Armored Core VI The Fires of Rubicon
Image provided by Bandai Namco

Preview: Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon Could be the Best FromSoftware Game Yet

The screen goes black, and after a moment a sleek HUD loads over the darkness and your display flickers to life. A voice pours into your ear, designating your name and rank among the hired guns you work alongside. Your point of contact, a mysterious man named Handler Walter, explains your objective, and as you navigate your unwieldy Armored Core through the remains of a decapitated factory, the building eventually peels away revealing the snow covered landscape of Rubicon. Armored Core VI: The Fires of Rubicon is the next entry within the long-running mecha action series and expands upon previous entries in a way that creates something entirely fresh with its new use of verticality. But more than anything from the single chapter I was allowed to play during the preview period, it shows that FromSoftware is more than capable of making games from their extensive catalog feel fresh and exciting nearly a decade after a previous entry.

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The feeling of each “core” is significant and lends itself well to the overall experience. Light Cores feel easier to maneuver than Medium Cores, and so on. However, the lack of AP (or health in this case) prevented me from truly experiencing how unique it could be to pilot a Heavy Core. Enemies would blow me away in an instant, and I ended up resorting to using long-range weapons like the LR-036 CURTIS, which was a Linear Rifle I could power up to fire high powered rounds into enemy Cores. But the weapon I favored the most was the HI-32: BU-TT/A Pulse Blade. I loved the melee weapon in Armored Core so much that I tailored my playstyle to it, much to my detriment, as I hit a brick wall with the Juggernaut — a massive armed tank that would plow its body into mine, nearly instantly killing me with every hit.

Armored Core VI The Fires of Rubicon

Image provided by Bandai Namco

The SG-026 HALDEMAN, a close-range shotgun, would have favored my playstyle, but I was so insistent on using the rifle, much to my own detriment, and Armored Core VI taught me a lesson I was forced to learn. Players will want to switch out their Arms to suit the needs of their missions, and thankfully buying and selling Arms is easy and can be done with no repercussions. Arms can be sold back for the same amount of COAM (the in-game currency) they were purchased for, which means you can swap your arsenal fairly easily. It gives you a lot of room to experiment, which is what the developers clearly want you to do. Each mission presents its own unique challenges for you to overcome, either through brute force or by adhering to the way the game wants you to play. Both methods work, one will just be infinitely harder than the other.

You can get into the minute details of customizing your Armored Core, and this honestly feels more impactful than in more recent FromSoftware games like Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Elden Ring. Each piece feels instrumental in creating a build that works for each loadout you will be taking into battle, as your mech is effectively analogues to your own body. Different parts of your Core aren’t purely for aesthetic or for negating negligible amounts of damage, and can allow you to equip heavier guns or increase your total AP. Different styles of Cores are also made available as you progress, such as the Tank body and the body with the extra limbs that look vaguely spider-like. These pieces also contribute to weight, which will influence the general tempo of battle.

And this is what makes Armored Core VI feel closer to Sekiro than other FromSoftware title. While missions where you fulfill certain objectives like destroying a specific amount of enemies, or even scale a massive, moving resource harvesting machine, feel single minded, boss fights are always a dance. There is a specific, frenetic kind of energy to these encounters where players will need to find the rhythm of each attack — each charge, each spray of bullets or blast of energy. And doing so feels infinitely rewarding. These boss encounters I played during the preview, which encompassed the first chapter of the game, did not have the same spectacle as scaling the mentioned resource harvesting machine (which felt like scaling a massive titan from Shadow of the Colossus), they had their own kind of visual flair punctuated by streaks of missiles flying through the air.

Armored Core VI The Fires of Rubicon

Image provided by Bandai Namco

In terms of its narrative, the player assumes the role of a mercenary that works between factions in the early hour of the game. Exposition is told in short meetings with Handler Walter, who provides information about your objective. Lore is also scattered throughout specific missions in the form of data logs and even conversations between errant soldiers you meet on the battlefield. Several factions exist on Rubicon, and as you assume the role of a gun for hire, you are immediately introduced to the politics of the world as you slide between sides to help or hinder a resistance group trying to save its planet from its inevitable colonization. Ultimately, it seems like there is a lot going on in Armored Core VI, and I’m excited to dig into the meat of the story.

My time with Armored Core VI leaves me extremely optimistic as to what the full game will bring. The combat feels immensely rewarding, if not the most challenging of FromSoftware’s catalog that I’ve played to date. More than anything I want to see where the story goes and what kind of narrative the team behind Sekiro is trying to tell, given that their previous game was so explicitly anti-war. Armored Core VI could be one of the best games of 2023, and maybe even one of the best games by the acclaimed developer should it follow through on its already exemplary systems and interesting narrative.

Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon will come to the PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, and PC on August 25, 2023.

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Kazuma Hashimoto
Senior staff writer, translator and streamer, Kazuma spends his time playing a variety of games ranging from farming simulators to classic CRPGs. Having spent upwards of 6 years in the industry, he has written reviews, features, guides, with work extending within the industry itself. In his spare time he speedruns games from the Resident Evil series, and raids in Final Fantasy XIV. His work, which has included in-depth features focusing on cultural analysis, has been seen on other websites such as Polygon and IGN.