When FromSoftware announced the Armored Core VI at last week’s Game Awards, the top comment on its dedicated subreddit’s announcement thread was simply “May this subreddit grow from obscurity to righteousness.”
Always a cult series at best, Armored Core has been overshadowed by the rise of the so-called Soulsborne genre that has propelled FromSoftware from obscurity to one of the top studios in the world. But Armored Core has a much longer history than Demon’s Souls and Dark His Souls. During its heyday on PlayStation and PlayStation 2, it won a rabid audience with its strong design. Deep array of parts and intense split-screen combat. The last Armored Core — an ambitious online game that pits squads of players against each other on massive multiplayer maps — was released in his 2012.
With the Soulsborne subgenre becoming a dominant part of FromSoftware’s brand, it’s easy to wonder if Armored Core will follow suit. Will it take place in a vast open world? At the moment, the answer to both of these questions seems to be “no”, but there are some nuances in that comparison.
FromSoftware president Hidetaka Miyazaki, who provided the game’s concept, said, “No, we’re not making a conscious effort to steer it toward more Soulsborne-type gameplay.” [Armored Core VI] Let’s take a closer look at the core concept of Armored Core and what makes the series so special. So we wanted to take the assembly aspect and build and customize our own mechs (ACs) so that we could have a high level of precision control over the mechs we built. So we wanted to revisit these two core concepts in a modern environment. “
Armored Core VI: Rubicon Fire
In practice, this means retaining many of the elements that have defined the series over the years – features like detailed mech customization and 1v1 arena modes. Its most readily available “Soulsborne” elements tend to be its powerful bosses (FromSoftware staples), the latter of which was already a big part of Armored’s core identity.
It also has a posture system of sorts, and director Masaru Yamamura, a veteran of Dark Souls and Sekiro: Shadows Dies Twice, says, “It works by continuing to attack even the strongest of enemies, giving you a shocking effect. It breaks the enemy’s posture with force, and the damage is great.” Think of it like holding up a shield to absorb damage.
Where Armored Core stands out is its emphasis on ranged weapons over swords and melee weapons. Yamamura admits that in an interview, but also points out that Armored Core has some “great melee options.”
Both Yamamura and Miyazaki are reluctant to make simple comparisons with Soulborn games. Miyazaki affirms that customization is the main focus, while Yamamura states that “no element directly references Sekiro.” Nothing is more obvious than the decision to go with a mission-based design that connects.
“We felt this had an advantage because the mission-based structure could be chosen and customized before each sortie. At least the tempo — the pace at which players could move across the world and traverse the map… this , is a very big aspect of how we approach this design,” says Miyazaki. “One of the big appeals of previous Armored core games was the freedom to how you move around the map, and how your choices affect your mobility and abilities when you actually do go to the map. That’s the format I wanted to choose this time, and that’s what I wanted to focus on here.”
Of course, Miyazaki knows that better than anyone, as he ended up directing Demon’s Souls after starting out with the Armored Core series. Armored Core’s main opportunity may lie in leveraging FromSoftware’s enhanced resources to create a graphically ambitious experience. Miyazaki himself admits he’s “jealous” of today’s team being able to make Armored Core VI.
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“I wish I had that kind of power in those days,” he says rather wistfully.
Meanwhile, Yamamura elaborates on what FromSoftware can do with Armored Core VI’s enhanced graphics.
“Obviously, Armored Core VI’s mech theme is meant to depict these giant hunks of steel, how they move, how they fit together, and how their various joints move. You have to imagine how they work in tandem with each other and how to make this look cool, even in terms of gameplay,” says Yamamura. “So this is something we can apply resources to, obviously the texturing and sound design of these metals as well. Yes, there are many areas where these resources and modern thinking can be applied.
That may be the crux of what drives FromSoftware to create Armored Core VI. We may have made immeasurable wealth making games like Elden Ring, but we haven’t forgotten where we started. With the first full gameplay reveal pending, it looks like Armored Core is all set for… well… an Armored Core game with everything. Even though there are new stories, we keep the numbers up.
“Armored Core is why anyone reading this tweet is playing Dark Souls,” developer Doc Burford wrote shortly after it was published. [sic] From finally returning to their best series. “
Armored Core 6 is currently scheduled for release in 2023. See everything else announced at The Game Awards here.
Kat Bailey is IGN’s Senior News Editor and co-host of Nintendo Voice Chat. Any tips? Send her a DM at @the_katbot.