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Armored Core VI isn’t just mech souls

Armored Core VI isn't just a sci-fi Soulslike as FromSoftware showed to us during a hands-off presentation at Summer Games Fest
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We need to get this out of the way before anything else: Armored Core VI isn’t just an excuse for FromSoftware to make a sci-fi Soulslike. We all know how absurdly popular Dark Souls and Elden Ring have been for the team at FromSoft, but despite that, this is a return to the team’s roots, as they were keen to point out during a hands-off demo presentation we saw during Summer Games Fest 2023.

They showed us a full timeline of Armored Core releases, from the 1997 original to 2013’s Armored Core: Verdict Day. The message was clear: FromSoftware isn’t just the studio that develops tough fantasy action games. The studio has a storied history and Armored Core was one of its central pillars before Dark Souls’ success usurped it. So, no, it’s not just mech souls, this is both a return to form and something totally new.

The environments are huge, giving your large mech enough room to maneuver creatively. You’ll navigate stages by jumping and boosting through the air with thrusters on the back of your unit, locking on to foes before dashing in and strafing around them in spectacular fashion. Bungee-like springs shoot your mech into the air, where you can survey the landscape, find new paths, and descend on unsuspecting enemies.

Environments are grand in Armored Core VI.

Environments are grand in Armored Core VI.

Armored Core veterans will know what to expect, only with a gorgeous, modern presentation. It’s fast, slick, and looks incredibly responsive. We saw a developer play through a mission that climaxed in a tough fight against a mech with heated metal grinders for arms. Slick modern mecha designs clash with chunky, brutalist creations, and it just looks incredible.

Once the developer failed the fight, they switched out their equipped mech pieces before restarting from a checkpoint. With better maneuverability, it was an easier fight – slightly easier, anyway, as we did witness another death first.

Smaller enemies can be wiped off the map while strafing around, launching lasers, missiles, and rockets from your mech. Bigger ones require more patience and thought. If there are comparisons to be made against the Souls series, it’s in these tougher fights. From what we’ve seen it looks like bigger enemies come with plenty of melee strikes that you’re be dodging under and away from, except instead of fat rolls and claymores, it’s rocket boosts and beam swords.

Action is very fast-paced.

Action is very fast-paced.

You won’t always be launching attacks at range, of course. Your own beam sword is a shockingly great way to deal damage to any enemy, and you can even launch into a rocket-propelled flying kick that can even knock grounded enemies off of cliffs and into the abyss. It looks fast and exciting, and it’s hard to look at the new gameplay footage without wanting to jump into the action.

Honestly, it can almost feel like too much. The action is too fast paced, the environments are too big, and it’s difficult to make out your mechanical opponents between the industrial architecture. But you can see where it also slows down to give the player time. A shield can give you a moment to breathe and block while you figure out your best course of action, and the bungee springs we mentioned earlier can help you to escape any non-aerial combatants. Environments are so densely detailed that it seems difficult to make out where the critical path is, or exactly where enemies are hiding – which is exactly what Armored Core fans expect.

During the preview session much was said about PVP, which became a staple of the series in the past, and the developers clearly want it to be just as frantic and exciting as the main game. Strafing through missiles for days, most likely. It might not be the primary focus, but FromSoftware isn’t ignoring the strong competitive fanbase that Armored Core has had in the past – instead, it wants to grow that community.

Enemy mechs sport a variety of intimidating designs.

Enemy mechs sport a variety of intimidating designs.

It’s a difficult game to break down, especially without going hands-on. The fine details on how it controls, how difficult it is to parse the frantic action, and how good it feels the dropkick a robot off a cliff – it’s all a bit of mystery, even if what we’ve seen does look fantastic.

Armored Core VI was one of the only hands-off demos I saw at Summer Games Fest, and yet that just made it one of my most anticipated games of the year – if it wasn’t already. If Armored Core VI isn’t great it’ll be the biggest upset of the year.