Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon Review | A well-tuned machine

FromSoftware has done it again!

As if 2023 wasn’t already stacked enough with high-quality game releases, From Software comes out guns blazing with the latest entry in their long-running mech series, Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon. I’m just going to go ahead and say it, for better or worse, Armored Core VI is not a Souls-like game. Some will find that disappointing, confusing, or maybe even a breath of fresh air. Here’s what we think. 

From Software has rightfully solidified themselves as one of the greatest game development studios. There’s an undeniable fact that the influence of games like Dark Souls, Bloodborne, Sekiro, and Elden Ring can be found across various other releases to the point that it has created its own sub-genre. When From Software is developing a title, there’s almost a guarantee that it is quality. 

However, for over a decade, From Software titles have mostly revolved around dark fantasy settings. Given that it’s been 11 years since Armored Core V, not a lot of people will be as familiar with the games that have a history dating all the way back to 1997. But no matter, Armored Core VI is the best way to get introduced (or welcomed back) to the franchise. Armored Core VI feels more like a culmination of every lesson learned in previous Armored Cores and the past decade of developing consistent Game of the Year contenders. It’s simply an awesome time to be had. It’s mechs fighting other mechs. What’s better than that? 

You got that dog in you

Armored Core VI start

In typical From Software fashion, you start the game with little to no explanation of who you are and why you’re there. All you know is that you’re a mercenary who is somehow forced to work under a mysterious figure called “Handler Walter.” You are deployed into Rubicon, a planet that has been ravaged by the “Fires of Ibris” due to a sea of Coral that was set ablaze. Now, multiple corporations are warring over the precious resource as a means of profit, and you are the faithful “hound” that is caught in the middle of it. 

Modern From Software games would start you off feeling helpless wherein a major part of the experience is building yourself up to overcome the challenges that come before you. Armored Core VI does away with that and instead, gives you all the tools you need to feel powerful as you plow through enemies in the first few missions. You only really meet your match when it comes to the mini-bosses and final major encounters. 

I mentioned that Armored Core VI is definitely not a souls-like game. While it does share some similarities like customizable RPG mechanics, finely tuned challenges, and great boss encounters, the overall design and gameplay loop of Armored Core VI is distinct enough to create its own identity that I do hope the studio further explores down the line the same way they did with the Dark Souls titles. 

Armored Core VI start 2

What the previous From Software games were phenomenal at doing is immediately gripping the player with an interesting world to explore filled with secrets to discover. Whether this be through level design, enemy encounters, or even just item placements, there’s always a trail of narrative and systematic breadcrumbs to follow. Armored Core VI is oddly devoid of that in its first few hours to the point that it would at times feel slow, disjointed, and clunky in its execution. But for every one or two rusty parts, there’s an entire section of brilliance that helps paint a better picture of what’s to come. 

Make no mistake, Armored Core VI is still very much an excellent game, it’s just not something that should be greeted with behemoth expectations that From Software has cultivated from the generational experiences they’ve been offering all these years. The incredible world-building is still here, it just takes a bit more time to really get going. 

Elden Gears

Armored Core VI environment

I am of the firm belief that From Software’s art department is at a whole new multiverse of excellence when it comes to their imaginative designs. For years, they’ve gotten away with not keeping up with modern-day standards of graphical fidelity in place of providing some of the most striking visuals in gaming. That was all made possible because of the fantastical elements the time periods allowed them to have. Armored Core VI doesn’t quite have that advantage. 

There are no more swords, shields, and magic here. Armored Core VI is a sci-fi-based action game that takes place in a post-apocalyptic world filled with barren wastelands, snowy tundras, abandoned industrial areas, and war-torn cities. While each of the levels do offer a great amount of visual variety, the cracks begin to show with the aging engine they’ve been using since PS3’s Demon’s Souls. 

The good news is that you’ll be spending most of your time dashing through the levels and focusing on combat encounters. While in motion, Armored Core VI looks and feels brilliant. The visual and audio elements all synergize well with each other to create an adrenaline-filled experience. It’s when you start to slow down a bit that you’ll notice some of the more flat texture work. 

While there are still bits of awe-inspiring vistas and incredible boss designs, I can’t help but imagine just how more phenomenal all of it can be if From Software is able to let go of an engine they’ve been far too familiar with and branch out to more robust ones. 

All that being said, it is still impressive just how much the developers were able to squeeze out the juice from aging software and make it work on aging hardware. While I did my playthrough on a PS5, it didn’t really feel like it made significant compromises for it’s release on last-gen consoles. 

Suns out, Guns out

Armored Core VI combat

Armored Core VI operates on a mission-based progression. You’ll be spending a lot of your time in menus trying to customize your mech in order to go out on missions that can range from lasting just a couple of minutes to providing some of the most exhilarating mech gameplay today. 

There are an extensive amount of choices to be made in terms of both form and function with your mech. You can change colors, patterns, stickers, and emblems that will help define the identity of your mech. For those who don’t want to use any of what the game already provides, Armored Core VI has its own editor that you can play around with for as much as you like. 

