2008’s Armored Core: For Answer introduced cooperative gameplay to From Software’s mech simulation series, allowing two players to take on the game’s missions together. According to our co-op review, it was an enjoyable but awkward experience, brought down slightly by the series’ notoriously terrible menus. From took an extended break (perhaps to make those Souls games everyone’s crazy about) and has at last come back with Armored Core V. This time out, multiplayer has been completely overhauled and borrows many design aspects from From’s other mech game, Chromehounds. The two series were similar enough already, so why not?
From the moment it boots up, it’s clear that Armored Core V is designed as an online multiplayer experience. Your first task is to create a public profile and then either join a team (i.e. clan) or form one of your own. Teams can hold up to 20 people, each person’s mission progress contributing to the team’s overall level. There are numerous benefits to entering one of these alliances, such as access to better AC (mech) parts I the store as your team levels up. We’ll get to the rest in a bit.
From Armored Core V’s slightly confusing map screen, you’ll have access to two main kinds of missions: Story and Order. There are 10 story missions, each with numerous optional objectives to complete. These can be quite lengthy and challenging, but thankfully they do have checkpoints to continue from if you’re defeated.
As for the story itself, players take on the role of a rookie AC pilot who has just joined the Resistance. These guys are embroiled in a civil war and labeled as terrorists by the other side. Eventually an evil corporation shows up, playing both sides against each other and looking after its own interests. It sounds okay in broad strokes, but the actual story makes very little sense. It’s told entirely through the dialogue of myriad characters, jumping around to different people from mission to mission. Some facial portraits would have helped keep track of who’s who, but no such luck. The mid-mission chatter alternates between mundane and awkward, with the same unnatural pauses between every line that Sonic Adventure suffered from in 1999. Story scenes are at least skippable, which you’ll certainly want to do when revisiting missions to knock out the extra objectives and scavenge for AC parts.
Order missions are much shorter and easier than Story Missions, but there are far more of them. They mostly involve clearing groups of weak enemies from a map or dueling against one or two powerful ACs. Order missions are easily the best way to earn money. Every one of the 80 Order missions also has two secret side objectives to keep completionists busy.
All Story and Order missions support 2-player co-op, and you don’t even have to beat them by yourself before partnering up this time. When a player starts a mission, everyone on his or her team who isn’t already in a mission receives a notification, making it easy to fill the second player slot. Both players have the chance to swap out their mech parts before the mission actually begins, too. Playing together is a great way for new players to learn the ropes since the tutorials are extremely inadequate at teaching the game’s finer points. It’s also very necessary for those tough Story missions. If one player’s AC gets destroyed during a mission, he or she can fly around in a useless jet pack, hoping that the other player survives to the next checkpoint. Should both players bite the dust, they’re given the choice of restarting from the last checkpoint or quitting the mission.