I will go ahead and start this one with a hot take: I do not like the Souls series. Something about it just absolutely does not click with me in any way. However, I am a huge fan of Armored Core, with both the original and 3 being two of my most played games. When I heard that Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon was happening, I was worried. Will it recapture the series, or just be Souls in a mech skin? I knew I needed to find out.
Less than an hour in and I was already using the claw grip again. It's Armored Core, baby!
You play as 621 (no relation to the adult furry site), a mercenary/slave who's trying to earn enough money to buy back their life from their handler Walter. Early on, 621 steals the identity of a dead pilot known as Raven and promptly begins to use this to take on work for various companies on the planet of Rubicon, which is currently experiencing a rush of corporations trying to exploit an energy source known as Coral.
As a mercenary, you'll be traded around to different companies, be friends with people during one mission and enemies the next, and need to do whatever you can to secure more money.
The fast-paced combat of Armored Core VI was more than enough to keep me entertained.
Much to my surprise, the overarching narrative ends up being rather compelling. It's not groundbreaking, but the central mysteries, one being what Walter is really after and the other being what the deal with Coral is, manage to be interesting enough to keep me guessing.
A lot of the plot moves through mission briefings, and there is the occasional cryptic Souls-esque boss intro, but overall Armored Core VI is a lot easier to follow and figure out than the recent batch of FromSoftware games.
Unfortunately, there are several plot threads that just sort of awkwardly get dropped or straight-up make no sense. The identity of the original Raven gets brought up and promptly abandoned halfway through the game for no real reason.
One chapter asks you to decide which corporation you want to ambush and kill someone in, only to have some rando NPC do the other one so your choice doesn't matter.
One person I killed showed up alive a few missions later, like the writers moved missions around but forgot this guy was dead. None of this is a deal breaker, but it all does make an interesting premise feel pretty sloppy.
But you're probably expecting to build a giant robot to fight other giant robots. Armored Core VI has plenty of that. The game has a mission-based structure, with each mission earning you money that you'll spend on the main feature of mech building.
There are a lot of options here for you to make your dream mech. I personally ended up with a quad-legged mech sporting a burst assault rifle, a stun baton, a vertical missile launcher, and a twin grenade launcher.
That said, the choices are endless. Want a tank with four different bazookas? Sure. Want to focus on speed and melee weapons? Go for it. Thinking you need a pistol and nothing else because you're just too cool for this? Why not! Going to overburden your mech so it can't move efficiently? You're allowed! You're dumb, but you're allowed!
Once you've got the mech you want, it's mission time. Broken into five chapters, you'll find yourself in a variety of situations.
The most common involves destroying anywhere between one and many enemies, but sometimes you may be asked to retrieve records of dead soldiers, sneak into a base, or cross a river while dodging lasers. Most of these lead to fights anyway, so that's what you want to be prepared for.
If you want to master your Armored Core, you're going to have to master the controls. This may be tough for some: the claw grip was made for Armored Core, after all. You'll need your fingers on all four shoulder buttons, all face buttons, and both analog sticks at all times.
There are also quite a few button combinations you need to learn. Want to turn on your passive boosters? You need to hold the left stick in any direction while hitting circle. Just don't move the stick and hit that button at the same time, or you'll do a snap 180 turn.
Reloading is tied to hitting triangle and the shoulder button associated with the gun at the same time, but if your timing is even the tiniest bit off, it won't register and you'll waste ammo.
Master them, however, and you're in for fast-paced high-flying combat. You'll be zipping around each level, shooting mechs and dodging attacks. You can use your boosters to fly or quick dash, and you'll need to conserve energy and keep track of ammo to make sure you don't run out when you need it most.
Normal enemies aren't going to pose too much of a threat, but that doesn't mean you can just ignore them. Sometimes they'll carry around laser snipers or rocket launchers, and those can rock your world if you're not paying attention.
They provide a great way to ease yourself into each level, and frankly destroying them is just fun. Missions that pay out for each trashed enemy? My jam.
The real game seems to kick in when you get to one of Armored Core VI's many boss fights. These fights manage to bring the absolute best of the game out. You'll find yourself pit against giant robots, modified cleaning droids, other Armored Core like yourself, and more.
