Some people drive cars. Some drive trucks. Me? I drive a giant, stompy robot. It’s huge! It’s got perks, for sure, like the ability to not worry about traffic because it’s all been crushed flat. On the other hand, it can be a real pain to find parking. You might want to consider the perks of mech-based transportation while you read about Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon, the first new entry in From Software’s long-running robo-combat series in over a decade. It’s about time!
Half a century ago, Coral was all the rage throughout the galaxy. It’s a multipurpose substance that’s great as a fuel source, data transfer medium, food additive…this stuff is great. Well, it was great right up until it was discovered that the stuff is also highly combustible and contaminates everything around it when it burns. A mass Coral disaster called the Fires of Ibis led to the decimation of much of known space, as well as the loss of basically all the Coral.
That doesn’t mean it’s all gone, though – there’s said to be some left on the planet Rubicon III, where the stuff originated. Rubicon was shut down after the Fires, but that’s not stopping some power players from making a move. There’s some megacorps who want a piece of the action…and, well, there’s you, a mysterious mercenary led by a Handler with an agenda. You’ll have to head to Rubicon and find the Coral for yourself, blasting your way through everyone else if need be.
You came here for Armored Core’s classic mech customization, and it’s still here in much of its glory. Things are a little more simple than some recent entries, but you’ve still got four weapon hardpoints, four body parts, a booster, a Fire Control System and a generator to think about. Properly balancing firepower, armor and agility is the order of the day, and it can help to mess around with your mech if you’re stuck in a particularly bad rut. I found I had the most luck using a bouncy reverse-joint-leg build to spring up into enemies’ faces and blast them with shotguns, but your mileage is bound to vary. There’s plenty of aesthetic customization options too, so you can drive the robo-car of your dreams.
While there’s definitely a bit of hearkening back to the series’ older days, Fires of Rubicon’s playstyle clearly owes a lot to the modern Soulslike genre. Combat tends to be brutal and unforgiving, rewarding a focus on avoiding or blocking attacks rather than just tanking your way through…even if you’re piloting a tank-style mech. Your machine can hold up to four weapons ranging from assault rifles to lasers to Gundam-style drones, so you can use the gats that get you going. Defensively, you’ve got a variety of mobility options. As in Souls, you’ll want to practice your evasive dash maneuver and hone it to a razor’s edge to stay alive.
That’s not to say the game’s impossible, just that it can be tough and you’ll likely need to do some on-the-fly mech adjustments after deaths. You’re mercifully given the chance to do so without having to lose your checkpoint progress. You might also want to be prepared for a couple of mean difficulty spikes – an early boss and one of the optional missions toward the end of the game stood out as surprisingly spicy. By and large, though, we can speak to the Souls fans out there by saying this one’s tougher than Code Vein but not as tough as Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty. You can tell a genre’s made it when you’re able to rank games like that.
At least you’ll appreciate some gorgeous graphics while your mech is getting blown to smithereens. AC6 looks and sounds absolutely stellar. It runs without a hitch on a decent PC, so that’s probably the way to go, but even the console versions seem perfectly acceptable. Meanwhile, this is some of the best sound design we’ve seen from a game in quite some time. It does a ton by doing very little – music is sparse but impactful, while pounding sound effects help punctuate the action. If you’ve got a nice speaker setup you’ll be thankful you splurged.
With several endings, multiplayer battles and a fair amount of customization to mess around with, Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon provides plenty of high-octane mech combat to enjoy. It’s a great option for dedicated Souls players and (very patient) mech fans, and more than a worthy successor to the series’ legacy. While nowhere as punishing as last year’s Elden Ring, best keep some painkillers handy for the headaches those difficulty spikes might cause, but otherwise you can’t go wrong.