Armored Core 6 sees FromSoftware reboot the series for fans, Souls players and newcomers alike.

Forget the number in the title. Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon may be a return to FromSoftware’s mech battle series, but it’s also a fresh start on a new planet with a new story.

However, the legacy of the studio cannot be ignored. In addition to the previous Armored Core games that were discontinued after 2013’s Armored Core 5, there are also the more recent successes of the Soulsborne games, most notably Elden Ring. How do you bring back a cult series with an avid following, but make it relevant to newer game fans and brand new players?

It’s a delicate balance, but one the Armored Core 6 is ready to attempt when it launches in August.

“As well as taking our past years of experience and combining it with the key elements that we believe make Armored Core special, this is still a brand new game and we want it to feel like a new mech action game that fits into the current gaming landscape. climate,” producer Yasunori Ogura tells me at the preview event.

“We don’t want it to feel out of place. We’ve taken various steps to make sure it not only fits our own game design philosophy, but also feels like a completely new modern action game in the mecha genre. We want it to feel like a fresh start and a new first step towards what we hope will be a successful future for mechanical action games.”

Armored Core 6 gameplay trailer

So for newbies, what exactly is Armored Core?

Each game in the series has players take on the role of a mercenary who leads mechs – the titular Armored Core units – into battles in the distant future. Despite their number, there have actually already been 15 Armored Core games and expansions since its debut on the original PlayStation in 1997. The series is known for allowing players to create combat mechs with deep customization, as well as its scientific atmosphere. punishing difficulty and methodical combat. How very FromSoftware!

However, this game is a complete reboot of the series. It takes place on the planet Rubicon after a cosmic disaster engulfed the planet in a fiery apocalypse. Years later, Rubicon is encased in a giant engineered shell where several factions and corporations fight for control of Coral, a rare material found only on this planet.

With Armored Core 6, FromSoftware wants players to experience a sci-fi world through the eyes of a lone human. Furthermore, it aims to combine the customization of the series with the studio’s “action game philosophy”, including smooth controls, expansive and dynamic maps and a full sense of progression.

The gameplay footage I saw certainly embodies this heavy sci-fi vision (see video above). The environment is mostly detailed factories and machinery, metallic surfaces that shine in the sunset light or hide under snow and ash. The action is explosive—literally and figuratively—as the chunky, bug-like mechs attack and drag each other under a shower of bullets and rockets. And tonally, its world is as bleak and punishing as you’d expect from the studio.

Armored Core 6 tank mech

Armored Core 6 mech close-up

So why bring back Armored Core now, after the massive impact of the Soulsborne games and the phenomenal success of Elden Ring?

Ogura says its return was inevitable. “Obviously over the last ten years we’ve refined our staff and our development process and design philosophy, and we’ve had different people in different roles, including myself and [studio president, Hidetaka] Miyazaki, who has always wanted to make another Armor Core. So there wasn’t really any question of whether it would be made or not, it was just a matter of when.

Armored Core 6 will retain (forgive me) the “core” of the series.

“Assembly, putting together your own unique mech and creating your own unique armor core is obviously an essential part of the series,” game director Masaru Yamamura tells me, “and what makes the game fun is building that unique mech and using it to engage in combat. and tune it and swap parts in different ways, accumulating those parts, trying out different weapons and combinations of weapons.”

According to him, developing this core was a “challenging point in the development of the game”, but the team was able to rely on their knowledge of action games. For example, changing parts of legs and weapons has a real impact on both movement and combat, not just figures moving up and down. Detail changes now affect the movement and behavior of the player’s mech, as well as how enemies react to it. Says Yamamura, “We wanted these things to be very tangible and very intuitive, so that the player could perceive and enjoy that time.”

I’m told that the combat in this game will be fast, dynamic and tactical, with different approaches to success. It rewards careful but aggressive play, with mechanics that can seamlessly switch between ranged and melee.

This is just one example of how working on newer games keeps Armored Core 6 relevant to the series and FromSoftware’s product line. Likewise, many of the typical Armored Core elements are characteristic of FromSoftware and will likely reassure Souls fans, including complex level structures, calculating combat, and overcoming difficult situations.

“In recent years, people think of our titles when they think of these elements, but they’re really things that have been in our company philosophy and in our games for a long time before that,” says Yamamura. “With Armored Core 6, we’re trying to incorporate these elements in a way that doesn’t destroy the original features that make Armored Core what it is. We’re trying to incorporate these elements in a way that they can co-exist and gel well with our modern game design philosophy and easy for the player to understand without spoiling the core concept of Armored Core.

