Armored Core Verdict Day Review
What’s the verdict?
Armored Core may be the most prolific series you’ve never played but it continues to roll on, whether you’re along for the ride or not. Armored Core Verdict Day marks the twentieth game in the series, if you count the five Japan-only releases, and it doesn’t aim too far from it’s usual target. We know From Software make Armored Core games for fans of Armored Core games but we’re always hoping that the next one will be a little more accessible than the previous titles. Will Verdict Day be the game to do it? Let’s have a look.
A few minutes into the single player campaing in Armored Core Verdict Day, you’ll probably realize that it isn’t the main focus of the game. Players will be piloting an Armored Core, what the series calls their mechs, for a generic mercenary outfit, fighting interchangeable opposing forces on an Earth that has faced many decades of conflict. From Software aren’t exactly known for their narrative development, or spelling out a story for you, but where Dark Souls (another of their titles) has a deep story the players must tease out of the background, Verdict Day has no depth to speak of. The environments don’t add much to the atmosphere or visual appeal either and are as basic and barren as possible.
You don’t need story though, do you? You’re here to smash other AC’s while building your own. Fans of the Armored Core series will feel quite at home piloting an AC in Verdict Day but those who are looking to break into the series will have a tougher time. The controls aren’t too hard to figure out, for anyone who has played a third person shooter before, but trying to figure out what is going on on the battlefield is a different story.
Instead of using a HUD, Verdict Day uses a rather large targeting reticle to try to tell players what they need to know on the field of battle. If you like playing on instinct, this won’t be too much of a hindrance but those who prefer a clear indication of how much ammo you have, or how much damage you’ve taken will have to interpret a bunch of poorly labelled gauges that are crowded around your reticle. Speaking of the targeting system, it frequently switches which shoulder you’re looking over and there is no button to switch it back to the side you prefer. Very annoying.
Once you do get a feel for the controls and interface, the fast paced nature of the combat hides a level of strategy that goes a long way toward telling you why this series is so popular. Choosing the right weapon, strafing at the right time, and holding your opponent in your sights long enough to lock on are much more satisfying than mowing down an opponent in a more traditional shooter. Your AC is more agile than it looks and once you accept this, Verdict Day becomes quite fun.
You will also be able to team up with AI controlled AC’s called UNAC’s. Figuring out how to build and customize a UNAC is much harder than it should be (it’s hidden in the workshop menu) but once you do you’ll have a ton of very granular options for customizing their behaviour. I mean, things get really specific here. In lieu of a co-op partner, you’ll want to take a UNAC along for the ride as Verdict Day may be the most difficult Armored Core game yet.
The core experience in Armored Core Verdict Day is meant to be the persistent online multiplayer mode. Players will join a team and one of three factions that are vying for control of the world. Embarking on missions and battles in the online mode will move your faction closer to victory with the game resetting when one faction obtains dominance or the season is over. This kind of persistence in an online mode is welcome and should serve to keep players invested for quite some time.
You will also have the option to take a human co-op player along with you during the campaign, in place of your UNAC, if you prefer a warm body over the cold, but precise, AI. On the flip side, UNAC’s can also be taken into the online mode if you don’t have enough human players to go into battle with. Players who get tired of faction work can go out on their own as a mercenary, temporarily if they choose, and Free Battle hosts competitive modes that don’t factor in to the persistent world.
Armored Core Verdict Day is so very Armored Core. It isn’t friendly to new players and it isn’t particularly warm to seasoned veterans either but, once you get past its quirks and flaws it can be quite fun. What Verdict Day ends up being is a distinct step up from Armored Core V in both the core systems and multiplayer experience. It may require more effort to get comfortable with than most games do, but those who stick around long enough to really get into Armored Core Verdict Day will be rewarded in the end.