Game of the Month – Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, PS5, Xbox One, PS4, PC
Release Date: 08.25.2023
With the release of Demon’s Souls back in 2009, developer FromSoftware would begin down a path of breakout stardom, gaining millions of fans around the world with its blend of well-crafted gameplay, challenging difficulty, and engrossing storytelling.
What you may not know is, years before, the studio had a smaller but just as dedicated fanbase for another of its long-running franchises: Armored Core. Now, after numerous titles focused on sword- and sorcery-based combat in medieval settings, FromSoftware has gone back to the future.
Although Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon resurrects a series that first began in 1997, you need no knowledge of what’s come before to fully appreciate this latest chapter. Things have gone very badly on the planet of Rubicon 3, as various interests fight over an unstable energy source known as Coral. You play the part of a mercenary sent down to the planet’s surface in your personal Armored Core, a 30-foot-tall military mech, to profit off of the chaos. And, with that, you know all that you need to know.
Unlike the interconnected areas of Dark Souls or the wide open world of Elden Ring, Armored Core VI builds around a mission system, where you’re launched into specific sections of Rubicon 3’s landscape to perform focused tasks. This setup makes the game feel decidedly old school, but in a way that’s refreshing and even a bit comforting. Plus, the wildly varying length of those missions means you’ll never fully know what to expect next.
One constant you can count on is the enjoyment that awaits when piloting your Armored Core. While the controls can be a bit tricky at first, once we got the hang of them, we were caught off guard by just how incredible it felt to zip around the landscape, targeting enemies and unleashing four different weapons simultaneously. No matter if you tend to prefer a light, fast mech or a heavy, well-armored one, this may be some of the most fun you’ll ever have controlling a giant robot in a video game.
Those personal preferences are of vital importance, and tie in to what is both Armored Core VI’s biggest strength and its largest potential roadblock: parts customization. Not only do you need to carefully choose weapons for each arm and shoulder of your robot, but also its various body parts, engine, weapons system, and more. You won’t get very far if you just stick to one loadout, because Armored Core VI’s difficulty often comes from mission types, enemies, and bosses that require different tactics and offenses to overcome. Yes, there’s a lot to choose from in building your Armored Core, but the opportunity for finding your favorite combinations is immense, and at times gives the experience even more gameplay depth than even the Souls series.
Deeply customizable robots and traditional FromSoftware difficulty is a combination that could initially scare off a lot of people, but we can’t encourage you enough to give Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon a try if it’s in any way appealing to you. The team could have easily just created “Dark Souls with robots” and made a lot of players happy. Instead, it has both revived one of its classic franchises with the respect it deserved, and set a new standard for any mech-based action titles that follow.