It’s pretty easy to get down on modern gaming. Nowadays, it feels like they’re always cut to fit certain templates. You’re either an open world game, an FPS, et cetera. As someone who’s job it is to play all these games, these titles just feel like randomized sliders of the same parameters.
Enter, Armored Core VI Fires of Rubicon. While I do think the series comparison to the Souls genre that came after it is a fair one, our time with Armored Core VI has proven one thing- there’s no game quite like it. Rather than chasing trends, this is a game that is designed after its own vision.
In an already stacked year for games, what can Armored Core VI do to prove the glory of a giant robot is worthy of your attention? Read on and find out.
Bleak Sci-Fi Oh How I Love You
Look, anyone who read my Rollerdrome review might remember that there are few things I love above all else in life- sick combos and bleak sci-fi. Not “We have to overthrow the big corpo” sci-fi, but “The big corpo will not be overthrown”, which is very much the flavor that Armored Core VI gives.
You’re playing as what I can only assume are the mangled remains of a Raven- forced to work like a dog for Handler Walter and clear missions in the planet of Rubicon-3. There’s no melodrama to the fate of your Raven- this is simply the way things are. It’s like Gendo Ikari’s wet dream of a pilot who really has no say in the matter, to the point you can’t even express a contrarian thought back since that’s never been what the Armored Core games have been about.
The game’s setting is just bleak and dreary and oppressive. It’s like the sci-fi manifestation of a Monday, as you pilot your giant robot through, quite frankly, stunning levels with amazing openness. Considering you’re out running errands for a megacorp that require you to get in a giant mecha-tank, it’s the kind of setting the game needs.
Don’t worry about overly long cutscenes trying to sell you on the drama of it all- just like previous Armored Core titles and the Souls games that came after it, it’s still a gameplay-first experience, which means most dialogue is going to come in the form of radio communication with other pilots.
Sick Combos Are Also There
Of course, the second half of my favorite things list is here as well, with an incredible mech piloting experience at the player’s disposal. For those of you new to the Armored Core experience, half the game is preparation- you need to make your mech fit to sortie, with four different weapon slots at your disposal. Despite being a walking corpse in a cockpit, you’re given quite the avenue for player expression here- a variety of colors and decals are available, as well as weaponry that suits multiple playstyles from the up close scrapper to the “kill em from miles away” types.
That being said, the game definitely prioritizes a more aggressive playstyle. I absolutely adore the Assault Boost, which allows you a surprising amount of pressure to put on your targets. Considering I’m a serial turtle in the Souls series, it feels good to have the game reward a more up-close playstyle with tools like Assault Boost since it makes you experiment with more weapons as you figure out which has the best swing timing.
Meanwhile, systems like the Posture Break also make it so that it’s less about the Dark Souls style chipping away at your opponent’s health- you can get big openings if you’re constantly playing your best, which works way better with Armored Core VI’s more mission-based playstyle since once you’re done with the mission (and come to terms with your expense bill) you can decompress in the menus as you figure out what builds you wanna experiment with next.
It’s not a one-sided system, though- you’ll need to watch for your own posture as well, or even the tankiest of builds may find itself suddenly staggered and eating a big finisher from an enemy pilot.
A Build System That’s Actually Fun
Many Armored Core veterans would note that the series is the embodiment of the phrase “measure twice, cut once”. For as much as it’s about flying around and shooting things while humming Anime Ja Nai, it’s also about sitting in your workshop planning a build that works.
When we talk about builds in Armored Core VI, it’s unlike a lot of the modern definition for a build. You’re not just collecting random trinkets that increase your Core Score or something ridiculous like that. Every part you collect serves its own purpose, and at the start of your mission you’re basically deciding how to tune your machine to suit that specific need. You’ll need legs to support your heavier weapons, for example, and a powerful enough Generator to make sure you have enough energy to use Assault Boost properly.
The main takeaway to remember is that you’re not the Gundam, you’re a GM, so to speak. Rather than having a tool that solves any situation, you need to think about what the missions call for, then build your mech around it. That’s not to say there’s no build freedom- just like a Souls game any build is viable if you have the skills for it. But getting to that point requires work and familiarity, rather than just having a number big enough to not care about it.
So Much To Do, So Much To See
Combine Armored Core VI’s solid fundamentals with the sheer girth of things to do in the game, and you’ve got a pretty good time ahead of you. The game’s training missiosn are a great way to get accustomed to the absolute weirdness of piloting a giant robot. There’s also exploring the big maps for things like wreckages for extra parts, or even fighting against other pilots in the Arena.
I have to say, the Arena is a really good place for those Armored Core masochists who really want a challenge. Pilot fights have always been the hardest part of the series, and the fact the game takes away your Repair Kits in the Arena makes for a truly difficult experience. That being said, clearing these earns you powerful OST chips, so you’ll definitely want to put yourself through these gauntlets if you want to upgrade your mech.
By The Gods, I love Giant Robots
As a mecha fan, there’s not a lot of itches Armored Core VI doesn’t scratch for me. It’s a mechanically complex game, but never in a way that it completely leaves you out in the cold. It rewards obsession- meaning you can dig deep into its systems and devise a way to make yourself an ace pilot.
That’s pretty much where all my love for this game comes from. In a market where games are more and more cut to fit certain templates, every decision about Armored Core VI has thus far felt in service of its own vision. They didn’t turn it into a third person shooter in the traditional sense, and even the game’s Souls influences don’t distract from its main point- that this is a weird mech game where you spend just as much time customizing your giant robot as you do piloting it.
If you’re not used to the From Software brand obtuseness, it can feel very overwhelming. The bosses in particular are incredible difficulty spikes, and it’s easy to get demotivated seeing your beloved mech go up in flames as it falls to a barrage of cannon fire and the like. That’s kind of the downside of being such a unique genre of game- there’s nothing else quite like it outside of other Armored Core games.
Still, if you don’t mind a bit of execution difficulty and have been feeling like gaming’s gotten a bit stale, you owe it to yourself to check out Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon. It’s one of the most unique triple-A titles out this year, and the more people who realize the joy of piloting a flying tank from inside a body bag, the better I think we’d all be as a society.
Game reviewed on PS5. Review copy provided by Bandai Namco Entertainment
Check This Out Next
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon
- Entrancing combat
- Genuinely fun mech building
- Did I mention the giant robots?
- Being unique means unless you're an Armored Core veteran, there's not a lot of room for transferable skills
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon