Back in the heydays of the early 2000s, mecha games had a distinctive place in the hearts of many, overflowing with popularity and abundance. However, over the past ten years, there has been a noticeable decline in their presence, as though they’ve been pushed into the shadows. Amidst this downturn, one franchise has managed to remain standing tall, carving its name in the annals of mecha gaming. Yes, you guessed it right, I’m talking about the one and only, Gundam.
Gundam has stayed relevant, offering continuous inspiration for a myriad of related games, albeit with varying degrees of success. Take for instance the Gundam Versus; it didn’t quite live up to the expectations, which is something you’d know if you happened to have taken a glance at its review. Yet, there’s an undeniable charm and nostalgia attached to these colossal machines that continue to attract a loyal fanbase.
For those devout fans who have been longing for a drop of thrill in the parched landscape of mecha gaming, there seems to be a ray of hope. It appears that Bandai Namco, one of the pioneering giants of the gaming industry, is preparing to resurrect the grandeur of these giant robots. And it’s not just a coincidence that two promising games, SYNDUALITY: Echo of Ada and Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon, are slated for a 2023 release.
In the interim, as we eagerly await the arrival of these games on PC and console platforms, let’s turn our attention to some intriguing materials that were recently unveiled on the internet. The masterminds behind these releases are none other than the renowned game developer FromSoftware, who are making a much-anticipated return to the mecha genre, ten long years after their last venture with Armored Core: Verdict Day.
Therefore, let’s delve deeper and try to unravel what to anticipate from this impending reboot. FromSoftware’s return is indeed intriguing, as they are recognized as one of the key contributors to the mecha genre. So, it’s definitely going to be fascinating to see what this impending reboot has in store for us. It feels like a new dawn for the mecha games, a resurrection from a long slumber, and we, as fans, are here to witness it unfold.
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An Unforgettable Journey Begins
Stepping back to February 2009, a new wave was about to hit the gaming world. The original Demon’s Souls was unleashed, sparking off what would soon become an irresistible trend, the souls-like genre. The unprecedented and overwhelming success of this distinct gameplay style led the Japanese studio to almost exclusively focus on what was on the verge of becoming a unique sub-genre in the realm of action RPGs.
A Yearning for the Past
Despite the allure of the souls trend, there was a portion of the gaming community echoing a different sentiment. There were countless players who were eagerly yearning for the return of a beloved title – Armored Core. Admittedly, after the release of Armored Core 2 and Armored Core 3, the series had seen a decline in its overall quality. Yet, the fond memories associated with this FromSoftware franchise remained unscathed in the hearts of many.
The primary charm of Armored Core lay in its unrivalled level of customization. From its inception, the game offered players the opportunity to completely reshape the appearance and equipment of their Cores, choosing from hundreds of components and weapons either purchasable in the game’s shop or attainable upon meeting specific requirements.
This coveted feature was adopted by DAEMON X MACHINA only a few years back. With its modern take on the mecha genre, it proposed a somewhat different, less hardcore gaming experience compared to the traditional Armored Core gameplay. For those interested in a deeper dive into DAEMON X MACHINA’s nuances, revisiting its review would be a worthy exercise.
A Decade Later: New Possibilities
After a decade-long hiatus, the much-awaited return of the Armored Core series is on the horizon with the announcement of Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon. However, expectations of a carbon-copy rendition of the old formula should be tempered.
Yasutaka Ogura, the producer of the game, made some intriguing revelations at the Taipei Game Show 2023. He revealed that their journey with the souls genre had considerably influenced the FromSoftware team, and thus, there might be some amalgamation of the new and old.
Being a complete reboot, the sixth installment of the series presents an ideal opportunity for significant alterations to the game’s traditional structure. It’s very likely that this change will not only appeal to the long-time fans but also intrigue new players. The mere presence of the developer’s name, FromSoftware, emblazoned on the cover will undoubtedly attract a fresh wave of gamers, keen to embark on this legendary journey.
Departing Earth: Rubicon 3 Awaits
In contrast to the prior installments of Armored Core, which wove their narrative against the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic Earth, the forthcoming edition of the franchise plans to expand its horizons, quite literally. We’ll be venturing out of our familiar solar system, journeying to the distant planet of Rubicon 3. It’s on this remote celestial body where an innovative and potent energy source has been discovered, altering the course of the narrative.
Dubbed as ‘Coral’, this highly volatile substance was initially expected to propel mankind’s technology and communication tools to unforeseen heights. However, instead of ushering in a new era of advancement, its use triggered a catastrophic event. The resulting disaster saw Rubicon 3 and its neighboring stars nearly wiped out, giving birth to the ominously named “Burning Star System”.
Almost a century has passed since that fiery calamity. The storms have abated, and the fierce flames have dimmed, uncovering once again the potent Coral. This precious resource, despite the planet’s damage, has captured the attention of the mega corporations of the future.
A New Battlefront: Factions and Mercenaries
Rubicon 3, scarred and tarnished by natural disaster, is now the site of a brewing conflict. Various factions are vying for total control over the powerful alien substance, leading to the breakout of a war. Amidst this chaos, our character, an independent mercenary, is tasked with infiltrating this beleaguered planet. The gameplay trailer teases that our avatar, identified as C4-621, will be an “enhanced human” – an individual modified to maximize his Armored Core piloting abilities.
