Preview

Armored Core 5 Preview (PS3)

My love of mechs, whether they be in games, anime or whatever else, can be traced back to one thing: The original 1980's Transformers cartoon. This has actually nothing to do with the Armored Core franchise, but in the interest of disclosure I thought it best you guys knew where I was coming from. So, from a Japanese show about transforming robots to a Japanese game about customizable robots, let's take a look at the fourteenth iteration of the series: Armored Core V.
 

Of course, the day they realise that walker-legs suck balls will be a day to celebrate indeed...
That's the thing with franchises that don't always follow numerical progression, it's easy to hide how many games there's actually been. There were seven titles on the Playstation 2, four of which were spin-offs in the gap between Armored Core 3, and the first title on Playstation 3 Armored Core 4. Armored Core V is the third game on the current generation coming after 2008's Armored Core For Answer. The point that we're trying to get at here is that that's A LOT of Armored Core, and it's important that From Software strive to keep things fresh.

But how do you re-invent the mech? Well, From Sofware's answer is to take the mech out of the equation altogether - or rather, take the person who drives the mech out of the equation. Armored Core V has several main changes, mainly centred around the online multiplayer experience. The first of which is the addition of an optional 'fifth' member to a four-man team who acts as an Operator. These Operators don't actually do any fighting, but they get their own custom interface and their job is to conduct recon and information gathering, and relay orders to the rest of the team.

We were reminded of Nuclear Dawn's Commander Interface - which we had seen the day previous- and we couldn't help but draw some parallels. The Operator is effectively stuck doing what they're doing for the entire match (at least the commander can leave the bunker in Nuclear Dawn), so there is a danger of things becoming stale - especially if the team don't listen to you, as what happened in the demonstration we had. Saying that, the Operator position is optional - you don't HAVE to have an Operator on your side when you play a match, although the studio claim that a team will play better with one.
 
*sigh* If only they made a Gundam game this good...
There other major change to online functionality is the inclusion of small-scale 'clans', and a persistent online world divided into territories that teams must conquer and hold. This is the PvP element of the game, and players can fight to take territories from each other, although teams don't need to be online for their territory to be taken from them. It's unknown whether there's a limit to the amount of territory a team can hold, and holding these territories nets your team money to spend.

Further to this, territories will be customizable as well. Each individual territory will have a number of set placements, and this placements can be outfitted with turrets and other assorted emplacements of differing variation and size. Territory 'load-outs' can be saved as well, so you can switch them on the fly depending on the situation. there's supposed to be over 70 variations for territory defence, and outfitting your territories cost money just like outfitting your mechs does. The amount of territories available hasn't been determined yet, but they developers expect it to be based on sales as well as the number of formal teams.

Of course, there will be the single player component as well - Armored Core V is going to have a fully featured story-driven campaign as always, although the details are unknown at this point. In general, From Software are trying to get the gameplay to focus more on tactics and using the environment like the early games, and mechs will be smaller as well. No news yet on what's been changed on the customization portion of the game for mechs.

As "reboots" go, we've seen worse - they really need to nail this Operator slot though so that it remains interesting, but the territories and focus for online matches should mean that the franchises online community - which has always been weak or non-existent in the past - remains strong. If they can carry such innovation into the single-player portion as well, that would be fantastic, although we'd settle for more tactical-base gameplay, and the level design to match.
 
Still early days, but this is kind of what they're looking at for the Operator interface. This mode is all about information gathering

This is a key title for another reason as well - it will be first Armored Core published by Namco Bandai (making them the sixth publisher to work with the studio), so it will be interesting to see what they can bring to the table. Armored Core has always been the most prominent mech franchise, with few series rising to meet the challenge - hopefully this is a sign that they are not getting complacent. Armored Core V is due out in January 2012 for Japan (currently unknown for the rest of the world) on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.

Most Anticipated Feature: Going online with the new multiplayer system should be interesting.

Comments

By bluered (SI Newbie) on Sep 01, 2011
bluered
Wait, you don't like tread legs?!
By orangey (SI Newbie) on Sep 02, 2011
orangey
Lookin' neat.
By smith1 (SI Newbie) on Sep 02, 2011
smith1
I wonder what the multiplayer system will be like