FromSoftware says Armored Core 6 won't emulate Dark Souls or Elden Ring, is all about mech customization

For newcomers to FromSoftware's mech series, Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon might sound like an impenetrable late-series sequel that refers to deep lore from the '90s. In actuality, nobody's expected to know where Rubicon is and why it's on fire. The mecha series spans 13 games and seven spin-offs, some of which have built on one another, but Armored Core 6 tells a new story that doesn't follow from Armored Core 5 or its sequel, which came out back in 2012 and 2013.

That decade-long Armored Core hiatus unsurprisingly started at around the time Dark Souls became a phenomenon. FromSoftware has mostly spent the past 10-plus years inventing and iterating on the "soulsborne" genre, which has led to speculation that Armored Core 6 will be subsumed into that lineage. Speaking to IGN this week, however, FromSoftware president Hidetaka Miyazaki said that there's been no "conscious effort to try to direct [Armored Core 6] towards more soulsborne type gameplay." While the knowledge FromSoftware gained creating its dark fantasy hits has gone into Armored Core 6's development, it's really all about "assembling and customizing your own mech," he said.

"So the real impetus for this project, I think, or at least one of the real appeals for me, comes from that aspect of assembly," Miyazaki told IGN. "And being able to really freely assemble and customize the mech, I think is what we really highly focus on in Armored Core. And having mechs or mecha as a theme, it's really about that high level of freedom that adjusting each individual part gives, and how that affects the gameplay and the properties of your mech actually in combat."

Miyazaki's comment slightly contrasts with the Armored Core 6 marketing blurb, which promises that FromSoftware's mech game know-how will be supplemented by the "groundbreaking gameplay found in the developer's recent action games," but he seems mainly to be referring to the overall structure. Armored Core 6 won't be open world like Elden Ring, nor will it involve a series of campsites. Its singleplayer story mode will be mission-based, and after each mission, players will have the opportunity to buy new mech parts to adapt to the next challenge. There'll also be a separate multiplayer versus mode.

Regarding combat, I imagine we have some lengthy Souls-Core comparison video essays in our future, but for newcomers to Armored Core, I think the most important distinction to make is that it's an action game, not the MechWarrior-style sim some PC gamers may associate with customizable mech combat. AC6 will be the first Armored Core game to release on PC.

"There are no elements directly referring to Sekiro, but I feel both titles share the same essence of battle such as aggressive, speed change and action-oriented fighting," said Armored Core 6 director Masaru Yamamura, who was Sekiro's lead designer. "For this title, by continuing to attack even the strongest enemy, the force of impact can break the enemy's posture and inflict a large amount of damage—a critical hit. This is the starting point for the slow and fast speed change of the battle, and when combined with long-range firefighting and close-range melee combat, the enemy and his machine engage each other violently, creating a more aggressive and dynamic battle that only mechas can engage in."

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

Regarding difficulty, Yamamura said that Armored Core 6 is intended to be "on the challenging side" with "intense and tough mecha battles," but that the difficulty will abate at times to change up the tempo. 

"It depends on the enemies you're coming up against in those missions," said Yamamura. "It depends on how you want to assemble your mech. But this is one approach we wanted to have, is to have the player decide how they wanted to assemble and how they wanted to approach each mission, and then to have this nice balance of level of challenge throughout the missions and throughout the campaign."

Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon has a Steam page, but no release date or system requirements right now—it's coming sometime in 2023. 

IGN's full interview with Miyazaki and Yamamura is pretty lengthy, and contains more details than I've repeated here. My favorite comment comes from Miyazaki, who said as part of a response to a question about the studio's preference for apocalyptic settings that "a lively bright setting is a little bit beyond FromSoftware's capability or experiences as a developer." I love the idea that making nice worlds is just too hard, and I believe it, but it's a funny observation from a developer that revels in going as far as it can in the other direction. In the case of Armored Core 6, the official site says that a catastrophe on Rubicon 3 "engulfed the planet and the surrounding stars in flames and storms, forming a Burning Star System." Sounds pretty rough. 

Tyler Wilde
Executive Editor

Tyler grew up in Silicon Valley during the '80s and '90s, playing games like Zork and Arkanoid on early PCs. He was later captivated by Myst, SimCity, Civilization, Command & Conquer, all the shooters they call "boomer shooters" now, and PS1 classic Bushido Blade (that's right: he had Bleem!). Tyler joined PC Gamer in 2011, and today he's focused on the site's news coverage. His hobbies include amateur boxing and adding to his 1,200-plus hours in Rocket League.