In the past decade, FromSoftware has become one of the modern legendary developers. Everything it touches seems to turn to gold, but many of its die-hard fans seem to be attached to the developer after the success of its Soulsborne series of games. With the studio’s next title set to be a long-awaited return to the Armored Core franchise, we sat down with FromSoftware and discussed how Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon will welcome both new and old fans, in addition to some important details about story endings and where Armored Core’s future lies next.
Check out our full transcript below, where we spoke with game director Masaru Yamamura and producer Yasunori Ogura.
Q: Because of the huge success of the Soulsborne games, there will be a lot of new people coming to Armored Core with this game. How did you find that balancing this game is appealing to both new and old players?
A: Yamamura – “Obviously this is a new Armored Core game, we want it to bring back what made Armored Core special and fun for us. A big part of that is the assembly aspect, this idea of taking your beloved mech, customizing it how you want, painting it the way you want and completely controlling it on the battlefield. We feel this is a universal and boundless appreciation for mechs that will stand the test of time, and we want modern players to experience that as we always have. In keeping with that, we wanted to take the knowledge and experience we’ve accumulated over the past decade and apply that knowledge in ways that make sense for AC. This includes things like our approach to map design, how we design these large, three-dimensional spaces and how the player moves through them, and our approach to combat design. How the player interacts with the enemy, how that enemy gives them feedback, how they learn from their attack patterns and observe their movements. So in this way we’ve kind of cultivated our combat design over the years, it’s also been introduced in Armored Core VI, and we hope this is a nice marriage of old and new in that regard.”
Q: It seems there are many ways to build your mechs and many mechs on the fly, is this to challenge the idea that one mech can accomplish everything and to keep players on their toes?
A: Yamamura – “Obviously with assembly being a staple of the series and something we wanted to bring back, yes, we want to encourage players to interact with it as much as possible. To that end we have onboarding elements like tutorials, training missions and boss fights that encourage the player to change their build if necessary, just to experiment with different things to see if they can find their favorite mech types and weapons. However, once players have a better understanding of that system and they begin to hone in on their favorite playstyle and mech, they should be able to have that carried through the game if they want it, maybe changing their weapons once or twice if the situation calls for it, but we hope there’s enough there to introduce players to the assembly aspect and make them understand it. “
Q: Now that Armored Core is making its grand return, will the franchise see regular updates or is this more of a one-off to gauge interest in the series after being away for so many years?
A: Ogura – “Currently, we have no plans to revive any of our other franchises or titles. Right now the focus is on Armored Core VI, because this is a title we have always wanted to continue. Due to the right circumstances and allocation of resources in the company, we finally reached the point where we could do that, and so we are happy to make Armored Core again. Of course we will continue that thought in the future and you may see more plans in the future, but right now we are concentrating on AC6.”
Q: The story details released so far mention multiple factions on Rubicon, can we join one of these or will they remain our enemies?
A: Yamamura – “As for the setting of the game, the player is an independent mercenary throughout the campaign and at no point will they belong to a specific faction. However, as you say, there are multiple warring factions and companies and as the campaign progresses, you will make these decisions about which side you work on and what missions you want to take on. And these have branching paths through the campaign, resulting in multiple endings. So towards the end, you make these big decisions that will affect the ending you get. We hope players enjoy repeated playthroughs to enjoy these multiple endings and mission loops as well.”
Q: Returning to a more linear style with Armored Core after the behemoth that was Elden Ring in terms of scale, I wonder what the team prefers, a big open-world title or a more familiar linear game?
A: Yamamura – “Actually, in the early stages of development, we considered taking it in a more open world direction. But we chose it purely because we wanted to focus on the assembly aspect and the degree of freedom that assembly brings. So when you build a game like Elden Ring, you want to focus on the exploration and traversal aspect of that world. Whereas in Armored Core we wanted to focus on this freedom of assembly. So this means you don’t want to put too many restrictions on how the player moves or how they can adjust their movement level. If you have a huge open world map, you have to start putting restrictions on where the player goes, how they move through that map, the speed of the mech, things like that. And that would create stress that we didn’t want to add to this game. So we wanted to open that up a little bit. And with these more restricted and composed maps, we were able to control that a little bit more and allow more of that freedom on how these mechs go through the maps.”
Q: With a new full flesh AAA title coming out just 18 months after Elden Ring, I have to ask, how do you guys do it?
A: Ogura – “In terms of how we work, it’s maybe a little unique because we don’t try to have a dedicated team constantly throughout one project, so it’s not constantly at full speed. So we try to have a little bit of flexibility and it depends on peak periods and the needs of that project how much staff and resources are allocated there. We have multiple games in concurrent development and we try to allocate staff as needed. I think it’s just that flexibility to keep these projects going at the same time and get them out the door at a decent pace.”
