Over the past couple of weeks, details have begun to emerge about a new Armored Core game from From Software. As Vikki reported, videos and screenshots were apparently shown as part of a consumer survey, and leakers have talked online about what they were shown. Since the original news appeared, screenshots have been shared, albeit heavily edited to remove any identifying watermarks.
First things first, you’re welcome! I am the person responsible for this wonderful news! I don’t mean that I’m behind the leaks, I actually spurred From Software to make a new Armored Core. Y’see way back in September, I contacted Eurogamer, with a pitch for a feature on a largely-forgotten From Software mech game called Frame Gride. While Eurogamer had run out of the magic beans us freelance types get paid in, they did direct me to the folks at venerable gaming organ Edge, who showered me with beans in exchange for my words about From Software mech games. Within a week of the issue hitting the shelves, From Software had prepared a whole new Armored Core to show off to a select few.
I am a powerful influencer now. The only other possible explanation is that I can see the future, and that would be ridiculous, obviously.
Speculation about my powers of precognition aside, this is tremendously exciting news. For those who are less tuned into the world of giant robot games, it’s worth stating that Armored Core is a big deal. The venerable franchise has spawned 23 entries (if one includes remasters and spin-offs, which I’m doing because I like big numbers) starting with the surprisingly titled Armored Core on the Playstation all the way back in 1997. Armored Core: Verdict Day was the last entry in the series, releasing on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2013.
Close to a decade after the last release, it’s no wonder that fans are champing at the bit at the prospect of a new Armored Core, but if you’re not familiar with its particular charms, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about. Fear not, gentle reader, for I am here to enlighten, educate and entertain.
Armored Core is a third-person action mecha series that sits somewhere in the middle of the great mech spectrum (mechtrum) that has big, lumbering tanks on legs at one end, and zippy space jets on legs (for some reason) at the other. The titular cores are styled after modern military paraphernalia and the terrain tends towards muted, war-torn landscapes, but the robots zip around at a fair old clip, boosting and jumping all over the place.
The resulting robotic recipe is rather reminiscent of the colossal mecha marvel Mobile Suit Gundam, deftly blending blatant violations of physical laws with more grounded elements to present a fiction that, if not exactly realistic, feels plausible enough to silence the objections of all but the most insistent of killjoy science nerds. Take that, deGrasse Tyson!
In another parallel with the Gundam franchise, Armored Core doesn’t have a single continuity, with each main title and its various spin-offs and expansions grouped into self-contained narratives. With each numbered entry, the series has either shifted into a new era, or rebooted entirely. That being said, the casual observer may be forgiven for overlooking this aspect, since the series maintains a consistent aesthetic and generally features some combination of humanity dwelling underground, war, an apocalypse, war, powerful corporate entities and, just for a change, war.
The series has featured both single and multiplayer gameplay throughout, with the earliest titles having split screen and/or console link capabilities (remember that?) More recent games have adapted to the proliferation of online console gaming by moving the focus in that direction, although narrative campaigns have still featured.
Myriad opportunities for customisation are another cor(e)nerstone of the series, with countless rifles, cannon, swords and other gubbins to strap on to your robot, not to mention the various components the mech is built from in the first place. (For some reason, my earliest and most enduring memory of the series was being fascinated by the variety of legs and tank treads available to choose from in a demo of one of the original Playstation games.) Unfortunately, all these options come at the cost of notoriously overcomplicated controls. While not an uncommon complaint with From Software’s games, especially before they began the process of refining the now-familiar Soulsborne control schemes, the joypad gymnastics required for some Armored Core games resulted in memes about the “legendary Armored Core grip.” This involves holding the controller back to front, allowing the player to operate all the face buttons and sticks with their fingertips, while hitting the shoulder buttons with their thumbs. Sadly this almost certainly a joke turned urban legend, but don’t let that stop you from trying it out!
Armored Core is the series that defined From Software before they struck gold with Demon’s Souls and its successors, and not just because they made so many of them! Deep and intimidatingly complex, a combination that serves to repulse as many as it enthralls, is still the From Software hallmark. That, more than anything, is what makes the thought of a new Armored Core so exciting. While the last couple of entries in the series were released post-Dark Souls, From Software’s star has risen tremendously since then. This is the From Software that produced two further Souls titles, Sekiro, the hotly-anticipated Elden Ring and the utterly sublime Bloodborne. Hidetaka Miyazaki and chums have demonstrated that they can achieve massive, popular success while maintaining the elements that make their games so unique and beloved.
If the team can port that winning formula back into the world of mecha and mercenaries, they could be looking at another massive success and a whole new generation of players can experience the magic of Armored Core.