From what’s conveyed in mostly a Mech-combat role-playing title, Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon proves to be much more than a sequel that follows through on FromSoftware’s humble beginnings. The sixth iteration of the highly anticipated title see’s an emphatic reboot to its premise, overhauling Armored Core’s entire presentation, broadening its gameplay loop through vast biomes of mechanical warfare, brimmed to the rim with exciting gunplay and expeditious pacing. While the series enveloped a steady progression through tedious demonstrations of third-person combat, with Armored Core V displaying the aged formula to a mixed reception, Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon’s solace of its integrity will be FromSoftware’s commitment to bringing what is its foundation and learnings into this epic action-packed adventure.
For the established fan of Armored Core, familiarities are welcome but new aspects of this sequel may be a shock to the system somewhat, but with and absence of ten years since its last entry – Armored Core: Verdict Day – it’s to be expected. It’s unapologetic improvement of the overall fundamentals that built the house its founding developers first paved. While the mech-combat genre itself stands as an unequivocal niche, the execution for Armored Core VI may seek the keen eye that has yet to delve into its world, and what a gateway entry to introduce yourself with. With the successes the notorious souls-like development studio has seen in recent years, it’s a surprise that the decision to ultimately revive a classic reborn, and modernise it so heavily was on the cards, but it goes without saying, with humble beginnings comes massive acclaim.
The Fire Rises...
✔️ High-octane action keeps the suspense palpable from start to finish.
✔️ Insanely gorgeous for a bleak and hopeless universe.
✔️ Exciting gameplay loop with an emphasis on upgrading kits, runs at a smooth 4K/60FPS.
❌ Story takes a backseat.
❌ Can get tedious near the endgame.
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is high-octane, palpable and insanely expeditious from the get-go. A cold opening welcomes 621, with the unfriendly guise of Walter – voiced by the incomparable Patrick Seitz – directing you on your first infiltration upon a contaminated Rubicon 3, sprawling with enemy mechs. A dystopian, post-war metropolis that’s crumbled to the ground with the object of everyone’s ire being ‘Coral’, a foreign substance that is utilised to transfer data and energy, and was once praised by scientists to be the one key feature in technological progression within humanity, not before the sought item caused the deadly apocalyptic event known as the Fires of Ibis.
The event caused the planet to become uninhabitable, burning up the solar system surrounding the atmosphere whilst leaving a lethal contaminant. It was thought that the Coral had been eradicated in the explosion, however after five decades, Coral had been discovered on the planet with multiple mech-armies from different corporate fleets deployed to collect and control Coral without any precaution after the Fires of Ibis. Our nameless protagonist, code “C4-621” is cybernetic, augmented and under the control of Walter, taking on missions as a mechanical merc. After landing on Rubicon, 621 steals the identity of a deceased mech, “Raven”.
It’s from here we begin Armored Core VI’s campaign with simplistic offense and exploration that aids us across Rubicon 3, with eccentric designs that jet 621 across a myriad of rusty ruins that are already being skimmed by opposing corps. Traversing step-by-step tempers the flow, but activating your boosters will speed-up the process without depleting your mech’s energy by holding down Square. Jumping by pressing X isn’t anything new, but holding down the button will allow your robot to boost itself upward and hover the surrounding area, but doing so will drain your mech’s energy quick. It’s advised to use this in battle, or gain some extra height but is actually useful in evading droids and other aircrafts shooting bullets or massive missiles. A quick system to evade such oncoming attacks would be to quickly shoot off left or right with your jets, while leaping high and hovering around to avoid missiles.
