Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon review

A restrained approach makes Armored Core 6 one of the best mech action games in years.

Armoured Core 6 box art
Armored Core 6
4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5
Platforms
PC, PS5, PS4, XSX|S, XBO
Release date
25 August 2023
Price:
From $99
Fergus Halliday
Aug 29, 2023
Icon Time To Read4 min read
pro
Pros
pro Exhilirating combat
pro Snack-sized missions
pro Satisfying mech customisation
con
Cons
con No co-op multiplayer
con Story can sometimes be hard to follow

Reviewed on a Playstation 5.

Armored Core 6 is almost nothing like Dark Souls, but it’s hard not to think about the alternate timeline where that isn’t the case. Prior to Dark Souls, From Software’s portfolio was as eclectic as it was prolific.

Armored Core V was released back in 2012. In the years since From Software has gone from making all sorts of games to making one specific kind of game. Given that trend, it’s easy to imagine that the developer's long-awaited return to the Armored Core franchise might have morphed into the “Mech-Souls” game that many online have either actively demanded or predicted for years now. Instead, From Software's latest acts as a refreshing rebuke to that speculation.

Where Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice showed that there’s ample room for a more action-heavy take on the studio’s Souls formula, Armored Core 6 is unapologetically its own thing and all the better for it. Despite its status as the sixth mainline instalment in the franchise, Fires of Rubicon has very little in the way of connective narrative tissue between it and the previous Armored Core games. It’s not a full or format reboot, but it might as well be. 

Players take on the role of an anonymous mercenary dispatched to the battlefields of a planet called Rubicon 3. From there, you take up various missions and assignments from the powers fighting for control of the planet and the unique substance – Coral – that can be found on it. There are corporations looking to strip mine the planet dry, while other groups like the Planetary Closure Administration and the Rubicon Liberation Front are looking to enforce their own agendas. 

Armored Core 6 screenshot

As far as storytelling goes, the narrative in Armored Core 6 is approachable albeit something of a slow burn. Aside from the odd cutscene, most of the story is told through interstitial messages that you receive between missions. Over time, these snippets form a convoluted web of intrigue tying together the various players operating on Rubicon 3.

Fortunately, all this doesn’t get in the way if all you’re here for is the heavy metal action. Most of the fifty-odd missions in Armored Core 6 are between five and fifteen minutes in length. You’ll be given a simple objective, deployed into a level and expected to destroy everything that stands between you and that objective. 

There’s a real mystery box aspect to the level design here. You never know quite what the game is going to throw at you. Sometimes things will go to plan. Other times, unexpected complications will emerge and turn a routine recon mission into something else entirely.

If you’re coming to things as a convert from Dark Souls, you may be surprised to learn just how different the combat in Armored Core 6 feels. While there are moments where the game echoes the 1-on-1 action of Bloodborne or Sekiro, most enemies are a poor match for the capabilities of your mech and have to rely on either raw numbers or clever tactics to even the odds.

Although there are a handful of spectacular boss fights and sequences in the mix, most missions manage to find mileage in pitting you against foes that operate within the same rules you do. Still, zipping through a set of impossibly large megastructures while blasting away at legions of enemies never gets old and Armored Core 6 is smart enough to know when to shake things up with a unique environmental hazard or a duel with a rival pilot.

There’s a real sense of attrition to the firefights here. It never takes that much effort to take out a single foe, but you’ll feel every stray bullet you catch along the way. You always feel powerful, though you never feel invulnerable.

Sure, there are key moments where it’s clear that From Software’s designers are looking to teach you something. However, there’s nothing in Fires of Rubicon that’s quite as punishing as the likes of Elden Ring’s Melania or Dark Souls 2’s Fume Knight. 

Fundamentally, Armored Core 6 is less interested in that than it is in letting you revel in the war-crime-adjacent joys of being an effective mech pilot. The game itself is plenty of fun to play from the outset, but it becomes exceptionally enjoyable in the moments when you feel like you’re playing it well. 

Even in the moments when you fall short of that though, the mid-mission checkpoints are usually fairly generous.

Failure also offers a chance to tinker with your own tech loadout. Sometimes, the difference between winning and losing is a single weapon swap. As with From Software’s Souls games, weapons in Armored Core 6 aren’t necessarily linear in their power. Instead, they offer different ways to play.

I spent the first half of Armored Core 6's campaign flitting through the sky as an aerial battle-bot, peppering my foes with dozens of smaller projectiles. I changed gear in the second, opting for a heavier slower build that incorporated the biggest and heaviest weapons that I could find. 

While death does offer the opportunity to adjust your build, more comprehensive overhauls are best saved for the aftermath. Between missions, Armored Core 6 boots you to a hangar where you can customise your mech with different colour schemes and decals, buy new parts and practice both against AI opponents in the arena and against other players online.

Armored Core 6 screenshot

Even as someone who has never picked up an Armored Core in my life, Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon feels like a throwback. There are no battle passes, daily quests, colour-coded loot or open-world maps here. There's just a set of levels and a toolbox of fun mech parts to mix and match as you please. It's the kind of purist gaming indulgence that a studio could only get away with making after releasing something as outrageously successful as Elden Ring.

There’s plenty of depth to mech-customisation here, but nothing in Armored Core 6 is more complicated than it needs to be. This skew towards simplicity carries with it both a respect for your time and a sense of trust that what’s here is engaging enough on its own that you won’t get bored with it too quickly. If you’re playing this game, you’re playing it for the short but intense thrills that come with piloting your mech. Sometimes, it is just that simple.

Despite this streamlining, Fires of Rubicon is dripping with flavour and tone for those who desire it. The writing is easy to parse, but vivid in its implications. The levels are straightforward to navigate but stunning to behold. The music is exactly what you’d expect, but works to elevate the on-screen action in ways that are hard to measure but easy to feel.

Armored Core 6 is far from a radical reinvention as you can get, but that restraint makes it one of the most refreshing and riveting action games I’ve played in years.

Armored Core 6 trailer

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What can I play Armored Core 6 on?

What platforms is Armored Core VI: FIRES OF RUBICON available on?

Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is available for PC, PlayStation 5, Playstation 4, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S.

Fergus Halliday
Written by
Fergus Halliday
Fergus Halliday is a journalist and editor for Reviews.org. He’s written about technology, telecommunications, gaming and more for over a decade. He got his start writing in high school and began his full-time career as the Editor of PC World Australia. Fergus has made the MCV 30 Under 30 list, been a finalist for seven categories at the IT Journalism Awards and won Most Controversial Writer at the 2022 Consensus Awards. He has been published in Gizmodo, Kotaku, GamesHub, Press Start, Screen Rant, Superjump, Nestegg and more.

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