Armored Core 6

Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon PS5 Review: Feel the Burn

The mecha genre of gaming has always been extremely niche, with only a handful of developers still creating projects. In the ever-evolving landscape of video games, developer FromSoftware chooses to endure the legacy of its long-standing Armored Core series with its newest title: Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon.

Serving as a return to form for the company, Armored Core 6 is a high-octane adrenaline-pumping mecha action game that will surely garner the attention of newcomers and veterans alike.

In Armored Core 6, you are not an Ashen one or Tarnished. Instead, you are a nobody, eventually codenamed 621 (Raven), employed by various corporations as a mercenary on the planet Rubicon 3. This planet holds a valuable resource known as Coral that many different companies want to get their hands on. Therefore, it’s up to you and your employer to see who can make it out on top.

Armored Core 6‘s narrative is mediocre at best, told mainly through audio mission briefings and static cutscenes. There’s a complete absence of animated sequences and instead, just a plethora of voiceovers. You’ll eventually hit a point in the campaign where you must decide who you affiliate yourself with, resulting in a different ending depending on your choice. I often found myself struggling to compete with boredom, as I watched all the dialogue.

Armored Core 6

“There are no traditional RPG elements here.”

Armored Core: Verdict Day was the last AC game made by FromSoftware, released almost ten years ago on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. I’ve been a longtime fan of FromSoftware, beginning with the original Dark Souls, but I didn’t have much experience playing the Armored Core series.

Armored Core 6 isn’t the punishingly difficult action role-playing game that people expect from FromSoftware. There are no traditional RPG elements here; you don’t earn experience points, level up particular stats, or drop “souls” upon dying. Instead, you customize a robot to engage in fast-paced ranged and melee combat to see who comes out on top.

Given the ability to fly in Armored Core 6, the extra verticality takes time to adapt. The controls for the most part are easy to grasp but hard to master. Flying, dodging, and boosting use up energy, which acts as a stamina bar in this game. Energy management is pivotal as you never want to run out when you’re in a dire situation. Furthermore, having 4 separate weapons to toggle between was unfamiliar, but playing with a controller is perfect for this setup.

The left and right triggers (L2 and R2) act as your left and right-hand weapons, with L1 and R1 buttons mapping to your shoulder weapons. While Armored Core 6 isn’t a souls-like game, it’s still exceptionally challenging and punishing, especially when it comes to boss encounters. So, be ready to learn patterns and telegraphed attacks.

Armored Core 6

“The level design in Armored Core 6 is incredible, boasting expansive environments and intricately detailed settings.”

It’s important to note that Armored Core 6 is not an open-world game and is very much a mission-based conquest. Missions are usually a get-in-and-get-out ordeal, with little exploration or wandering around to do aside from gunning for the main objective. The length is well-balanced with some as short as five minutes, others taking up to 30 or 40 minutes with several checkpoints and a boss at the end.

In addition to the campaign, you can engage in training tutorials and arena battles against AI-controlled armored cores. These activities typically provide you with extra funds and additional components for your mech. What adds to the appeal is that during breaks from assignments, you have the opportunity to personalize your mech according to your liking and experiment with different parts in real time within the training grounds.

The level design in Armored Core 6 is incredible, boasting expansive environments and intricately detailed settings. Environments range from desolate urban landscapes to sprawling industrial complexes, each meticulously detailed and brimming with life. The mechs themselves are also a sight to behold, with an impressive array of designs that cater to diverse playstyles.

One particular level that immediately caught my attention involved an early assignment where I had to locate a colossal walking robot. The objective was to disable one of its legs, then ascend to its top to engage in a final boss fight by targeting its central eye. It was epic. However, despite the breathtaking allure of these environments, there’s minimal motivation to thoroughly explore them. As mentioned earlier, missions conclude swiftly; the goal is to get in, get out, and move on.

Armored Core 6

“While it would have been captivating to have cooperative gameplay integrated, regrettably, this feature is missing.”

The Armored Core 6 customization options are almost endless and are truly a tinkerer’s dream. Every single part of your armored core can be customized, from your head and legs to your boosters and generators. While, it might seem overwhelming at first, given the sheer number of parts and stats that are presented to you on the screen, don’t fret because you’ll learn in no time.

Furthermore, the game even promotes experimentation as players can resell parts to the shop for 100% of the money that they bought it for. This means you can swap out different loadouts at any point without any fear of wasting hard-earned cash. Want a heavy sturdy mech with tank wheels as feet or a nimble bipedal mech that can jump higher and dash quicker? You can do it all!

Completing a single playthrough of Armored Core 6 typically consumes around 20 hours, depending on your skill level. However, you’ll likely find yourself inclined to immediately dive into New Game Plus. This mode introduces fresh missions, weapons, and even alternate endings to pursue. Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon presents three different endings: a negative ending, a positive ending, and a true ending. Certain missions are exclusively accessible within New Game Plus or even the further advanced New Game Plus Plus (your third playthrough!).

For an extended gameplay experience, AC6 offers its customary PvP battles, including 1v1 duels and 3v3 team battles. While it would have been captivating to have cooperative gameplay integrated, regrettably, this feature is missing.

Armored Core 6

“Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon is a return to form for one of FromSoftware’s oldest franchises.”

Despite the fact that Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon runs on the same in-game engine as Elden Ring, its performance at launch is incredibly smooth and stable. It’s unfortunate that the game incorporates numerous loading screens rather than achieving seamless transitions; however, the loading process itself is exceptionally swift.

The PS5 version of the game offers two modes: quality targeting native 4K resolution and performance targeting 60 frames per second. Given the game’s intense action-oriented nature, I suggest opting for the latter mode, as those additional frames significantly assist during intense combat scenarios.

Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon is a return to form for one of FromSoftware’s oldest franchises, and a culmination of all the lessons learned throughout decades of game development. While the story is a bit bland, the omnidirectional fast-paced mecha combat, the unparalleled customization options, and the grandiose boss battles more than make this an experience worth fighting for. Go get that Coral, 621.

Armored Core 6
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon Review
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is a refreshing revival of a series that has been in a deep sleep since 2013. The deep customization options and fast-paced mecha combat more than make up for the game's mediocre narrative.
Unparalleled customization for your Mech
Fast-paced and addictive omnidirectional combat
Runs flawlessly on the PlayStation 5
Tons of replayability and build variation
Forgettable story
Lack of animated cutscenes in favor of lazy voiceovers