Armored Core VI: Fires Of Rubicon Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon Review Bandai Namco FromSoftware PS5 Review

Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon Review (PS5) – Twisted Firestarter

Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon PS5 Review

Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon PS5 review. With the impending release of Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon we’re faced with a surprising scenario whereby this is likely the most anticipated entry in the storied franchise, but perhaps not entirely of its own influence.

It’s easy to look to developer FromSoftware’s more recent successes as a reference point, while losing sight of the fact that Armored Core – a series with its own identity, expectations, and rabid fan base – has been the lifeblood of the Tokyo-based company for just over a quarter of a century.

Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon PS5 Review

A New Frontier For The Armored Core Series

With that in mind, questions arise as to whether Fires of Rubicon can leverage its developer’s recent exploits and still retain its steely core and signature challenge. Thankfully, it has passed that test with flying colors.

You play as ‘B21,’ a mercenary hound who has had a recent surge in job offers following the re-discovery of the rare energy source ‘Coral’ on the planet Rubicon 3. Such is its importance that a number of factions are vying for its control and your interactions with each shape how the game’s narrative unfolds.

Newcomers to the series may feel daunted by the myriad of parts, jargon and stats associated with the series but thankfully Fires of Rubicon – the first entry in just under ten years – onboards players quite well, with incremental training, contextual definitions of each stat, coupled with clear indicators for cause and effect on an overall build.

Armored Core VI Review

This streamlined approach is a welcome touch, and despite how it may initially appear, each of the menus are quite intuitive. And it’s just as well, because the majority of them are in service of what is ultimately at the heart of Armored Core; that is, customizing your mech to within an inch of its artificial life. Missions are typically short linear affairs, less than five-or-so minutes, and consist of objectives such basic reconnaissance, base infiltrations, alongside defeating a set number of enemies.

Though a tad repetitive, later missions are propped up by light platforming, stealth, tower defense-style gameplay, and the inclusion of choices that have a sizeable impact on how the narrative plays out. As a result, multiple endings are on offer and the impetus to do so is complemented by the snappy replayability of said missions.

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Some will contain side bosses, too, which are optional but encouraged so as to fill out a specialized combat log. Other skirmishes are punctuated with some spectacular set pieces and boss battles that will test your metal. Consequently, Armored Core VI deals in scale well, and throughout its 11-hour-or-so campaign you’ll come face to face with some formidable opponents, in both size and scope.

These battles are undoubtedly the highlight of what’s on offer; a tense, tight dance of near misses and genuine exhilaration. Punctuated by a fantastic score by Kota Hoshino, these are the make-or-break moments, designed to push you back to the drawing board in search of answers – or parts. And leaning into that, mission structures are keenly incentivized towards potential momentary award upon completion; you’ll have the base pay you can look to receive, bonus pay based on side objectives and speed, coupled with deductions determined by your repair and ammunition costs

Armored Core VI Review

You can also replay missions to achieve a higher rank, which lands you more currency, or just replay in perpetuity to gain more funds given the relative expense of the various parts. Moreover, there is zero cost associated with selling parts back to the garage so, as you would expect, there is an active encouragement to tinker and customize your hound to your needs. This is further expanded upon by the online functionality which, provided you have the requisite parts unlocked, allows you to download builds from other players to test for yourself on the battlefield.

With its formidable exterior softened by way of pre-boss checkpoints and load-out adjustments if you’re struggling, you may be forgiven for thinking that the game has perhaps forgone its notorious difficulty in search of a wider appeal, but make mistake, Armored Core VI puts up quite a challenge, albeit an inconsistent one, and commands that you grasp its underlying systems in order to succeed. It’s that customization that’s tightly linked to the gameplay and is perhaps the most vital cog in gaining a firm grasp on the challenge afoot.

