Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is a triumphant return for the franchise. FromSoftware have really outdone themselves by making not only a gorgeous-looking mecha action-combat game, but an incredibly challenging and customization-rich work of art that can keep you busy for hours upon hours.
Classic Armored Core returns
The Armored Core franchise started out way back in 1997 as an action mecha title on the PlayStation 1. The game was built upon the idea of a central core cockpit, to which limbs and weapons would be attached – hence the name “Armored Core”. The series has been around for ages, with multiple mainline entries as well as numerous spin-offs, but the last title in the franchise was released 10 years ago and it’s been dormant since.
Finally, in 2023, we have Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon gracing us with its presence. With a far more recognisable and formidable FromSoftware heading up development, there’s been a lot of anticipation given the studio’s previous successes and the long time since the last entry.
If you’re a newcomer to Armored Core, you might be asking yourself if Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is anything like Sekiro or Elden Ring? The answer to that is yes and no. Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon doesn’t fall directly into the “Souls” genre. There isn’t a massive open world to explore but the sheer sense of scale is hard to downplay as the areas are still quite big. It is, however, a far more straightforward game with successive missions and storytelling that’s completely different.
Talking story, Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon involves mercenary groups vying for control of Rubicon 3, a planet that was engulfed by flames after a mysterious resource known as Coral was discovered and exploited by mankind. Players take on the role of “621”, a nameless mercenary dispatched onto the surface of Rubicon by a Handler named Walter. You quickly assume the callsign “Raven” from a recently downed mech and begin taking on jobs for a range of different factions throughout the story.
Most of Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon’s story is told to you via in-game chatter – familiar if you’ve played any of the Ace Combat games before – and you’re often facing off against hordes of enemies while trying to listen to conversations over the comms system. In fact, Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon plays out very similarly to the Ace Combat games, except for the fact that instead of planes, you’re piloting a giant highly customizable mech. Of course, this comes with its own set of challenges and complexities as there’s plenty to consider when piloting a mecha unit.
The classic gameplay design also returns – albeit massively expanded and refined – so you’ll be building up a custom mech and outfitting it with four weapons; one for each arm and one on each shoulder. These weapons are assigned to the controller’s shoulder buttons and, if you’re playing with a mouse and keyboard on PC, you can bind them to any keys (though the default settings work perfectly fine). Arguably, playing with a mouse and keyboard felt a lot more precise than playing with a controller, but I’ve had success with both methods of playing the game. Kudos to From Software for creating a control system that works well across hardware platforms.
Plan, build, adapt, survive
Despite all the flashy firefights in trailers, a key mechanic you need to learn in Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is how to ration ammo. You can and will run out, so it’s advisable to have a melee weapon equipped as a back-up when things go awry. And things will definitely go awry in this game. Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon doesn’t hold anything back and while weaker enemy forces are typically easy to tear through, the boss battles in the game are something else. These require careful thought and strategy to defeat, as well as some pure unadulterated skill in piloting your mech.
For example, there’s a specific boss enemy a fair amount into the game that has 2 phases and a powerful shield. Players will likely need to rebuild their mech and heavily customize it in order to take on this enemy because rushing in willy-nilly will just lead you to your untimely demise.
Drawing on their ‘Souls heritage, boss battles in Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon are works of art. Each boss has their own particular pattern of attack, and you’ll have to learn how to identify and get through them with minimal damage. Much like in Sekiro and Elden Ring, you’ll need to dodge as much as possible and quickly retaliate when small gaps open. There’s a layer of skill involved here since if you make a mistake, you will often get punished quite brutally for it. You’ll have to skillfully dodge through enemy fire, retaliate, repair yourself if damaged, and do everything possible to survive. The level of satisfaction you feel upon defeating a tough foe is amazing and that’s quite prevalent in Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon. However, if tough or challenging games aren’t your cup of tea, chances are you will easily get frustrated.
