Armored Core VI Perfects a Feature Elden Ring Flubbed

It's time to d-d-d-d-d-d-d-duel.

Armored Core VI combat
Bandai Namco

FromSoftware has delivered some of the best games in the past decade that have changed the landscape of game design and created an entirely new genre — the Soulslike. And while games like Sekiro, Bloodborne, and Elden Ring are widely and rightly regarded as excellent, FromSoftware has never been able to nail down the multiplayer experience. That is, until Armored Core VI.

After belatedly spending a weekend falling deep into the Armored Core hole, I found myself continuously putting the game’s main story on hold to pursue the multiplayer offering, which takes the immaculate-designed mech combat of the title and transforms it into strategic yet adrenaline-pumping duels against real players. It’s a worthwhile endeavor in its own right and holds up next to Armored Core VI’s equally incredible main missions.

Dueling in Armored Core VI lets me live my Gundam fantasy.

Banda Namco

Armored Core VI’s multiplayer feels like a perfect storm in many ways. As a departure from FromSoftware’s extended time making Soulslikes the combat is much more fast-paced and action-forward than even Bloodborne or Sekiro, lending itself to quick multiplayer matches that are over in a matter of seconds or a minute at most. It feels akin to a fighting game.

The mech genre also is tailor-made to encourage players to duel each other. Who doesn’t want to feel the rush of battling giant weapons of war and coming out the victor? It feels good to win.

Like a fighting game, Armored Core VI’s multiplayer feels equally fast-paced and intensely strategic. So much planning goes into how you build your AC, thanks to the plethora of customization that ranges from choosing every piece of your machine and the weapons you carry.

However, the second you are on the battlefield and staring down at your enemy most of that strategy goes out the window and it becomes a battle of instinct.

Facing down a boss in the main missions is a puzzle that requires you to learn patterns and then change your build accordingly — multiplayer duels force you to rely on quick assessments of the enemy based on your accumulated knowledge of the game’s available weapons and builds.

Watching a duel in Armored Core VI is a pyrotechnic marvel, as two giant machines dash across an arena firing off too many rounds a second to keep track of. Some matches end in seconds, my opponent stunning me in an opening salvo and backing me into a corner I had no chance of escaping.

Multiplayer combines the strategy of AC customization with fast-paced combat that requires players to act on instinct.

Bandai Namco

There have also been matches that feel achingly long in the moment, as I face off against my opponent but neither of us gives an inch. Suddenly these moments end in the blink of an eye when either they or I make a fatal slip. The match probably lasted less than two minutes despite how it felt during the stalemate.

The most recent series in the iconic Gundam franchise, The Witch From Mercury, centers largely around one-on-one mech duels. Each duel begins with both pilots reciting an oath:

“Victory is never decided by mobile suit performance alone. Nor by the skill of the pilot, alone. The result itself is only the truth."

It reiterates the idea that the only thing that makes the winner of a duel is whoever happens to be the last one standing. Anything can happen, even with the best skills or the best mech configuration. This is what is accomplished by Armored Core VI’s duels. There is a danger to facing off against another player in that it is always going to come down to luck. Anybody can win despite your preparations, that’s what makes victory and even defeat (which I have faced many, many times now) so satisfying every time

I know FromSoftware has accomplished something special with Armored Core VI’s multiplayer because, for the first time in a FromSoftware game, I find myself itching to play multiplayer even more than the main narrative. That’s not something even Elden Ring could accomplish.

Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is now available on PlayStation, Xbox, and PC.

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