In the last decade of FromSoftware‘s games, Armored Core 6: Fires Of Rubicon sticks out like a shiny metal thumb. The mech-battling Armored Core franchise has been chugging along since 1997, but FromSoftware’s later titles — which include Dark Souls, Bloodborne and Elden Ring — mean younger audiences will better know the Japanese game developer for its nightmarishly challenging boss fights and fondness of poison swamps.
Though Armored Core 6 looks nothing like those games on the surface, lead producer Yasunori Ogura confirms that it will draw on many of the same philosophies that FromSoftware fostered during their creation: namely their challenging, kinetic brand of combat and larger-than-life, webbed approach to level design.
Ogura’s speaking during a hands-off preview for Armored Core 6, where we get to see some of those principles in action. The preview takes place in Grid 86, a hulking megastructure that can be navigated through its conventional pathways or by buzzing around with your mech protagonist’s booster pack. It’s a dense setpiece, but the goal is simple: destroy every robot inside. However, robot is a broad term — after being catapulted into Grid 86, we see everything from spiderish laser-slinging robots, to a boss fight against an oversized Roomba covered in spiked steamrollers.
Our own mech cuts a sleeker figure: a vaguely humanoid robot toting shoulder-mounted rocket launchers, an impossibly long machine gun, and booster rockets on its back. Its loadout is all about mobility — delivering light attacks from every angle before finishing foes with a booster-powered kick — and tears through smaller enemies, but hits a roadblock when a crab-like robot surfaces. Bullets ricochet harmlessly off its thick armour plating, and it tears our mech to shreds when it tries to close the distance for another kick.
Luckily, nearly every part of your mech can be changed before respawning. There are four weapon slots to play around with, while everything from your robot’s head to its torso and legs can be changed out for something completely different, all of which affects its total weight, health, and combat capabilities. It’s a glimpse of the Armored Core build diversity that would eventually feed into the Souls series — though instead of fiddling around with Strength and Dexterity, you’re swapping out your legs for a set of tank tracks and whacking a new cannon on your shoulder.
In the end, our mech’s weight is reduced for even more mobility, in order to demonstrate another of the game’s combat playstyles. While our four-legged rival remains resistant to light attacks, Ogura points out a bar above its head that fills yellow with every attack that lands. This is the impact bar: a mech can only weather so many attacks before being staggered, at which point they’re vulnerable to taking “heavy” damage through direct attacks. The impact bar empties fast though, which means trying to take advantage of staggering foes requires a completely different playstyle — one that’s alike to combat in FromSoftware’s 2019 game Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, where enemies’ posture gauges must be filled via constant combat to break their guard.
While playing around the impact bar is reminisce of Sekiro, the general cadence to Armored Core 6‘s combat — where constant movement and carefully timed dodges are just as important as striking hard — carries more than a passing resemblance to FromSoftware’s Souls games.
That’s good news for Souls fans, but even better for those who have never clicked with the genre’s difficulty — you can still expect the studio’s “challenging” battles and bosses, says Ogura, but combat seemed to be more forgiving, while checkpointed levels make Armored Core 6 more of a traditional action game where you won’t have to look at a single bonfire.
Though our glimpse at Armored Core 6 was entirely hands-off, it was promising. While certain elements — such as the true breadth of customisation on offer, or the scale of its “vast, intricate” levels — will require hands-on time to make any judgments, Armored Core 6‘s biggest draw, combat, looks as fluid as you would expect out of FromSoftware: a decade of experience in Souls games, parceled with a sleek chrome paint job and missile launcher.