Armored Core VI Fires Of Rubicon Review – New Soul In The Same Old Core

FromSoftware is now a household name among mainstream gamers as the house that birthed a whole new subgenre of action RPG: soulslike/soulsborne games. And they are now associated with making quality, AAA scale games.

But before their Souls arc, FromSoft was a developer team making just about any kind of game. From horror adventure games like Echo Night to co-op platformers like The Adventures Of Cookie And Cream. They were making B-games, games with cool ideas and gimmicks but just a little too janky or with some budget restraints to really go toe-to-toe with the blockbusters of its day.

But between all the random games FromSoft has made, before they were known as the studio that made Demons’s Souls, Dark Souls, Bloodborne, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and Elden Ring, they were known for another series: Armored Core.

Armored Core, the action mecha series that debuted back in 1997 as a PlayStation launch game, was the highest-profile title from FromSoft’s stable. But after Armored Core Verdict Day in 2013, the team has more or less pivoted into making soulslikes. For a good reason: the soulslikes were a critical hit. While Armored Core, throughout its history, has mostly been swimming in the sevens when it comes to reviews. It has an audience, a niche one, but the series never made it this big.

And this is why, as a long-time Armored Core fan, I was both incredibly excited and extremely worried, when the developers of AC are returning to their roots, with a new entry. How would an Armored Core game be post-Souls?

I’m not going to sugarcoat it, there are definitely elements of a soulslike that has seeped into Armored Core VI Fires Of Rubicon. But at its core, this is still fundamentally the mecha action game fans have grown to love, and the now fans from the larger FromSoft fandom will get to know and love too.


There are two ways to look at the presentation quality of AC VI. The first is to say that it looks drab, uninspired and boring.

But that’s not how I see it. I see AC VI is the best Armored Core has looked and sounded ever.

The desolate lands of Rubicon are either bone-dry deserts or icy-cold snowfields, but the level of detail seen here is impressive. There are plenty of objects in these ruinous lands that gives you a good idea of how giant your giant robot is (it’s about 3-4 stories tall, depending on how you build one). Small objects crush as you zoom past them.

And the remnants of industrial and scientific might seen throughout the planet are also remarkable. The Grid areas you explore feel lived in and worn out, yet still make you gasp in awe at how vast the lost cities and industrial complexes left here are.

The Armored Core (AC) themselves look amazing as well. With hundreds of parts to customise, these come in varying aesthetic styles that are way more out there than any previous entries I’ve played. You still get the sleek, angular mechas. But now you can also build absolute rust-buckets with parts that look to be cobbled together by junk. Or eerily curvy and sleek parts that look more like an alien spaceship than it is a mech part. It’s more likely than not that your particular aesthetic choice for a mech is covered here this time around.

The AC’s legs spark fire as it scrapes when it has boost on. ACs also have thrusters on the arms that fire off when you’re turning. And when you slow down to a standstill, you can see the sizzling heat and smoke dissipating through the mecha. Amazingly cool little details to make it feel cool piloting these.

The UI is crispy clean, but it is smartly designed. The most important items are all in the middle of the screen, where you are expected to focus on. There will be fast, intense fights where you just cannot afford to gleam to the sides of the screen. So the most important elements- the cooldown/ammo count representation of your weapons, for example- are right there in the around the lock-on reticule. Some UI elements are communicated sonically. The soft-sounding dings when you’re out of energy. The alarming alarms indicate an enemy missile launch is imminent. The AC’s COM voice tells you how much AP and repair kit is left.

In true Armored Core fashion, you don’t see any humanoid models out in the open. These humans are manifested merely as voices, an emblem and for AC pilots, their ACs. The voice acting definitely delivers the gravitas needed for this story. It’s dry, serious and a little melodramatic, not too far off from the previous games FromSoft has been making.

Even the music has gotten a bit grimdark. You can hear a bit of electronica still (which is to say, it’s how AC music should be), but the synths are all brooding and sad. Unfortunately, most of it isn’t audible due to the sound effects of the game’s chaotic fights overpowering the music. But when it seeps in here and now, especially later in the game, it’s goosebumps-inducing good. Great even. I have to listen to the soundtrack to really appreciate the majesty of the music in this game.