Actually, it's those other Armored Core that are the most interesting. Anything you can build, do, or take advantage of, they can as well. Used to your healing and super moves? Hope you're ready to counter them.
The big system you need to take advantage of actually isn't too unlike the Stagger system that recent Final Fantasy games have been using.
As you damage bosses, you'll slowly fill a meter, and once it's full, you stun enemies and deal extra damage. Enemies don't stay stunned long, but the extra damage will continue for some time after it has been triggered. Just watch out: you have this meter too.
One person I killed showed up alive a few missions later, like the writers moved missions around but forgot this guy was dead.
However, sometimes you run into frustrations that are due to bad design. For example, during the game's first boss fight I managed to fill up the stun meter so I could close the distance and deal some real damage with my sword. I used my boosters to do so and promptly ran smack dab into the invisible wall between me and the boss.
Turns out I stunned it while it was moving outside of the bounds I was allowed to go in, despite the fact that the only thing stopping me was an invisible wall, meaning I couldn't hit it with my most damaging weapon and lost a ton of damage potential that I had earned. It's rare this happens, but it's annoying when it does.
There's also the lock-on system. When you lock on to an enemy, the game is, in theory, supposed to keep adjusting your mech so that you're facing the target. In practice, the lock-on system has a habit of losing the lock-on. It's frustrating, and several fights against faster opponents felt lost because the lock-on couldn't keep up.
Thankfully, I quickly forgot about these as I moved on to the next mission. The fast-paced combat of Armored Core VI was more than enough to keep me entertained.
Sure, I hated losing a fight because my lock-on got lost, but managing to quickly kill an enemy thanks to using some powerful grenades and hitting their stun bars? It feels good to a level I can't entirely describe.
It helps that missions are usually only 5 to 10 minutes long, so doing one doesn't end up feeling like a huge time commitment. Even when I struggled, I was never spending more than a few minutes in each one.
I don't know where else to put this, but I just want you to know that you can pause Armored Core VI. This was important to me and likely me alone.
It also helps that Armored Core VI is a lot more forgiving than other FromSoftware games. You can expect mid-mission checkpoints and resupplies in case you fall in combat. Failing a boss fight will almost always put you right back at the start, albeit with full ammo, health, and heals.
It's not that the game isn't challenging, it most certainly is, it's just that it won't make you repeat chunks of levels for messing up during the boss. I can appreciate that.
When you're not doing traditional missions, you can also participate in the arena. A series of 1v1 fights, each one pits you against a new and deadlier Armored Core. Defeat them, and you can acquire OST Chips that you can use to unlock new abilities and passive buffs for your Armored Core.
Additionally, once you beat someone in the arena, you are given the ability to use their mech's design. A good way to try out some new ideas.
There's also a multiplayer versus mode you can try out. The game supports either 1v1 fights or 3v3 team battles, with your team earning points for destroying other Armored Cores. It's not anything super unique, but it's a chance to show off the cool mechs you've built and try them out against other people's works. I wouldn't call it a major draw, but it's a fun enough bonus.
Maybe if there's one thing I went into Armored Core VI really hyped for and actually came away disappointed was the game's soundtrack.
In the past, the Armored Core games have had some absolute bangers that I really have come to love, and even outside of that, FromSoftare's Souls series has also had some great tracks. So it's really unfortunate that Armored Core VI's soundtrack almost entirely consists of nothing but forgettable songs.
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon Review | Final Verdict
Yet I can breathe easy knowing that the series is once again in good hands. Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is just the revival that was needed. Something that took the series and brought it right back to where it needed to be. Sure not everything is as good as it could be, but this is still a wonderful mech-smashing time.
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon was reviewed on PlayStation 5 with a copy provided by the publisher over the course of 30 hours of gameplay - all screenshots were taken during the process of review.
- Interesting Story Setup
- Super In-depth Mech Builder
- Fast Paced Frantic Combat
- Fantastic Boss Fights
- Solid Arena and Multiplayer
- Complicated Controls
- A Few Design Frustrations
- Story Has Too Many Problems
- Forgettable Soundtrack