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December 2023

Armored Core VI Fires Of Rubicon

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Developer: From Software
Release Date: Aug. 25, 2023


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PS5 Review - 'Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Aug. 23, 2023 @ 8:00 a.m. PDT

Armored Core VI Fires Of Rubicon revives and reimagines the Armored Core series as a new action game after 10 long years since the last entry in the franchise.

Buy Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon

For a lot of people, Dark Souls is what put FromSoftware on their radar. I always thought of them as developers of awesome mech games. Another Century's Episode is probably one of the best anime tie-in action franchises, and Metal Wolf Chaos is the cheesiest American action movie game ever made by a non-American developer. Front and center was the Armored Core franchise, which stood almost exclusively in the realm of "build a mech" games. With the popularity of the Souls titles, it seemed possible that Armored Core would end up in the dustbin of history, which is why Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is such a pleasant surprise. Not only is it the revival of the long-dormant franchise, but it also brought it back in a big way to show that the many lessons FromSoft learned from the development of its flagship franchise could carry over to other titles.

Armored Core VI is a new setting, so it doesn't require that you've played the previous games. In the far distant future, humanity made the mistake of relying on a volatile power source known as Coral, which was discovered on an alien planet called Rubicon 3. It turns out this was a terrible idea, as Coral exploded in an event known as the Flames of Ibis, turning Rubicon 3 and the surrounding space into a contaminated hellhole. Half a century later, money-seeking corporations have returned to Rubicon 3 to give the whole Coral thing another shot. Players take on the role of 621, the pilot of an Armored Core mobile humanoid weapon. The experimentation needed to pilot the mech has left you a brain-damaged wreck of a human, and your only hope of earning enough money to afford medical attention is to obtain Coral. Sneaking onto Rubicon 3 under the stolen callsign "Raven," you begin a mercenary career in the hopes of finding the mother lode for yourself.

AC6's plot amounts to "corporations are soulless, horrifying monsters that will dehumanize their employees and potentially risk mass global destruction to turn a profit," which is pretty much the standard for the series. It's a fun one with lots of colorful characters and fun excuses for cool robot fights. The plot clearly comes somewhat secondary to the gameplay, but it keeps players engaged until the last missile barrage.

AC6 is a level-based game. You're given a series of missions to complete, and while you have some choice over which missions to take, you're going to follow a mostly linear storyline. Thankfully, this works out quite well. While the missions are relatively short, they feel intense and action-packed, and there's very little in the way of filler. You're constantly doing something cool and fun, and the game ramps up really quickly. You're not even out of the tutorial before you're fighting a heavily armed flying gunship, and it only goes up from there. There are also alternate paths available, so there are plenty of reasons to start a New Game+.

AC6's is designed to make you feel like you're in control of a giant robot. You're not really limited by the physical needs of a human being, and the combat is focused on that. Your mecha is a huge yet immensely mobile robot that's capable of zooming along the ground, flying through the air, and maneuvering in ways that one does with attached thrusters. As such, combat is extremely focused on mobility and controlling the environment, so it feel distinctly different from something that's more in the realm of human capability.

A big part of this is how your weapons are handled. You effectively have four "hands" (two actual hands and two shoulder slots) with which to equip weapons and shields, and you can use them independently of one another. You can fire missiles at the same time as you're blocking, shoot cannons and machine guns together, and attack nonstop. Melee weapons require more commitment, but even then, you can instantly transition from a sword slash into unleashing a laser blast directly into the enemy's face.

AC6's combat has the faintest traces of Sekiro in that gameplay is a lot more about weakening enemies to leave them vulnerable to big attacks, but of course this isn't strictly necessary. Each machine in the game has a "load" that represents how stable the mech is. As you attack, this load builds up, and once it is maxed out, the machine is very briefly disabled and takes a lot more damage for any attacks landed in that time frame. However, this pseudo-stamina bar quickly begins to replenish if you don't deal damage, so the only way to truly weaken an enemy is with constant aggression.

This makes combat a lot more interesting than slamming down the biggest attacks. Not only do you need to avoid enemy attacks, but you also need to figure out how to do so while constantly laying down damage. This encourages players to stay mobile and aggressive and constantly react to what the enemy machines are doing — all while trying to find their weak spots. That can mean dodging on the ground, flying in the air, zooming under an enemy's defenses, or even landing on their back and unleashing hell.

