FromSoftware’s Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon is a reboot of the series that combines the unique quirks of mechanical combat with the studio’s game design philosophy: fluid controls, expansive and dynamic maps, and original, challenging action that demands skill. ingenuity of the player.
Now, ahead of the game’s release in August, we watched a hands-on gameplay presentation from lead producer Yasunori Ogura to see what his mix of mech assembly and tactical combat on the move looks like.
The demo was a single mission from an early part of the game, but gave a clear idea of how combat and exploration will play out – and the importance of customization.
What impressed most about the gameplay presentation was the sense of verticality. Using a robot’s unique mobility, players can jump and fly through huge outdoor environments (as long as boost allows) that expand both upwards and outwards. Vertical catapults are also in place to launch players great distances.
This verticality also lends itself to a variety of approaches for each mission, depending on the mecha loadout. Players can fly towards an objective or approach via a foot bridge, for example, and scan environments for enemies in advance. The vast, open-level design also contrasts with the intricate, claustrophobic interiors featuring linear, winding corridors of pipes, steam, and metal.
The lighting system also impresses. The environments consist of both man-made and natural terrain combined, though the color scheme is mostly an industrial gray. The lighting, however, brings these stark, cold environments to life and shows off the small intricacies of the player robot.
In combat, then, the heart of any FromSoftware game. The studio promised smooth controls and tactical battles, and both are present and correct. Combat is fast and fluid, with mechs dashing and reinforcing, around and side-to-side while locked onto insect-like robotic enemies. Attacks range from machine guns to multi-lock missiles and explosive attacks.
Melee feels particularly powerful – and satisfying – as mechs push forward to close the gap with enemies and slash with laser swords. Enemies can also, hilariously, be knocked off ledges into oblivion.
The additional complexity comes from the scaling system. The impact of enemy attacks can compromise the player robot’s altitude control system, immobilizing it and putting it in a staggering state where hits deal critical damage. The same goes for enemies, however, with consecutive attacks from the player filling up a stagger gauge. It’s a polished system and a clear influence from more recent FromSoftware games.
Combat requires players to learn attack patterns and approach battles tactically. The hands-on demo ended with a boss battle against a giant lava-gushing tank with massive white-hot spinning blades. Bosses are perhaps the biggest addition to the series to test the player’s skills in dodging and learning patterns as, again, you hover and fly over enemy attacks.
This is also where assembly comes in. Death will not result in currency loss, and players can restart from checkpoints in the middle of a mission. Here, as well as before missions, players can DIY their loadout and freely change frame parts like head, core, arms and legs, as well as internal parts for weapons and power. Four weapons can be equipped on the hands and shoulders (along with the shields), while the leg parts will have the greatest influence on mobility. The sheer amount of parts, gauges, and numbers to consider seems overwhelming, but customization is a huge draw of the series, and Fires of Rubicon seems well able to deliver.
While this is just a brief overview of a single mission, it’s clear that FromSoftware has balanced the best of the series’ past with polished combat from the studio’s present. It feels fast, fierce, fair, and a thoroughly modern Armored Core experience.
Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon will be released on August 25 on PlayStation consoles (with a free update from PS4 to PS5), Xbox consoles (with Smart Delivery) and PC (via Steam).
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