rmored Core is Armored Core. Neither From Software nor the mecha franchise's devoted many would have it otherwise. From's labors are workmanlike, not artisan, but that too is felicitous. Prerequisites: 1) a nimble, armored robot that 2) can take many custom forms in 3) exciting combat throughout a medley of environments. Armored Core: For Answer, a mid-cycle import released in North America a mere six weeks after Ubisoft Entertainment announced its license to publish, tenders all three in greater and finer quantity than predecessor Armored Core 4. The game is a sincere expression of the Japanese gaming industry — sustained by fidelity to genre.
Players of the last title will see nothing outstanding for several minutes. An enigmatic introduction weaves post-apocalyptica with plutocracy, megacorps the carrion squabbling over a ruined Earth, etcetera; then From's famously clinical interface segregates everything into menus.
Closing fast: Arms Forts
like Stigro are a thrill to engage.Gameplay begins with choosing from four mecha (NEXT) designs, one of them a cast-off dark horse; the first evidence of the time From spent writing the series' latest chapter. Some modest refitting can be managed with starting funds — handling weapons that look terribly familiar — before players may begin ranked matches against AI-controlled NEXTs or proceed with the mission-based, single-player campaign. Cooperative play is available, with a friend or a stranger, though negligibly enhancing the game.
A throwaway mission or two against cannon fodder should be the only delay until a mission calls for destroying an "Arms Fort," the game's headlining feature. Taking advantage of next-generation resources, Arms Forts are titanic, exotically named, conceptually driven adversaries — redolent of bosses from Dynamix's Nova 9 or even Haggar's ro-beasts from the seminal cartoon Voltron.
There's Giga Base, a gun-bristled barge sailing with a fleet; Cabracan, a colossal and insuperable ramrod; Stigro, a gigantic skiff that scythes waterfront property and outruns ballistics; and several more, each with a profound power and flaw. Even with Achilles' heels, the Arms Forts are hardly gimmicks; instead a welcome replacement for the last game's alternatively dull and frustrating shooting galleries.
From redeems For Answer's five-hour, sixteen-mission campaign with a milieu smartly influencing gameplay. As mercenaries, players select missions — each counteractive client with its own gorgeous, entertaining, tongue-in-cheek briefing animation — and push the narrative forward in vicissitudes, finally leading to one of four distinct endings. Players may use the same character to achieve all four completions, too, making creative use of cumulative rewards.
Though longtime players may draw unflattering comparisons between For Answer and classic Armored Core releases, customization matches most expectations. Lithe, sword-swinging mecha are as easy to construct as barrel-chested, walking missile platforms. A selection of paint schemes and an emblem editor allow personalization, but the assembly menu encourages the engineer as well as the artist. With enough capital, players can, from one mission to the next, pilot a flamboyant, turbocharged NEXT that risks burnout without expert precision; or one trading conspicuity for deadly efficient performance.
Shoot at the blurs: Breakneck
combat is an acquired taste.Workshop results are as satisfying as can be in the game's highly automated combat, perennially craved by series devotees and dismissed by others as compulsive button-tapping. Engagements aren't visceral — excluding Arms Forts and mid-size support craft, most targets are viewed as lock-on signatures. Preferring the deliberative pace of From title Chromehounds, I could still appreciate the acrobatism of NEXTs closing for the kill — fire, dodge, swoop, fire, swoop, dodge. There is a musicality to skillful players of this game, if painfully apparent in For Answer's discouragingly competitive multiplayer. Team matches I played online with Game and Player's Matt Theroux ended in lopsided defeats. "Online, the series tends to weed out," as Matt put it, "a lot of design savvy."
Or it separates informal players from avid ones. This is scent laid for the hounds, so off they go. A proper contemporary installment of Armored Core probably shouldn't have taken two tries, but double-work is From Software's business.