Armored Core 6 mechs slashing

Armored Core 6 leaping mech

Yamamura’s previous work as lead designer for Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice has also influenced Armored Core 6, albeit indirectly.

“While the basic format of the Armored Core games and Armored Core 6 is very different from the Souls series and games like Sekiro,” Yamamura says, “we’ve tried to incorporate some of that design philosophy and our experiences over the past several years.

“I would say that part of it is definitely the aggressiveness of the combat in Armored Core 6. We wanted to create something very visceral, very aggressive and with a very clear and distinct rhythm or pace to the combat. We want players to experience those ups and downs of close combat and far away.”

Another major addition to this game is the huge, powerful bosses that reflect FromSoftware’s penchant for impressive and challenging battles. These will act as a key test to see if players can adjust their mechanics accordingly and learn attack patterns through repetition. The latest gameplay trailer shows off some frankly horrifying colossal robots to combat the game’s unprecedented (for the series) sense of scale.

In addition, the controls will be modernized – something that was criticized for their complexity at the beginning of the series. Yamamura promises that Armored Core 6 will have a “revised” and “more intuitive control scheme” compared to previous games. Additionally, it’s all about making the game a more accessible experience to help expand its audience.

“Like that advanced control scheme, this is basically a very complex game with a lot of parameters, and there’s a lot of depth, especially when it comes to the assembly aspect,” says Yamamura. “This is something we have been aware of during development and have carefully worked out the onboarding aspect and especially the level design in the early stages of the game so that even new players can gradually deepen their understanding. This is an area where we are very aware that there were problems before, and we are trying to make it as attractive and intuitive as possible for newcomers.”

Armored Core 6 mech flies through the air

Armored Core 6 mechs in the snow

However, for those who want complexity, it is available. “These exciting, exciting and challenging battles have great potential once the player is engaged and once the player is introduced to the game, they are able to find that challenge and face that depth and complexity on their own terms,” ​​says Yamamura.

The team has avoided some elements from the previous games as part of this new beginning of the series. For example, the first game included a debt system where players lost money every time a mission was failed; more recently, Armored Core 5 experimented with an online world. Armored Core 6 has both of these turned off.

“With the reboot, we wanted to bring back the best parts of Armored Core and really what made the series special,” says Yamamura. “We felt like focusing on those single-player elements and developing a challenging and exciting game that touches on the different areas of our gameplay philosophy and combat design. It’s something we had to use in the single-player direction first.”

And instead of debt or death penalty — as in the Soulsborne games — players are free to retry missions, but completing the objectives “deducts and losses from the compensation and reward received,” explains Yamamura. The mission structure (rather than an open world) and replay points allow players to experiment with their mech builds, and optimizing playstyle is a major driver of progression.

However, as with FromSoftware’s other games, don’t expect too much emphasis on the story.

“[Armored Core 6] it doesn’t really have to be a story-driven game, but we feel like there’s more of a narrative drive through the mission structure, and we hope players will play through these different factions and abilities. thinking to yourself ‘what am I fighting for, what is my place in all this? And how am I going to deal with these story developments?” says Yamamura.

“This is the part that could be considered a more direct story, but we also feel those fragmented elements of the story that the player is able to pick up and learn about the world and dive a little deeper into the lore, those elements are still there.”

This story will be “a very indirect and almost cold depiction of human drama and conflict”, so the focus is on mechanical rather than human customization. Says Yamamura, “We hope that the player – whoever the player is, however they identify – we want them to project themselves into this world and become a professional mercenary in this brand new Rubicon environment. We hope they enjoy it a little bit more an indirect and solitary aspect of the narrative and the main character’s role in the story.”

Armed with Core 6 mechanical lasers

Armored Core 6 giant ship boss

It’s hard to say how this will all work out without going into practice. However, it certainly looks like Armored Core 6 will provide fans with a familiar experience, using improvements to combat, controls, and a larger, boss-filled world to modernize the series in a way that Soulsborne fans will find appealing.

With Armored Core 6 returning alongside the still-in-development Elden Ring DLC, I wonder if this is a sign of FromSoftware expanding and working on more games at once.

“This is our philosophy, which really hasn’t changed that much in the past ten years, especially since Miyazaki has been president of the company,” said producer Yasuhiro Kitao.

“This is an area that we think we’ve always tried to achieve: always create something new, always create something original, something that we as players find interesting and fun. So, not much has changed in that sense. We’re developing several For the titles at the same time, we have several teams working on different projects, we hope to break up our releases and come up with something new and exciting, hopefully not that long.

Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon is set for release on August 25th for PlayStation and Xbox consoles, as well as PC.

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