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Opinions 05 August 2023, 11:57

Armored Core 6 - 3-Hour Hands-on With New Game from Elden Ring Devs

The Armored Core 6 showcase proved to me that FromSoftware didn't forget its roots and despite the lengthy romance with Soulslike genre, it didn't forget what mech warfare is about.

I had the pleasure of checking out the beginning of Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon and playing the full version for three hours. There's no point in hiding. The first impression is phenomenal. The lethally climatic intro makes a great impression by presenting the arrival scene on the titular planet Rubicon. The sequence next shifts seamlessly into a simple and brief tutorial, putting the controls of a powerful mech at our service. The game looks really great, from the raw aesthetics of the ruined surroundings emanates the piercing chill of omnipresent metal, and the machinery pleases the eye with an extraordinary number of details.

The atmosphere is gloomy, and the whole thing is conducted in a slightly mysterious manner, immediately creating curiosity about what lurks around the corner. The moment when you exit the destroyed factory and see the vast panorama of the city bathed in the luminous glow of the setting sun is, again, a truly magical moment, even if, in this case, it's mostly views and adornment of an essentially post-apocalyptic environment. I felt the same excitement and rush of melancholy as when exploring the factory at the start of NieR: Automata (it's a big compliment from me) - even though the converging points between the two games are limited to superficial visual layer comparisons. I instantly felt the magnitude of this ruined world and smile. Only now it has hit me how much I missed this series and that I have been waiting for its return for far too many long years.

I can't talk now, I'm in a robot

So what's this new Armored Core like? In general, similar to its predecessors, although definitely " much lighter " than last two installments. You can feel it mainly when you spin the mech, which on the ground moves more like a knight from the Elden Ring than a destruction machine that weighs several hundred tons and is armed to the teeth. However, I won't go overboard with comparisons to earlier installments, because firstly, my slightly hazy memories may be inaccurate, and secondly, for most modern players, this will be their first and truly beautiful contact with the universe.

Let's start from the beginning. As in FromSoftware's previous games, the gameplay here is also demanding. However, it doesn't overwhelm you at every turn with ruthless brutality. So here, without any major surprises. The general assumptions are simple, but not simplistic. Without any unnecessary complications. We are a mercenary taking on assignments, so missions involve destroying specific targets, defeating a particular opponent, or reaching a designated place. We have here a classic division into mission selection, after which we are transferred to a large and open stage. Then to some extent we can choose our way to the goal. When we finish our task, we're coming back to the base, where we can spend the earned money on new parts, weapons and toys.

In this place, you will also choose the painting of the mech to customize it according to your preferences, making it look like your favorite Gundam or another Evangelion. During the show, I didn't have too many parts at my disposal, but the ones that were provided clearly showed - we will spend many hours in the garage, creating the perfect configuration for the nature of the mission or simply reflecting our style of play. Forget about putting weapons in every free slot to create a machine of total destruction. The key in the mech project is maintaining a balance between firepower, mobility, and defense, and properly managing weight and energy efficiency. Fortunately, the interface is clear and it's easy to navigate through all of this. It's not unlikely that I'll change my mind when the full version throws me in at the deep end and overwhelms me with a multitude of possibilities. I'm actually somewhat counting on that.

The nature of the game quickly and directly explains that mindlessly pushing forward won't help you achieve anything here. I participated in missions where I didn't even have time to realize that a frontal assault wasn't an option, and I was already dead, brutally destroyed by the fortification's defense system. Another time, the show-off surprise from the studio hit me - I noticed a light in the distance, which turned out to be a beam of a deadly laser. There was no time to react, and all that was left for me was to sadly accept the fate of rapid disintegration into elementary particles.