One new element Armored Core purists might find perplexing is the new “Stagger” mechanic and, to be honest, this felt very reminiscent of the more modern action-focussed Final Fantasy games. Slowly hammering away at an enemy until you knock them into a stagger state is the optimal way to achieve victory, since you can then easily dish out tonnes of damage in a short period of time.
It’s easier to pull off thanks to the inclusion of a lock-on system, which mitigates the unwieldy camera during intense boss battles or close-quarters combat. It’s helpful keeping things under control somewhat but will take some getting used to in the heat of battle – especially when the enemies you’re facing off against are incredibly large or located within confined areas.
Now the mech customization options are ridiculously good. You can change out weapon parts and mix and match different frame parts for additional stat boosts, all of which make a big difference in combat. An example of this is changing out your bipedal legs for a more spider-tank look. This drastically affects your movement speed and, in a game where dodging is essential to survival, mobility is a key factor to consider even if it may hamper your overall damage output. In addition to swapping out weapon and frame parts for gameplay purposes, players can also extensively customize the look of their mech with decals and paint jobs.
You can also easily share your designs with other players by simply copying the seed code and sharing it online. As of writing this review, it’s been around a week since release, and there are players out there creating some truly mind-blowing designs for their mechs. Players could easily spend hours in the customization menus creating their ideal mech and this plays a major part in the game’s enjoyment. Who doesn’t like a good set of customization options after all?
Wonderful aesthetics but awkward storytelling
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is a gorgeous game with vistas that are often breathtaking. From the mech designs to the sprawling environments, this game is filled to the brim with detail. Both your own attacks and enemy attack animations look fantastic, while the endless explosions and other visual effects are spectacular throughout. Thankfully, there is a photo mode included in the game with a reasonable amount of options for capturing the perfect screenshot of your mech in action. Given how beautiful the game looks, FromSoftware deserves praise for including this option in-game, and remarkably, the game ran flawlessly on PC and did not crash once during the review period.
The audio is often excellent too, with constant communications chatter – with quality voice acting – well suited to its military action theme. This helps drive the plot forward since the characters you listen to during missions have quite a lot to say, and they contribute to the worldbuilding. Sound effects are excellent and the soundtrack is filled with music that conveys a sense of desperation and struggle, along with adrenaline-pumping boss battle themes.
That said, the finer details of the story of Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon are all over the place and not as focused as they could be. Again, just like with Bandai Namco’s Ace Combat, you’ll have to pay attention to multiple things going on at once and often miss out on some story details while panicking about the incoming fire. At least the few cutscenes are great and the visual style implemented here is, once again, top-notch stuff from FromSoftware.
Although it’s been a decade since the last mainline Armored Core title, fans of the franchise won’t be disappointed with Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon and we’re pretty sure it’ll satisfy many newcomers.
FromSoftware have crafted a masterpiece of an action mech-based combat game, with great boss fights and a ton of customisation options that will appeal to both newcomers and veterans alike. Purists might find some of the new features a bit perplexing but given how satisfying the game is in general, even they should still find themselves enjoying it.
It is by no means a perfect game, especially when you consider the unwieldy camera and sudden difficulty spikes, but the toughest boss fights still reward planning, skill, and dedication. If you’re easily frustrated by challenging games though, you may want to give this one a skip – but for fans of combat-heavy, action-focused games that’ll challenge you and your abilities Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon comes highly recommended and should keep you entertained for ages. Let the last cinders burn!
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon was reviewed on PC using a code provided to gameblur by the publisher. It is also available on Xbox One/Series S|X and PS4/PS5.
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon (PC) ReviewArmored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon (PC) Review
Design8/10 Very Good
Aesthethics10/10 The Best
Soundtrack10/10 The Best
- Armored Core is back!
- Mecha combat feels responsive and extremely satisfying
- Breathtaking visuals
- Difficulty spikes
- Requires a lot of patience and strategy so it won't be for everybody