In many ways, Armored Core VI Fires of Rubicon is a reintroduction to a series, more than a reboot of it. In the 11 years since Armored Core V,
Armored Core V, developer FromSoftware has moved from a niche proposition to one of the focal points of gaming culture, and its latest game feels like an attempt to proudly steer its newer fans towards one of the series that started its journey. As such, if you’re already a fans of From’s high-complexity mech combat games, much of what it has to offer will feel familiar – albeit much, much shinier than before.
The focus is still on taking your personally customized war machine through enemy-packed arenas, dominating a mixture of smaller, robotic enemies, bosses, and equally kitted-out mechs, collecting the funds and materials you need to graft on new weaponry, limbs, and internals to become more efficient as you go on.
But the first thing I notice in a hands-off look at gameplay isn’t the industrial-chic mech being launched from a high speed elevator – hard as it is to miss – but the world around it. The real change, at least for me, is a sense of scale. It may not have a truly open world in the vein of Elden Ring, but AC6 doesn’t lack for that game’s sense of wonder.
The mission I see has the player attempting to infiltrate the base of an enemy faction called RaD, who have taken over a vast industrial facility called Grid 086. It’s a marvel to look at, an enormous factory built over tens of storeys, without an invisible wall apparent to stop you exploring. It doesn’t appear to be a one-off – a montage of other levels shows me scorched deserts, ice caves, and entire cities. The focus here seems to be on turning standalone levels into truly enormous spaces to dole out mechanical justice within.
This should have a knock-on effect on gameplay too – where Armored Core missions of the past were more focused on getting you from objective to objective, there’s an element of choice involved here. Grid 086 doesn’t have a single entrance; instead, you’re given a choice of how to proceed. You could head to the front gate and take on its swarming, robotic guards, but you could equally use your thrusters to reach a much higher hidden entrance. These are the examples we’re given, but I’m positive there are more means of ingress to find.
That addition of choice broadens the level of strategy as a whole. The core of, well, Armored Core has always been in building a mech that meets your specifications – nimble, melee focused pursuers, walking artillery batteries, missile launcher-encrusted monsters, and more. That ability to approach levels in your own way only deepens the potential for choice, and allows for your particular brand of mech to shine.
But customization cuts both ways. Where From’s Souls games are often built on a relentless search for perfection, challenging you to build a character and then get better at using their specific strengths over the course of a whole game, Armored Core VI looks to ask for a little more flexibility. We see a stronger enemy make light work of the player guiding our demo, taking down their shorter range sword-and-rifle combo with a variety of quick melee attacks. Instead of simply reloading the checkpoint and heading back into the fray, our demoist instead heads to the Assembly menu and puts together a whole new machine. Among other changes, they swap out the legs for a more efficient dash attack, and replace a shoulder-mounted missile launcher with a full-on cannon, designed to more efficiently stagger enemies.
Heading back in, they cripple the once-victorious enemy by preventing it from moving as much as possible, and avoiding those dangerous, close-range attacks with dashes when they can’t immobilize it. It’s a little bit of design philosophy made tangible – in Armored Core VI, it’s not a case of “try, try again”, it’s more like a chemistry experiment, asking you to keep tinkering with the ingredients until you find the right mixture to take down your opponent.
I’m left very hopeful for what we have to come from Armored Core VI Fires of Rubicon – as a fan of the series, this is already feeling like a deft mix of the Armored Core fundamentals I’ve been missing, and new ideas to flesh them out for modern machines.
Armored Core VI Fires of Rubicon will be released for Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One on August 25.