The Insight: Armored Core VI Feeds A Fiery Love Of Mechs That’s Been Burning for Years

By Ronald Gordon

Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is everything I wanted in a mecha game. There’s power, there’s speed, there’s weight, and there’s weaponry, all compacted into a game with fantastic combat and understandable, clear challenge goals.  

Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon, the Mech Action game developed by From Software and published by Bandai Namco, is clearly a contender for game of the year. Here, you’re a nameless mercenary, responding only to the number of 621, who is tasked with stealing a mercenary license in order to slip into Rubicon unnoticed and find a rare material called Coral. It’s blood red and highly unstable, but it’s useful in advancing machines to the point of nearly endless energy. Some powered by it are fully autonomous – for hundreds of years. Even at the start, the game pulls no punches, immediately throwing a hostile attack helicopter at you and expecting you to win in the tutorial. It’s got two massive rotors, is  much bigger than you, and can rip you to shreds with guns and missiles if you’re not at least somewhat adjusted to the controls.

After finishing it off, you’re now a mercenary under the stolen callsign of Raven, working with Handler Walter, kind of your agent/broker for missions in this world of advanced machines of war. Rubicon, despite being a world that’s been burned out and broken by the sad turmoil of war and disaster, is your oyster for further destruction in the search for the shreds of Coral remaining on the planet. The rules? Leave nothing in your wake as you do as you’re told, and get the job done no matter the cost.

Armored Core VI is a simple game at its heart, you take on a mission, ready your Armored Core, fight your way through to finish the objective, and go home with some credits to spend on shiny new parts. As you advance through tasks, you eventually come in contact with other influential members of the ongoing conflicts on Rubicon, such as the gung-ho military-backed Red Guns led by Gun 1 or G1 Michigan or the snobby and well0funded Vesper squad, most often led by V.II Snail. Hearing their various bits of dialogue with Walter (since 621 is a silent protagonist), were some of the most interesting parts of the game. Sometimes you’ll have general missions with no real alignment; other times you’ll have to choose a side. At the end of the day, it’s just a matter of who you want to help and who you want to bury in a full metal casket. I myself am eager to find out what sort of endings come about, but I can already tell the game wants you to think of one question: How cold-blooded are you? Do you actually want to help the people on Rubicon and fight against the corporations, or are you only here to finish the mission and get a paycheck? The choice is yours. 

Combat is fast, heavy hitting, and fantastic when you have the build that suits you. I favored bipedal builds, but there’s backwards legs, tank treads, and so many weapons it’s hard to keep track of them. Unlike other FromSoftware titles, Armored Core is all about adaptability and versatility in any circumstance. It actively encourages you to change your AC if you’re struggling. If a pair of guns doesn’t work for you, you can sell them and try a different set. If you want more mobility, you can always buy lighter weight parts and switch into an AC that embodies the renowned quote of Muhammad Ali: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” The customization is nearly endless, and you can even sell parts for the full price you bought them. So if you have your doubts about a gun or AC part you can always get your money back after you try it out. 

Fires of Rubicon is something I didn’t think I’d understand for a long time. While I may not have been an active fan of the Armored Core series, which started with the original Armored Core game released in 1997, I remember playing Armored Core 2 back when I was a kid. It was this game that started my love of mechs and machine warfare and I still haven’t shaken that appreciation to this day. As I blasted and slashed my way through the various enemies, like the absolutely massive Ice Worm that was made to tunnel through glaciers or the insanely fast laser wielding Ibis series unit, I was awestruck. This was truly the game for me and I could feel it taking a hold of the nostalgia within my heart. Yes it’s completely new and engaging. I’ve already lost hours trying out parts that work for me, getting into all sorts of battles, and coloring my AC in oranges and blues. 

The music is futuristic and invigorating. While I haven’t fully listened closely to it in the game, thanks to the complete focus I have on the mission, I try to seek out songs of bosses and levels I’ve beaten. The progression of synths and the intensity of some of the beats really make every fight feel like life or death, especially when boss themes blare out the gunfire happening throughout the conflict. I’ve never been one to complain about FromSoftware’s graphics and I’m not about to start now: to me this game looks fantastic. All of the parts of your AC and enemy ACs shine, the flashing lights of the bullets, missiles, and lasers firing out look great, and my favorite part is looking at the different skylines artists have created in the game. The most famous one, a sky littered with red streaks of Coral spilling into the atmosphere of Rubicon, is something I could stare at for ages and not get tired of. Somehow, Armored Core VI finds ways to make a planet gone mad with greed and warfare beautiful. 

Fires of Rubicon isn’t for everyone. While I may have spent the entirety of this article talking it up, I know full well that the first boss of Chapter 1, another autonomous machine called Balteus that can cover your screen in missiles, will kill your hopes of beating the game if you’re not ready for it. Much like every other FromSoftware game, Armored Core VI is harder than you think and will ramp up in difficulty to challenge and test your skills. Making an AC is easy, piloting an AC is much harder than you’d think. I’ve been destroyed more times than I care to count, but each time I know that if I change one thing in my build or if I try another gun, something will begin to click. Now I’m halfway through the story and I’m still having the time of my life, losses and all. If you’re willing to put in the work to make a mech that can fight anything, I’d suggest playing Armored Core VI more than anything.

Ronald Gordon is a New York Videogame Critics Circle Member & Mentor. He was the first of our writers – or any intern anywhere – to complete an internship at Rockstar Games.

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