The return of Armored Core is something that continues to surprise me. How many years has it been since the last entry in the series? Far too many for such a storied franchise considering the last outing was out all the way back on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 over ten years ago. FromSoftware seems keen to use its standing as a premier developer, however, to revive Armored Core for the modern age. Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon will be launching in some short weeks and with it a new era for fans of mech games and traditionally difficult FromSoftware games alike.
Because let’s be honest here – Armored Core VI is going to be difficult, and I found out just how difficult during a hands-on session I got to experience far more than just a short teaser. With a good chunk of time under my belt, it’s safe to say that the precedent set by the house that built Dark Souls and Elden Ring is branching out to a new level.
That isn’t to say that Armored Core VI is exactly like those other games, however. Whilst Dark Souls and its contemporaries lean towards a specific style of risk VS reward gameplay, Armored Core VI dials that up a notch by introducing a different type of moment. You see, in games like Dark Souls, the player is only ever to move from side to side or front to back, but in ACVI that is expanded further by adding vertical movement space.
After all, you will be piloting a mech and these things tend to fly and have all other sorts of maneuverability that a human character simply cannot do. It’s because of this that the level design in ACVI is greatly expanded in comparison – particularly compared to not only existing FromSoftware titles but also when looking back at the other games in the Armored Core series. In the time that I was able to spend with the game, this type of design philosophy is apparent right out of the gate.
I was introduced to Armored Core VI fully fresh, that is, the start of the game proper with the capability to venture through its entire first chapter. It’s no short thing either – after some quick tutorials, you’re thrown into the meat of the game which does involve a dusting of story.
What that story involves is centered around your character – C4-621, an augmented human. Your handler has you off on your first mission, crashing onto a planet known as Rubicon 3 in order to fulfill various objectives including the scanning of wrecks for a valid ID all whilst avoiding enemy fire. All of this is indicated on screen – there are plenty of location trackers so it’s difficult to get lost and it’s worth paying attention to anyway because conservation of ammo and energy is key.
Armored Core VI operates on several mechanics. There is EN Consumption, in which some actions consume energy and become disabled when EN is depleted. EN can be recovered rapidly when the mech is grounded. Auto target is a system I found myself taking a lot of advantage of – if only because it helped automatically center the camera. There’s also a repair kit system, the likes of which give you three repair kits for every mission to recover AC or Armor Points. Should you use all of them up, that’s it, you’ll have to stake your luck on pure survival at that point.
I found myself in this exact situation during one of the first particularly challenging boss fights. There are a lot of challenges right out of the gate, which is somewhat deceptive because up until that point, the objectives are fairly straightforward. Said boss fight, which involves a helicopter, really pushed me to make observations and learn from a lot of mistakes I was making.
The game isn’t going to hold your hand aside from a couple of verbal hints, so get ready to use your entire tool kit going into battle. That means instead of just moving from side to side, make sure to move front to back along with vertical movement. Eventually, I figured out that I wasn’t using all my tools and had to close into the helicopter and use the mech’s melee attacks to do more damage. Making sure I was fully locked on was also immensely helpful. It took a bit but I finally was able to clear the boss and, as the developers intended, felt a great sense of accomplishment.
Because that’s what a lot of Armored Core VI is designed around. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg here. There are more than just missions to go out on and destroy things. Once you’re past the opening, the story shifts and puts your character under the call sign: Raven. It’s here you’re introduced to the Garage and Armored Core assembly, which opens up a whole world of mech customization.
I’m not talking just surface-level stuff here – the capacity to make whatever you want here is nearly endless using parts obtained from just playing the game and completing missions. Mechs can also be painted, weathered, and have decals applied all over. With earned currency, various parts can also be purchased from the shop – though be careful when equipping them, there are weight limits and the game will tell you if you go over them.
As far as the missions themselves go, a lot of them involve taking out standard stock enemies, which I found was relatively easy and relaxing in a way. There’s also a Training segment in the Garage menu that lets you practice your moves and master fundamental battle techniques. The advantage to doing said training missions is that they do reward you with mech parts upon completion, so that’s something to think about. The pickup-and-play nature of these missions is welcome, as is the ability to replay them.
There are also larger-scale missions including further boss fights and even a giant mining machine you’ll have to traverse and take out its weak points. So it’s not all just a standard run-and-gun mech experience, there are bits and pieces that really show off the scale of the world they’re building with Armored Core VI.
All told, Armored Core VI is shaping up to be another FromSoftware hit. The developer’s signature challenge is in full play here, as is a clear desire to bring the Armored Core series into the modern era. With what I was able to play, I can say at least so far they seem to have succeeded, but we’ll see how the full game is fleshed out when it releases on August 25.
TechRaptor played Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon at an event they were invited to by Bandai Namco.