Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is right around the corner, and it seems that FromSoftware has another sure-fire hit on their hands if the recent gameplay reveals and previews are anything to go by. With just a month before its release, the anticipation for a new Armored Core game has only gotten stronger by the day.
I recently got to sit down with Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon Producer Yasunori Ogura and Director Masaru Yamamura to ask some burning questions about their upcoming title. We talked about the addition of a “hard” lock-on in the game, the excitement shared by the team during development, and whether or not players can look forward to a new Karasawa Rifle or a Moonlight Blade.
*Some parts of this Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon interview have been slightly edited for brevity and readability.
Q: Boss fights in Armored Core VI are a huge spectacle that elevated our playthrough of the game. How easy (or hard) was it for the team to design these encounters, especially considering the sense of verticality and the faster pace this game has over Souls titles that the team has developed?
A: We’ve become known for these challenging and exciting boss fights, we enjoy making these, and we wanted it to become a big part of Armored Core VI as well. The main keywords for designing them were “aggression” and “high-spurt.” We made full use of the 3D space and the actions that you can only perform in a powerful AC mech while having the boss being on equal footing with the player – they are able to move on every axis, they are able to fire all their weapons at once just the same as you.
The player is expected to not only observe their patterns and their tells and learn their animations and respond but they are also expected to use everything at their disposal – their complete mobility, all of their weapons to try to get over and around the enemy – and just making full use of that three-dimensional mobility of their mechs to defeat these bosses.
Making full use of your AC will allow the player to have the most fun and most excitement in these boss fights and we look forward to seeing how players perform.
Q: Armored Core VI seems to have a very steep learning curve. How does the game address the need to properly onboard players to the various mechanics of Armored Core, especially with customization?
A: Armored Core has always been quite a complex game, particularly how the assembly aspect can be quite overwhelming and challenging to get to grips with at first. We paid special attention to how we approached onboarding to the game mechanics and especially assembly in the early game of Armored Core VI.
We have not only training and simulator modes that introduce the different types and archetypes, movement styles, and options for the player to experiment with, but we also have a relatively small lineup of parts and weapons early on so that the player doesn’t feel too overwhelmed and they can get introduced to this process simply and smoothly.
Q: This is the first Armored Core game in a long time. Has it been nearly 10 years? Within the team, was there generally an air of excitement during the development of Armored Core VI, trying out something “new” and was it something they were looking forward to?
And since Armored Core VI now focuses on free and unobtrusive movement, did the team have a hard time with that paradigm shift since the previously released Souls titles often focused on just a level field?
A: This is a series that we’ve always had a lot of love for, and a lot of our staff are very fond of mechs and of AC, including Director Yamamura. This is a very exciting time to be able to finally bring a new Armored Core back to the players.
Also, mainly making dark fantasy games in recent years, it was very refreshing and exciting to go and do something that’s set in the far future and in this old sci-fi universe as well. This provided good stimulation and refreshing motivation for the team to create these enormous megastructures and these impossible mecha designs. It was a lot of fun.
Of course, there were some tough hurdles to climb in making full use of this 3D space and allowing the player full movement within that space as compared to our titles in recent years. Getting the balancing and metrics just right, yes, there were some challenging moments, but we’re excited where we are finally at a point where we can put that in the player’s hands and allow them to experience the dynamic battles in these ACs.
Along with using this 3D space, players are also using all 4 weapons at once, and Armored Core is a shoot-em-up action game first and foremost, so a lot of it involved a lot of dodging while firing, quite dynamic that players of recent titles may not have really felt. So we hope this introduces a new and refreshing action dynamic to the genre as well.
Q: With many titles coming out for PS5 and Xbox Series X only, why did you decide to develop Armored Core VI for last-gen consoles?
A: About 5 years ago, back in 2018, Miyazaki and a small group of core team members started to prototype and work out the initial direction for this project – what a new Armored Core would look like. It’s something we’ve always wanted to do, and finally getting the resources and staff together happened in around 2018.
In 2019, once that initial direction was set, Sekiro was released, Yamamura-san joined the project as lead director and full production kicked off. During that time, we were supporting the console generation that was active at that time, which was PS4 and Xbox One, and as the new generation of consoles came in, we wanted to support those as well. We originally started development for PC and last-gen consoles, but over the course of development, we supported the new generation too.
Q: Following up on that, considering you’re developing for a number of platforms spanning a couple of generations, are you able to detail to us the performance that players can expect from both previous and current-gen consoles in terms of resolution and frame rates?
A: What we can say right now is that support for both console generations will be is going to be similar to the support that you saw with Elden Ring, so we’re going to use that as a baseline.
We are trying to optimize for the most comfortable experience for the previous generation. While the new consoles will provide a slight performance boost and reduction in load times, we want our players on all platforms to be reassured that we are focusing on getting the optimal experience for their chosen system.