Credit: BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment
Pressing down L3 will jetty you from one far-side to the other. This in tandem with aim-lock and missiles is a godsend for moments of absolute chaos. Pressing R1 will launch specified missiles that are set within your load-out from the right shoulder of your mechanical body. Holding R1 will give you the ability to multi-lock targets and fire bullet hell upon swarms that flock to attack. Now to say that all this is overwhelming can be an understatement, however it becomes second nature and quick to discern. Discovering loot crates across various biomes may contain upgrades and new weapons to utilise, either for small altercations or boss battles. Speaking of, this is where FromSoftware’s souls-like starts to rear its ugly head. From the first boss fight right up to the campaign’s climax, each battle spikes its difficulty exponentially to the point where I found the grind to be endless in some junctures; but this could also be a skill issue – who knows? I’m games journalist after all.
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is a sensational renaissance for the franchise, that spotlights FromSoftware's early achievements prior to their highly praised souls titles that have taken the gaming world by storm.
Noting this, equipping new arms is a heaven send when finding them. Some secretly hidden across certain maps, other placed in plain sight, or right before an extremely difficult boss battle. It’s almost like the developer’s knew that I would need a hand before heading in. Customisation will be key as you convert your arsenal, with each limb holding specific slots for arms and other combat equipment to boost your overall performance. This is a monumental deviation from older Armored Core titles, where pieces of kit were limited to very few offense use, while defence was limited to movement, to which was Armored Core: Verdict Day’s detriment in most cases. One detail I appreciate that was kept from earlier entries was the arena-based combat evaluation, that only appears far and few between.
Successfully completing a mission will award a player with credits to spend. Mercifully, FromSoftware rid ACVI of Armored Core’s worst feature, the debit system. This opens new avenues for players to experience the campaign freely without feeling the dread of losing out. Deduction cost was incredibly draining – no pun intended – and with it omitted, attracts more of an incentive for players to replay the game without the added stresses of being penalised. When talking about aesthetics of ACVI, without question it’s one of the most gorgeous titles out this year. The industrial look that’s not out of the norm for the franchise, is given a different look with bleak settings that are descriptive of its desolate nature. The rubble of a forgotten metropolis or a rusty fort set on a lonely Archipelago sets the tone perfectly.
While much of the late game can get a little repetitive, there’s always something new to discover, collect and upgrade which makes it fun to replay and revisit, however the title does bear some issues that can attribute to quality of life problems. The UI is somewhat hard to read, with menus hard to navigate. Small fonts, scattered options and a flurry of toggles are difficult to dissect, especially when overwhelmed from the action in-game, it only presents more of an issue when exacerbating that feeling within the title’s selection screens. The smooth and exciting combat makes up for the title’s blemishes, allowing you to quickly hack-and-slash, and rain bullet hell on your opponents, but this is stretched thin after a while and imperative upgrades to your system will mandate the need to explore the hard to read UI.
Fires of Rubicon’s exemplary presentation is what keeps this campaign alive over its subpar story. I did find myself caring less and less about the narrative, and more about the action as the title progressed. While it had an amazing climactic act, a good portion of it was mostly forgettable and contributed minimal impact to the campaign, other than giving sole reason in understanding ACVI’s lore. Accompanying the presentation, is an immaculate demonstration in running the title at a steady 4K/60FS on PlayStation 5, with minimal dips, zero load times and no texture pop-in. While I would love to attribute the ACVI’s soundtrack toward it’s overall presentation, there’s little-to-no background music, and barely ambient sound to elevate any suspense other than during cinematics and boss fights.
Overall, Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is a sensational renaissance for the franchise, that spotlights FromSoftware’s early achievements prior to their highly praised souls titles that have taken the gaming world by storm. If you’ve yet to play an Armored Core title, and are interested in getting into the mech-action then this is the quintessential entry title into the modernised series without question. Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon brings it back with an insanely polished gameplay loop, eerily gorgeous overlay, and an immaculate engine that runs this game without hurdles. While it may not be the most story intensive title that hooks the player into its lore, the action will speak for itself with engrossing style and grace as you traverse through the scars of Rubicon for survival.
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is an upcoming mecha-based vehicular combat game developed by FromSoftware and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment. The game will release for Windows, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X and Series S.