Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon Hands-on First Impressions | Geared up for greatness

A dream come true for mecha / robot fans!

After more than a decade since the previous mainline entry in the series, Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is finally coming in just a few more weeks! As part of a special 4-hour hands-on demo in Singapore, UnGeek was able to get a first-hand experience of what AC6 is all about and, from what we’ve seen, FromSoftware looks to be building something great. Check out our AC6 First Impressions below!

Not Just Another Souls Game

It’s worth noting in this AC6 first impressions article that I have never played any of the previous Armored Core titles but I have played other FromSoftware titles like Dark Souls, Sekiro, and Elden Ring.

While Armored Core has been a long-running franchise, the last mainline entry was actually released over a decade ago. The game itself has some hardcore fans but, now that FromSoftware’s following has grown bigger and bigger over the last 10 years with their line of Soulsborne games especially with the runaway success of Elden Ring which became one of the most played games of Twitch and even won Game of the Year in The Game Awards 2022, there are a ton of new eyes on Armored Core 6 eager to see if this is another FromSoftware masterpiece.

The FromSoft fingerprints are definitely in the game as it does feature significant difficulty spikes here and there but this is definitely NOT just another souls game and that becomes most evident with its core gameplay loop. If you’re familiar with any soulsborne title, you know that the game basically pits you against challenge after difficult challenge. To overcome them, you simply “git gud” – either by leveling, checking out other paths, or just really by getting better via learning enemy attack patterns and countering accordingly. In Armored Core VI, the gameplay loop is slightly different but that slight difference it what makes AC6 its own game – and that’s winning via AC Customization.

In Armored Core VI, it’s highly encouraged that, every time you hit a wall, you rebuild and customize your AC into a mech that can address the situation you’re in. It’s basically build – fight – rinse – repeat. That’s the magic of AC6 as it’s practically mind-blowing just how much and how varied your ACs can become via customization.


Building your way out of your problems

If you wanted I were to pick a core highlight of this game in this AC6 first impressions article, it would be Customization. Customization in AC6 is a tinkerer’s dream come true. Your AC can be customized so much that it drastically affects their look, feel, attacks, and everything. This being my first Armored Core game, I had a reflex to just raise the performance numbers I saw on screen. I simply thought that “Oh, these stats going up probably means that my AC is just better now right?” and through the initial levels, I was powering through but I slowly started noticing that my AC was feeling heavier and heavier. I initially thought it was nothing. I was hitting like a truck and getting the job done. Big deal if I feel a bit heavy. This thinking punished me so hard.

I eventually got stuck for quite a bit with this one boss that was like an armored tank which was invulnerable on the front due to its armor plating. Now, I started feeling how big of a factor my AC weight was. I was too slow to outmaneuver the boss. I had a blade and a rifle as my weapons, which have served me well until this point. So I failed. Again. And again. And again. I played Soulborne games before so I thought I would eventually learn the pattern but my refusal to change my AC set-up got me delayed for so long. I did change a few pieces here and there –  I lightened my AC weight, changed my weapons to something that gave a bit of AOE so I didn’t have to do a direct hit to its back to damage it (since it was moving way too fast for direct hits) and I eventually lucked out. I then compared notes to others who were in the demo and I aired out how my flight fuel was barely enough to get me over it to land me a clear shot consistently. I then found out that others who cleared it easily simply switched the legs into reverse-jointed (frog-like) legs so that their ACs could jump over it without heavily relying on fuel and get clear shots faster. Needless to say, I felt foolish for sticking to what I had.

That was the beauty of Armored Core VI. Each boss is a puzzle and you can tinker with your mech and make it fit towards a solution that works. Build – fight – rinse – repeat.

Another thing that really caught my eye was how the tutorials really showed you the potential highs that your AC can achieve. Almost each tutorial made you pilot another type of AC. It would start with the typical humanoid / “Gundam”-ish type but later on, it started showing me tank-type ACs that had heavy artillery-based firepower. In another, it made me control a sort of hover-type AC that looked almost like a flying saucer and specialized in bombing units around and below. I was always biased to how strong having a blade on your AC was but then there were tutorial missions that showed me situations where dual wielding a ranged weapon was a great idea.

Yes, it’s still a FromSoftware game so even the tutorials aren’t straight-up spoon-feeding and you really will have to understand why each build works but I do commend the tutorial system as it does give you a lot of inspiration on what you can do with your AC. In addition, the tutorials also rewards you with AC parts so it’s always a good idea to do them since they increase your arsenal of parts meaning you have more options available to you.


AC6 First Impressions – Gearing for Success

As mentioned, the hands-on demo was just 4 hours but what I played during those 4 hours was enough to hook me and look forward to the full game. AC6 just feels like a dream come true for mecha / robot fans and the possibilities that are given to you are just so many. The grind of getting over bosses who become gameplay walls actually become less frustrating if you use that opportunity to play around what builds can work.

I didn’t exactly see a lot of what the story had to offer but my initial experience makes it feel like this is a game where gameplay shines far above the story. Of course, I am reserving my critique on the story once we get our hands on the full game and experience it in full.

For now, all I can say is that, as someone who has zero experience with the franchise, my AC6 first impressions can be summed up in 3 words – “I can’t wait”. This demo has made me so excited for what the full game has in-store for us and I look forward to playing more.

Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon will be released on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC on August 25, 2023.