Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon Review

Richard Walker

Before developer FromSoftware became synonymous as the progenitor of the Souls genre, but after it introduced itself to the world with the first three King's Field games, the studio made a name for itself with the Armored Core series - an experience in which huge robots stomp about the place, blasting one another to scrap. Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is the first entry in ten years, the last being 2013's Verdict Day, and in the intervening years, the crux of the series remains largely untouched. You play as a mercenary mecha pilot, battling big robots (known as Armored Cores/AC) from rival factions, earning yourself currency along the way. It's good, wholesome and immediate action fare, seemingly aimed at fans and newcomers alike. Though not for the faint of heart. It's ruddy hard.

Playing as pilot C4-621, under the guidance of Handler Walter, you begin Armored Core VI by pilfering the ID of a deceased merc, adopting his callsign of 'Raven'. From thereon, the game is about forging a reputation on the planet of Rubicon 3, following your illegal arrival there, using your pilfered ID. At the heart of the story is a corporate conflict over a mysterious resource known as Coral, taking you through an array of barren, relentlessly bleak locations, where war has reduced the planet to an ashen hellscape. After a straightforward prologue mission, you're able to use your stolen mercenary license to access the 'ALLMIND', docking your mecha in the Garage where you can purchase new parts and customise every facet of your AC before heading into the next mission Sortie or virtual Arena battle.

Preparation is vital in Armored Core VI, especially as mid-mission checkpoints are lost if you have to quit and retreat to the Garage to reassess your strategy, so determining the best combination of weapons in your mecha's left and right hands, your back-mounted units, and the stats that each component grants, can mean the difference between success and abject failure. Predictably, in tried and true FromSoftware fashion, this is an experience that makes no concessions and takes no prisoners when it comes to providing a stern challenge. And while this is very little like a Soulsborne game, it can prove to be every bit as difficult and unwelcoming, albeit with checkpoints and a chance to respec your mech when you inevitably die.

At times, this can be unapologetically uncompromising stuff, with some fairly egregious difficulty spikes, and, yet, there are few things quite as rewarding as the elation you feel upon overcoming a bastard boss, having chipped away for hours. And Armored Core VI has more than its fair share of those – expect to get stuck on more than a few occasions, as you attempt to outmanoeuvre volleys of missiles, bullets, plasma, lasers, and myriad other fatal projectiles. Observing attack patterns and adapting to their changing attack phases is all part and parcel, making each battle a fraught, edge-of-the-seat affair that can come down to the finest of margins.

It's in the Garage that your AC Assembly ultimately determines success or failure; credits earned for carrying out merc jobs, at the behest of corporations paying top dollar, are yours to spend on new arms, legs, heads, torsos, and weaponry for your mech at the Parts Shop. Then, you can give your AC a respray job, decking it out in whatever colours, patterns, and emblems you like, unless you're especially fond of gunmetal grey. Nothing screams 'dark desolate future' like a hot pink and banana yellow mech with flames emblazoned across its carapace, right?

Once you're specced out and ready to roll, Armored Core VI's crunchy 'omni-directional' combat proves to be a blast, so even when you're getting mashed up by a particularly sticky foe, it's hard to feel too hard done by. The manoeuvrability of your AC, meanwhile, ensures that simple movement is slick and responsive, and when you do fall afoul of a nasty boss encounter, it seldom feels like it can't be overcome, as long as you've taken the time to get your AC setup just right.

Outside of campaign missions, Arena battles present you with a battle evaluation against a rival mech (good practice for the real deal), with success granting OST Chips for OS Tuning. These enable you to unlock helpful new abilities and passive buffs, like damage mitigation, a boost kick, a quick turn, manual aiming, and more effective repair kits (AC6's estus flasks, in essence). At the end of each mission, your earnings, deductions, and any penalties you might have incurred are racked up, although it's worth mentioning that the previous games' debt system has been scrapped, so you'll no longer see your funds plunging into the red. Upon reaching Chapter 3, you'll also gain access to Armored Core VI's online multiplayer, dubbed 'Nest'.

AC6 multiplayer comprises 1v1 and 3v3 skirmishes, with a best-of-three phases showdown, allowing you to show off your unique mech and your loadout to the world. There's a nice selection of maps and various rule settings to tinker with, while the minute-to-minute action proves to be an ideal testing ground for your AC. It's also a good way to see which loadouts are most effective – for instance, I'd written off the gatling gun until running into a rival mech online outfitted with one in each hand. Multiplayer is also a fantastic arena for experimentation with different AC setups, and you can save dozens of different permutations in the AC Data menu, making it easy to chop and change.

Whether or not you get to see one of Armored Core VI's three endings, you can rest assured that FromSoftware has succeeded in crafting another eminently playable game, which also happens to be hard as nails, as is the studio's modus operandi. Some missteps (stealth mission, anyone?) and wretched difficulty spikes aside, Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is a cracking action game offering tens of hours of challenging and wonderfully rewarding mecha combat. If you've the iron stomach required to persevere and overcome what it has to throw at you, you'll find something well worth sticking with.

Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon

A cracking dose of fast-paced action, Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is a triumphant return for FromSoftware's mecha series after a decade, which proves both sternly challenging and deliciously rewarding in equal measure.

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A subtle, atmospheric soundtrack fits Fires of Rubicon's bleak mood perfectly, while voice work is uniformly excellent, and the sound effects are suitably impactful.


Despite a few deliberately drab environments and a lot of grey, Armored Core VI looks superb, later levels featuring red and orange Coral-scorched skies. As for the mechs themselves, they look great, too.


It just wouldn't be a FromSoftware game without an uncompromising difficulty level to contend with, would it? Still, this is utterly intuitive stuff, the mobility of your AC and variety of weapons making each battle feel enormously rewarding.


A hefty single-player campaign with three different endings, solo mech vs. mech Arena showdowns, and the Nest online multiplayer mode will keep you playing for countless hours. There's nary a bum note here, save for difficulty spikes and one or two annoying missions.


As if AC6 wasn't already hard enough, the trophy list wants you to 'S' rank every mission, collect every single AC part, and beat all of the Arena showdowns. This one tough (and not particularly creative) list for only the most dedicated of AC pilots.

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