Luckily, the second time I didn't let myself be surprised, because I was already freshly blessed with the knowledge to "not go towards the light". Then, once I had reached one of the more difficult bosses, it turned out that my mech was "meh" after all and just couldn't handle it. I have to slightly redesign it, because in its current form it couldn't reach the opponent's weak point. In this case, I was forced to move back to the garage, change the arms and repeat the stage from beginning. Sounds terrible? Don't be afraid, the skillful nature of the gameplay encourages us to repeat the missions in a less stressful way than it happens in Souls. I didn't feel annoyed, and I didn't have to dig hard into the settings to push the game further. All you had to do was change the rockets to a mortar, and the boss basically became defenseless. Then there was only a state of blissful satisfaction.

FromSoftware kicks into top gear

What did it show me? FromSoftware doesn't give up its signature product and Armored Core 6 manages to be playfully sadistic from time to time, but the general level of entry doesn't seem as high as I described above. I felt that, despite everything, the game is not about discouraging players with constant failures and the developers were reaching out to beginners. Sure, the level of difficulty requires constant movement from us, searching for cover and appropriate equipment adjustment, but generally, it doesn't present a draconian challenge. I would say that it's just engaging enough and requires a bit of thinking. I haven't completed many missions, but for some of them I had to approach with strategy and thought. Once I got the issues of particular stage, I was able to go through it without major problems. Actually, it's a bit easier than I expected. Comparing the challenge to the entirety of the Dark Souls series - in my opinion, it is less stressful, and death itself doesn't carry such a high risk. I'm curious about how the further missions will look and what the rest of the game will show. I'm also anticipating this question - no, thankfully, there are no soulslike elements here.

What did I like the most? It seems like the whole game management and it's visible that FromSoftware has learned a lot in this respect over the last decade.Controlling the mech in the air is intuitive, and the pace and dynamics of the gameplay are a pure shot of dopamine. I loved flying on the booster and powerfully destroy my opponents with massive plasma blades or a salvo of devastating rockets. I noticed during the demonstration that the game will not lack exciting missions and battles. For an example, desert stage, where we fight with a giant, walking fortress, is the kind of experience that is remembered for a very long time.

What definitely impresses is the scale of the locations. These are large, industrial and factory structures designed in a multi-level way, which makes you want to explore them. Indeed, so far I haven't seen additional activities that would divert attention from the main mission goals, but this is FromSoftware after all - I believe that a whole host of fascinating secrets and narrative nuances are hidden in the locations, just waiting to be discovered.

Armored Core 6 reminds who knows the most about the mechs

Three hours of the show flew by so fast that I didn't even realize I had to put down the controller. The game left me with a huge apetite and I'm sure it will consume a lot of my time. I would most prefer not to leave the robot and keep playing. I can see that Armored Core has been noticeably modernized, but it still resembles a somewhat hermetic product, although masterfully designed. As rarely ever, I'm unable to feel if people will "buy" this idea and if the series will force its way into the wider awareness of players.

If I had to guess, in terms of media, I unfortunately anticipate a somewhat "quieter" premiere (although I want to be wrong). Nevertheless, it has become clear to me that this is a very good game and at every step you can feel that it was created by the hands of FromSoftware. The developer still remembers how to create addictive games with mechs and we are waiting for another hit. Perhaps, not on the scale of the hyped Elden Ring, but that's nothing wrong. Fans will be rather delighted, and a break from the souls-like formula will be very beneficial to the entire industry.


We went to the game show at the invitation of Cenega.

Sebastian Kasparek

Sebastian Kasparek

Feels most comfortable in the editorials section at GRYOnline, and sometimes he also writes reviews. A fan of all kinds of culture, who reaches for works from both the top and the bottom shelf. He likes to immerse himself in niche games and productions that are hard to define unequivocally. Appreciates an analytical and critical approach when dealing with cultural works. Prefers unique, strange, visually crazy games that boldly tackle more interesting narrative issues. Addicted to high-octane productions, fighting games, big robots and arcade. Huge fan of Grasshopper Manufacture studio. He likes to catch up on forgotten "hidden gems" from years ago, especially from Japan. Interested in games and the people behind them. Strongly addicted to cinema. A huge fan of Mads Mikkelsen and Takeshi Kitano. He also loves Inio Asano's manga and Tsutomu Nihei's aesthetics.


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