AC VI is going for a specific tone here, and I respect that. Another post-apocalypse-ish setting with ruins of dilapidated buildings isn’t anything new, even for the series, but the vision of its presentation here is realised much better than ever before. Armored Core has graduated from B-game to AAA blockbuster with AC VI.


In Armored Core VI Fires Of Rubicon, you are a voiceless pilot who goes by many names by different people. To Handler Walter who brought you to planet Rubicon, you are pilot C4-621. To the mercenaries in Rubicon, they call you by the callsign Raven (what a callback). Others call you dog, tourist, and even buddy.

But what matters is, that you’re a mercenary AC pilot in Rubicon, taking on jobs by anyone willing to pay. And that means playing both sides in a multi-side war between corporations, the local rebellion group, and what is more or less the space cops, as all sides want to take control of the planet. But which side will you be on?

AC VI’s gameplay loop is beat-for-beat similar to past games. You spend time in the garage, tweaking on your AC build in the Assembly. Once you’re ready you can pick a mission, hear a briefing, then go do that mission which usually last under 10 minutes long. (Missions are also called “sorties”, yep, just another AC thing.)

If you played Armored Core before, you’ll be right at home. The gameplay loop here is what you expect, except for one big change: boss fights.

The one big defining addition to AC VI is boss fights. Not that past games don’t have any, they do. But these boss fights definitely have a soulslike flavour to them, in that they have intimidating attacks that heavily punish you if they hit. You can lose half of your AP from one mistake.

To hammer down this point, the first mission which acts as a tutorial of sorts will see you go face-to-face with a giant attack helicopter. If you haven’t figured out the fundamentals of piloting your AC and how to make good use of all of the basic weaponry, you have no choice but to learn right there and there. Or you can’t progress any further or play more of the game. It’s mean.

And this obsession with boss fighting in the early game is really what’s going to make people jump in or hop out of Armored Core. Whether you like it or not, you have to deal with soulslike boss fights. And worse, there’s a stretch of the game early on where all you do is face against boss fights. Three of the boss fights could have spread out further. I would have happily done five more filler missions to pad out the distance between the bosses, because the starting from the end of Chapter 1 to the end of Chapter 2 really tired me out. It was a sore point for sure.

I get why boss fight are here though. Before this, the most meaningful boss fights come with facing against other AC pilots. That does happen here in this entry too, but to really sell that fantasy of overcoming impossible odds, we have to face even bigger and stronger machines than another Armroed Core.

The fights at the end of the game are some of the most memorable ones, and really push you to the limits on how well your build, and your skill, have come together, which was really fun. It definitely went Sekiro levels of wild. But having too many in the fights early in the game when part options have not opened up was not so fun.

The moment-to-moment combat in AC VI is sublime. It’s not overly fast as the Armored Core IV generation. It’s about the same pace as the third-gen games, but with less janky controls. Energy management is a thing still, but it is so much forgivable. You can build around having to deplete all energy on purpose, by having the full recovery from the at recharge faster than if you were using energy bit by bit.

Once you master it, piloting an AC feels exhilirating. Jump, hover, dodge, assault boost and use the weaponry you have and time the cooldowns so that you will always be shooting something at every time. All of that while sound effects of explosions, lasers shots, and various alerts from your AC are all popping off. It’s an assault to the senses in the best way possible. It will require some time to get used to, but the sense of mastery this game awards you for being able to take out an enemy AC in under a minute is so, so rewarding.

Having all four weapons slots tied to all shoulder buttons by default is an interesting change. This layout encourages you to use all four weapons at any time it is online. And with the quick boost (dodge) on a face button, you’re not supposed to manually track your aim all the time like older AC games. (That said, you can unlock manual aim, and change the control layouts to your liking.)

Having to use “hard lock-on”, as in, having a dedicated lock-on button that auto-tracks the camera to always face the target, might sound controversial for old AC fans at first. But it isn’t really “hard”. Your AC still shoots where the reticule is aiming at, which can still be swaying around when moving really fast. You still can, and should, improve the auto-aim by equipping the right arm part and FCS module. The lock-on becomes useful when you encounter bosses that moves abnormally fast. But in a lot of cases you can still let the soft lock-on do its thing, especially when facing huge crowds.

