I’ve been playing Armored Core off and on since the very first game in the series – and now I’ve devoured Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon. Over two decades later, FromSoftware is now a household name in gaming and they’re writing their own checks with their Souls games. All of this success had me, a big mecha fan, still asking “when are we getting a new Armored Core game?”
Thankfully, FromSoftware heard my plea (and many others) and not long after its reveal, Armored Core VI is finally here. How does the sixth numbered game in the series hold up? Is it what fans have been waiting for? Read our Armored Core VI review to find out!
This is a review coupled with a supplemental video review. You can watch the video review or read the full review of the below:
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Platforms: Windows PC, Xbox Series X|S (Reviewed), PlayStation 5
Release Date: August 25, 2023
Price: $59.99 USD
Growing up in the 8-bit era you learned how to overcome ruthlessly challenging games. As graphics and gameplay evolved, games seemingly got prettier yet easier, an approach meant to attract more customers. People always forget video games are products – so naturally any company will want to sell more products. Some games refused to pander, instead, opted to get more hardcore and niche.
Armored Core was one of these games, its challenge and complexity got dinged by western gaming journalists – many of who prefer “press X to awesome” games. As the series evolved and got prettier, it got more complex and added more components, sometimes removing things. Armored Core VI feels like a great combination of past games, all polished to a razer blade.
Now that “soulslike” games have become a drug for the masses – the old and tired excuse that Armored Core was too difficult is gone. Armored Core VI is still definitely challenging and has filtered quite a number of users, but it’s good to understand a big misconception here. Armored Core VI is not a soulslike game in any shape or form, so many FromSoftware fans jumping in expecting that will be sorely disappointed.
One of the biggest changes in Armored Core VI is the new “target assist” functionality – combining a more automated lock on system from other mecha games with the manual targeting seen in previous Armored Core games. This is where people get confused: older Armored Core games had you manually aim at enemies so your FCS (fire control system) would lock on. Now, “target assist” does a bit of both.
For you purists out there, you can still turn off target assist and manually whip your camera around to lock on. Doing this, however, required me to turn camera turn speeds up to 8/10, otherwise it’s just not fast enough to keep up with how quick some of the fights get. As expected, the old manual targeting gives you better accuracy – but only if you can keep on your target’s ass.
Another point on how Armored Core VI is not a soulslike game is its story structure, the old style missions are back and the trial-and-error gear is a big focus. The robust single player campaign spans five chapters and will have you constantly retrying missions with different loadouts. All told you’re probably looking at at least 15-20 hours for just the main story mode, and there’s more after that too.
A new and fresh gameplay change in the game is “OS Tuning,” which lets you use acquired “OS Chips” to unlock permanent upgrades and abilities for your AC’s operating system. These range from getting the ability to kick while dashing (awesome) to getting permanent damage buffs for various weapons (also awesome). OS Chips are unlocked in the story mode and the Arena.
Yes, the Arena is back and it’s quite a lot of fun in Armored Core VI. As you progress your enemy AC opponents get tougher and more equipped than ever, and it’s a nice break from some of the more grueling story missions and boss fights. The online multiplayer is basically like the Arena but with two player AC’s duking it out – so expect lots of customizing and experimentation.
Previous Armored Core games would infer gameplay mechanics a bit more but now with Armored Core VI you sometimes get narration or on-screen tips literally telling you how to beat tough enemies or bosses. It kind of gets you scratching your head when people demand how to beat the helicopter boss, the chapter 1 boss, and so on.
I will say that combat in Armored Core VI is a nice mix of ranged dogfights and brutal, unrelenting close encounters that will have you pressing 3 to 6 buttons constantly. Missions feel unique and varied with a good mix of locations but boss fights get more frequent later in the game. Bosses tend to feel like a mix of pattern memorizing and DPS bursts, but what action game isn’t like this?
It definitely feels like Armored Core VI has more bosses than any of the previous games, and if the focus on staggering enemies and breaking their shields doesn’t filter players, the big damage bosses will. A lot of the game is finding the right build to sweep through areas mowing down lesser foes – but having enough mixed firepower to stagger the boss and then laser sword its face.
Graphics in Armored Core VI are a sight to behold as the game runs like a dream on current-gen hardware. The mecha designs from your arm weapons down to the boosters on your back all look great, and the environments feel real enough. Big firefights and most notably boss fights are where the game really shines with mecha zipping around while unloading bullets, missiles, and lasers.
The story in Armored Core VI is reminiscent of past games in that you’re a nameless merc that adopts the callsign “Raven.” Your deployment is a planet named Rubicon 3 that is seemingly the only known source of a powerful substance named “Coral.” Everyone is fighting over it, and there’s sprinkles of transhumanism and intrigue throughout the excellent story mode.
In between missions you’ll usually get voice messages from your handler and manager, as well as companies that hire you for sorties. The voice acting is fantastic and is presented with a grainy feel so it sounds like an actual comms device squeaking through to you. It’s unclear how connected to previous games Armored Core VI is but it certainly feels like a direct sequel.
Music in Armored Core VI is a nice touch, the general background and ambiance heard while exploring missions is great but the boss battle themes are quite spectacular. Kota Hoshino must be commended on his banger soundtrack, most especially the haunting boss themes that had me on the edge of my seat.
There are minor gripes as mentioned above with Armored Core VI like how many bosses there are compared to missions, with lots of them popping up later in the game. There could have also been a bit more variety with bosses in that many felt like DPS competitions and I would have liked more focus on patterns and phases in combat.
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is a proper return to form for one of the most beloved mecha game series. Everything in the game has been carefully looked at, designed, and fine tuned to appease both longtime fans like myself and newcomer pilots as well. I couldn’t put the game down, every bit of the game is fun – Armored Core VI is a love letter to mecha action.
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon was reviewed on Xbox Series X with a copy purchased by Niche Gamer. Additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy can be found here. Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is now available worldwide across Windows PC (via Steam), Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5.