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Armored Core 6 Fires Of Rubicon Burns Bright With Mecha Action At Its Best

Platforms: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC
Genre: Mecha, Action RPG

In recent years, FromSoftware made its name by making Soulslike games into the popular genre it is today, from the Dark Souls franchise to Sekiro Shadows Die Twice and most recently, Elden Ring. Now the company has returned to a more niche franchise of theirs; the Armored Core franchise, and after playing the excellent Armored Core 6 Fires Of Rubicon, it’s very likely the franchise and its genre will no longer be as niche as it was in the past.

 

Mobile Suit

You don’t need any past experience with previous Armored Core titles in order to enjoy Armored Core 6: Fires Of Rubicon. I say this as someone who’s never properly played an Armored Core game before. The best way to describe Armored Core as a genre is probably that it’s an action RPG game with you can pilot mechas and customize them however you want. That definitely sounds like a mecha fan’s dream come true, but there are also many other reasons why Armored Core 6: Fires Of Rubicon is such a great game and why it’s such a refreshingly unique experience in the current trend of video games.

I don’t like to be contrarian but one of the simple facts why Armored Core 6: Fires Of Rubicon is a brilliant game can be attributed to how simple and fun the gameplay loop (or gameplay structure) is. It’s similar to 2019’s Ace Combat 7 Skies Unknown (which was also published by Bandai Namco) in a lot of ways. If you’re an Ace Combat fan, a lot of things here will be familiar to you. The biggest difference is one features jets and the other features mechs. I digress, but here’s the essential gameplay loop in Armored Core 6: Fires Of Rubicon; players will begin by listening to a short briefing by the person who is giving them their mission, play and complete that aforementioned mission, get new parts by earning them from missions or purchasing them from the shop, go to the Garage and customize their Armored Core (or AC, what these mechs are called in the world of the game), rinse and repeat.

Unlike other modern games, there are no open worlds to explore or side quests to do. The game is very straightforward and everything is clear-cut (though the narrative isn’t exactly linear, more on this later below). You go from mission to mission and keep upgrading your mechs. You do this from the beginning of the game until the end of the game, though there are several side content like the Arena (where you can fight AI Armored Core enemies in 1V1 battles) or the Nest (where you can play online 1V1 or 3V3 battles against other players). There’s no padding or filler here.

Most missions are straightforward in that you’ll go through a linear level and destroy enemy robots. There are several exceptions, including escorting or defending missions (though they’re not as frustrating as in other games), going through a minefield of satellite lasers (Ace Combat fans will be familiar with this), and more. However, most missions are simply search-and-destroy missions. It’s refreshing in that you don’t have to worry about anything else much except the game’s combat and killing enemies.

The loop features a lot of depth in terms of how you can build and customize your mechs that it never gets boring even many hours into the game. Customizing your mech and testing different builds until you get the right one for you never gets old. Plus, the game encourages experimentation with different mecha builds, and it never punishes you for using any specific build. You actually need different builds for different bosses and missions. What’s best is that the game makes this easier for players by giving them ample checkpoints in missions and players can change their AC’s parts even between checkpoints during a mission so that they’re not forced to restart a whole mission just to adjust their build for a particular boss or mission objective. These are two aspects I really hope will be implemented in future Ace Combat games as well.

You can choose the parts for your mech’s right hand, left hand, right shoulder, left shoulder, head, arms, core, legs, generator, booster, FCS and expansion core. When building a mecha, you have to take many variables into account, including its weight load and energy load. Every part depends on other parts, so it’s great when you mix and match different parts to get your desired build with the stats that you want, though it will take a bit of tinkering. That’s not even counting the painting (colour scheme) and decals you can create for your mech, making it more personally distinctive. It’s definitely possible to literally spend hours just customizing your mech, and many players (since launch) have been making a lot of diverse creations, which you can then share with other players by uploading the build and designs.

If you’re worried about having to grind to get these body parts or decals, don’t worry, because doing just the missions and the Arena battles will net you enough money (COAM as the in-game currency) to buy what you want. You can even sell parts you don’t want anymore so there’s no situation where you have to be stressed about wasting your hard-earned money on parts you regret buying. I also love how the game’s shop has short clips of the weapons in action so that you can know what the weapon will be like when activated, which I think is extremely important in a game like this. These may seem to be little aspects but they are some of the many accessibility options that make Armored Core 6 Fires Of Rubicon an all-around enjoyable experience to play.

In battles, controlling your mechas and using the weapons just feels so intuitive and amazing. You’ll feel every blast of your grenade cannon or the weight behind every bullet. While it’s a bit disappointing that Armored Core 6: Fires Of Rubicon doesn’t support the PS5 DualSense’s Adaptive Triggers or Haptic Feedback (at the time of writing), the gameplay and controls just feel so great that it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. The core gameplay mechanic in combat is the stagger mechanic, which Soulslike players and those who played the recent Final Fantasy XVI will be familiar with right away. Players will have to consistently damage enemies to fill up their stagger meter, which will then trigger the enemies to be (sometimes) briefly prone and more susceptible to increased damage.

