Armored Core 6 finally got to show its stuff in action at the game’s recent showcase, giving us our first look at relatively raw gameplay of an early level and boss. We even got a peek at the PvP, which I admit was far more hectic than I expected. There were dozens of new details to prepare us for the AC6 launch on August 25. Here’s what we know.
Armored Core 6 Showcase Details
Armored Core 6 PvP is a Massive Cluster
Armored Core 6 PvP is a massive cluster, and I am here for it. The 1v1 between streamers Oroboro and FightinCowboy showed that even in a duel situation, it’s much faster than the classic titles. Moreover, it incorporates mechanics from across the series with modern sensibilities. There’s overboost from AC2 and assault armor from Armored Core For Answer. Dual Gatling guns remained strong and dual blades were difficult, but the biggest factor was Stagger.
Like Heat from Armored Core 2, certain weapons excel at outputting Stagger damage. Once staggered, any AC takes a huge amount of additional damage. Oroboro’s strategy in his 1v1 was to outspeed FightinCowyboy’s slower bullet-hose of a mech. But even with the tread legs, Cowboy kept things close enough to win.
Then there was the 3v3 mode, which is chaos incarnate. Across a five-minute match, two teams of three duke it out in a no-holds-barred brawl. Points are awarded for every mech destroyed. There’s also an exciting twist on Team Deathmatch. Rather than each kill being worth the same amount, the longer a mech stays alive, the higher its value. The respawn timer lasts about five seconds, so it’s possible to snowball your opponents so that there’s only one up at a time, making fights much simpler.
If all six AC units are up, coordination is critical to victory. Focus-firing the weakest link can make things easier. You can also hunt high-value targets. This means you can risk leaving weaker players alive to accumulate score value and then take them out for a big boost nearer to the match’s end.
In short, Armored Core 6 PvP is some of the most cerebral yet pure chaotic experiences I’ve seen in a long time. If the game sells well enough, I hope it can kindle a much larger PvP scene. The series deserves it.
What’s Old is New, and What’s New is Awesome
A lot of classic weapon options are back in Armored Core 6. This includes dual Gattlings, dual blades, line rifles, and many more. And luckily for everyone involved, they’re all amazing in the right circumstance. Making the perfect mech is also just as satisfying, and there’s no one right answer to every situation. Skill is a much larger separation between players than the fit of their AC unit.
Then there are the new weapons, all of which look badass. One of them, the Pile Bunker, is as simple as it is devastating. It’s an arm-mounted cannon with a retractable metal spear in it. If you’re familiar with the Stake Driver from Bloodborne, you’ll know how the Pile Bunker works. Charge it up and impale your enemy with a massive sharpened rod of steel.
The same is true of how many of the parts work. One of the bigger highlights on display during the Armored Core 6 showcase is how quad-legs now allow you to hover in midair without using Boost meter. Boost is one of the most important core mechanics in AC6. It’s vital to a mech’s mobility and survivability. Being able to perch in the sky — even for a limited time — for free is huge.
That doesn’t mean the other leg types aren’t strong in their own right. Standard bipedal legs provide the most universal benefits. Treads make you slower but massively increase your armor points (AP, a mech’s health) and give you the ability to drift. Reverse-knee legs can offer some extra stability and speed. That’s not even considering the hundreds of other stats that the game’s various mech parts provide.
We got a sneak peek at the stat screen, and series veterans will be happy to know AC6 maintains the granularity in designing your mech. That includes individual parts having more than a dozen individual stats. That doesn’t include dozens of ways to customize them with paint jobs, emblems, and other aesthetic changes.
This Game is Hard and It’s Bosses Huge
We already knew that Armored Core 6 would have large-scale boss fights. It’s a core focus of its marketing, after all. However, we got a full fight showcase against a huge, slag-powered enemy called the Smart Cleaner. If this boss’ design tracks along many of the others, there will likely always be more than one weak point to attack.
You’ll also need to adjust your strategy depending on the fight. Sometimes staying airborne is more beneficial, as it is against the Smart Cleaner, and some bosses require more grounded mobility. One of the most interesting gameplay updates is the ability to modify your mech mid-mission via the Assembly system. You can do so provided you’re at a checkpoint or have just died to a boss or group of enemies. That way, provided you have the parts handy, you can turn your strategy on its head and try a new one without needing to play the whole mission again.
Armored Core 6 is also incredibly unforgiving. While one of Oroboro’s deaths was scripted to show off in-mission Assembly, the Smart Cleaner still gave him a run for his money. That was even with an AC custom-built to hit its weaknesses. FightinCowboy also died during his run-through of one of the game’s early levels. To my eyes, it was a death he earned rather than one he was instructed to show off. I don’t know how much time either player had to prepare for the showcase or if the mechs they used fit their playstyle, but both are very good players. For AC6 to give them trouble is a solid sign of the challenge on offer.
Vertical, Until It’s Not
Another of Armored Core 6‘s main marketing points is the vastness and verticality of its maps. While that design philosophy was on display, the individual arenas we saw in the showcase were relatively flat. Traversal between major gameplay sections had more in the way of verticality and mobility challenges, and there were some on offer during fights, as well. However, most of the fighting happened on even ground.
That design philosophy tracks with FromSoftware’s boss and encounter design from past games. Their boss fights almost always take place in a large, flat plane to give the player as much freedom to move around as possible. Using the environment is still important, though. You can use it as cover to take a breath or to juke your opponent and break line of sight.
Smart environmental use is almost as important in PvP. Some maps take place in cityscapes, massive bases, and other locales with buildings to dodge behind or land atop. Being smart about cover is especially important in the 3v3 mode. Keeping yourself alive for just a few extra seconds can give your teammates time to pull enemy attention from you or otherwise support you.
There are also arenas almost entirely without cover. In these, the only thing keeping your enemy from shooting you is the speed of your AC. And the deadliness of your weapons, of course. You can even avoid fighting altogether, as Armored Core 6 takes after Sekiro in that NPCs unaware of your presence will chatter about the level you’re in, their mission, and provide other important bits of intel. Boss and miniboss-level enemies will also get on comms to trash-talk you or try to psyche you out. Any teammates and other on-comms characters will also provide additional world-building, though we didn’t see much of that in the showcase for spoiler reasons.
And with that, we’ve now discussed all the biggest info drops from the Armored Core 6 showcase stream. There was a lot to unpack, and we’ll undoubtedly learn tons more after the official release. AC6 looks to be the seminal game in the franchise, and I, for one, can’t wait to see how the community reacts to it. For more on Armored Core 6, check out our hub for the game.