Armored Core is back, and FromSoftware’s storied mecha action series has never looked better. I recently got an extended hands-on preview of Armored Core 6 Fires of Rubicon, the first new entry in the franchise in over a decade, and came away extremely impressed. This is shaping up to be a must-play for mech fans and FromSoftware devotees alike.
As a longtime fan of the series, I’ll admit I had some concerns when I first heard FromSoftware was developing a new Armored Core. The studio has gone in a decidedly hardcore direction with its last few titles like Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Sekiro, and I worried AC6 would lose the twitchy, fast-paced action the series is known for. Fortunately, my worries were unfounded. Armored Core 6 Fires of Rubicon retains the slick controls and customization options veterans expect while modernizing the visuals, level design, and combat in exciting ways. This is Armored Core at its best.
From my extended time with the game, Fires of Rubicon feels like a return to Armored Core’s roots. When you jump into the game, no time is wasted introducing you to your character, the world and the situation you find yourself in. You play as a Raven, a mercenary mech pilot for hire in a dystopian future. The story wasn’t a focus of the preview, but the gritty industrial settings and factions battling for supremacy are classic AC.
Since I played the start of the game, I got a sense of the scale of conflict, the morally gray world, and the ruthless nature of the missions I would undertake. FromSoftware brilliantly crafted an experience that feels complex while giving all the tools to let you get lost in the world if you let it wash over you.
“Armored Core 6 Fires of Rubicon retains the slick controls and customization options veterans expect while modernizing the visuals, level design, and combat in exciting ways.”
Jumping into the game proper, I was impressed with how well everything looked, felt and played. The highlight is undoubtedly the mechs or ACs. FromSoftware has always excelled at delivering an immense amount of mech customization, and Fires of Rubicon cranks it up to 11. Like in previous games, you can mix and match dozens of parts to create your perfect mechanized warrior.
Arms, legs, cores, weapons—everything is swappable. I had a blast testing different configurations to match my playstyle. Speedy and agile? Heavy and loaded with firepower? The options felt endless.
Talking to the producer of Armored Core 6 Fires of Rubicon, Yasunori Ogura, he detailed how important these aspects are by explaining:
“A big part of that is the mech assembly aspect — designing and customizing your own personal mech, figuring out every part of it, taking it onto the battlefield, and mastering control of it. We feel this is a core staple of the series and something that can appeal to modern players as well. With that customization aspect as the backbone, we then incorporated our experience and know-how accumulated over the last ten years of game development to elevate the core essence of Armored Core.”
Controlling your mech feels weighty and intuitive, with responsive airborne boosting and dashing. Melee attacks deliver satisfying force feedback, and enemies require repositioning and spacing to avoid barrages. This excellent control extends to fast-paced, strategic combat.
Even as early as the first few series of missions, Armored Core 6 Fires of Rubicon pushes you as a player to master the many options open to you, with each new challenge surviving as a test of everything you have learned and a chance to prove you can push forward to take on even more challenges obstacles, all while delivering that ever elusive feeling of true accomplishment.
Lead director Masaru Yamamura talked about his love for the series and how that passion was part of how he stepped up to be a part of the project. As he detailed, “I was always a fan of the Armored Core series, both as a player and as a developer. So when it came time to decide on a lead director for Armored Core 6, I stepped up and volunteered.
The FromSoftware team knew I liked Armored Core, so they said why don’t you give directing it a try? And I said okay, let’s do it. Given my passion for the franchise as a longtime fan, I was a natural choice to lead development on the new Armored Core game after gaining extensive directing experience on Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Sekiro.“
Making use of your full arsenal is key. I’d blast away at range before closing in to deliver a devastating charged melee attack. The new Overheat meter prevents spamming weapons, forcing you to fight tactically. Outmaneuvering foes to attack from unexpected angles proved vital. When I finally took down the demo’s massive boss mech after several tries, the sense of accomplishment was immense.
Another standout aspect was the vertical-focused level design. Armored Core 6 Fires of Rubicon takes place in sprawling, multi-layered environments ranging from sun-baked canyons to claustrophobic factories. Freedom of movement takes center stage, allowing you to boost jump straight up cliff sides or fly across yawning chasms.
The way your mech and upgrades work to unlock new paths gives the game a Metroidvania-esque feel, with finding the right combination for a given mission feeling incredibly rewarding, especially after struggling through a boss fight and finally finding a combination that pushes you forward.
