@redswir1 Hmmm, they’re just utterly dry – detrimentally so, if you’re not a specific fan or type of gamer – optimisation equations at the end of the day. You take a group of components, each component having a variety of different stats and requirements that feed into holistic operational capabilities, and fit them together to create a very unique machine. You don’t really play these games for the story, you play the game to test your mech and refine the shortfalls.
I highly recommend Armored Core: Formula Front on PSP. No digital release, sadly, but it’s actually more like Carnage Heart, because you can choose to let the AI fight for you. You program the AI and behaviour of the machine using a timeline, combat chips and intricate parameters, but it’s the best way to truly optimise your creation for combat.
I generally don’t like the newer AC games, because they’re a little too flighty for me. I really don’t have patience for the hyper-speed/boost everywhere, non-Real Mecha, so any game on the PS2 is a good place to start – primarily Nexus or Last Raven. Nexus introduced dual analog control to the series, too.
In a nutshell, they’re vehicular test beds and if the idea of tweaking the calorific value of your generator to better manage your anti-missile lasers or trying to find a nice balance between your fire-control systems and AI movement plotting, Armored Core is the pinnacle. Glacial series in terms of iteration, but magnificent in terms of attention to detail.
EDIT: Ha, look at that. I wrote a review for AC:FF back in 2008 for the Giant Bomb database. Forgotten all about it.