It’s always exciting when a beloved franchise returns. Sometimes, it finds new highs, whereas other times, it’s just lovely to see a familiar face. Since FromSoftware has grown a lot since its last Armored Core title, there are high expectations for Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon. With years of experience, advancements in tech, and plenty of passion, is this a roaring success, or does it quickly burn out?
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon presents a rather interesting premise. On Rubicon 3, an energy source called Coral was discovered, facilitating rapid technological and communication advancement. An unfortunate event caused widespread calamity that was thought to have destroyed said resource. Years later, Coral was rediscovered on the planet, resulting in a war between various groups to control it.
Powerful Foes to Test Your Skills as a Pilot
While this is the basic overview, you play as a mercenary tasked with aiding one of the sides to win the conflict. As a result, most stages are presented as a singular mission explaining how this operation will aid you in the overall goal. It can make many of the tasks rather dull since the vast majority of dialogue is explaining why this facility is essential or gathering intel on enemy forces. Still, it works for the concept and for anyone looking to live that role.
In addition to the narrative being presented as a mission structure, gameplay holds the same. Every stage is a brief encounter where you either accomplish a goal, fight an enemy, or defeat a boss. Occasionally, you can select which path you want to go, but the relative structure is the same. Previous missions can also be revisited if you want to work on the score or practice against certain conditions.
As for the difficulty, it varies wildly. Generally, any stage with generic Armored Cores is pretty straightforward. It doesn’t take much to destroy them; they largely remain still, and in many cases, there are exploitable blind spots. These can be a lot of fun since they allow players to really play with their weapons/build. At most, a situation might require a specific action, but overall, simply using all your weapons with some evasive maneuvers is enough to win.
While that holds true for early games, specific missions force players to quickly master Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon. Much to FromSoftware’s credit, many of the significant foes or more challenging optional stages rely on different skills. For example, in the first part, invisible enemies teach proper radar use, a shielded boss that can only be damaged from behind, and even giant lasers that must be dodged. Even the tutorial boss requires a good damage rotation if you hope to succeed.
Fight on the Ground or in the Sky
Depending on whether you fall on the spectrum will determine how much fun you have. For those with less technical skill or just a lot of variety, there are plenty of options to create the ideal build. Generally, I found it best to have a couple of ranged weapons and a single close-range one, though winning with anything is more than possible.
Similar to previous games, each piece adds distinct benefits and negatives. The most common negative is weight, though this is often worth it for better attack or making up for whatever you lack. Given the variety of enemies, I anticipate anyone looking to S rank every stage will create various builds over sticking to a single catch-all, especially on missions where the task relies heavily on a specific play style.
As lovely as certain stages are, like the idea of climbing a giant Armored Core unit to destroy it, it is very reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild; I can’t say I was a massive fan of controls. They’re much better than the Armored Core games I remember, just not by much. Slow controls are replaced by more imprecise and floaty commands. Even jumping on the aforementioned unit had surprisingly tricky moments due to how my unit was handled.
Not only is controlling rather tricky, but enemies are surprisingly proficient. Take the stealth mission that teaches radar. The idea is to figure out where cloaked enemies are, use radar to reveal them, and finally kill them before dying yourself. It sounds simple, yet those enemies are surprisingly accurate. Even at max boost, I’d frequently get shot. The only things that consistently worked were well-timed dodges or moving in an unexpected way. This can be rather taxing due to the number of variables you must pay attention to. Later stages also implement enemies that are designed to counter any action that takes too long.
These two factors can make certain stages rather frustrating. It isn’t just controls being hard, but rather enemies effortlessly counter actions that are surprisingly hard to accomplish. Some will thrive in this type of situation; in some ways, it’s not unfamiliar to their iconic Souls games, though it feels relatively cheap.
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon Review Verdict
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon: Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is the type of experience where it either clicks, or it doesn't. There is nothing objectively wrong about it, it is just certain elements will be divisive. In some ways, it almost feels like two entirely different games combined into one. At times, you'll feel unstoppable, whereas other times, you'll frantically try to remember where the dodge button is. So if this type of experience sounds enjoyable, odds are you'll like this, whereas if you don't, odds are you won't. – Mark