It’s finally here! It feels like years since I’ve had a legitimately good mech game to play and here it is. Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is scratching the mech itch I’ve had with a nearly limitless arsenal. Thanks to Soulsborne masters FromSoftware, what we have right here is maybe the best mech game ever released to the masses, so strap into your AC as I explain exactly why I’ve been having such a wild time with Armored Core VI!
Where to begin then, AC6 opens with our hero, Augmented Human C621 (a lovely name really) being dropped on to Rubicon, A small planet in deep space which is home to a resource that humanity is very keen for called “Coral”. Coral however is very dangerous and as the name of the game implies, previously ignited and burned Rubicon to an ashen husk (FromSoftware bloody love ash and fire huh?). While Rubicon is otherwise a ruin, corporations and mercenaries still litter the surface looking for any small pockets of Coral they can while The Rubicon Liberation Front desperately tries to fend them all off with a certain religious fever which made me almost a bit uncomfortable. 621 receives missions from all the factions as an independent and it’s a common occurrence for them to fight for one corp and then immediately after do a mission for the other side curb stomping their previous employer.
As mentioned, Armored Core VI deviates from the usual Souls way and has a structure built around missions launched from a hub screen, and that’s not the only deviation. If you came to AC6 looking for a Soulsborne with mechs I’ve got bad news for you, though there are a few standard FromSoftware rules at play here like hard boss battles, playstyles based around gear choices and limited heals. Even the cutscenes have an air of FromSoftware around them with the movement being very slow and deliberate like all their previous games cutscenes. Besides that however, you’re in for a very different beast here. Got a checkpoint? Good, no more respawning enemies, and no more resetting your heals and ammo. Replenishment comes in the form of supply drops that also herald an upcoming boss fight. As a test, after a resupply I took myself back through the level and found no returning enemies, which I have to assume is thanks to destroyed enemies giving you money to spend on AC parts in the shop, and having too much money would leave you geared to the nines a little too quickly.
So, if Armored Core doesn’t play like Souls, what DOES it play like? Well, not like anything else really. You control your AC in three dimensions using thrust jets to briefly take to the skies and quick bursts to dodge and weave around larger enemies to find a good angle of attack, before unleashing weapons mapped to your shoulder buttons. The choice of armament is vast, like your mum (sorry couldn’t help it). Hand weapons range from energy beam swords to rocket launchers with interesting mixtures possible and limited by your imagination…and your energy level and encumbrance. To supplement your hand weapons you also have two shoulder mounts to stick either shields or bigger weapons too.
My own set up, after a good amount of trial and error, is now set as a shotgun and multi-missile racks to “stagger” my enemies, with a left arm mounted pile driver drill to break through and finish them. This has led to some immensely satisfying moments in the game where an enemy AC is giving me trouble by moving about until finally the stagger bar above their lock-on hits red and they stop for a brief second. That second is all I need to tear them down with the pile driver and give myself a very smug pat on the back! Outside of missions you will spend most of your times in the hub screen where you can make alterations to your Armored Core’s weapons, equipment and parts along with choosing colours and decals to help you stand out.
If you tire of missions and Fashion Core, you can take yourself into the arena where you can battle AI controlled AC’s for money, decals and copies of their AC you can then recreate if you have the parts. If fighting computers doesn’t do it for you, you can also enter the NEST to battle online against other players! I found this mode terrifying… the game’s not even been out a full week! How are people so good?!
Like other FromSoftware titles and as mentioned above, the real battles in game are the bosses, ranging from fast moving AC’s to massive, automated machines. You must learn quickly what the enemy is capable of. While most fights haven’t given the same level of challenge that most games would hope for from a company famous for their bosses, there have been a few moments where it feels like I’m bashing my head against a brick wall. Particularly the final boss of chapter one, we can definitely call that the barrier to entry for the rest of the game. Think Margit the Fell, but with missiles…
Overall, Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is a fantastic mech game with just a touch of the usual FromSoftware magic but certainly a feeling of uniqueness from their usual titles. If you looked at the trailers for this game and were curious but slightly put off by the usual difficulty associated with the developers, then fear not! There is plenty to this game to enjoy and you’ll soon find yourself blitzing through levels and bosses much quicker than you ever would in a typical Soulsborne. I score it