Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon Review
Do the Fires of Rubicon burn bright, or does this one fizzle out?
The fires of Rubicon will continue to be stoked, if not by the Coral that we so desperately wish to contain, then by the visible waves of heat emitting from my forehead as I get this much closer to slamming my controller into a desk because of BALTEUS. As someone familiar enough with the FromSoftware library to know that their games are normally not my bread and butter, I decided to challenge myself when asked to review this particular title in the long-running and much beloved Armored Core series. And I have to say, Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon may be the title that has convinced me to give FromSoftware’s library of games another shot.
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon has quickly become something of a competition between our work chat, to see who can push through and defeat an enemy the fastest, who can emerge from a challenging battle unscathed, or who has put together the greatest build that can shred through their enemies like a block of metallic Swiss cheese. It’s slowly forming into a micro-community, filled to the brim with folks who are enthusiastic about their newly developed mech and are willing to share the secrets of how they finally brought a challenging boss to their knees in defeat.
However, in the world of Rubicon, you’re on your own. As a “dog” of Handler Walter, you should not expect to receive the praise that you may from your colleagues and friends. As you start from nothing, you continue working your way up the ranks, eliminating foes that are hoping to bring an end to the Liberation Front, all while dispatching ways to use them for your own dirty work.
The storytelling in Armored Core VI is much more straightforward compared to other FromSoftware titles, and without sounding condescending, is the most video game-y story that they’ve come out with in quite some time. Completely serious while having protagonists that sound like they just stepped into the booth to create the newest Mecha anime franchise, you’ll find that the voice acting and the gritty world that surrounds you, while jarring at first, meshes together in the most exciting of ways.
Personally, I love the storytelling in Armored Core VI. It’s spoonfed to you in a more digestible way compared to other FromSoftware games. While some may love the idea of searching every corner of the map to find out every bit of lore that the game has to offer, my peanut brain is happy to know why I’m here, what the plan is, and how we’re going to bring it to fruition.
That said, lore sickos will be glad to know that there are countless chests available to find, so the ability to learn more about the story and why we’re here in the first place is definitely available, and something I’ll be doing on my New Game ++ file. During my first playthrough, however, I was just eager to get into the driver’s seat and deliver some metallic justice by any means necessary.
Now, what good would a Mech battle be if the controls were garbage? Thankfully, over the years, FromSoftware has made some of the most pleasant feeling games, and Armored Core VI is no exception to this formula. Skating around a variety of worlds in your super-powered robot feels unbelievably satisfying to the point where I would find myself scooting around on ice or other parts of the environment, just exploring and spending more time in the world than I likely should have.
While suitably heavy, with different weight classes and statistics to take into consideration whilst building your new creation, you’ll find familiarity with the way that these robotic characters cascade across the landscapes. From the nimblest of Mecha to those with exaggerated features and tank treads, you’ll need to consider how you’re planning to navigate the world before you while creating the Mecha of your dreams.
Every weapon you equip to your mechanized monster also feels suitably weighted, making firefights all the more engaging. And boy, oh boy, does Armored Core VI require you to learn about your machine before setting out on a Sortie. The smallest mistake in your build could cost you a fight at the final moments before bringing down an enemy, so learning what weapons and mech parts suit your playstyle isn’t just for aesthetics; it’s for survival.
When I first started my journey into Rubicon, I wanted to create a Mech that looked and functioned like Jehuty from the Zone of the Enders franchise, which Armored Core VI was happy to oblige me with. However, after quickly getting dispatched, due to my more aggressive playstyle, I was able to learn, adapt, and overcome the struggles I encountered by focusing on a build that would work for me. It’s a great feeling when you finally nail the playstyle you were hoping for, from the most nimble and zippy Mechs on the planet to something massive and monstrous that can bring the strongest weapons in lieu of its mobility.
Thanks to the in-depth character creator, you’re able to craft the Mecha of your dreams. Parts are hard to come by on the field but will offer you some of the most unique looks available in Armored Core if you stumble across them, incentivizing either repeat trips to the same world or exploration with the reward of overpowered AC items. I know I’ve mentioned BALTEUS before, but finding a weapon in your arsenal that can cause abrupt and catastrophic damage makes each battle feel incredible, rewarding, and worth a repeated playthrough.
Not everything is roses here, however. The camera, especially when using the Hard-Lock ability, can be woeful and somewhat nauseating. In other FromSoftware titles, the majority of the enemies that you encounter are on the horizontal plane, making the lock-on system work great. With the extreme doses of verticality that can come into play, especially during late-game encounters, be sure you’ve got a bottle of Dramamine near you if you’re prone to motion sickness. A particular boss during Chapter 4 could easily send someone over the edge if they’re quick to get sick.