It also means that weapon types play heavily into how you approach enemies. Kinetic weapons are physical attacks and tend to be good at overwhelming an enemy, but they also have specific ranges where they are most effective; attacking outside of that range risks less damage or even attacks literally ricocheting off the enemy armor. Laser weapons are more consistent but less impactful, and they tend to be more focused on charging up attacks to hit enemies during vulnerable periods. It gets more complex than that when you add different attributes and abilities. Melee attacks don't take ammo but require you to be close, missiles can target multiple foes, and pulse lasers are best at taking down specialized shielding.

A big part of AC6 is building the perfect robot, and the game offers a variety of play styles. Your leg loadout has a massive impact on how your mecha controls. Standard bipedal legs are good all-around options. Reverse-jointed legs allow you to jump incredibly high into the air without wasting EN, so you can easily transition from ground to air combat. Tank treads let you boost around the ground with ease, allowing for pinpoint turns and near-constant firing. My favorite was the tetrapod leg, which allows you to temporarily transform into a hovering weapon platform that can rain death from above with minimal energy concerns.

The "starter" mech provides a good example of a basic workman build, armed with a machine gun, missile launcher, and a close-range melee sword. Throw in a shield, and this can be an easy and reliable design to follow. You can also choose to forgo melee and equip multiple machine guns, swapping out shoulder weapons for heavy-duty cannons to pile on bonus damage once an enemy is stunned. You can choose to bulk up on the defense with a heavy tank build, which is great for dealing with large swarms of weaker enemies.

One nice thing about the game is that it's very easy to rebuild your mech. You can purchase equipment, find it in stages, or be rewarded with it for completing missions. If you don't need a piece of equipment, you can sell it and repurchase it at any time. Even better news is that the cost to buy and the cost to sell are identical. While this means you can't hold every single piece of equipment at a time, it does mean it's trivial to mix and match based on your needs. Many missions encourage you to have multiple builds. A mission where you dodge giant cannon shots as you approach a foe rewards a high-mobility, reverse-jointed design more than something tanky, while a stage full of slow, heavily armored foes reward an energy weapon-focused build over a physical one.

There's a ton of room for customization. As you progress in the game, you'll unlock new abilities, tools, and even damage types. You can spec your machine in more specialized ways. Do you like missiles? Do you want to do nothing but missiles? Go for it. Are you interested in up-close and personal combat? You can unlock a special boost kick that lets you close in on enemies and cut them to ribbons. You can adjust your armor specs based on need or create a build that carries a ton of weapons and drops them to reduce weight based on your current requirements. You need to manage things like your energy consumption, overall build weight, and so on. While you don't have to spend hours building the perfect Armored Core, doing so means you're going to end up with something that fits your play style better than equipping things with high stats.

AC6 is very much one of those games where you'll feel like a bumbling fool until the moment everything clicks, and at that point, you feel like the coolest person on the planet. Every missed dodge or failed attack helps build you up. Then you're effortlessly stepping between missiles while boosting toward an enemy, and it feels like you've suddenly become a Newtype. It's difficult to express how freaking cool it is when everything comes together, and you suddenly go from being overwhelmed by a foe to effortlessly clowning on them. I'd argue it is easily one of the best mech games I've ever played, and it's up there with Zone of the Enders 2 in capturing the feel of actually piloting a mech. It's also probably the FromSoft game that gives the best overall tutorial for how to play the game, which makes it pretty darn accessible for newcomers.

That's the key to AC6, and it'll determine if you're going to enjoy it. Do you want to custom-build your own meticulously detailed robot and put it through a series of challenges that make you feel like you've hopped into a Gundam? It's extremely difficult to imagine you not having fun with AC6. It's an incredibly fun mech game that feels meticulously designed to be as cool as possible.

It helps that AC6 looks amazing in motion. The environments are occasionally a touch bland (there are a lot of ruined cityscapes), but you're barely paying attention to it because the frantic, high-octane rush of missiles and lasers fill the air around you. Everything is nice and easy to read, and even though combat looks insane in videos or screenshots, the clear art direction assures that you're rarely blindsided. The voice acting is a tad cheesy and exaggerated, but at this point, it wouldn't be a FromSoft game without that, and the music is excellent.

Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is a darn fine entry into the franchise. The buttery-smooth gameplay and incredibly cool combat make it an absolute delight to play. It's easily one of the best mecha action games, and only Gundam Breaker 3 has a more involved and enjoyable mech customization system. If you're looking for a really fun and well-crafted robot bashing experience, look no further than Armored Core VI, which is a delight to play.

Score: 9.0/10

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