Armored Core, a game in the subgenre of mech-action, has been inactive for quite some time. The series hasn’t seen a new installment in a decade, but creator From Software has become well-known thanks to other games (Elden Ring, Bloodborne, etc.). The development team is back with Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon (ACVI), an action game that takes a lot of cues from its predecessors. Though it doesn’t break new ground in the mech game genre, Armored Core VI improves upon previous editions in the series in terms of speed, visual quality, and accessibility.
While ACVI introduces a brand-new setting for the series, veterans of the Armored Core games (or fans of dystopian science fiction) will recognize many of the story beats immediately. The player starts out in the role of a mercenary pilot under the command of the shadowy Handler Walter. In search of the miracle energy resource Coral, which was lost in a terrible disaster, Walter brought the mercenary to the frontier planet of Rubicon. However, militarized megacorporations are also interested in the Coral, so the mercenary will need to take tasks from each to gather intelligence and play off of one party against the other.
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Movement and fighting are the game’s genuine highlights, but the primary gameplay cycle of completing missions, earning credits, and using them to modify your mech remains as satisfying as ever. Unlike older games, which frequently had cumbersome button layouts, modern games offer responsive controls that allow for considerably faster action. Because of this, wreaking havoc on big areas is a lot more exciting as you race and float between massive buildings and opponents. Weapons and mech components can give vastly varied abilities, allowing for a wide variety of play styles.
While fans of From Software’s more recent games may have expected some tweaks to the Armored Core formula, ACVI instead adheres closely to the established norms of the genre. That works both for and against the game, as most missions consist of quick firefights against uninteresting cannon fodder that offer you a satisfying sense of material dominance.
The big bosses, on the other hand, are where From Software’s heritage shines through. There is a “superweapon” in each of the game’s five chapters that functions similarly to the Souls weapons, challenging your current build and encouraging you to try out new ones. The spectacular nature of these battles serves to further highlight ACVI’s smooth performance and impressive visuals; in the typically boring and blocky mech-action genre, ACVI stands out as a visual marvel.
One of From Software’s most forgiving titles, ACVI is also the series’ most accessible installment. There is no longer any way to accumulate debt or back out of an assignment, as seen in earlier entries. Boss battles don’t have to be replayed because of the frequent checkpoints. As an added bonus, the auto-lock function makes manual aiming unnecessary in one-on-one combat situations. For seasoned players of Armored Core, all the streamlining can feel like a double-edged sword. The addition of difficulty settings would have been appreciated in this From Software game.
One of From Software’s long-dormant brands, Armored Core, returns in fine form in Armored Core VI. It retains many of the tired conventions of the mech genre, such as a formulaic mission structure and a formulaic story. To appeal to a new audience, however, it significantly updates mech action. The “casualization” of Armored Core may have upset some longtime fans, but I for one am thrilled to have the series back and running smoothly.