Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon review - Bloodborne in disguise
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Featured Image Credit: FromSoftware/Bandai Namco
You’d be forgiven for forgetting the Armored Core series existed, especially when it’s been overshadowed in recent years by the likes of Dark Souls, Bloodborne and Elden Ring. Fortunately, Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is finally here and if you’re a fan of FromSoftware, this is a game that shouldn't be ignored.
Traditionally, FromSoftware titles are vague on story details. Rather than having lore thrown in your face, FromSoftware has a different approach, hiding lore throughout the world. That’s very much an appeal of the developer's unique form of storytelling. Sure, you can take Armored Core VI at face value, but if you’re willing to dig around, you’ll soon understand that there’s more to its tale than meets the eye.
Check out the Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon launch trailer below!
Directed by Masaru Yamamura, Armored Core VI takes place on the planet Rubicon 3. A planet that was to be a haven for humanity's survival and technological advancement thanks to a rare energy source known as Coral. Unfortunately for humanity, we screwed everything up and Rubicon 3 suffered a cataclysmic event known as Fires of Ibis, which torched the planet to near ruin and only scarce remnants leaving hints of the interstellar civilization that once called it home on this now scorched planet.
50 years have passed since that cataclysmic event and against all the odds, it seems that Rubicon still contains that valuable Coral energy source. So with humanity being humanity, greedy corporations will stop at nothing to acquire the resource before any would-be competitor gets the chance, no matter the cost. Enter you, the willing, but relatively unknown Mercenary.
At the behest of an infamous handler named Walter, you’re tasked with infiltrating Rubicon 3 to prove your worth to the corporations that will stop at nothing to drain all the Coral that this planet has to offer. After acquiring a licence from a merc that suffered an ill fate, you are now under the alias ‘Raven’, and you seize the opportunity to climb the corporate ranks, but at what cost to you?
Almost from the get-go, you are lured in by the mystery of Armored Core VI . Not only is it a well-written story, but its wonderfully portrayed cast of characters and their anime-inspired tone. The amplified performances of the actors play an additional vital role in telling Armored Core VI’s story given how vague FromSoftware likes to drip information.
Having a well-written story and a talented group of actors are only two ingredients for any successful formula, and Armored Core VI is supported with a mesmerising soundtrack by FromSoftware veteran, Kota Hoshino. Nothing will quite top the epic soundtrack of Elden Ring, but the Armored Core series brings a different tone from other FromSoftware titles, and the Fires of Rubicon soundtrack is a sci-fi delight that ramps up the tension exactly when it needs to.
As you might expect from a developer responsible for some of the most gruelling games of all time, Armored Core VI will test your patience, a lot. Yet, despite the feeling of being continually victimised, once the dust has settled, you’ll soon become aware that practice and patience is a virtue and with a dose of resolve, you will overcome the obstacles that this game throws in your way.
Unlike other FromSoftware games, your mech suit will be fairly overpowered from the word go and you will dispose of grunts with relative ease. You’ll have a blast unleashing missile after missile, a barrage of machine gun fire and a swift swipe of your sword for close-quarter combat as you maniacally laugh at your fallen foes. That is until you cross paths with a boss enemy and are instantly humbled.
Despite being a mech shooter, Armored Core VI does have some similarities with previous FromSoftware titles, other than its gruelling combat. Bloodborne is my favourite game from the studio and while there is an option to use a shield in Armored Core VI, I found that a well-timed dodge and parry is my best friend, drawing comparisons to my time spent in Yharnam. Granted, Armored Core VI will also require a lot of trial and error. I lost count of the number of times it had taken me to defeat a certain boss. Thankfully, after much experimentation, I would eventually find the right combination of weapons to defeat my nemesis.
As you progress in the campaign, you will unlock new weapons and gadgets to acquire with your hard-earned in-game currency. You can also return to previous missions to replay in order to grind out further currency to acquire an item that may have previously been out of reach. You can also level up your mech by partaking in arena battles against challenging NPCs which increase in difficulty as you progress up the ranks.
When defeating enemies in the arena, you will earn Tuning Chips that can level up your mech whether it is counter moves to specific weapons, being able to carry heavier items and more. However, it must be stated that while you can replay the arena battles, you’ll earn no additional Tuning Chips from repeated encounters. Once the Tuning Chips have been earned from a particular battle, you can only earn more by taking on a new foe.
Speaking of customisation, you will spend a lot of your time in your Garage, the place where you swap your weapons and gadgets for the battle that awaits. Other than swapping your arsenal, you can also customise your mech to give it that personal touch. You can quite literally choose any colour for any part of your mech as you please, as well as having a wide selection of skins that can either give your mech a shiny gloss or something more rusted and battle-worn. You can even create your own logo or choose from some of the pre-sets. It will be interesting to see what snazzy designs the community comes up with in the weeks that follow Armored Core VI’s launch.
In terms of level design, don't expect Armored Core VI to have an open world similar to that of Elden Ring. Sure, there is a decent level of freedom, but this is very much a linear mission-structured and you will only be exploring arenas that are relevant to the mission at hand. This is fine because not every game needs to be open-world. Sometimes it's nice to know what is required without the added distraction of wanting to explore every nook and cranny of a massive world.
Speaking of the map, Armored Core VI isn't as pretty as Elden Ring, but I believe that is by design. The Lands Between is an enticing world that is beautiful as it is deadly. Don’t get me wrong, Rubicon 3 is certainly deadly and it lacks some added environmental and texture polish of previous FromSoftware titles, but this rusty, rundown and gloomy planet suits the tone of this game perfectly. So please, don’t let the lack of visual splendour put you off.
Armored Core VI also has a couple of modes to choose from, such as the standard performance vs. graphics options. Performance on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S will favour 60 frame-per-second at the expense of not having a 4K resolution. If you favour visuals, the game will be more crisp in 4K, but the framerate will be knocked down to 30fps. For a game that features high-octane action that relies on your reflexes, I prefer the higher framerate as that extra speed can help you in the heat of the battle. There is a ray-tracing option, but at this time, it’s restricted to the Garage, which I find to be quite pointless.
What’s more, Armored Core VI features a multiplayer mode if you fancy a distraction away from the gruelling, but fun single-player campaign. That being said, it may be a distraction, but it's not necessarily a break. I am continually getting my backside handed to me by NPCS, but now in the Armored Core VI multiplayer, I can get my backside handed to me by real people too. There’s a reason why I strayed from the Elden Ring PvP.
The multiplayer offering in Armored Core VI is PvP-based and currently has two modes, 1v1 and 3v3. My stint of being humbled by other players very much gave me Gundam and Robot Wars vibes. Hopefully, with a little more practice, I might eventually be able to put up more of a fight once it's opened up to the public, though I won't be holding my breath.
In conclusion Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is a masterful game that not only reminds veteran fans of the series that this franchise is alive and well, but it also welcomes in a new legion of fans, regardless of whether they have experience with the series or not. It takes the challenging counter-gameplay of Bloodborne infused with high-octane combat and a heavy dose of the signature difficulty that fans of FromSoftware have come to love. Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is yet another must-buy from the famed developer and another strong contender for Game of the Year.
Pros: Challenging gameplay that continually gives you that itch to come back for more, a surprising level of customisation, a story as subtly enticing as other FromSoftware counterparts
Cons: Visually, this isn't the best-looking game by FromSoftware
For fans of: Bloodborne, Gundam Versus, Titanfall
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon will be released on 25 August for PC, PlayStation and Xbox. A review code was provided by the publisher Bandai Namco. Read a guide to our review scores here.