While gameplay is certainly king and the meat of the game, the narrative of Armored Core 6: Fires Of Rubicon might be a mixed bag. The story in the game takes a while to get going and the pacing is a bit weird (Chapter 2 is only a two or three missions long while other later Chapters have a lot more). That being said, Armored Core 6: Fires Of Rubicon actually has multiple endings and potential branches in the narrative (where players can make decisions and choose specific missions that will alter the story), which increases the game’s replay value and replayability. My first playthrough took me around 20+ hours and it can take longer (depending on how challenging you find the game, more on the game’s difficulty later), but with multiple playthroughs, the game can last much longer and offer even more playtime.

If you find the story not engaging, especially in the first playthrough, that’s because the game opens up more in subsequent playthroughs and new game pluses that will even culminate in a more satisfying True Ending, which means that there’s a reward for those who put in the effort and time. This is very similar to NieR Automata, where players also had to complete multiple playthroughs to get the best ending. Also, while the multiple playthroughs do recycle a lot of the mission, New Game Plus and “New Game Plus Plus” (and beyond) feature extra missions and content not available in the first playthrough, so there’s a lot of incentive to play multiple playthroughs, besides wanting to get the True Ending).

Last but not least, I’ve waited until almost the end of this review to touch on the elephant in the room; the difficulty. At this point, almost everyone knows how infamous or famous FromSoftware games are for their extremely high difficulty, especially their Soulslike games. I won’t lie, I’ve never been a fan of Soulslike games even after playing games like Sekiro Shadows Die Twice but it’s important to understand that Armored Core 6: Fires Of Rubicon is not a Soulslike.

Yes, Armored Core 6 Fires Of Rubicon can still be extremely hard for those not used to high-difficulty games; there are no difficulty options in this game. However, it is nowhere near as punishing as Soulslike games. The accessibility options like the ample checkpoints and being able to change your builds during missions make it a lot easier to adapt to any challenges the game throws at you. This makes the game more fluid in terms of difficulty and not as rigid as something like Sekiro Shadows Die Twice, where it’s game over for you if you’re not good at parrying mechanics.

 

Fly, Raven, Fly

Armored Core 6: Fires Of Rubicon manages to stand out in a sea of good games in 2023 and it is a strong contender for Game Of The Year. Even if you’ve never played an Armored Core game, or if you don’t like Soulslike games (which shouldn’t be an issue in the first place), this game is recommended for fans who crave great mecha action games.

There’s nothing else like it in the market right now, and Armored Core 6: Fires Of Rubicon is finally the game that elevates this franchise beyond its niche to the mainstream. There’s no doubt about it.

 

PROS

  • Making your own mech and always tweaking it with new parts never gets old.
  • Encourages experimentation with different playstyles, and never punishes you for experimentation.
  • Smooth controls and delicious combat.
  • Multiple endings and multiple alternate narratives allow for increased replayability.
  • Multiplayer is stable and intense.
  • A mecha simulator come true for mecha fans.

CONS

  • Difficulty spikes and high difficulty, so it’s not for everyone.
  • The narrative can feel a bit too dry at first (in your first playthrough).

 

FINAL SCORE: 90/100

 

Armored Core 6 Fires Of Rubicon was reviewed on PS5 based on a review copy provided by the publisher. It is now available for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC. 

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  1. Armored Core 6 Fires Of Rubicon Endings Guide: How To Get The True Ending

    September 4, 2023 at 5:24 pm

    […] Armored Core 6 Fires Of Rubicon is the first new entry in the long-running franchise by FromSoftware since 2013’s Armored Core Verdict Day. It is now available for the PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC. You can check out my spoiler-free review of the game by heading over here. […]

  2. Armored Core 6 Fires Of Rubicon Endings Guide: How To Get The True Ending – Techno News

    September 4, 2023 at 5:48 pm

    […] Armored Core 6 Fires Of Rubicon is the first new entry in the long-running franchise by FromSoftware since 2013’s Armored Core Verdict Day. It is now available for the PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC. You can check out my spoiler-free review of the game by heading over here. […]

  3. Armored Core 6 Fires Of Rubicon 1.02 Patch Nerfs Its Hardest Bosses

    September 11, 2023 at 6:24 pm

    […] the meantime, head on over here for my review of the game, or check out my guide on how to get the true ending in Armored Core 6 […]

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    October 12, 2023 at 5:55 pm

    […] the meantime, head on over here for my review of the game, or check out my guide on how to get the true ending in Armored Core 6 […]

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    October 31, 2023 at 4:37 pm

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