Armored Core 6 devs on Bloodborne influence, not going open world after Elden Ring & best mech builds

Armored Core 6 devs on Bloodborne influence, not going open world after Elden Ring & best mech builds
Bandai Namco

Written by 

Lloyd Coombes

Published 

25th Jul 2023 16:00

Armored Core might not be a franchise many were expecting to make a comeback in 2023, but it’d be fair to say Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon has a distinct advantage over its predecessors - FromSoft’s meteoric rise with Soulsborne titles, culminating in last year’s Game of the Year winner, Elden Ring.

With the mech combat game launching next month, we sat down with Director Masaru Yamamura and Producer Yasunori Ogura in a group interview to talk Soulsborne influences, the ten-year wait for a new series instalment, and their choice of mech builds.

Why Armored Core in 2023?

Armored Core 6 key art showing a huge explosion
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FromSoft’s stock has never been higher, and while the developer continues work on the Shadow of the Erdtree DLC for Elden Ring, many will have been surprised to see it revisit one of its earliest series in Armored Core.

As it happens, the franchise never left From’s collective consciousness.

“For us, it's always been a question of when and not if,” Yasunori Ogura reveals.

“This is always a series that we wanted to continue and revisit. There was never really an option not to make another Armored Core for us.

A lot of our staff, including our CEO, Hidetaki Miyazaki, and Mr Yamamura have wanted to make another AC for a long time,” he continues.

For FromSoft, the stars aligned back in 2019 after the release of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice - another huge critical success for the studio.

“Around 2018, Miyazaki got a small core group of staff together to begin the initial direction and prototyping for what this new AC would look like,” Ogura recounts.

Armored Core 6 key art showing an AC flying
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“After that initial direction was determined in 2019, Sekiro was released and Mr Yamamura stepped in as the director on the project, and production kicked off properly,” he said, noting that for the development team, the hiatus between franchise instalments was only five years from Armored Core: From Verdict, to the start of development on Armored Core 6.

“It was about wanting to get the correct allocation of staff and resources, and get the timing right internally,” Ogura explains.

“We do make a lot of games simultaneously with one another. We have concurrent direction on our projects, so it was just a matter of getting the right staff and getting the timing right there.”

A Hunter Should Hunt… Mechs?

Armored Core 6 key art showing airborne combat
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With a decade of gaming advancement between Armored Core instalments, much of it pushed on by FromSoft’s own unique mechanics, how would the team evolve the series?

“With Armored Core 6, we wanted to tap into the essence of Armored Core and bring that to a modern From Software game that we could only make as the studio we are today,” Masaru Yamamura explains.

“From recent titles, we've not taken anything directly, but you may see some influences from our general approach to game design.

“For instance, in the same way that Bloodborne was a faster and more aggressive take on the Souls formula, Armored Core involves a lot of aggression and a lot of adjustments to the tempo of combat that we’ve learned from our battle design.”

As for any more overt references to its dodge-rolling forebears, Yamamura did acknowledge there are secrets to be found - but stopped short of confirming the Moonlight Greatsword would make an appearance.

Broken World

Armored Core 6 key art showing a boss fight
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With Elden Ring dominating much of the gaming conversation in 2022, it drew in a new audience thanks to its open-ended structure that let players move between challenges as they saw fit.

Armored Core 6, however, is moving to a more linear structure - although there will be multiple endings and pathways. However, Yamamura reveals that an open-world Armored Core was considered (when asked by RockPaperShotgun).

“We did actually consider going a more open-world route for the map design,” he reveals.

“But in order to do that, we'd have to put some restrictions on the assembly aspect, particularly how the player is able to move within that space.”

“If you have a much broader, open-world map that's designed for exploration, you have to limit to an extent, the freedom with which the player can customize their AC.

“Maybe it becomes way too easy or impossible to traverse a certain area, so we've really had to put some limitations on the map side in order to allow that freedom of expression for your own personal AC loadout and the way you wanted to move through these maps.

This led to a more “traditional” mission structure, but while the FromSoft team does have fans of classic mecha like Gundam and Armored Trooper Votoms among its staff, the team looked toward more retro sci-fi to design its environments. 

“Rather than a specific [mecha] series or inspiration in that sense, we wanted to take inspiration from this feeling of old sci-fi,” Yamamura explains, saying the team looked to “nostalgic and traditional” sci-fi.

“What sort of Megastructures would be created in the far future with technology at that time? How far humankind has progressed and that sense of scale and time passing.”

Build it, break it

Armored Core 6 screenshot showing logo customisation
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Of course, a lot of the fun of any game that lets you build a walking (or rolling) powerhouse capable of levelling entire cities comes from testing the limits of what can be constructed, and both Yamamura and Ogura have plenty of experience in Armored Core’s extensive Garage.

Ogura’s “staple” build since the early days of the franchise has been one with plenty of armour and mobility to stay in the fight, noting he’s not all that good at the game.

To that end, he opts for heavyweight reverse legs and a bazooka to see him through the battle.

Yamamura’s style is similarly cathartic, using tank-type legs to carry dual-Gatling guns to break an enemy’s stagger gauge with ease - something he recommends players attempt when Armored Core 6 launches.

For more on Armored Core 6, check out our hands-on preview, as well as our hopes that it reignites the underserved mecha game subgenre.

Lloyd is GGRecon's Editor-in-Chief, having previously worked at Dexerto and Gfinity, and occasionally appears in The Daily Star newspaper. A big fan of loot-based games including Destiny 2 and Diablo 4, when he's not working you'll find him at the gym or trying to play Magic The Gathering.