Armored Core VI Fires of Rubicon Review

Debuting back on the original PlayStation, Armored Core, is one of From Software’s longest-running franchises, but it’s taken a backseat in recent years, during the studio’s meteoric rise. Now, with From Software at the top of their game, Armored Core VI Fires of Rubicon serves as a glorious return, filled with exhilarating mecha action.

Employed as a mercenary on the planet of Rubicon 3, you take on jobs for various factions operating on the planet. Throughout your journey, you battle various groups, all in the hopes of increasing your renown and hitting it big, by finding as much as you can of a mysterious substance known as Coral. Compared to many of From Software’s recent titles, the story is delivered in a more straightforward manner with the vast majority of it being conveyed by voice chatter over your radio. There are also instances where you can read up on specific AC pilots, like in the arena mode, if you want a little extra context. Interestingly, you never see a human face throughout the game, with emblems or the ACs themselves instead representing each person. Some players may feel disconnected from this, but in practice, it feels appropriate, lining up with the bleak and mechanical subject matter. While a lot of the minute-to-minute story beats aren’t very engaging, once it all comes together, it makes for an interesting plot overall, exploring the conflicts among Rubicon’s warring factions with some cool moments sprinkled in here and there.

Like past entries, Armored Core VI is all about deep and engaging mech combat. Fights are intense and frantic, with missiles, bullets, and energy beams lighting up the battlefield. Whether you’re piloting a light and nimble unit that can easily dash around, or a bulking AC with treads roaring across the terrain, you feel in total control. The impact of weapons provides great feedback, giving a grand sense of carnage and power. Rushing a rival and cutting them down is deeply satisfying, and the verticality in scuffles adds a nice layer of depth and strategy. Armored Core has never felt better.

Along with the basic element of monitoring health bars, there are a couple of mechanics to keep in mind while in battle. One is managing your energy meter, which drains when performing certain actions like dodges and hovering. The other is the stagger meter, which you build up by dealing damage. Once maxed out, it leaves the enemy in a vulnerable state for a short period of time, encouraging you to be aggressive. This can also happen to you though if you’re not careful, so it’s always something to be aware of. You also have three repair kits, allowing you to quickly heal if you’re in a pinch.

As with any title in the series, customization is a core pillar. There is a staggering number of options available to you. Weapons like shotguns, rifles, and bazookas, can be equipped in either hand, allowing you to mix and match. While missile launchers, cannons, and shields can be equipped on either side of your back, giving you an insane amount of firepower. Along with your weaponry, you can fully customize your AC with new parts like heads, arms, legs, and cores, each with its own stats like weight and equip load. There are also different leg types that dramatically change your movement, such as tank treads that let you cruise around and fire off some heavier weapons without staggering. Meanwhile, tetrapods excel at hovering in the air, allowing you to easily rain judgment down upon your foes. Along with your AC parts, there are OST Chips that you earn in the arena mode to get permanent passive buffs like increased healing or more damage with explosives, as well as new abilities like Boost Kick and Pulse Armor, which grants you a temporary shield.

Furthermore, you can change the paint, finish, and decals, and even design your own emblems. You can also share your designs online with others. It’s all very in-depth and lets you be wildly creative with your build, which is important since a large part of AC VI is adjusting your build to fit the situation. And while all these options may seem overwhelming at first, the game does a nice job of easing you in, with a limited selection of parts available to you at the early stages of the game. Once you’re comfortable, you can quickly swap parts in and out in no time. You can also save specific builds if you have some that you’re fond of.

Levels are once again divided up into missions, varying in length, with some providing quick bursts of action while others are lengthy gauntlets with proper bosses at the end. There’s a good number of missions available with a variety of objectives, such as retrieving combat logs from destroyed units in a snowy military base, and taking down artillery guns in a ruined city. One of our favorites takes place in a massive sandstorm where you need to scale an enormous mechanical strider, take out its weak points, then destroy a giant eye that acts as a massive laser cannon. Additionally, some missions are tied to specific endings, so you’ll need to make a few choices along the way.

Most missions have checkpoints which are handy, especially since there’s one before every boss fight, getting you right back in the action. If you die, you can customize your AC before retrying in case you need to make any adjustments, which is something that’s worth taking frequent advantage of. Unfortunately, you can’t buy new parts in the field, so you’ll need to leave the mission and restart if you want to visit the shop. Additionally, once you’re on a mission, you can’t quit the game and come back later to finish it. So, if you’re stuck at a boss and need to stop playing for any reason, the game automatically kicks you back to the garage. Thankfully, most missions don’t take too long to get through if you know what you’re doing, but it can be annoying. Finally, you can repeat missions for some extra cash, which is a friendly addition.

From Software has become synonymous with boss fights, and AC VI continues that legacy. These conflicts aren’t as memorable as some of their previous works, but they’re still great and offer a good challenge. One of the earliest bosses, Juggernaut, is a big bulldozer-esque machine with huge cannons, and it dashes around the arena, ramming into you if you’re not careful. It also can’t be damaged from the front, forcing you to get behind it. Balteus, on the other hand, is a normal-sized AC with a massive amount of missiles and a shield you need to break through to damage it. Overall, they’re a lot of fun to fight, thanks to aspects like clearly telegraphed attacks and cool movesets.

Outside of missions, you can do training to get familiar with different AC types or mess around with builds, which is appreciated. There’s also the Arena where you go one-on-one against other ACs to earn rewards such as schematics for each unit you fight and OS chips. They’re fun little challenges with worthwhile rewards.

Along with single-player, there is also competitive multiplayer with 1v1 and 3v3 game modes. Battling it out with others is entertaining enough with a decent number of maps and features available, like private lobbies and a spectator mode where you can watch the action while you wait your turn. Multiplayer is fine and adds some longevity, but it’s nothing too exciting. Still, it’s always nice to see competitive action in an AC title.

Armored Core VI is inherently replayable, with lots of incentives to keep you coming back. Outside of multiplayer and additional builds to mess around with, there are S ranks to go for on all missions, new game plus, and multiple endings to unlock.

The Armored Core series has a long history dating back decades, and Armored Core VI Fires of Rubicon feels like the start of an exciting new era for the series. There’s a strong sense that the team has learned a lot over the years, and they’ve expertly weaved those lessons throughout this game. Combat is smooth and satisfying with good controls, fun, diverse weapons, and a wide variety of missions. And customizing your AC is addictive with a ton of options at your disposal. It may take some time for newcomers to get acclimated, but once you sink your teeth into it, it becomes apparent that Armored Core VI is something special.

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