Review: Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon

On fire

Posted 23 August 2023 by Chris Carter

My history with Armored Core started with the very first game on PlayStation. I was enamored by the cover the enticing giant mech on it; and kept it close while I experienced a whole slate of robot-based oddities like G-Nome, and Heavy Gear. From then on, I sought out every subsequent entry, until I finally put it together that From Software – who had also provided me with hours of entertainment with the King’s Field series – was responsible for it all. By the time Demon’s Souls came out the studio was a worldwide household name, but they were killing it before Souls changed the industry.

With a pedigree like that, you can see why so many people hold Armored Core in such high regard; so I’m happy to report that Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon keeps that legacy going.

Screenshot by Destructoid

Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon (PC, PS4, PS5 [reviewed], Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S)
Developer: From Software
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Released: August 25, 2023
MSRP: $59.99

Just so that you’re current, let’s take a deep dive into the Fires of Rubicon lore: Coral is a substance that leads to unprecedented technological advancements. Until it doesn’t, and there’s a massive fire that destroys everything. Following that, there’s a recovery period populated with corps and mercs (that’s you!), which is where you come in.

You’re caught up! No literally, you’re caught up.

That’s pretty much all the background you need on Armored Core 6, as the crux of the experience lies with earning money, and buying/mixing/matching parts to form your custom-curated machine of destruction. The narrative goes in circles sometimes (especially with some of the listless pre-mission banter), but it’s enough to propel you forward into more mech-based combat and keep you guessing. But really, the world of Rubicon 3 is a fascinating character in its own right. All of the biomes you’ll adventure through (whether it’s a product of artifice or natural beauty) are fascinating to witness, to the point where I’d definitely be interested in seeing more of this specific universe at some point.

Mission variety generally errs on the side of killing, but there are a few forked paths (in-mission) to follow on occasion, and the environments are varied enough to help funnel you into constant action. While some sandboxes are a little too corralled for my tastes, the illusion of freedom is enough, because of how dang good everything looks. On the flip side, the game’s invisible barriers do help prevent mission locations from becoming pointlessly big and barren.

It really helps that Armored Core 6 is absolutely gorgeous. From Software’s art department has been putting in work worthy of art books for decades, but they really outdid themselves here. One of the very first missions looked like something I haven’t seen in any game this year, and helped cement the fact that this is an unforgiving universe that will crush you on a moment’s notice, even if you are piloting a huge killing machine that looks like it came straight out of an anime.

Screenshot by Destructoid

What I like most about Armored Core 6 is how everything feels like a puzzle: from mech construction in the hangar to moment-to-moment combat in the thick of it, when you’re managing your boost meter every so slightly to ensure you have enough to dodge a massive blast coming your way. The quick aerial boost system ties everything together. By pressing a button (Square on PlayStation), you can sacrifice a quick bar of boost to instantly dodge. This can be chained in numerous ways (including weaving it together through a boost dash, even in the air), but all of this finesse is governed by a boost meter.

It really is like a ballet, and you’re in control of both the precise movements and the overarching song. If you like tanky builds, you can craft a giant literal tank tread mech that sacrifices maneuverability for staying power. Glass cannon builds are a cinch to create, as are speedsters who zip around and manually dodge everything the game can throw at them. Once you’re done tinkering, you need to actually put your creation to the test and figure out the ins and outs of that particular build.

Boss battles are where everything really shines. The variety on offer is frankly overwhelming, from tiny little Kitfox-like creations that zoom about, to foes who can employ active camo, to gigantic monstrosities that can deal a ton of damage in a single shot. I found myself constantly on my toes, having to learn and relearn how I thought my mech worked and push it to the limit. That’s exactly the kind of feeling you want in a game like this, where you get to see the fruits of your labor up close and personal.

If you’re worried that Armored Core 6 will be insurmountable because you’ve never played an AC game before (or any mech games, for that matter), don’t be. There are a number of levels that From Software has pulled to ensure that you won’t be completely locked out, including a full checkpoint system. While you can go for an S-Rank and finesse missions all you want, dying right before a boss, in nearly every instance, will allow you to restart from a closeby checkpoint.

Screenshot by Destructoid

Going a step further, you can even reconfigure your build from the garage in this checkpoint menu, which feels like a pretty big lifeline for a From Software project. For folks who have limited time to play games, this will be a Godsend, but it’s also nice that you’re able to repeat missions for cash or have a go at the arena (quick CPU battles). There is a PVP system (co-op is not present at all in any form), but I wasn’t able to test it.

From Software also accounted for this with the timed unlock of specific mechanics. You won’t be able to fully customize your mech from the start. Rather, you’ll need to finish a few basic missions before you can purchase parts, customize them, and spec into specific builds (like kinetic or energy-based damage). You’ll also unlock fully-constructed blueprints of mechs that you can use for testing, without fear of “screwing up a build” or overspending.

I was a bit skeptical that From Software would find a way to make Armored Core relevant again after a lengthy hiatus, but they figured it out. The spark of the series is still very much alive without giving up its soul and making it something else entirely, and a new generation will be able to appreciate why these games were so venerated. Just be ready to tinker a bit, and take some Ls.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher, and deals with the single player portion of the game.]



A hallmark of excellence. There may be flaws, but they are negligible and won't cause massive damage.

About The Author
Chris Carter
EIC, Reviews Director - Chris has been enjoying Destructoid avidly since 2008. He finally decided to take the next step in January of 2009 blogging on the site. Now, he's staff!
More Stories by Chris Carter