I’m going to put myself on a major blast right here; I’ve never once completed a FromSoftware game before Armored Core VI. While I’ve always enjoyed the time that I’ve spent in their worlds, learning the lore and exploring the lands before me, I’ve always checked out at some point or another. I finally laid waste to the Abyss Watchers in Dark Souls 3 last year, and I haven’t picked it up since then. Something in Armored Core VI has changed that mindset in me, and I’m already itching to go back and see what else the FromSoftware library can offer me.
The “Git Gud” mentality was always something that never really sat right with me, and Armored Core VI seems to have done away with that, offering a more streamlined experience from start to finish that still offers some obscene challenges, all without feeling impossible. Again, bringing up BALTEUS, I’ve seen countless players giving up on this particular challenge, even after beating and besting the biggest baddies that other FromSoftware games have put their way. Thankfully for myself, however, I learned how to build a better Mech, and went back in to take on the challenge once again.
I’ve personally never felt this way toward a game like this before, where the urge to defeat a boss had gotten so reverently high that I needed to experiment as much as I was to discover the ultimate way to finally defeat them and bring an end to their reign of terror upon my psyche. Rather than “Git Gud”, the mentality here is more akin to “Build Gud”, which makes it more accessible to a larger variety of players.
Don’t get me wrong, Armored Core 6 is just as challenging, if not more than other FromSoftware games. And it’s hard not to compare them to one another, especially since the idea of Armored Core becoming another peg in the Souls-like board was discussed before release. You’ll have no I-Frames to rely on here, just your overall skill and build quality to ensure you can live to see another day and fight toward the goal of the Liberation Front and bring Rubicon toward the dawn of a new day.
A particular fight in the third chapter may go down as one of my all-time favorites, not due to its difficulty, but due to the sheer scope and epicness of the whole thing. Completely tossing the rules of what came before it to the sidelines and squaring off against something totally different is daunting at first, but as you learn the patterns and eventually figure out the sweet spot, you’re left with a battle for the ages, filled to the brim with chatter and banter from the cooperating teams.
Armored Core VI is a test of reflexes, skills, and just general gaming knowledge, but all of that can come crashing down on you if your rig or console decides to give out on you at the worst possible time. Testing my copy on three separate devices, my dedicated PC, my Steam Deck, and the AYANEO Air 1S, I’m happy to report that the game runs fantastically on anything I put it on. Graphical tweaks are easy to apply, and with my PC being a bit beefier than most on the market, I could easily push 120 FPS in this title.
No matter which console you’re on, or what kind of PC you’re running with, you should run into very few moments of hesitation when it comes to overall performance. With a variety of missiles, energy pulses, flames, and sparks filling up my screen at any given time, the only time I noticed any sort of major slowdown was during the cinematic explosions at the end of a major fight, due to the increased focus on those particular moments. Beyond that, I ran into no noticeable issues during any fight that I was partaking in, even in the PVP arenas that are unlocked as you progress through the story.
The graphical fidelity shown here once again reinforces the engine and work that FromSoftware has put into creating beautifully detailed games that run astonishingly well, no matter the platform. From the metallic shine of your polished-up Mecha to the environmental detail littered with junked machines and sparks of battle, everything here looks fantastic.
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is a very special game. Its internal parts are crafted with PlayStation 2-era design, brought together in an oven that can push out some of the most delicious Mech combat that I’ve experienced in a very long time. Its story is engaging enough to keep you pushing forward, and its variety of missions and boss battles can evoke a range of emotions from any player.
It’s also dauntingly difficult, but that’s where most of the beauty of this experience lies. There are going to be moments where you’ll need to place the controller down and take a few laps around the room before taking on the challenge of a boss once again, but this time you’re smarter, better, and stronger than before, so it’s time to strap in and become the bully. Show them who they’re messing with, 621, and let the last cinders burn. Over and out.
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is a very special game. Its internal parts are crafted with PlayStation 2-era design, brought together in an oven that can push out some of the most delicious Mech combat that I've experienced in a very long time. Its story is engaging enough to keep you pushing forward, and its variety of missions and boss battles can evoke a range of emotions from any player.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review. Reviewed on PC, Steam Deck, AYANEO Air 1S
As a fan of RPGs, Action & Retro titles, Shaun has been gaming since he was a young boy. With an overwhelming obsession involving Metal Gear Solid and Pizza Tower, you know you're in for a wild ride when it comes to things he's writing about.