Armored Core 6: Fires Of Rubicon can’t go two minutes without showing an explosion. Though developer FromSoftware Inc’s third-person action game lets you build and pilot giant weaponised robots called mechs, the only way to see if your creation truly works is by putting it to the test against other mechs in brutal deathmatches. Surviving hinges on how you’ve built your mech and your skill in the cockpit, but one thing is certain: something’s going to explode.
Set in a distant future where corporations battle over the galaxy’s scarce resources, Armored Core 6 follows an unnamed mercenary working under their mysterious handler, Walter, as they land on the planet of Rubicon 3. Though ravaged by war and environmental catastrophes, Rubicon 3 is a goldmine. It’s home to a powerful yet scarce energy source called Coral, and in the fight to control it, your services are available to the highest bidder.
Your mission to make a name for yourself (and get rich) means taking work from freedom fighters, cutthroat corporations and even other mercenaries. As a result, loyalty is a fickle concept. In one task, you help a company seize a trading post from the zealous Rubicon Liberation Front (RLF). Later, you’re back at the post on the RLF’s dime, sent to assassinate the commander you helped put in place.
For the small price of abandoning your morals, you’re paid handsomely for each completed job. This cash is spent upgrading your mech between assignments – new parts can be bought for every inch of your machine, from its head down to its four weapon slots and jetpack. However, it’s a game of trade-offs. Sturdier parts will give your mech significantly more health, but weigh more – meaning it will be slower to move and even harder to fly. You can build a tank capable of shrugging off missiles, but its booster jets will struggle to lift it off the ground.
There are power and weight limits to how much you can tack on – these can be extended with generator and leg upgrades – but those restraints rarely get in the way. You’re encouraged to build freely: whether you create a spider-legged mech with two Gatling guns and ten-missile launchers on each shoulder, a fast-flying Optimus Prime with a pulse sword, or something entirely different is up to you. With a slew of paint jobs and emblem stickers to add on, the customisation on offer is fantastic – but expect to see your beloved creation repeatedly destroyed.
That’s because FromSoftware, the developer behind ultra-tricky games such as Dark Souls, Elden Ring and Bloodborne, has ensured Armored Core 6 is packed with difficult battles. A single enemy can shoot tens of lasers, plasma rounds and rockets at you in the span of a few seconds, which you’re expected to dodge while keeping your own weapons firing. When it comes to returning fire, players are encouraged to attack aggressively, as constantly hitting your opponent will fill their Impact Meter, setting them up for massive damage when it hits capacity.
Unlike the studio’s fantasy outings, height plays a massive part in Armored Core’s combat. Taking flight to escape a barrage of missiles is commonplace, and while some well-defended bosses may have weak spots that can only be exploited from above, others fly so quickly that it’s a nightmare keeping up with them. Even more frustrating, though, is the game’s wonky camera-locking system. It often has trouble sticking to enemies, meaning you’re always losing track of opponents when they fly over your head. Getting blindsided by a lethal rocket is frustrating, and can sometimes feel like the game itself has cheated you out of a fair fight.
You will get used to the awkwardness over time, but it puts a dampener on several quicker bosses. Luckily, this is the game’s only big misstep. Rubicon is an absorbing world to explore, filled with a wide variety of breathtaking locales, from brutalist city blocks to frigid ice vistas, though it’s composer Kota Hoshino’s bleak, synthesised electronic soundtrack that brings FromSoftware’s futuristic vision to life.
Armored Core 6 is a brutal yet rewarding thrill. Whether you’re a Dark Souls veteran or just enjoy blowing things up, gripping shootouts and fantastic customisation options make Fires Of Rubicon remarkably easy to recommend.
- Combat is an adrenaline rush
- Sci-fi fans can build the killer robot of their dreams
- Battling flying enemies is a pain
- Clunky camera controls