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Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon Game review

Game review 23 August 2023, 17:00

author: Krzysiek Kalwasinski

Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon Review. Mechas Die Twice

The TV set melted and the PS4 is a pile of smoking ash after the encounter with Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon. This game in every respect reminds me of face-melting red-hot metal.

The review is based on the PS4 version. It's also relevant to PC, PS5, XSX, XONE version(s).

I love all the Souls games and their derivatives, but the fact that FromSoftware has revisited a classic franchise, particularly a series like Armored Core, is even more exciting. It's less popular, yet even more unique, dealing with more niche issues. We're talking about mechs, which, while not uncommon in pop culture, are rather rare in games. And especially in such form – compelling, across the board.

  1. High-octane, addictive gameplay
  2. Refined and spectacular combat system.
  3. Extensive capabilities of mech building
  4. Phe-no-me-nal atmosphere and artistic style
  5. Brilliant soundtrack
  6. Very challenging
  7. Well-written, compelling story
  1. Sometimes buggy crazy
  2. Lack of certain functionalities

621, I have a job for you

The plot in Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon will probably feel a bit thinner or more contrived to some players, especially at the beginning. But there's enough interesting content here, and it's well-written too, to soon change your mind. We're stepping into the shoes of a mercenary artificially enhanced by experiments, who ends up under the care of a guy named Walter. Under his orders, we land on the titular planet Rubikon, smack in the middle of a conflict between corporations vying for the Coral – a mysterious substance of infinite potential. Nonetheless, it poses a huge threat, as humanity discovered after a devastating planetary system disaster.

Armored Core VI, FromSoftware, 2023

The world that we have to explore in Armored Core 6 is grim, full of signs screaming about the downfall of civilization and humanity, trying its best to rise from its knees. This harsh and depressing view showcases totally destroyed cities, rusted and torn skeletons of huge structures, or neglected research complexes. The unparalleled artistry of FromSoftware's games is once again on full display, enchanting with visuals that pull you into the mesmerising world of mechs. All of this goes perfectly with the narrative, which evolves over time and gets even more emotional. To the extent that I've had strong feels with it at least twice.

It's worth noting that Armored Core 6 is written somewhat differently than the studio's recent games. If you've dealt with any of the previous games of the series (or Ace Combat games), you will feel at home. Before each mission, we get a brief explaining its objectives, and often some comments afterwards. Then we can listen to well-written and exciting dialogues concerning current and more distant events. On top of that, there are also well-directed cut scenes, most often accompanying the boss's entrance.

The narration contains many elements familiar from the studio's previous games – elements of lore that we can find as collectibles, which sometimes are part of missions. These are snippets from the enigmatic past, doing wonders when it comes to sparking imagination. However, even without this, it's much easier to understand what's going, because the whole thing is much more clearly outlined than any Dark Souls installment. There's no shortage of choices that change the course of the story and shape the ending, which is obviously a great advantage. You will surely find some of these decisions difficult, but saying anything more more would mean spoilers.

621, focus! You must stay focused!

The story of Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon surely isn't a crowning achievement of gaming, but it can be safely considered good. What drives this game is fast, dynamic and truly addictive gameplay. Honestly, in a single sentence: it's the game I've been waiting for most of my life. Many years ago I had a blast playing both parts of Zone of the Enders, and Armored Core also came up, but both of these are quite old games. Meanwhile, the latest work from the masters at FromSoftware gave me everything I expected from a game of this kind. This game rushes like a mad beast (a metal one), which cannot be stopped by anything, especially during the intense boss fights. Even when I kept moving constantly and with swiftness, the game suggested that I needed to be faster and above all, try harder.

I haven't felt like a game was testing me this much in a long time. During the most demanding battles, I had to keep a myriad of things in mind and react immediately to all the events. Many of the opponents can unleash an unceasing barrage of projectiles, and at the same time are so agile that without stunning them (just like in Sekiro) there isn't really a chance to inflict any meaningful damage. So, apart from maneuvering between their devastating and condensed attacks, you need to simultaneously deliver your own attacks, remember not to overload the main weapon by continuous firing, and at every possible opportunity, leap toward them and strike with a sword. Not a second of respite! But winning is just such a thrill.