Our good friends at MovieZine also attended the interview and asked the following questions.
Q: Why did you decide to make a new Armored Core game at this time?
A: Ogura – “As you may know, it’s been about ten years since Armored Core: Verdict Day, the last entry in the series, but during this long period of hiatus we’ve always wanted to make another AC. It was always a matter of when, not if, for FromSoftware. Miyazaki and some staff members have a fondness for this series and wanted to bring it back to modern players. Around 2018, Miyazaki and a small core group of staff members began prototyping and providing initial direction for the game. Explaining what a modern Armored Core would look like, figuring out what Armored Core’s core competency is and what we wanted to bring forward for the series. Once Sekiro was released, Yamamoto stepped up as the project’s lead director, and from there full production began. AC6 has been in development for about 5 years if you count pre-production and planning.”
Q: How would you describe the storytelling in this game?
A: Yamamura – “For the narrative style of AC6, we adopted more of a traditional, linear mission structure. The player gets briefing movies, completes the objective and continues in that format. We have these chapter-defining interludes and these briefing sections, and the way we wanted to do this was to introduce the story in a more straightforward way so that the player can immerse themselves in that mercenary role and understand what they’re fighting for and the motivations of these different companies and characters. In addition, we also wanted to introduce some fragmentary elements. In the more open missions, where you’re traversing a large mega-structure or something like that, you can go off the beaten path and find these AC wrecks, and you download the data from these wrecks and pick up the latest transmission from a pilot or something like that, and that’s stored in your data archive, And you can read about the events that took place behind the scenes, and in that sense pick up a little more of the worldbuilding and flavor.”
Q: How challenging is Armored Core VI?
A: Yamamura – “We have Armored Core never considered a game to be constantly challenging, and in Armored Core 6 we tried to introduce waves of difficulty throughout the campaign. So in some missions you will be expected to wipe out some vastly inferior MT mechs, and you will just waste these machines, and you will feel very powerful and purging, and these missions should just be fun. However, we are known for our challenging boss fights and encounters, so we wanted to include that in AC6, and so you will find some formidable bosses and duels with ACs of similar performance and agility as you. Additionally, for the challenge aspects, we have the rank system, where you can replay missions as an endgame feature and aim for the highest rank on each mission for additional rewards. We also have a more emergent challenge run, something like the goal assistant, which we introduced for new players to get a grip on the AC’s frenetic combat system and sheer mobility. The goal assistant will help them with that camera lock effect, but our more hardcore players can enjoy turning off goal assistant and try to play the game with full manual camera control, full manual aiming. “
Q: Outside Armored Core, what types of mecha have Armored Core VI affected?
A: Yamamura – “Of course we have a lot of employees who love the mech genre, we have people who enjoy things ranging from Gundam to Votoms and things like that. Instead of taking direct inspiration from that in Armored Core 6, we focused on this general fondness in the company for the old science fiction style. So there’s a kind of nostalgic and old approach to SF, a traditional approach to SF where we think about humanity in the distant future, and what impact time and our resources and engineering have on these spaces and these environments. So we imagine these big megastructures and how they will be built and what that space looks like. So it’s actually a matter of time scale and time and space at that scale. So that’s where a lot of our inspiration came from.”
Q: How many hours would you say it takes to beat the game?
A: Yamamura – “If we’re talking purely for the first time through the main campaign, which it is, we estimate about 20 hours. However, if you’re someone who likes to tinker with assembly a lot, do the arena missions, also do the online modes, you can end up spending 50 hours or more in your first playthrough. “
Q: The title has the number 6, aren’t you afraid that might put off newcomers?
A: Ogura – “Of course there was a concern whether having 6 would make it accessible to brand new players, and this was something we had been discussing with Bandai Namco for some time. Through user research and user testing, we decided what sounded and felt right, as well as the game and its branding. Ultimately, we came up with the idea that this should be a continuation of the series, a new game in an existing franchise and so we wanted to keep the 6 to keep that intact, and that was deemed good by our user tests and the Bandai Namco side, so in the end we chose the 6 in the title. Of course, this is a point that we hope will be brought up by the media. Outlets like you can demonstrate the appeal of Armored Core 6 not only as a new title in an existing franchise, but also as a nice, fresh starting point for players who might be interested. There’s a brand new setting, a brand new story in this world of Rubicon, and we feel like it’s a great starting point for brand new players. By experiencing that assembly aspect, doing impossible feats in their Armored Cores, we feel like this is a great place to start and we look forward to players getting their hands on it.”