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Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon Review

Nick Shively Posted:
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“Got a job for you, 621.”

These words will be ingrained into your brain by the end of your journey in Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon. Handler Walter starts most mission briefings off with this phrase, and boy, does he have some jobs for you. I won’t bury the lede here: if you like fast-paced mech combat, Armored Core VI Fires of Rubicon is the best in the genre.

It should be no surprise that From Software has put out another stellar game. While the original Armored Core is among its roots, the studio has earned a shining reputation more recently with the Dark Souls franchise, Bloodborne, and winning the previous game of the year with Elden Ring. Armored Core VI does not feel like a side project while waiting for the next open-world soul’s-like, but was instead crafted with the same care and dedication as the previous major projects.

Humble Beginnings

I’ve always been a fan of the idea behind mech games, starting with the Virtual On cabinet at my local arcade and transitioning to various Gundam and MechWarrior franchises later on. One of the big draws for Virtual On was the twin joystick system, which was way ahead of its time and made me feel like I was actually piloting my robot. Console controllers couldn’t emulate this feeling, and despite MechWarrior having tons of nuanced PC controls the design opted for a much more sluggish combat pace.

The Armored Core series always felt like a middle ground between the two aforementioned franchises, with lots of control over mech customization while also having faster-paced combat. I have no idea how many hours I put into the PlayStation Interactive CD Sampler with the original Armored Core, but I’m sure it’s more than most modern games I play anymore. I remember being blown away at the 3D level design and how many options there were to build my robots, which in retrospect wasn’t all that many, but I grinded the handful of available missions until I unlocked every piece of equipment.

Since then, I’ve played various mech games from a plethora of franchises, but eventually, the genre wore thin on me. The combat never quite lived up to my expectations or ignited that feeling of actually being the pilot like the Virtual On arcade machine did… until now.

Strap In

Combat in Armored Core VI Fires of Rubicon is the definition of ‘high-octane.’ Depending on how you assemble your armored core, you’ll often be traveling at break-neck speeds, dodging energy blasts like Goku, and simultaneously returning fire to enemies in front, behind, above, and below you with up to 4 different weapons.

The amount of customization options is almost paralyzing, so I’m rather thankful there’s a slow drip feed of new options throughout the game. Most chassis parts are rated for light, medium, or heavy armored cores while legs have additional types such as the more maneuverable Reverse Joint, hovering Tetrapod, and ground-focused Tank options. Heavier parts often mean you can bring a stronger generator with a more powerful weapon loadout, but you’ll also be slower and be able to dodge less frequently.

Each armored core can be equipped with up to four weapons (two arms and two shoulders). The arm weapons include things like rifles, laser guns, shotguns, bazooka, and an assortment of melee weapons while the shoulder weapons are most often missiles, grenade launchers, or high-powered lasers. However, later in the game, a perk can be unlocked that turns the shoulder weapons into a second set of arm weapons providing even more flexibility.

All of these options mean you can tweak your core to play exactly how you want or change it up to prepare for specific fights. You can even modify your assembly before restarting a mission after reaching a checkpoint, but this will have an effect on your mission score. So you can start a mission as a heavy, mobile piece of artillery and then swap to something much quicker for intense boss fights. I personally preferred using a double shotgun build with vertical missile launchers on a medium chassis to give me a balance of toughness and maneuverability while having a ton of firepower at closer range.

Armored Core IV

Throughout Armored Core VI, the garage will act as your mission hub. Initially, Handler Walter will provide you with a rather linear list of missions, but eventually, you will have requests from other individuals and even be able to make decisions that drastically impact the story. Once you make a decision, it’ll dictate the rest of your playthrough and can only be altered by playing the game again in New Game+.

In addition to the story missions, there are tutorials and 1v1 virtual Arena missions that provide unique parts and currency. Defeating enemies in the Arena will also grant OST Chips that can provide passive and active combat upgrades. As there are no levels or overpowered items to grind in Armored Core VI, making use of the OST Chips is one of the few ways to gain an objective advantage, which you’ll definitely want for the more challenging battles. For those looking to test their mettle against other players, the Nest has a handful of PvP options that can be tweaked for 1v1 or 3v3 combat.

One of the best things about the story mode in Armored Core VI is how little is recycled. Almost every single battlefield and scenario feels unique, while the environments are absolutely breathtaking. The terrain, vehicles, buildings, and weapon/destruction effects are designed to look terrifyingly realistic. Apparently, the game is built on the same engine as Elden Ring, so it’s no wonder it looks so damn good. On top of that, while playing in Performance mode on PS5, I didn’t notice any major FPS drops or other issues, regardless of how intense the combat got.

From Software does keep a handful of the beginner missions relatively simple. Go here, destroy these MTs or this piece of artillery, and head back to base. However, any later missions that might have simple objectives almost always have some twist attached to them. Not to mention there are just some absolutely cool missions, such as taking down the Strider miner, where the entire level takes place on a massive walker vehicle that has you to destroy piece by piece.

Mechanized Dark Souls

While most of the standard combat boils down to ‘act first, think later’, the bosses are a completely different story. Even if this isn’t an open-world, exploration game in the same vein as the last few From Software titles, a few of the team’s fundamental decision choices have crept into the boss fights, which for the most part are outstanding.

In typical From Software fashion, even the tutorial isn’t a safe zone. Things start off easy enough, with a few objectives defended by weaker MTs (Muscle Tracers), but just when you think the mission’s over a heavily armored HC Helicopter appears on the scene. Without having any assembly options or piloting experience at this point, the helicopter feels tougher than it should. After a few failed attempts, I personally found it easier to dispatch the airborne boss with my laser sword than trying to trade shots at range due to the helicopter’s much more deadly arsenal.

As new weapons, boosters, and chassis parts become available, lots of different ways to approach combat are unlocked, but that doesn’t necessarily make things easier. Most weapons are side-grades, better for specific types of combat, and rarely are new weapons strictly better than old ones.

Even if all of the stats are objectively better, they’ll usually come at a higher weight/energy cost or have other negative drawbacks like recoil. For example, I personally found myself using nearly the same vertical missile launcher for most of the game due to their moderate damage and lack of recoil, which allowed them to be fired at any point in combat without affecting my current trajectory or putting me in a vulnerable stationary position.

Without spoiling too much, the boss at the end of the first chapter is an absolute skill check and will likely be a pain point for a lot of players. Compared with anything else fought at that point in the game, it is way tougher due to its high armor value alongside a regenerating pulse shield while being terrifying at both long and close range. Beating this guy definitely requires following the Observe, Learn, and Assemble (or re-assemble) protocol. Even after memorizing its patterns and finding a build I liked, it still took multiple attempts to bring it down.

Armored Core VI Fires of Rubicon has everything you could want in a mech game. The tight, responsive controls leave nothing to be desired. Every battlefield is a work of art. The assembly options are nearly limitless. The story is worth playing through at least twice, and every boss kill feels rewarding. My only complaint is that I wish I could spend more time exploring the world of Rubicon 3.

Full Disclosure: A copy was provided by PR for the purposes of this review. Reviewed on PlayStation 5.

9.5 Amazing
  • Near perfect combat system
  • Mind-blowing visuals
  • Thousands of Customzation Options
  • It's seriously a lot of fun
  • Steep difficulty curve begins with the tutorial
  • Can't explore the gorgeous world outside of combat missions


Nick Shively