It’s that time again when gamers gather around their digital bonfires and await the hotly anticipated new release by FromSoftware. This time is a little different, however, as for the first time in years the next big project from the developer is outside of their now legendary ‘Soulsborne’ genre of games.
While fans of the long resting Armored Core titles are salivating at the possibilities enabled by a more mature developer and more advanced tech, newer FromSoft fans might be facing an issue of expectations. How will fans of FromSoft’s newer titles handle jumping into something so different, and how might the developer lean into these expectations to create something special?
Hiatus and Trajectory
FromSoftware is not a new name in the video game development arena, having first opened its doors back in 1986. Since then it’s been responsible for a long line of successful titles, most notably starting with the King’s Field series, and then with Armored Core. The first in the giant mech Armored Core games started on the original PlayStation back in 1997, and while the series would prove successful, it was never a mainstream mega smash. The last of these games, Armored Core: Verdict Day, hit shelves in 2013.
The ten-year hiatus of this series was owed to Demon’s Souls, first released for the PS3 in 2009. Demon’s Souls initially confounded reviewers and publisher Sony, but fans had a much different take. Demon’s Souls’ difficulty and world-building took the world by storm, and in this direction, FromSoftware had found a new focus.
Since Demon’s Soul, FromSoftware has continued to focus on the new pseudo-genre it developed, which would eventually become known as Soulsborne. With Dark Souls constantly receiving positive reviews, followed by the success of Bloodborne, Sekiro, and finally Elden Ring, FromSoftware had essentially created a money-printing machine. Others might have imitated, but the original developer always maintained its throne.
Evolution and Consistency
With the worldwide popularity and acclaim that FromSoftware found with Soulsborne games, their team expanded, and they wanted to explore other ideas. Though they’ll continue working on Soulsborne games and their upcoming Elden Ring DLC, they also wanted to turn back the clock and return to their roots.
Herein lies the challenge, in that many modern FromSoftware fans don’t really know anything about the Armored Core titles, and this sets up certain expectations. Soulsborne games are a different beast than AC titles, and this could be a problem for those going in with preconceived notions. Even if AC6 turns out to be fantastic, if it’s not fantastic in the same way as Soulsborne, some players might not be able to adapt to that.
Addressing this concern can be challenging, but there is precedent in welcoming players in with a gentle curve from many industries, not just video games. Some of the best examples of this come from online betting, where casinos are built of offering hundreds of games with different themes and ideas. By offering some of the best casino bonuses available like deposit matches and free spins, players on these websites are encouraged to try different things. Being available on mobiles and computers also increases player choice, and more freedom serves to make players happier.
Taking such a route in video games can be more difficult, but it’s not an insurmountable task. For a start, AC6 could launch by showing off the aspects shared by the Soulsborne formula. Combat could be a strong start, demonstrating the importance of energy management and picking the right attack for the right opponent. These are fundamental aspects across FromSoftware’s titles, and they could ease wary players to find something to enjoy.
At the same time, AC has the opportunity to use its setting and new gameplay possibilities to appeal to new approaches that Soulsborne players might appreciate. A faster pace, greater vertical movement possibilities and straight-up super-fighting robots would go against established formulas and could open doors to legions of new and returning FromSoftware fans.
Regardless of how Armored Core VI Fires of Rubicon shakes out, one thing is for sure: the pressure is on FromSoftware to deliver. While early previews with FromSoftware fans have been positive, the mass market is another beast entirely. Should AC6 succeed, it could signal a return to a series and provide the developer with new horizons to explore. Should it fail, then it might be forced to become a kind of one-trick pony, which could drive away tiring development talent. This game is going to be an industry shaker for sure, and you can bet we’ll be watching closely.