There came a point early on in Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon where I hit a wall; a wall in the shape of a flying machine capable of firing hundreds of bullets, setting off an EMP to disable my weapons, launching missiles, and both torching me with a flamethrower and slicing me with a blade of fire. I’d not come up against a boss this advanced or deadly in any FromSoft game, and for some reason it just kept destroying me. I watched its patterns, countered its moves by dodging, then waited for the right opportunity to fight back.
It may have taken more tries than I care to admit, but all it took was one particular weapon and build to take it down first try. You don’t go back to previous areas and kill enemies for XP and level up particular stats. You don’t choose a class in the beginning and work towards maximising it for the entirety of the playthrough. Armored Core 6 is going to be a lot of players’ first time with the series, and many will be used to the grind of Bloodborne, Elden Ring, and Dark Souls. It’s an entirely different animal, but one that will eventually click for its player base.
Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon is about buying different parts for your mech and utilising different loadouts for different situations. Levels are a mix of quick 5-minute missions and longer multi-layered sorties (with checkpoints!) where you complete different objectives to then face a boss at the end. They feature variety everywhere, both in enemy types and the structure of the environments, forcing you to switch out your mechs in order to make use of everything at your disposal. You could stick with the same build for a while, but there’s always an easier option providing you make use of the impressive parts shop that continually adds items the more you play.
Every part of your mech can be customised. The controller layout is fantastic, with the left and right triggers acting as the weapons in your hands, and the shoulder buttons utilising the shoulder-mounted weaponry. There’re grenade launchers, Gatling guns, shotguns, handguns, assault and plasma rifles, pulse blades, and a lot more. As for your shoulders, they provide the heavier firepower, featuring various missiles that fire directly and indirectly akin to mortars, or powerful sniper-like plasma rifles to name a few. Firepower is obviously important in Armored Core 6, but so is the structure of your mech’s body.
For example, you can build a tank-like mech that is a lot slower than other models, but it can absorb more damage. Some of the leg parts allow you to jump high and quickly, but are a lot weaker when hit. Other parts meet in the middle, but there’s plenty to choose from that’ll help you create the perfect mech for any situation. Heads, arms, legs, body, boosters, generators, and some other integral machinery can be purchased and equipped, but the total weight and energy output are factors you’ll need to consider.
In order to buy everything you need for Raven, you need to earn credits from missions. The more successful you are, the more credits you earn. Money might not be as good if you have to repair yourself with any of the three repair kits on offer, but you can gain more for taking out more enemies. Once you start to accumulate a hefty catalogue of weaponry and body parts, you can save different builds and switch between them on death. The grind doesn’t come from killing to earn XP, it comes from killing well and buying more. It’s a different mentality to get your head around, but one that offers a wide range of options for how you tackle the world and its inhabitants.
Bosses in Armored Core 6 are vastly different in their attacks. Some move like lightning and require a faster mech to dodge, while others are heavily fortified and their weak spots need to be targeted. Be it a boss or regular enemy, they all have a stagger bar that, once broken, provides a short period of time where you can launch a tirade of attacks without any comeback. Managing ammo during fights is important, and one of many factors to consider going into any boss fight. While certain armour affects the speed and movement of your mech, the omni-directional combat flips the FromSoft fighting mechanics on their head.
Flying into the air and firing from above feels amazing, but it also gives you a variety of options when considering how to destroy a target. By pressing down on the left stick, you can initiate a speed boost to get to somewhere quicker or gain distance on an enemy. Dodging is fantastic and feels great when controlling lighter mechs, and getting around the screen not only works well mechanically, it looks so damn cool. After a particular mission I played at last month’s preview blew me away, I wasn’t sure how many more moments would leave me with that same feeling, however, there is a lot that will leave you in awe.
The level design is superb, and in the bigger levels I couldn’t help but be impressed. The one that cemented my amazement featured lasers targeting you from high up in the sky, while at the same time you could travel deep into the belly of the carrier to see the engine room in all its glory. No spoilers here, but visually, AC6 is a treat. As for the story, its style is reminiscent of Metal Gear Solid. Your handler, Walter, reminds me a lot of Roy Campbell from the original title, barking orders at you while the planet of Rubicon is torn apart by powerful military organisations and global conglomerates all wanting a piece of the Coral pie. It drip-feeds you with story elements, but feels more whole than other FromSoft titles, which is something I really liked about it.
Between missions, you can take on enemies in the Arena to earn credits and decals, and take out your ACs to test fly them. These also give you special chips that can be used to purchase new abilities. Missions can also be replayed to gain higher ranks and more credits, which in turn allows you to buy new parts. The option to sell your gear is helpful, but you’ll end up stocking up and pre-saving various builds the further you go because more variety means a better chance of success. There’re tons of stats to manage and improve, and when you do find that perfect build to help you take down a boss, it provides that familiar euphoric satisfaction that only FromSoft titles can.
Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon is a refreshing title from FromSoft. It challenges you to stockpile weapons and armour, and grow your armory for a host of different scenarios. Some of the bosses are tough, but those same core principals are just as important here: study your enemy, be patient, and be aggressive. While the world isn’t as engrossing as say, Elden Ring, and the story isn’t as gripping, Fires of Rubicon is a fine title for those old school gamers who both miss the Armored Core series and want a new challenge. The omni-directional movement is exhilarating, as is the combat. Just be prepared to experiment a lot and replay longer missions if you don’t have that one important ingredient to beat a boss.
Plenty of variety in builds
Omni-directional combat is game-changing
Accumulating builds takes time
Steep learning curve early on