“Armored Core 6 Fires of Rubicon takes place in sprawling, multi-layered environments ranging from sun-baked canyons to claustrophobic factories.”
As in previous entries, customizing your AC loadout is key to success. Defeating enemies and completing missions earn you parts and upgrade materials. Before each mission, I’d head to the Hangar to try new configurations. Finding combinations that matched my preferred hit-and-run tactics was addictive. I may have only played for around three hours, but FromSoftware managed to strike a perfect balance between challenge and feeling powerful, something few games ever master.
Yamamura perfectly encapsulated this design philosophy when he stated, “We wanted to try and strike a balance — creating satisfying, difficult boss encounters similar to our other games while also giving players opportunities to feel unstoppable in their mech and unleash destruction on enemies. But the key memorable fights will provide that trademark challenge and satisfaction our games are known for.”
Fires of Rubicon adds even more depth via the new Overload system. Weapons and items are split into three categories — Power, Technique, and Defense. Equipping too much of one type will overload your system, severely hampering performance. I had to strike a careful balance to maximize my capabilities. It’s a great evolution that makes customization even more meaningful.
Graphically, Armored Core 6 looks better than ever. While it has been many years since the last entry in the series on PS3, FromSoftware has gone out of their way to make Armored Core 6 look absolutely stunning. From the mission environments and world design to the extensive customization options for your AC, this is a game that puts graphics and visuals on full display.
The level of detail is meticulous, from the fluid animations of your mech to the varied enemy designs. Mass production ACs are easily disposed of, while bosses and larger mechs provide more elaborate challenges. Everything is given the signature FromSoftware treatment in the best way. The game mixes up locations and enemy types to keep things fresh. Even just the first section provided in the gameplay session gave a taste of the experience players can expect on launch day.
“Armored Core 6 looks better than ever.”
Mission design and boss fights are another area where FromSoftware has delivered with Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon. As I mentioned, there is a good variety of missions, challenges, and objectives that keep things fresh while providing a balanced level of challenge and excitement. Highlights include taking down a massive Shadow of the Colossus-esque walking factory and battling a large attack helicopter. For fans of mech games, I’ve seen few that embrace the genre as well as Armored Core 6.
The sound design also deserves praise. From the thundering boosters to the satisfying crunch of metal on metal, Fires of Rubicon nails the auditory experience. The rousing synth soundtrack kicked in at all the right moments to elevate the action. And while the story takes a backseat here, the top-notch voice acting helped flesh out characters during mission briefings. Simply put, this is a great-sounding game. If you are a fan of mecha anime or just love a challenge, it is hard not to fall in love with the world, characters and the setting you get to immerse yourself in fully.
For long-time fans, it is worth noting that while it is part of the mainline franchise, you won’t need any knowledge to jump into Armored Core 6 Fires of Rubicon. This is a wholly new experience and has been built to be accessible to new players, as well as fans. That being said, if Masaru Yamamura is to be believed, there should be some special moments for people that do know the series.
“It features a completely new setting and story, so we didn’t want it to feel alienating for newcomers. However, the series also has a rich history, and we understand longtime fans are coming back to play as well. We would love for core fans to discover nods and little things we’ve included throughout the game to acknowledge that legacy.”
“Armored Core 6 Fires of Rubicon is shaping up to be a triumphant return for the storied mech combat franchise.”
While my preview focused on the single-player campaign, Armored Core 6 Fires of Rubicon will also feature online multiplayer at launch. Players will be able to test their custom ACs against each other in various objective-based modes. Even though these features will be available, the team at FromSoftware wanted to stress that this is primarily a single-player game.
“Yes, there will be a PvP online multiplayer mode in Armored Core 6,” explained Yamamura. “This will include both 1v1 matches and 3v3 team matches, so it will be its own distinct component within the game. However, we want to stress that the main focus of AC6 is on the single-player campaign content.”
After my lengthy hands-on time, I’m more excited than ever to suit up as a Raven once more. Armored Core 6 Fires of Rubicon is shaping up to be a triumphant return for the storied mech combat franchise. The slick controls, in-depth customization, and challenging battles left me eager for more. August can’t come soon enough!
Let us know in the comments if you plan on piloting your AC when Armored Core 6 Fires of Rubicon launches later this year. And stay tuned to CGMagazine for more exclusive coverage as we get closer to release. This is one mech game you won’t want to miss.