It didn’t take long for Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon to leave me frustrated. The game’s first chapter concludes with an intense boss fight against a helicopter armed with hundreds of rockets and an impenetrable shield. To make matters worse, it surprises you with deadly flaming swords. After hours of struggling, I realized I needed to approach the game like an engineer, not an action hero. By carefully tweaking and upgrading my mech, I finally emerged victorious. This experience perfectly captures FromSoftware’s approach as a game developer. While they excel at refining and iterating on their ideas, their reluctance to let go of outdated mechanics can sometimes hinder their games.
Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon is like a high-speed mech ride with faulty thrusters. The game offers exhilarating dogfights and deep mech customization, but it is weighed down by some familiar FromSoftware quirks, such as a confusing user interface and a frustrating third-person camera. These issues don’t ruin the overall experience, but they do make me wonder how much better the game could have been with some fine-tuning.
Getting in the Cockpit
Right from the start, it’s clear that Armored Core 6 is not trying to mimic the Dark Souls series. It is a mission-based action game with fairly flat maps and a simple sci-fi narrative centered around a dangerous element called Coral. The writing and storytelling are not particularly strong, apart from the final act. The game’s visuals, like the icy facility and the mech flying towards it, add to the excitement.
Things get more interesting when you actually pilot the mech. The game brings an immediate thrill with its fast-paced movement and full omnidirectional control. I felt a rush of adrenaline as I raced past enemies, launching missiles at them while maintaining high speeds. The combat system simplifies the aiming process, allowing me to focus on the action rather than accuracy. The battles are intense, with smaller mechs and large bosses challenging your skills and concentration.
However, the game does fall short in terms of exploration and overall progression. The missions often involve repetitive tasks and visually uninspiring environments. Outside of boss battles, I didn’t feel a strong sense of scale or power. The lack of detail in visuals and audio made me feel like a toy navigating a playset. Despite these shortcomings, the game presents a fresh take on a classic series, albeit with a hint of old-school rust.
For the Mech Enthusiasts
Armored Core 6 shines when it comes to its detailed combat system and mech customization. Each mech can be equipped with a variety of weapons, including melee tools, explosives, and shoulder cannons. Managing cooldowns and pressing advantages are crucial to success in battles. The intensity of these fights, particularly the high-speed dogfights, sets the game apart. However, the complexity of controls and the demanding nature of the combat may limit its appeal to a niche audience.
On the other hand, the robot customization system is accessible and enjoyable. Experimenting with different parts and fine-tuning your mech brings a sense of scientific joy. While the game doesn’t provide sufficient explanations for certain mechanics, like damage types and armor resistance, the process of building and testing different configurations is rewarding. The satisfaction of making incremental improvements is akin to assembling a gaming PC, except your creation unleashes plasma missiles.
Unfortunately, the game’s user interface and lack of information can be frustrating. The HUD is small, making it difficult to track weapon status during battles. The absence of explanations for damage types forces players to seek external guidance. This obtuseness might lead some players to rely on build guides rather than exploring and experimenting on their own. However, despite these limitations, the customization aspect remains a standout feature.
FromSoftware has gained popularity in recent years, but Armored Core has always received mixed reviews. While this latest installment is the most polished in the series, it still suffers from some inherent flaws. FromSoftware continues to struggle with 3D camera functionality in its action games, and Armored Core 6 is no exception. The camera often becomes disorienting during boss battles, exacerbating the already fast-paced and dynamic gameplay.
The game’s small and illegible UI is another issue, with essential information cramped into tiny corners of the screen. This makes it difficult to keep track of weapon reloading during intense battles. These flaws, combined with the game’s demanding combat, create barriers for new players.
One standout boss battle does demonstrate that the game’s quirks can work well in specific scenarios. Fighting an enormous robot snake in a flat, icy terrain provides a slower pace and better camera visibility. The battle feels more balanced and allows players to focus on combat rather than wrestling with the camera or UI.
To be fair, these pain points are not unique to Armored Core 6 but are prevalent in other FromSoftware titles. However, games like the Souls series are better designed around these quirks and offer a more polished experience. Armored Core 6, while a functional mech game, feels like it lacks the same level of thoughtful design to support its fast-paced action.
Perhaps this is to be expected from the first Armored Core game in a decade. While the game introduces some modern features, there are clear areas that need improvement for the series to thrive in the long run. My achievements in Armored Core 6 only came after making significant adjustments, and I anticipate that future installments will require similar fine-tuning.
Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon was reviewed on an Xbox Series X connected to a TCL 6-Series R635.
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