Despite the novel setting and plot, certain familiar elements are retained. As elucidated by Yamamura, the game’s structure will remain largely intact. It will be divided into several missions, pulling us into varied scenarios from intense battlefield confrontations to recovery of crucial data from wreckage.
An Expanded Horizon: Diverse and Expansive Maps
The game promises to offer diverse and expansive maps. Considering the prowess of FromSoftware’s world designers, players can expect a satisfying exploratory component. The Armored Cores’ impressive mobility, including their ability to fire in any direction and even take flight, will likely come into play in these new terrains. We wouldn’t be surprised if this game finally exploits verticality, introducing intricate arenas and environments that take the series to new heights.
A New Perspective: Rethinking the Formula
Casting our eyes on the gameplay snippets included in the aforementioned trailer, it’s hard not to notice the impressive speed of the Cores. This nimble agility is set to translate into adrenaline-fueled and captivating battles that will undoubtedly keep players on the edge of their seats.
Delving into specifics, producer Yamamura has clarified the average speed of the mecha will strike a balance between the levels seen in Armored Core 3 and Armored Core 5. However, instantaneous speed bursts and sudden pace shifts promise to elevate the intensity of the Fires of Rubicon battles to rival even the thrilling speed that set Armored Core 4 apart. This episode, along with the standalone expansion, Armored Core: For Answer, popularized the concept of unusually agile units, and fans can expect to see some of that speed-centric gameplay in the new iteration.
Close Quarters Chaos: The Introduction of “Assault Boost”
One standout feature that caught our attention is the introduction of “Assault Boost”. This new mechanic is a game-changer, especially for those who enjoy the frenzy of melee combat. With just a press of a button, the “Assault Boost” allows for an instantaneous shift from long-range gunfight to close-quarter melee clashes, facilitating devastating combo attacks. Imagine bombarding your enemy with missiles and then, employing the Assault Boost, swooping in for the final blow with a blade before your opponent has a chance to recover.
To fully exploit this new addition, players will likely need to equip their Cores with a broad and diverse array of weapons. The anticipation of testing out this novel mechanic designed by the FromSoftware team is nothing short of exhilarating.
Staggering Potential: The Stagger Factor
Another notable addition to Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is the Stagger factor, working somewhat similarly to the mechanic seen in Final Fantasy VII Remake (you may recall our special feature on Final Fantasy VII Remake’s combat system). By inflicting substantial damage on an opponent within a limited timeframe, they’ll temporarily become immobilized and highly vulnerable, making their elimination much more manageable.
The amount of damage inflicted on the Stagger gauge will depend on several factors, such as the equipped weapon, distance, and others yet to be disclosed. Thus, your choice of equipment will likely impact the effectiveness of this mechanic. It’s reasonable to anticipate that Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon will allow the crafting of suitable builds. With the right configuration and a dash of strategic thinking – a taste that Armored Core has never lacked – even the most robust opponents will eventually succumb to your relentless onslaught.
The Power of Customization: A Key Pillar of the Experience
Customization, a long-standing cornerstone of the Armored Core franchise, continues to play a significant role in Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon. It encourages players to seek out superior components and create unique builds that cater to their individual playstyle.
Each Core will have four slots for weapons – two on the back and one for each hand – which you can utilize to arm your mecha with plasma rifles, bazookas, and the inevitable cluster missiles. The game also introduces a range of new close-quarters combat tools to make battles even more intense.
New Weapons, New Tactics: Melee Instruments of Destruction
Designed to be installed exclusively on the left hand of your mecha, these new close-range tools include impulse blades, spears, and terrifying chainsaws to cleave through enemy armor. But the customization doesn’t stop there. The selection of legs for your Core will also have a substantial impact on your combat strategy, with Fires of Rubicon offering at least three different configurations.
The gameplay trailer suggests that lightweight bipedal units will have superior mobility, making them an ideal choice for close combat and mid-air battles. On the other hand, quadrupedal mechas will dominate the battlefield with rifles and other powerful ranged weapons. A third option, tracked vehicles, will provide increased defense and the ability to ram through obstacles encountered along the way.
A Host of Enemies: Varied Threats and Challenges
Producer Yamamura has assured us that players will confront “a wide array of powerful enemies of all shapes and sizes” in Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon. Ranging from colossal combat helicopters to mobile turret battleships, and not to forget the Armored Cores of opposing factions, the enemies promise to offer a variety of challenges. The gameplay trailer from Bandai Namco showcases several massive foes, hinting at FromSoftware’s commitment to designing formidable boss battles that will keep players on their toes.
Just like in the Souls games, players will need to carefully observe and memorize attack patterns to seize opportunities and experiment with new strategies to best these titanic foes. It’s clear that Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon seeks to honor the franchise’s legacy by offering another hardcore gaming experience to both newcomers and long-standing fans alike. Thankfully, unlike in the Souls games, this time around, we can fail, adapt, and retry without the fear of losing any in-game souls – just don’t lose your own in the process.
Looking for a thrilling robot combat experience? Dive into our comprehensive review of Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon and discover the rise of the robot overlords!