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Such is the depth of options, that ALLMIND – the game’s hub area – has divided it into twelve constituent parts, with 1-4 covering hand and shoulder weapons across both your left and right side, 5-8 detailing your frame (which comprises of head, core, arms, and legs), 9-11 speaks to your innards, such as your booster and generator, whereas 12 is an expansion slot which can be filled by one-time upgrades purchased with ‘OST Chips’ earned in the Arena. There is naturally a bevy of stat considerations afforded to each part but fundamentally the main concern centers around both your weight limit and energy expulsion

Both of these values are covered within the aforementioned build, as the legs you select inform how much weight you can hold, while the generator you pick will determine your available energy. As one would expect there’s no shortage of options at play here, even from just a weapons perspective you can make use of plasma rifles, Gatling guns, (duel-armed is the way to go) chainsaws, and even flamethrowers to reign flaming terror upon your foes.

Armored Core VI Review

Ultimately, it is all a balancing act to ensure your hound is adhering to the confines of its weight and energy output, and that the buff granted by a part is not terminally offset by its negative impact on another stat. While mission structure is very much linear, it’s within the core pillar of customization that Armored Core naturally opens up, as the options afforded to your loadout promote differing strategies, playstyles, and a healthy bout of trial-and-error (or success on the rare occasion.)

Given the fact that evasion is not a sure-fire remedy to a barrage of homing missiles nor does there appear to be any pronounceable invincibility frames, how you construct your mech for a given situation is paramount. The addition, too, of three quick-use repair kits enables the flow of combat to persist and act as a ward against the inevitable damage you’ll pick up along the way.

In terms of choosing a build, it’ll depend on what type of enemy you’re up against; are they small and nimble, laboring powerhouses, or somewhere in-between? Will you need to absorb a significant amount of damage in the pursuit of getting up close to deal damage, or can you evade and chip away consistently from a distance?

Armored Core VI Review

One commonality across all the various playstyles is the importance of the stagger mechanic. Similar in form to what’s come before it in the series, though perhaps now more akin to the cumulative approach of Sekiro, an enemy’s impact meter is now a key component of battles. This meter is affected solely by offense, rather than a combined effort involving timed blocks, or parrying. Each weapon has an ‘impact’ value which dictates its effectiveness, and is unrelated to its standard damage output.

The aim of Armored Core VI is ultimately to stagger your opponent, because doing so quickly will effectively stun lock the enemy momentarily, allowing you to pummel its health bar before it recovers. It’s likely no coincidence given that the game director was a lead designer on FromSoftware’s shinobi masterclass after all. These are the windows you chase within Armored Core VI, and this is a game that resultantly encourages a proactive, in-your-face approach from players.

There is a risk, however, of being funneled towards a tank build path given its propensity to absorb and dish out damage in equal measure, and perhaps in its current iteration that selection is a little overpowered. Even still, there’s plenty of challenge should you opt to sortie with a different build entirely, but a question around viability still remains, and presumably balance tweaks will follow as the weeks and months go by.

Regardless of the scale of what’s in front of you, Armored Core’s performance keeps up, with no slowdown of note. The screen routinely fills up with a sea of explosions and doesn’t falter, which is crucial given the speed at which battles can take place. Despite some small sound-related bugs in the latter half of the game, it is a technically proficient offering on PS5, and contains a resolution or framerate mode toggle within the options menu to boot.

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In addition to the five-chapter campaign, Armored Core VI also boasts a one-on-one Arena mode against a number of specialized mechs, alongside an online lobby component which offers up to three-on-three battles. Given the multiple endings on offer, the mileage you get here will depend on how deep it sinks its mechanized mitts into you, but there’s little doubt that FromSoftware has opened the proverbial door and made Armored Core more accessible than ever.

Fires of Rubicon offers a new frontier for the Armored Core series, demonstrating developer FromSoftware’s ability to weave its recent success and confidence back into familiar territory, while at the same time demonstrating that you can indeed teach an old hound new tricks.

Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon releases on August 25 on PS4 and PS5.

Review code kindly provided by PR.



The Final Word

Fires of Rubicon offers a new frontier for the Armored Core series, demonstrating developer FromSoftware's ability to weave its recent success and confidence back into familiar territory, while at the same time demonstrating that you can indeed teach an old hound new tricks.