I was a latecomer to the FromSoftware party. Up until 2016, when I would then become consumed by the nightmare-covered streets of Yharnam in Bloodborne. I had no knowledge about the Demon and Dark Souls games. I only knew the two-word phrase that would be passed on as advice to anyone who spoke about the difficulties they faced while playing their titles.
Getting good and FromSoftware was a pairing that everyone on the internet just knew about. Either from personal experiences or cultural osmosis. Playing one of these titles meant you had a tough challenge ahead of you. As well as the Souls titles, FromSoftware also had another IP they developed games for, King’s Fiel… no I’m joking, it’s Armored Core.
Starting in 1997, fifteen games have been released. With number fifteen being the sixth-numbered title and the topic of this very review. Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is the embodiment of the famed two-word phrase.
So, how was the latest instalment?
Welcome to Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon
A quick rundown on how an Armored Core game works. You design your own mech, customising the weapons installed onto it. You choose the type of legs, arms, body and head to fabricate together and you can choose what generator, booster and bios chips to install too. Once the mech is built you choose a mission to undertake and then you put the newly created mech to use. That’s it, welcome to Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon.
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon eases the player into the controls. The near entirety of the controller is being put to use here. All shoulder buttons correspond to a weapon on the mech and you’ll be alternating between all four at all times. The game throws weaker enemies in your path to help you get to grips with not just combat but also mobility.
Fly like a butterfly, sting like a nuke
The mech feels heavy. There is weight behind it as it traverses the surface of Rubicon but heavy does not mean clunky. As mentioned before, you have a booster installed and you can propel your AC across a level in seconds. If that doesn’t interest you, you can use the boost function to skate around the level like you’re on a sheet of ice.
Learning to control your mech is a must. And when you have the rhythm and flow down, the once-heavy mech feels like a feather in the wind. A feather with dual miniguns and twenty heat-seeking rockets on its back.
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon also eases the player into boss encounters. How? By throwing an extremely large gunship at the player. The very same gunship that the game goes out of its way to tell the player to avoid its patrols or face a quick death. It feels like the player is just dipping their toes into the kids’ pool during their first swimming lesson. You’re getting a feel for it and the game comes along, picks them up and launches you straight into the deep end. This boss is not going anywhere, it’s sink or swim and you need to do the latter. You need to “Git Gud”.
What’s the story?
The story of Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is pretty straightforward. You are “621” an independent mercenary taking on jobs that are procured by your handler “Walter”. You get introduced to the cast of factions that occupy Rubicon and carry out work on their behalf. Missions are short and sweet, some may be put off by the lack of an open world to explore. However, the game absolutely thrives in this level-based format. Each mission has its own objectives and challenges to overcome and sometimes your mech just is not cut out for the job.
Each game over screen offers you the ‘Assembly’ menu. In this menu, you have full access to all of your purchased parts and can redesign your mech before you press restart. There is no penalty for doing this and the game fully restocks your AC’s ammo, repair kits and health upon each retry. It encourages the player to keep trying, to keep tinkering with their build. It also encourages you to keep having fun until you finally overcome and conquer whatever is blocking your path. I am of course referring to Balteus.
New parts are found during missions or unlocked after missions and you can purchase said parts in the parts shop using the payment you’ve received from completing missions. The story of 621’s journey on Rubicon will depend on the choices you make. At certain points in the game, you will be given a selection of missions to complete but you may only complete one, locking out the others for that current playthrough. It pushes you to go for repeat playthroughs in ‘new game plus’ after rolling credits.
What else can your mech get up to?
Alongside the story missions, you can take part in the Arena. A quick-fire selection of 1v1 matches against other Mechs with their own callsign and operators, some of which appear in the story. These offer rewards of extra credits to purchase more parts, new parts themselves and upgrade points to fine-tune and upgrade your own mech.
If the AI is too easy for you, you can dip your toes into the Nest. Be it 1v1 or 3v3, Nest is the online multiplayer mode for Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon. It’s fast, it’s fun and it’s a nice way to enjoy the designs of other people’s AC units online. Nothing says online multiplayer like a giant pink tank with willy stickers plastered all over it!
If you like customisation in your games, Armored Core VI has colour options within colour options for individual parts of your mech. You can create your own emblem to use as your insignia or as a design for your mech. If the thoughts of that much customising is overwhelming, have no fear. There are over one hundred premade colour and design schemes to choose from too. In the notepad, I used to jot down my thoughts while playing just saying, “holy shit, that’s a lot of colours” when it came to the options at my disposal.
Should I hop into this game?
If you are a fan of From Software’s previous titles then yes it’s a no-brainer. A word of advice though, do not go into this game thinking this is “Dark Souls with robots” It’s not that at all. If anything, Dark Souls is more akin to Armored Core without the robots. There are huge spikes in difficulty at times. Thankfully the tools are there to overcome the hurdles when they are put in front of you.
As a first-time player of the series, I had an absolute blast. And even though I am finished playing for this review, I will be returning to pilot my mech through many more playthroughs. Why? Just to see what other story paths are left to discover.
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