Where do you go after the spectacular success of Elden Ring? For FromSoft, the answer seems to be its long-dormant Armored Core mecha combat series. Armored Core VI Fires of Rubicon is a soft reboot that introduces this relatively niche genre to an audience that's probably unfamiliar with it. I never played an Armored Core game before, but Fires of Rubicon is very different from the Soulsborne games that made FromSoft's name. Missions are short, sweet, and replayable — it feels almost like a racing game, but with mecha combat instead.
- For PS4/PS5 (tested), Xbox Series X/S and Windows PC
- Mission-based third-person action game
- Build and customise your own mechas
- Multiplayer PvP arena (1v1 and 3v3)
AC6 is set on the planet Rubicon, which has a mysterious substance (Coral) desired by competing corps. Sort of like Dune with rival houses fighting for control of the spice melange. AC6's story is mostly conveyed via mission briefings, short cutscenes, sparse data logs, and dialogue between the cast of characters. You play as “621”, a silent protagonist. He is an “augmented human” mercenary that pilots the armored core or mecha, and follows the orders from a supervisor named Handler Walter. Long-time players of the series will probably get more out of the story, and the callbacks to previous games. But I found the storytelling in AC6 to be straightforward, and more accessible than most FromSoft titles.
Gameplay is fast and frenetic. Bullets and missiles are flying everywhere, and explosions are aplenty. It's a bit like Returnal. The controls are tight, and the way the mecha skates around the map is just delightful. There's also a lot of verticality to the gameplay. The sound design is excellent — I especially love the meaty bass thump made by the pile bunker weapon when it smashes the enemy. But the best thing about AC6 is the extensive customisation. Once you unlock the garage and the parts shop, you can buy, sell, and assemble your mecha by switching its weapons and body parts. More importantly, the game doesn't penalise you for experimenting. You can sell an item to the shop for the same price as you paid for. You can also customise the appearance of the mecha with decals, paint, and then share the design with others online.
In typical FromSoft fashion, there's a certain early boss that feels like a test of skill. I was stuck at this encounter for a couple of hours before I realised that I should rework my mecha. It was a lightbulb moment. Boss fights are pretty cool, with massive intimidating enemies. But to be honest, I had more fun fighting against other mechas in the arena simulator that rewards players with upgrades. These upgrades level up your mecha (e.g. reduce damage taken), but this approach is not as game-changing as tweaking your build. In short, AC6 hands you the tools to take down difficult enemies via its mecha customisation system. It's the key to beating the game.
Armored Core VI is not a massive game like Elden Ring. While the maps can be huge, there isn't much to explore. Missions are short, and there's usually a save point before key encounters. So you can jump straight to retrying a boss fight immediately after losing instead of braving a gauntlet of enemies like some FromSoft games. AC6 probably takes around 15 to 20 hours for the first playthrough, but there's plenty of replayability (and three endings). You can retry every mission to acquire hidden loot, or get a better performance rating. And there's a PvP arena for 1v1 and 3v3 mecha battles. While the futuristic mecha setting may not be everyone's cup of tea, the top-drawer gameplay, accessible story, and customisation make for a fun experience. Get it from Lazada, Shopee, and Amazon SG.
Note: Review copy provided by Bandai Namco Entertainment Asia.
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