More importantly, you are able to mix and match different parts of your mech. Head, chest, arms, legs, boosters, generators, and the 4 slots for weapons. Finding the right assembly is key to making sure you succeed in the more challenging missions. Would you rather play a heavy tank that focuses on missiles? A speedy terminator that specializes in sustained DPS? Or a medium-weight mech that uses a bit of everything? The choice is yours.

You can most definitely play the entire game using the same set of weapons and AC parts but that can only take you so far. It won’t be long until you are bombarded with enemies that require a bit more than just brute forcing your way through. 

Regular enemy encounters are, as always, engaging in their design. You are constantly feeling good about your firepower while boosting and dashing through a myriad of bullets, lasers, and missiles. It’s a visual spectacle to see the peak of AC combat in motion running smoothly on a PS5. 

But, Armored Core VI is a From Software game. That means you should expect phenomenal boss fights that will have your heart beating in both fear and excitement. The visual scale and mechanical elements of each boss encounter feel like its own puzzle to solve. You have to take into consideration the type of attack you should be doing in order to churn out damage or prioritize movement speed to dodge incoming attacks. It was very rare for me to treat one boss the same way I did with the previous one. There’s always something new to discover which made me appreciate more how extensive my options were in terms of designing my own mech. 

And yes, the soundtrack is once again, outstanding. It’s a bit more somber and less bombastic than Elden Ring but it definitely picks up the pace and delivers an auditory experience like no other. Only time will tell if it deserves to be up there with some of the best soulsborne tracks of all time. In my opinion, it definitely has the potential for it. 

But the real strength of Armored Core VI lies in the amazing tuning of its controls. The mech feels remarkable to operate. Do you know how From Software titles favor a precise mastery of decision-making with all of the gameplay mechanics? Armored Core VI is the embodiment of that gameplay philosophy. There was never a moment where I died to a boss and thought that it was the game’s fault. Everything I needed was presented to me in the most efficient way possible and few developers can claim that in their UX design. 

Got a job for you, 621

The problem with Armored Core VI’s mission-based structure is that not every mission is a homerun. You can have such a badass experience taking down a giant walking mech fortress that goes to show the scale and excellent combat design of the game, and then have a 3-minute dash through a corridor while shooting through small robots and scanning something at the end. 

There are a large number of missions that follow a linear approach through a glorified corridor that would sometimes open up a bit for combat. But again, even with these issues, it’s the well-crafted gameplay systems that keep me coming back for more. And luckily, there’s a fair amount of variety to be experienced as well.

In between main story missions, you will be transported back to your garage, which is essentially just a menu that allows you to pick and choose what to do next. 

I already touched on mech customization. You’ll also have access to a parts shop where you can purchase various upgrades. Currency shouldn’t be too hard to acquire given that missions are, for the most part, generous with their rewards, especially if you perform well in them. 

AC6 combat

Another way to get the necessary currency for mech upgrades is through training missions. This is where Armored Core VI will gradually introduce to you different gameplay mechanics. Not only does it let you play around with different mech builds so you can discover which one works best for you, you’ll also be rewarded with free AC parts upon completion.

There’s also the Arena wherein you’ll be placed in a 1v1 situation with another mech. As you progress through each one, the challenge increases. If you win, you are rewarded with OST Chips. These are used in the OS Tuning section wherein you can purchase permanent mech upgrades such as increased defensive capabilities, attack damages, or even extra utility to be used on the field. 

And finally, there’s the Nest, which is basically the PvP mode. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to test this during our early hands-on with the game but it shouldn’t be too different from the Arena mode. Whoever has a better grasp on their mech’s capabilities will come out victorious. Aside from a 1v1 mode, there will also be team-based 3v3 matches. The only concern I have for this one is that hopefully, From Software servers can hold up given how important it is to be accurate in this game. 

Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon Final Verdict – 9/10

AC6 bossfight

Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is yet another reason why FromSoftware has consistently dominated the gaming industry for as long as they have. 

Aside from being just an awesome mech game, there is a deep and rewarding RPG system here that’s begging to be cracked, explored, and experimented with. By the end of it all, I was playing an entirely different mech than when I first started. Just when I thought I found a set that I was comfortable with, the game throws a curveball that requires me to sit back and re-evaluate my build. I absolutely loved that. 

Regardless if you’re a long-time fan or just jumping into the franchise for the first time, know that Armored Core VI is one that should definitely not fly under your radar in such a stacked 2023 release lineup. There’s thrilling action, fluidity in player choice, and a whole new intriguing world to discover. From Software has done it again. 

This review was made via a PS5 game code provided by the publisher. 


While it lacks the immediate pull that's felt in other soulsborne games, Armored Core VI makes up for it with the expertly built gameplay systems that all synergize with each other like a well-tuned machine. There is just no other mech action game that plays like this and I highly doubt that anything else will be topping it anytime soon.