Armoured Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is the latest entry in the storied franchise brought to us by Bandi Namco Entertainment and developed by From Software, put simply Armoured Core is a third person mecha based shooter but let’s be honest, ‘From Software’ is essentially a genre in its own right these days.
For those unfamiliar, the Armoured Core franchise has been with us for awhile since its debut on the original Playstation in each entry the player takes on the role of a Pilot, a pilot of a customisable war machine known as Armoured Core (big bad ass robot) and you obliterate your way through the plot). Now, the AC series has more than one timeline and the overall plot is far to deep to go into here so I’ll limit myself to the plot of Armoured Core VI: Fires of Rubicon and it will be spoiler free for the most part and won’t go into the very cool and much more sci-fi story than I expected.
Armoured Core VI: Fires of Rubicon begins with you, C4-621 on the planet of Rubicon 3 in what is to be honest a fairly pitiful Armoured Core (the games name for the more advanced mech) as you hunt for a viable licence from a dead mercenary so that you can begin blowing things up for as many credits as you can get. Spoiler alert you find a licence and take the call sign “Raven” which is a nice reference to previous entries in the franchise. The early plot revolves around you taking any and all jobs offered by any of the factions on the planet to make name for yourself and earning a reputation and of course credits, credits you’ll use to upgrade your mech. The previously mentioned factions essentially boil down to corporations looking to gain as much of the plants rare resource “Coral” as they can and in what’s almost a cliché in Mecha fiction, colonists fighting for freedom.
The moment you read ‘From Software” I’m sure you had an assumption of what the gameplay would be like, even if it were nothing other than difficult. Now, if you assumed “souls like” boy are you in for an exciting shock. Armoured Core VI has some difficult boss and sub-boss encounters (stupid Balteus) but challenge aside Armoured Core is more fast paced action filled explosive ranged combat (Melee builds are possible but even then the games pace keeps it firmly in action territory as opposed to souls like) than the usual dodge, roll, stab grind of the developers more famous titles.
Movement is key to survival in AC so plodding along is a recipe for failure, you need to keep moving and handily your core has boosters fitted to help, quick boosters to help with evasion in the form of sudden bursts of movement and a core booster for quickly traversing or ascending the environments.
While staying alive is obviously crucial evasion is a lot less fun than blowing enemies to shrapnel with an assortment of weapons and as a general rule you’ll be backing 4 weapons at a time (you can purge or discard weapons during combat depending how you’ve assembled your core to reduce its overall weight and gain greater agility), two on the left and two on the right of your mech.
Oh wow. AC VI is a weapon nuts dream, basaltic weapons, explosives, energy weapons, huge blades it’s all here and it’s all yours to mix and match as you play. Not only that, assembly of your Core also offers huge variety. Do you want to me small and swift, an aerial menace or a literal tank? Well it’s all up to you and every build offers distinct advantages as well as providing challenges. However, all this wonderful tech and customisation isn’t free.
Building your mech can seem confusing at first, balancing weight, energy loads and output and AP (health) along side OS tweaks can overwhelm any polite at first and I 100% recommend playing any and all tutorials the game offers, firstly because it will help, and secondly, you’ll be rewarded for doing so with equipment for doing so, some of which is very powerful in the early game.
You’ll need to pay your way on Rubicon 3 if you intend to get anywhere, fortunately, blowing stuff up is your business and business is booming! You’ll deploy on sorties to complete objectives and earn credits and missions can be repeated to earn more cash, to spend on yet more sweet core parts.
The amount of customisation afforded to you can initially appear rather daunting as you’ll need to change your build as required based on the mission you’re on and the does within it, or develop patience of a saint to stubbornly try to complete missions with suboptimal builds. It took me many attempts to admit that my initial build for taking on Balteus wasn’t getting me anywhere. Now, fans of From Software will often spout the cliché of “Git Gud” when comments are made about a titles difficulty but in fairness to Armoured Core the phrase ‘Build better” is more accurate in this case.
Thankfully From Software give you all the tools to do so, from letting you repeat missions to earn more credits, to letting you sell previously purchased parts back to the store at 100% of what you paid for them and even letting you reassemble your mech mid-mission from checkpoints if your mech is totalled. That’s right, AC VI has checkpoints, now if you’re part of the hardcore “From” crowd there nothing stopping you just restarting but if you’re anything like me you’ll appreciate the developers letting enjoyment feel just as valued as mastering the game.
That being said, the game isn’t as simple as the right tool for the job wins the day, you’ll still need to understand both your capabilities and limitations as well as that of your foes. Combat is also a lot deeper than shoot until boom. Any foe stronger than cannon fodder will need feeling out and the game features the “Staggering” mechanic, simply put, you’ll need to cause enough damage to overload the enemies system, doing so results in the foe being momentarily disabled and your being able to deal tremendous amounts of damage before it recovers. Of course, you are also susceptible to this and trust me, when you get staggered, you’re going to know about it.
Visually AC isn’t overly breathtaking but to me the muted tone fit the industrial mechanised universe rather well and I didn’t encounter any bugs or stability issues. Frankly you’ll be so focused on the sensational gameplay to really care or notice that ray tracing isn’t happening, you won’t be worried about a river reflecting a energy beam as it’s about to blow your core apart.