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Like I imagine will be the case for a lot of people, Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is my first real experience with the series. It’s not that I have anything against giant mechs. I just never crossed path with the franchise before.
But in the decade since the release of the last Armored Core, FromSoftware has become one of the most prolific gaming studios in the world. This is thanks to the developer’s work in action RPGs like Dark Souls, Sekiro and Elden Ring.
FromSoftware’s recent success has driven more eyes, mine included, to Armored Core VI, which releases on August 25 for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. But if you’re hoping for Dark Souls with mechs, you may end up disappointed. Keep an open mind, however, and you may wonder — like me — why you never gave this series a shot before.
Meet your mech
Armored Core VI is an action game that has you customizing and piloting your own mech. Completing missions earns you credits, credits help you buy more parts and new parts help you complete more missions. That’s the basic gameplay loop here.
The customization is a big part of the draw here. You can buy an assortment of different mech body parts, systems and weapons. You have a good amount of freedom to make something that fits a specific playstyle. You can create a light, fast mech that focuses on melee weapons, or you can build a large, tank-like mech equipped with heavy weapons.
You will come across some rules and limitations. Certain mech parts, like tank-like treads, will let your creation carry more weight. This means that larger, slower mechs can often carry the heaviest weapons. It’s satisfying fiddling with different parts and configurations until you come across something that you like.
Even once you make an ideal mech, the game encourages you to experiment and adapt. Some weapons and tactics will work better in some missions than others. You might come across opposition with energy shields that you can deplete faster with energy weapons, or you might take on a mission that requires you to spend a lot of time in the air.
Yes, every mech has boosters. Depending on your mech, this could mean some hovering and short bursts or air-dashing or so much vertical movement that you’re pretty much flying. The verticality is a big highlight of the game. Bursting around levels, searching for ideals paths or ideal vantage points, is a lot of fun.
Battle bots and narrative thoughts
Combat is also enjoyable, and makes up most of what you’ll actually do in the game. Fights may work differently depending on your build, but you’re basically trying to use your weapons — most of which lock on automatically to your opponent — to put your opponent in a staggered state. Once staggered, you have a brief window to deal a lot of extra damage.
This is pretty different from the kind of combat you’d expect from a Soulslike, but your Elden Ring skills will come in some use here. Dodging enemy attacks is still important, and bosses will have specific tells to let you know when big attacks are coming.
The customization itself may also remind you of FromSoftware’s recent hits. But, again, this is a different kind of beast. Instead of exploring one big map, you take on challenged one mission at a time. You can still encounter some large areas during these sorties, but you’ll come across some limitations — noticeably invisible barriers blocking you from exploring beyond the confines of the mission.
Fires of Rubicon also features a heavy focus on its narrative, which you get big doses of in between missions and during them. You’ll also occasionally get to pick between different missions that’ll have major consequences to the story. It’s interesting to have some control over the narrative, and it also gives you an excuse to play through the game multiple times.
But if you just want to play through it once and move on, you’ll still have a meaty experience. It took me about 16-and-a-half hours to beat it. That may stack up to the length of Elden Ring, but this is more than a good length for this kind of game.
Most people who are willing to approach Armored Core VI on its own terms will have a good time. It’s a gorgeous game (I’m a big fan of the snowy, industrial aesthetic) with room for plenty of customization, and few things will feel better in any game than piloting around Rubicon’s landscapes and cities.
No, it’s no Dark Souls with mechs, but Armored Core VI carves out its own identity.
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon comes out on August 25 for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.
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