The real game of Armored Core is really about customisng your mecha to be its best form. There are 11 different parts type this time in AC VI. There are stats galore, plenty of numbers to gawk at, see and compare. But it’s also a bit more accessible. The flavour text gives not only lore, but also hints of what that part is good at. The highlighted stats shows a bar to indicate a part’s stat relatively to others in the slot. So if you see a full bar, that’s best in slot if you want to maximise that particular stat.

More often that not, getting past a tricky level or a boss fight requires you to rethink how you build your AC. Faced through a long mission where exploration is required? Why not swap off from those tank legs and build an AC with reverse-jointed legs or a bipedal with good thrusting boosters? Can’t do enough damage on a boss? Put on those tank legs or quads and load up on grenade launchers on the shoulders where you can non-stop shoot them without having to account that long startup animation.

New parts unlock over time, and some are hidden for you to discover. And these parts may be the gamechanger you need that makes you get good at the game, as the way your AC is built is more honed to your specific playstyle. Whether that means going full moving fortress, a zipping mosquito with a pointy stick, a spring chicken with the overwhelming power to unleash a topaz of rain via missiles and shotguns, or any other creative build you can come up with, there’s always a way to build out a solution to your problems. Except for the darn helicopter boss at the start.

As mentioned earlier, the part selection you get is not only massive, but has a wide range of aesthetic ques. And there’s also cool new additions as well. AC VI introduces Pulse Shields that lets you block and even parry attacks. There are more melee options which inlcudes a proper Pile Bunker and mecha-sized morning stars (with plasma arcs). The four differnt leg types, each changing how you move around, are great to see back.

But there are plenty of part types that do not make the cut. You don’t have gun arms anymore. These were arm types that are in itself a weapon, which also meant you can equip another weapon when the ammo runs dry. Hover legs are gone for good it seems. So are AC radiators (those are only for aircons not modern Armored Cores). No melee wepons for the right arm either. But with the diversity of the new parts, and the way the game is designed, I can see why some of these can’t fit into AC VI.

To buy parts, you need money. And as expected, money will be tight, at least in the early game. The payment you get isn’t full profit, parts of it will be deducted for AC repairs and ammo purchases. However, by the end of the game you should be swimming with cash and can afford to buy every single part in the shop. Plus you can grind for cash by replaying missions and fighting in the Arena.

The Arena, a set of 30 1v1 fights against other AI AC pilots, with some being relevant to the game’s plot, is back. I don’t find the Arena being that difficult, I easily reached the top of S-Rank, so these aren’t the toughest content in the game anymore, it’s the boss fights. Still, it’s worth doing as it’s the only source for OST Chips, used for OS Tuning. It’s essentially a skill point system to unlock specific features (like manual aiming and the ability to swap main weapons at the cost of not having a shoulder weapon). So the Arena is still worth completing.

AC VI also have some fantastic quality of life changes. For one, you can restart at checkpoints. Which is a silly thing to say, but when the past games used to make some missions cannot be repeated upon failure, and some mission failures being permanent game overs, it’s a big thing for me (unless AC IV and AC V have those already). With the many boss fights avaiable, it’s good to have an instanetous restart from checkpoint button so you can retry the fight immediately and not having to wait for the boss to mercy kill you.

Falling into the abyss just respawns you back to the ground with some AP loss. And the having the AC being able to pivot around quickly is actually nice. Now I can see the AC I’m piloting from the front side during gameplay from time-to-time.

On that note, AC VI has a photo mode. It’s functional. And it inverts the camera controls if you have the Y-axis inverted. However, why the heck is the Y-axis on the left stick also inverted? Now that’s an error I haven’t seen yet, but it’s better than not considering a player’s camera control choice when entering photo mode, which most games are guilty of.

Overall, the gameplay design of AC VI really sticks close to its roots, outside of that one specific branch which has all the boss fights. The boss fights are the real shake-up to the AC formula. I don’t mind it being there for some epic fights, but I don’t want to game to be defined by having to do them in quick successions.


It took me 20 hours to see one of the endings in AC VI, and most of the playtime was lengthen due to being stuck at boss fights. I’m not kidding when I say the missions are short and simple. I wish there were more. Sure, 59 missions is on paper a lot, but it could use some side-missions. If there is another AC game in the works, I think they can afford to evolve the mission design to be more elaborate.

