment
of the series, and while From Software has continued its tradition of melding
online and offline play in unique ways, the mech-exploding action has a few
While AC V offers a functional offline mode, playing it that
way would be like going solo in an MMO. Apart from a short gameplay tutorial,
your first task is to sign up with an online team or create a new one. Each
team accommodates up to 20 players, and everything you do in the game – from
playing through story missions to competing for territory in Conquest battles –
earns your squad Team Points to unlock new missions. The world map displays
which teams control the dozens of territories and functions as a chatroom for
your team. From Software has added systems for trading parts, money, and mechs
with your fellow members. These aspects instill an impressive sense of
camaraderie with your team, and my attempts to play offline were significantly
Mech games are known for their customization options, and AC
V is no different. In addition to a staggering number of weapons, the mechs
(called ACs) can be customized with a variety of armors, boosters, and other items. Customization isn't just a matter of simple stat changes
either; different loadouts have a massive impact on handling, and accommodate a
variety of play styles. Unfortunately, the UI is a complete pain. The simple
act of equipping a new weapon is surprisingly confusing, and the game offers
little explanation. Even after you figure out how to build your mech, shopping,
assembly, and testing are all handled in different menus, making customization
a cumbersome and time-consuming affair.
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.
The most interesting mode is Conquest, where you battle
other teams for territory control on the world map. Capture missions require
you to gamble your Team Points, and allow you to bring three teammates with you
into battle (a fifth player can assume the role of operator, who watches combat
unfold from an overhead map, marking important tactical areas on the other
players' HUD). Since most teams won't be online 24/7 to defend their territory,
most invasion squads will go up against a team of NPCs, plus whatever defensive
turrets the team has bought for the map.
The main problem with this is that the level of the NPCs is
chosen randomly, meaning you might get teamed up against a pack of pushovers,
or the mech equivalent of the A-Team. If the defending team is defeated, they
simply lose their territory, and can try to gain it back later. However, if the
invading team goes down, they lose all of their Team Points, and will have to
grind their way back to the top by replaying countless story and order
missions. It's a harsh penalty for not knowing what grouping of enemies you'll
be up against.
I appreciate the interesting format AC V employs, and
enjoyed the sense of camaraderie I had for my team. However, the story missions
are too confusing and difficult, the order missions are too short and
repetitive, and there is no in-between. I think I spent more time customizing
my mech than I did fighting in it, and the solid multiplayer support can't make
up for the lack of variety. A dedicated team can make the experience
worthwhile, but you should play AC V under those conditions or not at all.
Email the author Jeff Marchiafava, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.