After nearly a decade-long hiatus, the Armored Core series makes a triumphant return, this time with a revamped control scheme, current-generation graphics, immersive voice acting (if not a tad bit over the top), lots of ammunition, massive explosions, and parts, parts, and even more parts!

Developed by From Software, known for their masterful work on titles like Dark Souls and Elden Ring, Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon demonstrates the studio’s commitment to delivering nail-biting gameplay, thematic visuals, and the oh-so-popular From Software formula: getting served humble pie by the same boss fight again and again.

The Story: “To Destroy The World, Or To Save It”

Armored Core

Armored Core 6 introduces a rich and intriguing sci-fi narrative set in a dystopian future on the planet Rubicon 3, where mega-corporations, Arquebus and Balam, vie for control over a dwindling resource called Coral, and you 621 callsign “Raven” are sent into the fray, ready to annihilate for the highest bidder.

This is an almost cookie-cutter plotline in the world of Armored Core, where 6 really shines however, are the emotional choices the game’s supporting characters thrust upon you; while these are not exactly tearjerking moments, certain situations throughout the story do leave a mark. Are you a corporate puppet fighting for money? Do you side with what’s right? Or do you simply wish for catastrophic destruction? Whose side are you on 621?

Your Handler (think master-slave relationship), an enigmatic figure called “Walter,” fills in the gaps of the storyline throughout the journey, the game itself limits the usage of cutscenes, or actual human models for that matter, instead using voiceovers during briefings and in-game chatter to progress the story and explain important lore points. An odd choice for sure in today’s gaming age, though fans of the series will feel right at home, and perhaps it can be interpreted as a stylistic choice for series newcomers.

Gameplay: “Mechanised Warfare At 500 Km/h”

The core of Armored Core’s appeal has always been its deep and customizable mech combat, and Armored Core 6 doesn’t disappoint. This is mech heaven! Previous From Software games within the past decade were predominantly open/hub world-based, Armored Core sticks to its mission-based roots: garage, briefing, blow stuff up, debrief, and repeat. While the mission-based structure may turn off some newcomers expecting a sandbox world, the series’ core (no pun intended) gameplay is its high-octane, mecha-busting, guns-blazing, bullet-hell action.

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Fires of Rubicon offers an extensive array of parts and weapons for players to craft their ideal combat machine, and the level of customization is staggering; hours on end can easily be spent at the garage tinkering at what head part goes to what core part, and combined with your choice of leg part- oh and don’t forget your choice of four different slots for weapons. While the number of available parts is slightly lower in count versus the previous iterations, there is always still something for everyone. Whether you prefer agile, nimble, rifle-equipped mechs or hulking, heavy, missile-boat, armored brutes, Armored Core 6 provides the tools to build your dream machine.

Despite having a few “meta” weapons, there is generally no “one size fits all” loadout. Some weapons such as cannons, and shotguns, are for stagger building; others like machine guns, and laser rifles, are for damage dealing, while a select few are for breaking down pulse shields. Knowing which weapon to take into the battlefield is paramount, this is especially important later in the game as enemies use everything, including the kitchen sink, to take you down. The first “boss”, a tutorial helicopter has reportedly filtered 10% of the player base not more than 10 minutes into the game. This is Armored Core at its finest.

Visuals and Audio: “A Crimson World Crying Out In Anguish”

The Armored Core series was never in the industry foreground regarding graphics, usually relying more on art style rather than outright detail and resolution; this trend continues for this entry. Visually, Armored Core 6 is not the ultra-best out there regarding graphics, but it does what it always has done best: the sense of scale. The ACs are beautifully scaled against the game’s equally diverse environments. Post-apocalyptic wastelands, futuristic cityscapes, and barren wastelands, there is simply a scale here that other mech games try to emulate but ultimately end up finding wanting. This sense of scale turns up to ten in the game’s latter sections.

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The soundtrack department understands the game’s tone, and everything sounds proper and right at home, while admittedly, some sections of the OST take a back seat from the actual guttural sounds of bullet impacts, plasma energy whirring, and metallic scraping; this is perhaps by design after all this is a serious mercenary, militaristic, bloody business set on a desolate wasteland of a planet.

Overall, From Software has done an exceptional job of creating an immersive and atmospheric world; you are an angel of death unleashed on this forbidden planet, truly every mecha-head’s dream.

Multiplayer: “All In Good Fun”

Multiplayer has always been a significant component of Armored Core (mental images of playing split-screen on PS1’s Armored Core: Project Phantasma come into play) and Armored Core 6 continues the tradition with a frenetic if not simple online PvP mode. Players can engage in thrilling mech battles with friends and strangers, testing their customized creations against others. For example, your current lightweight build might best the campaign mode’s toughest bosses, but can it handle a tank-legged AC armed to the teeth with plasma cannons and flamethrowers? There is only one way to find out!

This aspect of the game adds replayability and extends the lifespan of Armored Core 6 beyond the single-player campaign, though the lack of game modes is sure to dampen the overall experience as there are no objective-based games whatsoever. While it is unheard of the in AC universe, something like Capture the Flag or King of the Hill game mode is sure to shake up a few tried and true player builds. Would you really be trying to dash back to your base with a heavy-weight AC? Thought so.

Unfortunately, there isn’t any co-op mode or multiplayer PvE mode in the game currently; while PvP mode is particularly entertaining, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that this game deserves a PvE, boss rush, or campaign co-op mode, after all, what better way to examine, admire your buddies’ ACs than to have them join you and help you take down Balteus! Or maybe if it’s a co-op mode, two Balteus units! Though From Software did mention multiplayer was not on the top of the list, safe to say this is still a missed opportunity. Perhaps some DLC down the line, or even Armored Core 7 can double down on this Raven’s wish.

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Welcome to Raven’s Nest

Armored Core 6 successfully revitalizes the franchise with its signature deep mech customization, engaging combat, and captivating post-apocalyptic sci-fi world. While it might differ a lot from the past From Software games, it builds upon the series’ strengths and offers a satisfying experience for veterans and newcomers. The game itself offers multiple endings and a New Game Plus system. Initial playthrough can be done roughly within twenty to thirty hours; it’s not Elden Ring in terms of length, though it doesn’t need to be.

Once a fairly unknown studio, From Software within the past decade has sculpted itself a legacy almost unparalleled in today’s gaming industry, all built under the success of the dark fantasy, swords and magic, Souls-borne games. Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon are not these games, what Armored Core 6 is, however, is a love letter to From Software’s past, now improved, polished, and evolved just like the developers themselves.  

This is a series that has stood the test of time, and now a new generation of players is ready to gear up and experience what it means to carry the title, “Raven”.

Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon is available now on PC, PS4/PS5, and Xbox Series X/S

THE GOOD
Non-stop action
Sound design and BGM
Mech customization
Art style and mech, environment details
Intriguing story and thematic concepts
THE BAD
Lack of co-op modes
Lack of different PvP modes
9.5
Superb

Review Summary

Strangely Awesome Games Staff
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