FromSoftware is one of the most beloved developers around, creating modern classics like Bloodborne, Sekiro, and Elden Ring that have enchanted and engrossed players worldwide. But let’s go back in time–back to 1997, when FromSoftware released the cult hit Armored Core on the original PlayStation, and players were enthralled by its mix of intense mech fighting action and strategic customization. The series has been cherished in the eyes of fans since, garnering multiple spin-offs and sequels over the years. Now, 25 years after players first built their custom Cores and 10 years after the last entry, Armored Core returns August 25–and it’s packing plenty of heat.
We sat down with FromSoftware to get a first look at the gameplay of Armored Core VI Fires of Rubicon and learn about the latest in mech action.
Engage in high-speed mech combat
Those whose primary experience with FromSoftware comes from games like Bloodborne or Elden Ring might be curious about what to expect from Armored Core VI.
You play an augmented mercenary piloting a huge, customizable mech. Yet while the pace and structure of mech-piloting action fundamentally differ from other games in the studio’s catalog, players can rest assured that the smooth, responsive controls they’ve come to expect in FromSoftware games is still here–just in a different context. Think giant, heavily equipped robots with the ability to zip around across ground and air, reacting at lightning-fast speeds to attacks and threats while trying to one-up dangerous foes with even more firepower at their disposal.
Rubicon, the ruined planet
Armored Core VI is a new story that takes place on the planet Rubicon, where a powerful energy source called “Coral” has been discovered. But this isn’t stuff that looks pretty in aquariums–Coral is extremely volatile, and it’s already caused a massive disaster that nearly turned all of Rubicon to ash many years prior. But those futuristic megacorps just can’t resist the siren song of Coral and continue to war for it to this day.
The various areas of Rubicon are filled with contrasts, as the hollowed-out industrial ruins from the aforementioned disaster smolder beneath a shiny shell of state-of-the-art mining constructs encasing the planet.
“It’s an intricate and multi-layered world, brimming with mega-structures and enormous underground facilities built by its former inhabitants. These structures cover a planetary surface wracked with extreme cold and contamination in the aftermath of the great disaster, and the player will be exploring these various environments as they proceed,” says game director Masaru Yamamura.
The expansive environments will deliver an incredible sense of scale, maintaining the quality we’ve come to expect from FromSoftware’s world-design maestros. And with your Armored Core’s (AC for short) advanced movement skills, you’ll be able to explore these large, open spaces to your heart’s content. You’ll be encountering lots of different scenery and objectives as you advance through the game’s mission-based progression structure (like previous entries).
“There will be missions where you’re fighting across sweeping battlefields–very combat-oriented,” Yamamura explains. “But you’ll sometimes be recovering data logs from wreckage and doing other side objectives too.”
Assault Boost: One of the biggest new features in Armored Core VI is an instantaneous switch between long-range gunfighting and close-range melee, thanks to a button-activated movement skill called the Assault Boost.
“Assault Boost is an offensive action that helps close the gap between enemies and lets you quickly go from long distance to close range,” Yamamura tells us. It will also provide some incredible chain abilities when fighting, as he describes vividly: “Say you activate Assault Boost to make your approach while using machine gun fire and a missile salvo to stagger the enemy, then use your pulse blade to score a direct melee hit once you’re up close.”
Stagger: Another addition to the series’ combat is a “stagger” element: if an AC takes too many hits over a short period of time, its Attitude Control System will be overloaded, making it vulnerable for a short time. Both continuous hits and big, powerful strikes will cause stagger damage, encouraging you to keep up the pressure on the opponent. The damage inflicted to an enemy’s stagger gauge varies from weapon to weapon. It can also be affected by factors like distance, adding additional strategy in equipping and using these armaments in combat.
We asked Yamamura how the pace and feel of the game compares to previous entries.
“The average movement speed across the game is somewhere between Armored Core 3 and Armored Core 5,” he replies. “But Armored Core VI has been developed to bolster the changes of tempo and combat. With instantaneous bursts of speed and sudden changes of tempo, combat can often reach the dizzying heights of say, Armored Core 4.”
Fight challenging bosses
The series’ big boss encounters are back, and the metal monstrosities you’ll encounter look bigger and more intimidating than ever.
“There will be a rich variety of powerful enemies of all shapes and sizes,” says Yamamura. “Huge combat helicopters, heavily armored mobile turrets, and unmanned heavy demolition machinery that’s programmed to indiscriminately crush intruders. Armored Core VI will offer a number of explosive battle experiences that challenge players to fight against the odds and overcome these ginormous, more abnormal mechs.”
In addition to these larger bosses, you’ll even fight against other ACs and humanoid mechs in high-octane duels. And in grand FromSoftware tradition, it may take several attempts and some experimentation with your AC’s equipment to fully learn and adapt to a boss’s quirks. So better prepare yourself, as Armored Core VI will offer numerous cathartic explosive battles that’ll truly test your skills.
Build the perfect AC
Customization is a key part of the Armored Core experience. You have access to an assortment of parts to upgrade and fine-tune the power of your AC. Four slots for holding weaponry–one in each hand and two on the back–give you a lot of space to experiment with custom loadouts.
What kind of weapons are we talking about? Bazookas, gatling guns, split missiles, plasma rifles, and all the perennial favorites. There are a bunch of new close-range weapons, too.
“One aspect we focused on in Armored Core VI is melee weapons, exclusively equipped to the left hand,” Yamamura continues. “These can include a cluster bomb thrower, a chainsaw or pulse blade, lances, and other more idiosyncratic weapons. Since the main weapons are firearms, the melee weapons are more focused on that strength of individuality.”
Add in custom paint jobs and liveries and you’ll be able to create a unique AC that’s all yours.
The Arena is back
There’s more good news for longtime Armored Core fans. The Arena, a much-cherished mode where you can fight a series of battles against a wide array of specially customized mechs, makes its return in Armored Core VI as a “combat aptitude evaluation program” (simulated training exercise).
“There are a lot of different AC frames and a lot of colorful characters to fight in the Arena, so we hope the players confront them all and aim for the top rank. You can even encounter the real version of these opponents while out on missions. These are more formidable than their simulator counterparts, and will confront the protagonist with their own ideals and motives in the heat of battle.”
Perfecting your combat skills won’t be the only reason you’ll want to return to the frontline: there will be multiple endings to Armored Core VI’s narrative, with new paths opening up on subsequent playthroughs, giving players plenty of incentive to explore the world and story thoroughly. What will be the ultimate fate of Rubicon? That’s all up to you.
With the pedigree of FromSoftware and a long-running series behind it, Armored Core VI is going to be one to watch for fans of intense, challenging action games. Prepare for a mech action-packed end of summer when Armored Core VI launches for PS4 and PS5 on August 25.
By PlayStation Official blog (blog.playstation.com)