Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon Review – Return of the Mecha King
The Armored Core series has cemented its place in gaming history as one of the most enduring and beloved mecha game series. However, a decade-long hiatus cast the franchise into obscurity. The latest entry, Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon, carries the weight of expectations, bearing the challenge of revitalizing the franchise after a rather underwhelming trajectory following the heights achieved by Armored Core 2 and 3 during the PS2 era.
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon introduces players to the post-apocalyptic world of Rubicon 3, a remote planet that is host to a mysterious resource known as Coral. This substance, possessing explosive potential and multifaceted utilities, becomes the epicenter of a relentless struggle between interstellar corporations and the inhabitants of Rubicon 3.
Amid this turbulent backdrop, players assume the role of C4-621, a genetically enhanced human pilot of the colossal mechs known as Armored Cores (ACs). The story unfolds as C4-621 navigates a morally ambiguous world, where loyalties shift and missions blur the lines between the factions involved. Guided by a stern and calculating supervisor known as Walter, you are dispatched on a series of missions to support various factions and fight for control of the Coral resource.
Despite retaining the franchise’s traditional themes and presenting a compelling premise, the narrative leaves much to be desired. Dialogue is largely conveyed through recorded messages and radio communications, lacking the depth of direct interactions and leaving any possibility of eliciting emotional engagement greatly limited. This narrative structure may resonate with series veterans, but it is unlikely to appeal to the wider audience seeking a more immersive experience. A more nuanced approach to storytelling between missions, as seen in the last few Ace Combat games, would certainly have paid dividends.
The core strength of Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon lies in its gameplay, which breathes new life into the franchise’s signature mecha combat. The game features a revamped traversal system that imbues the ACs with more fluid and responsive movement. The introduction of energy management, akin to stamina in the Souls games, adds an additional layer of strategy to encounters. This energy system balances combat maneuvers, such as sprints, jumps, and evasive maneuvers, ensuring that players must tactically allocate their resources to navigate the battlefield effectively.
Combat arenas deliver the ultimate battleground, with weapon variety and customization options that allow competing players to fine-tune their ACs to their preferred combat style. The extensive customization system, a long-standing trademark of the franchise, remains a standout feature in the latest installment. Players can meticulously tailor their ACs’ loadouts, from weapons and armor to mobility systems, granting an unprecedented level of strategic depth. This degree of customization fosters experimentation and rewards players for adapting their loadouts to specific challenges.
The introduction of a stagger mechanic, known as the Attitude Control System (ACS), further deepens the combat experience. It adds a risk-reward element, encouraging players to exploit their enemies’ vulnerabilities for devastating counterattacks. The ACS mechanic is a testament to the nuanced design philosophy that FromSoftware employs, creating layers of complexity that require mastery but also empower players with finer control.
However, as is the case with its storytelling, Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon remains stuck in the past with certain design choices. The level design hasn’t evolved a whole lot from the PS2 era. Levels are structured as small, restricted areas that lead you to your mission goal in a linear fashion, and there’s no real sense of discovery or exploration like in FromSoftware’s other games. These areas are confined within invisible walls that can be frustrating to deal with when encountered during combat. A large world map with seamless traversal across different regions would have created a more compelling experience.
In terms of visual presentation, Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon looks pretty dated. Environments lack detail and look rather similar across missions, with little in the way of variety. The AC models themselves are intricately designed, however, and are a testament to the development team’s commitment to crafting an authentic mecha experience. Players are granted a remarkable degree of freedom with regard to customizing the look of their ACs, from color palettes to decals and logos. Customization extends beyond aesthetics, permeating the core of the game’s identity and echoing the franchise’s dedication to player agency.
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon strikes a harmonious balance between the franchise’s legacy and innovative gameplay elements. While the narrative and level design could have been more progressive, the deep and engrossing gameplay mechanics, customization options, and the strategic depth they offer compensate for those shortcomings, delivering the ultimate mecha combat game. The ACS mechanic, energy management system, and meticulous attention to detail demonstrate FromSoftware’s unwavering commitment to crafting immersive and rewarding gameplay experiences.
Armored Core VI Game Information
- Price: $59.99
- Publisher: Bandai Namco
- Developer: From Software
- Platform: PS5 (Reviewed)
- Disclaimer: A review code was given by the publisher