As for PC specs, we hope to announce the specifics regarding those in the coming weeks, so please stay tuned. We are doing our best to make the final optimizations on all platforms to get that optimal experience for all players, so thank you for your patience.
Q: How long would it take for players to finish Armored Core VI?
A: For the average player, a full playthrough of the Armored Core VI campaign would take roughly about 20 hours. However, there are multiple endings and arena missions to play as well, so it would probably be a bit more than that. We hope that players enjoy repeated playthroughs to get those multiple endings and mission branching as well.
For longtime AC fans, while they may be a bit more familiar with the assembly aspect, a lot of the battle and combat design and how players will utilize your assembled mechs is going to differ a bit from previous ACs. The complete playtime won’t change a lot and they’ll be at a similar starting point with players who are completely new to the series in that sense.
These longtime fans may enjoy spending more time in the garage, so their playtime in Armored Core VI could be more.
Q: I’m sure the team has been monitoring the community based on the Armored Core VI gameplay trailer that has been revealed a couple of weeks ago. Can the team talk us through the decision to add a “hard” lock-on feature, especially since Armored Core VI now offers both soft and hard lock-on instead of the more traditional, unrestrained aiming?
A: We call this mechanic “Target Assist” in Armored Core VI and the reason we wanted to implement it was because, particularly for players that may be new to this series, we wanted them to first and foremost experience this flying and combat within these mechs. We want them to take full control of their ACs and all 4 weapons simultaneously, so there’s a lot going on and the battles can get quite frenetic, so we didn’t want them to be too overwhelmed by having to target perfectly as well.
We also want them to keep the enemy in their sights, and this also allows players to observe the enemy easily and watch for its tells and animations, gauge the distance and timing… It allows for a lot more of that learning and iterative processing during battle. This was a big part of the combat design and that’s why we introduced Target Assist in Armored Core VI.
This is what we consider the “normal” way to play, however, we understand that more hardcore AC fans may want to disable this and have complete manual aiming control, so we expect to see some pretty amazing players come through and show off their skills with Target Assist disabled.
And just to add, we want players to understand that having Target Assist on does not necessarily mean you’re going to be hit-scanning every bullet of your attack. This is a way to align both your camera and AC to the enemy, but the actual targeting will be a little bit delayed and this depends on your FCS, or your fire control system, which is part of the assembly aspect. If you are wanting lesser delay between the camera and weapon alignment, you may want to consider upgrading your FCS or consider the distance between you and your enemy.
This all comes down to the player and how they choose to assemble their mech and their preferred playstyle.
Q: Do you recommend that players replay missions to get more currency for parts or just play through the missions?
A: Mission replay is implemented mainly as a sort of challenge run or an endgame feature for players that want to earn more rewards and get the highest rank. It’s not intended to be a way to grind or accumulate more parts, although players can use it that way if they wish.
We’ve tried to balance the mission flow, including training missions between the campaign, to give the players the weapons that they’ll need. They will have enough to choose from just by playing through the main missions and story missions to get some unique weapons. Just playing through the campaign will give them enough to choose from, we feel.
If you’re the type of player who loves to buy out the whole shop, you may have to replay a couple of missions here and there just to earn enough money to do that.
To the more frugal and experimental player, there’s no penalty to selling your parts and weapons at all. So if you try something out and it doesn’t work, you can just sell it back for full price and buy something else. We hope this encourages players to experiment with assembly in Armored Core VI a bit more.
Q: Can the team talk us through coming up with the final design of the HUD in Armored Core VI? It feels very sleek and minimal but at the same time shows a lot of information like missile lock-on, enemy distance, and more. How did the final HUD come to be?
A: The main intention of the HUD design was to focus the player’s attention on the enemy in front of them. We wanted most of the information they needed to be there like the AP and Stagger Gauge. This is information that you need to see at all times.
Information that you can glance at and don’t need constantly was moved to the outer boundaries of the screen, so we wanted to design it in a simplified way.
The player’s own AP is down on the bottom left and it’s something that they do need to be aware of, but we do have sort of a computer character that is an AI of your AC, and they will occasionally announce your status. If your AP or ammunition drops below a certain range, you’ll get these announcements along with a voiceover just to keep you aware.
Q: The Armored Core series has been known to carry some legacy items from previous games like the Karasawa Rifle or the Moonlight Blade. Could you maybe give us a hint on whether we can see these or other types of legacy equipment and whether will they be obtainable through some series of events or quests in Armored Core VI?
A: We hope you look forward to the final game in that regard and see what’s there. We do appreciate that there are longtime fans of the series who will enjoy having this kind of flavor and this kind of legacy moving forward, so we have tried to include some elements there. Please stay tuned for that!
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is launching on August 25, 2023, for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, and PC.