Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon hands-on preview - hardcore metal
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Featured Image Credit: FromSoftware/Bandai Namco
In FromSoftware’s rise to prominence over the last decade or so with the likes of Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, Bloodborne and Elden Ring, you’d be forgiven if you forgot that the popular Japanese studio is also responsible for cult favourite series, Armored Core.
Beginning in 1997 on the OG PlayStation, the first Armored Core was quite advanced for its time. Players could choose from a selection of missions with a high-risk, high-reward formula and would offer a decent level of customisation, as well as emphasis on challenging gameplay that fans of FromSoftware would grow to love. During my few hours with Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon, it seems that the developer aims to bring the series back to where it all began and I couldn't be more excited.
Check out the Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon gameplay below!
Earlier this month, I got an opportunity to go hands-on with Armoured Core IV and I wasn't disappointed with my early impressions. The preview began with me being blasted down from the sky in our overpowered mech suit ready to tackle the first task at hand as we were introduced to the basic commands.
Similar to past Soulsborne titles, the shoulder buttons on the control pad are used as the primary functions of weaponry to take down our foes. Using the PS5 DualSense controller on PC, R1 and R2 were used to trigger firearms and rockets, while L1 and L2 were used for close-quarter melee attacks.
Once we were introduced to those basic commands, we were ready for the big wide world and all challenges that were thrown our way. Well, that’s the idea at least. After all, this is a FromSoftware game, so any form of brief complacency will result in a swift and untimely demise, and a checkpoint restart. Speaking of which, unlike previous games from the developer, you won't be using the likes of Bonfires, Idols, Lamps or Sites of Grace to respawn. Armored Core VI, uses good old checkpoints, most of which seem to auto-save roughly halfway through a mission.
Taking place on a planet known as Rubicon 3, you’re technically an illegal resident on the planet working as an independent mercenary on behalf of mega-corporations taking on resistance groups. It will be interesting to see how this aspect plays out in the full game because I can't help but think that I may be on the wrong side of the track. My first task was to recover a suitable identification from a deceased mech operator so that I may pass through some locations unchallenged. Though with this being a FromSoftware title, I soon discovered that pretty much everything is out to kill me.
After making my way towards the end of the mission area, battling a variety of grunt enemies, which thankfully did not pose much of a challenge, I was soon reminded of the DNA of this developer encountering my first sub-boss, which can be described as a large helicopter war machine. During a previous hands-off preview, FromSoftware explained that each map has a 3D vertical design, and to be honest, I never quite understood what they meant. After playing the preview hands-on, I have a better understanding. In terms of width, each area is quite large, though nowhere near what you might expect from an open-world game such as Elden Ring. That being said, Armored Core VI isn't open-world. Each map has a high vertical design and a decent degree of platforming, so expect to spend much of your time flying through the skies like an Iron Man. Albeit until your booster runs out and you crash to the floor, humbling you in the process.
For my first few attempts, I was getting my ass handed to me. I was making the mistake of attacking and defending mostly on the ground, a habit perhaps formed in Bloodborne. Yet, when I realised that I’m in a freakin’ mech suit, I took to the sky and got in close with a barrage of missile and melee attacks, and it wasn't long before I had that familiar feeling of satisfaction finally being able to take down my first proper obstacle. Unfortunately, I would later realise, this sub-boss was nothing in comparison to what was still to come.
Once my first mission was over, I then unlocked new missions to choose from, the latter of which took me to different locations. Depending on the mission, you will earn varying credit rewards as well as XP to level up your mech. From what I experienced in the preview, the higher the rewards, the greater the difficulty, very much playing into a risk-reward factor.
What’s more, at the end of each mission, you enter your Garage. Here you can buy new attachments, weapons, and other mech parts including the head, body, arms, legs and more. Each part has its own perks as well as weight, so you’ll have to find a fine balance of what suits you, depending on the battle at hand.
In the Garage, you can also customise your mech with a variety of colours and skins as well as create emblems. The level of detail surprised me greatly and being an Aston Villa fan, I was able to create my ideal Claret & Blue combo. You can also sell weapons and attachments, though that never seems like a good idea, as you’ll never know when you might need an item later on. You’ll also have an option at times to visit the Garage during a mission to stock up on ammo or switch weapons/parts.
I never quite got to finish the preview, however, I did encounter the last but one boss of the build. Before doing so, I had to fight my way through an army of enemy mechs and a barrage of missile attacks from above, all while trying to get beyond a giant wall that would not look out of place in Game of Thrones. Sadly, I never had a fiery dragon to penetrate this defence. After many, many attempts I finally managed to fight my way through the relentless enemy waves.
I felt emotionally defeated as it was, but when I encountered a boss that resembled a giant tank that would put ED-209 from RoboCop to shame, I had to dust myself off and with some brief help from an AI companion that legged it during the halfway point of the battle, I was very much reminded again that this is a FromSoftware game. I spent the best part of an hour trying to beat this boss. Admittedly, I’m no seasoned Soulsborne pro and it will always take me more attempts than most.
I was annoyed with myself that I never defeated this boss in the allotted time because, with each attempt, I had gotten a little closer to defeating my nemesis. So I can’t wait to get that chance once more next month. Until then, I’ll be thinking of you Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon, until we meet again.
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon will be released for PC, PlayStation and Xbox on 25 August 2023.
The preview build may differ from the final version.