Over the course of the last decade and a half, FromSoftware has created and propogated an entire genre of games. Starting with Demon’s Souls in 2009 and following it up with the Dark Souls trilogy, Bloodborne, and Elden Rings across the following years, the Japanese developer has elevated itself to the very top of the gaming industry, and is considered one of the best and most consistent studios around.
Soon, however, FromSoftware will be going back to a series that predates that meteoric rise in fame. Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon is set to revive the niche, beloved mech franchise after many years of dormancy, and it should go without saying that it’s going to be a very different kind of experience from what FromSoftware has become known for over the last couple of console generations. Here, we’re going to discuss a few key ways that well set it apart from FromSoftware’s Soulsborne games.
FOCUS ON RANGED COMBAT
Let’s start with the obvious stuff- more specifically, the combat and its moment-to-moment flow. Armored Core has always been a third person shooter at heart, and that will continue to be the case with Fires of Rubicon, to no one’s surprise. The Soulsborne games have always focused heavily on melee combat, and even when you have builds that focus on ranged attacks and magic, that’s a very different beast from piloting a mech and shooting at your enemies with massive guns and missiles. While we don’t obviously expect Armored Core 6 to be an out-and-out run-and-gun game, it’s clearly going to be much less deliberately paced in its moment-to-moment combat than something like Dark Souls.
FOCUS ON CUSTOMIZATION
When it comes to customization, it’s not that Armored Core 6 is going to have necessarily have more customization than the Soulsborne games- just that it’s going to be a very different kind of emphasis on that aspect. As RPGs, the Soulsborne games have always put a great deal of focus on build variety, and allowing players to customize the strengths and weaknesses of their characters to suit whatever play style they prefer (though that was much more toned down in Bloodborne).
Armored Core, meanwhile, has always placed a ton of emphasis on the customizability of mechs, allowing players to swap out a wide range of components, with a vast range of options always available to affect a variety of stats and attributes. Armored Core 6 is going to be doubling down on that, based on what FromSoftware has said about the game so far, which means From fans can expect a different flavour of customization mechanics than what the Souls games have always featured.
This is going to be a major differentiating factor for Armored Core 6, especially when compared to FromSoftware’s most recent Soulslike outing. Elden Ring was a massive open world game with what felt like limitless real estate for exploration, but even before that, the Soulsborne games have featured a very particular brand of level design that relies heavily on Metroidvania levels like connecting areas, shortcuts, backtracking, and what have you. Armored Core 6 is going for something rather different. FromSoftware has confirmed that it’s going to have a mission-based structure, which means every main mission will be set in its own, dedicated area that you’ll be moving through in linear fashion. That, of course, means exploration is going to be less of a focus as well- speaking of which…
NO SOULSLIKE EXPLORATION
Exploring environments and finding hidden areas has always been a crucial part of the experience in FromSoftware’s Soulsborne games, but Armored Core 6 isn’t going to lean that heavily in that direction (which is evident from its mission-based structure). With the game emphasizing its mech assembly and customization elements so heavily, FromSoftware has decided to pivot away from the exploration elements by a great degree. While that might feel a little jarring to FromSoftware fans who’ve never played Armored Core before, it is worth pointing out that that is what the series traditionally been like in the past. Whether that means there will be little to no exploration remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt that there’s definitely going to be much less of it.
Death penalties and corpse runs are the heart and soul of Soulsborne games (and even Sekiro, which isn’t necessarily a Soulsborne title). Every time you die, you are teleported back to the last bonfire you interacted with and lose all of your Souls- that gameplay loop won’t be added into Armored Core 6, which is following in its predecessors’ footsteps in that regard. When you die in Armored Core 6, the game won’t penalize you by taking away all of your currency. Corpse runs are definitely out for the first time in a major FromSoftware release in a long, long time.
Another key area where Armored Core 6 is going to differ from FromSoftware’s Soulslike offerings- the checkpointing. Rather than being designed around punishing checkpoints that players have to seek out and activate, Armored Core 6 will adopt a much more traditional structure and instead place automatic checkpoints between its missions, where players will be able to tinker with their build and customize their mech (the latter bit is obviously not that different from Souls). While we can probably safely assume that te game will put up a tough challenge with its combat and its boss fights, outside of that, there are plenty of key areas where it’s taking a different approach to difficulty.
This is another obvious one- you play as a mech in Armored Core, after all. Movement in the Soulsborne games is, by design, slower-paced and more deliberate, and that colours everything from the combat to the exploration to the traversal in significant ways (though Elden Ring did add horseback riding). Armored Core 6, on the other hand, will see you piloting a mech, which obviously means you can expect major differences in the way you move across the maps, and the speed at which you do it. There’s also the fact that different assembly decisions made by the player can lead to the mechs behaving differently even where movement is concerned, which is another interesting wrinkle that will change things up on that front.
Though the Soulsborne games aren’t exactly co-op focused experiences, co-op has traditionally been an important element that a great many players have gotten a lot of joy out of. That’s not something you can expect to see in Armored Core 6, however. FromSoftware has made it abundantly clear that the mech shooter is going to focus on delivering a single player experience, which means there will be no summoning other players who can fight alongside you. There will be PvP though, but details are a bit light on that front as well.