In the history of FromSoftware there is a before and an after, a clear point of separation between Dark Souls, which more than Demon’s Souls earned the Japanese team worldwide fame, and everything that came before, a sort of BC known to very few and wrapped in a mysterious swarm of productions aimed at a very small, mostly local audience. The truth, in this sense, is actually not too far from common feeling, so much so that the feeling that Miyazaki and company have sprung up almost out of nowhere is also shared by a large population of more savvy gamers than the average.
It is no more surprising than necessary, having conquered a prominent position in the global panorama of the industry, that FromSoftware, having archived the bulk of the work done with Elden Ring, has well decided to look at its past and to propose, finally to an inevitably wider audience , their interpretation of war at the controls of gigantic and futuristic combat mechs.
Armored Core, in short, is just that, a sort of Gundam simulator, with even darker hues, set in an even more irreversible dystopia. In full FromSoftware style one might add.
With the presentation of Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon during the Game Awards 2022 event, game expected on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox and PC by the end of 2023, precisely because it is said that not everyone knows FromSoftware’s past, and also because the last chapter of the series is dated 2013, it is perhaps appropriate to make a small summarized to explain further what stories and what kind of gameplay the brand has been offering since 1997, the year in which the first chapter on PlayStation debuted.
Curious? We tell you everything in detail.
Old wars, between old robots
The original Armored Core, third person shooter with a camera positioned behind the avatar, it placed the gamer in the role of Raven, a mercenary who, consistent with the principles of his profession, promises his loyalty exclusively to the highest bidder. After all, in a world of the future in shambles, devastated and irreparably wounded by a nuclear war of inconceivable violence, doing the dirty work, in the pay of one of the two large corporations that manage and govern the bunkers in which humanity has perched in order not to succumb to the eternal radioactive winter that envelops the planet, it is certainly a good strategy to stay afloat and, perhaps, even indulge in some small luxury.
These, broadly speaking, are the obviously decadent and dystopian spatial and temporal coordinates within which the saga was conceived. A world destroyed by war, feebly kept alive by another war. As anticipated, Raven will not try to make a name for himself on the battlefield as an infantryman, but as a pilot of a modular mechan Armored Core to be precise, which, mission after mission, can be progressively upgraded and reconfigured based on the objectives and obstacles that the battle presents.
It was precisely this feature that conquered the gamers who gave Armored Core a chance, exalted by the possibility of customize your robot also according to your own preferences and style. The machine gun’s overwhelming rate of fire could prove more effective than a powerful but slow volley of missiles. Similarly, being able to take advantage of the mobility guaranteed by a pair of tracks could prove to be essential if the battlefield was characterized by large prairies crossed by small streams.
Even the care placed in the HUD, full of information on the state of the mech and enemies, impressed those looking for a simulation of a certain type, the same type of users who also found the control systemin some ways cumbersome, of course, but at the same time similar, ideally, to what would have allowed a real combat mech to move.
Until 2002, the year of Armored Core 2: Another Age for PlayStation 2, the saga followed a very specific narrative line, despite the time jumps and the change of setting, the second official chapter, for example, is set on Mars. The gameplay, up to this moment, remained broadly faithful to the precepts dictated by the progenitor. Gradually introduced the local multiplayer and the aesthetic customization of the mech thanks to the editor that allowed you to create, pixel by pixel, decals applicable to various parts of the armor.
With Armored Core 3, also for PlayStation 2, the saga faces a narrative reboot. We return to the underground bunkers of a planet Earth completely destroyed on the surface, Raven returns and the corporations fight for domination. The novelty, from this point of view, is represented by an AI, The Controller, which is nominally entrusted with the social, economic and political management of the last human settlements, a further unknown element of this equation which, obviously, will influence and not little continuation of the plot of the game. On the gameplay front, however, everything remains almost unchanged, with an even greater focus on the aesthetic customization of the mech and a multiplayer, always locally, extended to four players.
Between direct sequels and subsequent spin-offs, the saga also acquires the benefits of the first person as an alternative view, before running into yet another reboot with Armored Core 4, from 2006, released on both PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. start from scratch, in order not to change anything anyway, because once again there is nuclear winter and there are corporations fighting each other, it is a particularly significant chapter in the economy of the brand.
For starters, it marks the debut of Hidetaka Miyazaki as director. The plot, in his way, is particularly accurate. The customization of the mech is very thorough, thanks also to the renewed power of the new generation hardware. It inaugurates the online multiplayer for up to seven players.
For a more substantial and sensitive revolution, we will have to wait for Armored Core V of 2012, again for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. We are in full post-Demon’s and Dark Souls and the renewed playful approach of the Japanese software house influences the evolution of this brand. The fifth regular chapter, in fact, stands out from the others for the tactical approach, for the more staid rhythms, for the more diluted action. It becomes even more evident, so to speak, the simulation ambition of the brand, to the point that legend has it that the ideal way to play this chapter involves turning the pad over, an operation necessary to make the game even more immersive and make the identification with the Armored Core pilot on duty truly total.
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon will be yet another reboot of the saga in narrative terms. Resetting the plot may seem cloying by now, but it makes perfect sense for a brand that hasn’t been in touch for ten years, which will potentially appeal to a vastly wider audience than it has in the past, precisely in the face of success world which FromSoftware has met in the meantime.
In general, the information on the game is still very scarce, but as far as the history we know that the game will be set on Rubicon 3, a planet very distant from Earth. Here humanity has come across a new source of energy whose exploitation, surprise, has however triggered a real apocalypse on the alien planet. One hundred years after the incident, humanity has returned to the surface of this world, ready to once again reassert dominion over this precious but dangerous raw material. As a surprise here too, in the role of a mercenary at the command of an Armored Code, you will have to complete numerous missions on behalf of interstellar mega-corporations, determined to vie for control of Rubicon 3. In short, the plot is absolutely respectful of the usual plot, but an intriguing development full of twists and turns cannot be excluded at all.
Despite the premises and the recent curriculum of FromSoftware, an open-world approach will not be adopted, nor will the playful canons of Soulslike be re-proposed. Also from this point of view, the cornerstones of the saga will be largely respectedsince the single player adventure will again be divided into missions, albeit set in very large freely explorable areas, and we will be dealing with a challenging third-person shooter, but still devoted to action.
Masaru Yamamuradirector of the game who has taken the place of Hidetaka Miyazaki, who will however play an important role in the development, has also confirmed a competitive multiplayer mode, also along the lines of the Arenas seen and appreciated in many past chapters of the saga.
In short, Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon does not seem to want to revolutionize the saga at all, but rather (re)propose that philosophy, that mood, that feeling that relatively few have had the pleasure of discovering. Certainly, here and there, we will notice some trademarks acquired in the post-Dark Souls period, but what awaits us is a journey into a genre and a way of interpreting gameplay that FromSoftware has not experimented with and has been proposing for a long, too long time.
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