This Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon review may contain minor spoilers.
Armored Core 6 is not for everyone. As a mecha-based combat game, it is certainly niche and doesn’t shy away from that fact. Similarly, it feels like a title that belongs in the PlayStation 2 era – and while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, its overall presentation has a distinctive air of the past.
As I suspect it will be for many, Fires of Rubicon was my first experience of the Armored Core series. Having been drawn to it after falling in love with FromSoftware’s Soulsborne games over the last few years, I expected a similar degree of polish and craftsmanship.
I was pleased to learn that Armored Core 6 delivers that. But those coming to the series for the first time should not expect Elden Ring with robots. Armored Core is its own thing that, difficulty aside, bears little resemblance to the games its developer is best known for.
That isn’t to say Fires of Rubicon isn’t good, however it lacks the broader appeal of FromSoftware’s iconic action RPGs and isn’t quite as engrossing. It is further let down by an underdeveloped and easy-to-miss story that failed to resonate with me throughout its runtime.
Armored Core 6 review: Story
Soulsborne games aren’t known for their gripping stories. Hardcore fans may disagree but unless you’re willing to devote time and effort into unravelling vague and complex lore, you will struggle to understand exactly what’s going on.
Where these games excel, however, is in creating worlds that are rich, expressive, and full of personality and mystery. This is often what prompts players into developing their understanding of their wider narratives. When a world is intriguing enough, you simply have to learn more about it and its inhabitants.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Armored Core 6. Set on the planet Rubicon 3 – where an aggressive conflict is raging over a rare and powerful resource called Coral – you are a mercenary/Armored Core pilot named C4-621. Under the command of a mysterious ‘handler’ – Walter – you set about completing jobs for warring factions and corporations.
While they each have their own agendas and motivations, this does little to make the story more interesting. That’s because it is told primarily though audio logs and radio transmissions in between missions. Furthermore, cutscenes are brief and sparse, and C4-621 is practically lifeless serving only to be the player character.
The world of Armored Core 6 is almost as bland as its protagonist. It is a fitting setting for a story about an interstellar resource war, no doubt. But its narrative struggles (or doesn’t really try) to get you invested in Rubicon 3 or its future. It’s simply the backdrop for aimless mercenary missions.
Thankfully, Fires of Rubicon makes up for its meagre story offering with stellar action. After all, this is a game about giant robots fighting each other. And if it delivers on that, then what else really matters?
The combat is varied and fact-paced. Thanks to a high degree of customisability, you’re free to take on Armored Core 6‘s missions with whichever weapons and power-ups you please (provided they don’t exceed certain capacity limits). This allows you to experiment with different approaches to missions, which often need to be replayed multiple times before succeeding.
This isn’t so much trial-and-error, more like play-and-learn. As with Soulsborne titles, the intention here is that you will adapt to your mistakes, improve, and attempt alternative solutions. Whether that comes down to adjusting your play style or mixing up your mech’s weapons and tech will depend on the mission and its objectives.
Fires of Rubicon encourages experimentation with different builds and, while some will be clear favourites, I struggled to find anything that wasn’t at least capable.
Most exciting are the game’s boss battles, which echo the challenge of Soulsborne. You will come up against all sorts of different mechs which present their own abilities and nuances for you to figure out and conquer. At first, some of these bosses feel nigh-on unbeatable, but once you learn their weaknesses and understand how to exploit them, they soon become easier.
Graphics and performance
Is Armored Core 6 a good looking game? Yes. Is it a great looking game? Probably not. Its visuals do more than enough to capture and bring to life the mechanical violence on display, but its colour palette felt washed out and rather drab overall.
Despite this, there are few moments where Fires of Rubicon looks anything less than perfectly acceptable. It won’t blow you away, but these graphics are tough to complain about when they achieve exactly what they need to.
As far as performance is concerned, AC6 ran beautifully on my PS5. It maintained a steady 60 FPS and there were no obvious bugs or glitches. Likewise, I didn’t experience a single crash which made my time with it entirely problem-free.
Armored Core 6 review: Verdict
Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon is a solid effort from FromSoftware. The problem is, we’ve come to expect a lot more than “solid” from this company. It does most things right and performs like a dream, but there’s an unmistakable sense that FromSoftware considered it less important than, say, Elden Ring and Bloodborne.
It doesn’t reach quite the same heights of creativity and is far less daring. Rubicon 3 is one of the safest game worlds we’ve seen out of FromSoftware, and that may disappoint some players.
Despite these drawbacks, Armored Core 6 is a highly competent game that only adds to FromSoftware’s ever-growing reputation as one of the world’s most esteemed developers. And, if nothing else, it’s a pleasure to see that they haven’t forgotten their roots.
With that being said, not everyone will enjoy Fires of Rubicon. But if it sounds like the kind of thing you’re into, then there’s a good chance you’ll have a blast.
Overall Rating: 7.5/10
Version played: PS5
A code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
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