Armored Core VI, FromSoftware, 2023

I am convinced that opinions about the level of difficulty will vary. The series has never been particularly accessible, but this latest installment will certainly be considered the easiest by many players. And mind you – I say this as a person who has just spent up to six hours on a single boss fight. So, how is this lower level of difficulty manifested? First off, it can be seen in terms of healing, automatic tracking of targets straight from soulslikes, checkpoints during missions, and the option to rebuild the mech after a defeat without the need to exit to the menu and then relaunch the whole mission. Granted you have purchased the necessary items in advance, that is, because the store is only available in-between the missions.

I mentioned rebuilding the robot, because constructing your own mecha has always been one of the most important elements of this series. A good build is the first step to success. There are so many pieces of gear that everyone will find something for of interest. The creators have been working for years to ensure that all the builds are valid, and it shows. Every machine has its advantages and disadvantages, so it may work great in one mission, but turn out to be utterly hopeless in the next.

Playing around with them and testing new configurations is addictive, because every change matters. You have to think about the weight of the machine (which affects agility), resistances, amount of ammunition (which is always worth saving up on), and sheer destructive power. We can create a light and nimble robot, which will require us to demonstrate good reflexes and agility, or a heavy tank, which will allow us more mistakes in confrontations with massive adversaries, but which will not be as successful in combat against faster enemies.

Armored Core VI, FromSoftware, 2023

At the same time, a good build alone won't ensure victory. Every boss is so demanding that without learning its set of attacks, there's no point in hoping for a victory. At the same time, there's no way to change the difficulty and the only thing left to do is often to keep trying until you succeed, or buy and test new parts – but you have to wait for them, as new features unlock along with story progression. Luckily, missions can be repeated at will and money can be collected in each approach, not to mention upgrades that you can find here and there. There's also an arena and training sessions, which can provide further bonuses.

Good job, 621

I admired the art of Armored Core 6, but I must also praise the spectacle this game creates and its generosity when it comes to feeding the senses. The recent Final Fantasy XVI was excellent in this respect (and many others), and Fires of Rubicon is at least equally good. It's impossible to take your eyes away from the dazzling effects, spectacular explosions that our machine breaks through, or avalanches of glowing bullets that we try to dodge at a hectic pace. And this is despite the fact that as a cross-generational game, it has slightly lower-quality graphics. However, the scale and style in which everything is done deserves endless praise, especially when the whole thing really picks up momentum.

All of this is complemented by great, heavy electronic music, which can almost make you feel the bursting heat on your face. There are quieter pieces here as well that accompany tactical missions based on object defense, there are fast and epic compositions perfectly enhancing the intensity of battles, and there are a few sublime songs clearly indicating that we're dealing with a pivotal moment in the story. There's plenty of vocals and darker, disturbing textures.

Armored Core VI, FromSoftware, 2023

All of this makes it impossible to tear yourself away from Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon. In just a few days, I racked up nearly 45 hours, finishing the storyline once, repeating a few missions for money, and doing the full set of arena challenges and training sessions. I will spend at least twice as much time on the game, because I want to see the remaining endings, get all the pieces of gear and a top score for each mission, which will be quite a challenge.

The length of the game depends strongly on your skills. My more experienced colleague, for example, completed the game in just 16 hours. The spread is large and may suggest that despite higher accessibility, not everyone will find the required levels of patience for this game.

FromSoftware has once again delivered and fulfilled my silent dreams. Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon is a brilliant game – and that's that. It has a few blemishes – the camera sometimes goes haywire (especially with large or flying enemies), it lacks a filtering option that allows you to quickly review new items in the store and... that's about it. I find it hard to pinpoint anything specific. I have no complaints about the technical condition either, because the game is very well optimized, although it runs "only" at 30 frames per second in the PS4 version.

“FromSoftware has once again delivered and fulfilled my silent dreams. Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon is a brilliant game – and that's that. It's very addictive, extremely attractive, and – simply – worth recommending. Get into the cockpit and fight for freedom!”

I'm very excited to live in times when games are created by studios like FromSoftware. Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is a production suitable not only for fans of huge machines with devastating power. This is primarily a game that has enormous potential to satisfy anyone who's looking for thrills, adrenaline and intensity in games. The combat system focused on movement in all directions is as refined as can be, but that's already a hallmark of this studio. This, in turn, contributed to the fact that despite the failures (of which I probably experienced hundreds), I became frustrated exceptionally rarely and almost always felt like playing a little more. In its current shape, the game is very addictive, extremely attractive, and – simply – worth recommending. Get into the cockpit and fight for freedom!

Krzysiek Kalwasinski | Gamepressure.com

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