When FromSoftware announced the Armored Core VI at the Game Awards last week, the top comment in the dedicated subreddit’s ad thread simply read, “I hope this subreddit grows properly out of obscurity.”
Armored Core has always been a cult series at best, and it’s been overshadowed by the rise of the so-called Soulsborne genre, which propelled FromSoftware from obscurity into one of the best studios in the world. But Armored Core has been around for a long time – much longer than Demon’s Souls or Dark Souls. During its heyday on PlayStation and PlayStation 2, it gained a huge audience with its powerful designs. Huge selection of parts, intense split-screen battles. The last Armored Core — an ambitious online game that pits teams of players against each other on a large multiplayer map — was released in 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 be Sekiro with the giant robots? Will it take place in a large open world? For now, the answer to both of these questions appears to be “no,” although there are some nuances to this comparison.
“No, we didn’t make a conscious effort to try and steer it toward more Soulsborne-type gameplay,” said FromSoftware president Hidetaka Miyazaki, who introduced the game’s concept. The primary direction of [Armored Core VI] is to go back and take a good look at the basic concept of Armored Core and what made this series special. So we wanted to take the assembly side, assemble and customize your mechanical – your air conditioner – and then be able to impose a high level of control on the assembled machinery. So we wanted to take these two core concepts and re-examine them in our modern environment. “
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In practical terms, this means retaining many of the elements that have defined the series over the years – features like granular mecha customization and a one-on-one arena mode. Its most readily available “Soulsborne” elements are its powerful bosses – a FromSoftware staple – and its dark setting, the latter of which was already a big part of Armored Core’s identity.
It also features a stance system of sorts, which director Masaru Yamamura — a veteran of Dark Souls and Sekiro: Shadows Dies Twice — says works by “continuing to attack even the strongest enemy, the power of the impact can break the enemy’s stance and deal a large amount of damage.” . Think of it as something like raising a shield and absorbing damage until you have to back off.
Where Armored Core stands apart is in its focus on ranged weapons over swords and melee weapons. Yamamura is equally acknowledged in our interview, though he also notes that Armored Core features some “nice melee options”.
Both Yamamura and Miyazaki resist petty comparisons to the Souslborne games. Miyazaki is firm in saying that personalization is his main focus, and Yamamura says there are “no elements that refer directly to Sekiro”. Nowhere is this more evident than the decision to go with a mission-based design, which ties directly into its predecessors, versus the more open structure of the Elden Ring and its ilk.
“We felt the mission-based structure was beneficial for that because it allows you to choose and customize before each sortie. At the very least, cadence — the speed at which a player can move through the world and traverse a map… That’s a very big aspect of how we approach this design,” Miyazaki says. “I think one of the big draws of previous Armored Core games is having this freedom to choose how you’re going to move across the map and how your choices will affect your movement and ability once you’ve actually entered a level. That’s the look we wanted to go for this time around, and that’s where we wanted to focus.”
Miyazaki, of course, got his start with the Armored Core series before eventually moving on to channeling Demon Soul, so he knows it better than most. Armored Core’s main opportunity may lie in using FromSoftware’s augmented resources to produce a graphically ambitious experience. Miyazaki himself admitted he was “jealous” of the team today that will be making Armored Core VI.
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“I wish we had that kind of clout back in the day,” he says somewhat wistfully.
Yamamura, meanwhile, talks at length about what FromSoftware can accomplish with its improved Armored Core VI graphics.
“Obviously the mecha theme for Armored Core VI means we’re filming these massive blocks of steel, and we’re supposed to visualize how these things are going to move and how they’re going to be put together, the different joints, how it all moves along with each other and how do we make this look cool – from a gameplay perspective, too,” says Yamamura. “This is something we can apply resources to. Obviously, the metal construction of this stuff and the sound design as well. We can use Foley to get some realistic sounds to apply to these instruments. There are plenty of areas where we can apply these resources and modern thinking as well.
This may be the crux of what drives FromSoftware to make Armored Core VI. It may have found untold fortunes making games like Elden Ring, but it hasn’t forgotten its beginnings. Awaiting its first full game reveal, Armored Core looks all set to be…an Armored Core game, with all that that entails. He even keeps the number though with a new story.
“Armored Core is the reason anyone reading this tweet has played Dark Souls,” developer Doc Burford wrote shortly after its reveal. This is after the body [sic] From finally returning to their best series”.
Armored Core 6 is currently scheduled for release in 2023. You can read about everything else announced at The Game Awards here.
Kat Bailey is a senior news editor at IGN as well as co-host of Nintendo Voice Chat. Do you have advice? Send her a direct message at the_katbot.