However, you’re not supposed to only see the credits roll once. There is new game plus that starts immedietaly after that, and this second playthorugh will reveal new alternative missions not available in the first go. There three different endings that you can get, one of which requires you to be at least in the second new game plus run. So at least three playghroughs to see every ending.

There are collectibles to find in some missions, in the form of secret parts. So they are well worth searching for to diversify your builds.

Speaking of diversity, AC VI also lets you experess your style on your AC even more than ever. Sure there is a decal editor. But now you can place decals all over the AC like it’s a livery editor in a racing game. You bet someone have made EVA and Gundam recreations, but what I want to see is itasha mechas. It won’t be long until Hatsune Miku is on an AC.

The story is rather dry and straightforward, which is fine. The delivery of the lines really sold me on the characters you meet and face against. I can’t shake the feeling that the story feels like sci-fi Dark Souls in some way. The storytelling here is on par with other FromSoft games, where it can be rather vague and requiring you to piece it all together, then this story would be fine. At the very least, the dramatic moments in the end where personalities and ideals clash really hypes up the battle.

For those looking for more fights, there’s also online PVP. I didn’t try the mode out for this review, but from what was shown previosuly, this should be a fun time for those looking to push their builds further, and find the ultimate chees strats. Double 10-missile launchers and double Zimmerman shotguns is great combo, which may or may not be cheesing.

Personal Enjoyment

I’m a big fan of the Armroed Core series, despite only playering the 3rd genration games. I beaten Last Raven. There’s just no other game series where you pilot big mechs in a way this satisfying. Not even Gundam games.

Daemon X Machina (developed by ex-Armored Core devs which you also should check out) scratched that itch for me recently, but I was hopefully waiting for FromSoft to return to the Raven’s Nest and bring that milk home to us devoted AC fans. And they did. This is, outside of the bosses, exactly what I wanted from a new entry of this series.

The early drudge of boss fights upon boss fights really tested my preserverence, but thankfully it was rewarded. Putting that aside, AC VI delivers the best incarnation of its brand of high-speed mecha combat. The ballet of death when two AC go toe-to-toe feels right at home. The multitude of ways to build your AC and change up your playstyle is still here. The simple yet effective storytelling and mission structure. All of that goodness, is now being made by a battle-harden FromSoft.

I am so happy to see this little niche series return. Back in the day, it was so often scoffed at as being mediocre at best. Geoff Keighley, back when he reviewed games, didn’t think highly of Armored Core IV. And it was he who gave such reverence to the developers of this series when revealing Armored Core VI to the world.

And in a world where any game by FromSoft will garner major attention, Armored Core as a series is finally able to fly high with AC VI. More and more folks have now discovered how much of a gem this series is.

As a long-time AC fan, I feel validated and vindicted. An outlier no more. The world is now ready to enjoy giant robots shooting at each other at high speeds. We’re so back.


Armored Core VI Fires Of Rubicon is the best manifestation of FromSoftware’s long-running series. There’s definitely a new Soul inside its Core, unlike any entry before, but also brings about a level of polish and tighter game design that it never had before.

The intense boss fights, when you are attuned to what the game demands you off, are adrenaline-pumping fun but it could have been paced out better. The AC customisation is still engrossing with choices upon choices to create that perfect mecha for your playstyle. The presentation and polish here show the true potential of its predecessors that never was realised in full, now being developed by a team of hardened veterans that have shipped multi-million copy blockbuster games.

At its core, it’s still a mecha-action game that is structured like the older games. Whether you are a seasoned Raven/Lynx/pilot or not, should you be up for a challenge, AC VI is an action game unlike any other major releases coming this year. May the Fires Of Rubicon continue to be set alight by more and more players jumping into the series. I am already counting days until the next entry arrives.

Reviewed on PS5. Review copy provided by the publisher.


Armored Core VI Fires Of Rubicon

Armored Core VI Fires Of Rubicon is the best manifestation of FromSoftware's long-running series. There's definitely a new Soul inside its Core, unlike any entry before, but also brings about a level of polish and tighter game design that it never had before.

  • Presentation 8.5
  • Gameplay 9.5
  • Content 8
  • Personal Enjoyment 10

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