Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon Hands-on Preview – Mech warfare redefined

Posted on July 26, 2023

We’ve been fixated on FromSoftware’s upcoming Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon for a little while now. We were lucky enough to go hands-on with four hours of mech warfare excitement at the Bandai Namco studio in Sydney. What we played, and what you can see from our gameplay footage, is an incredibly promising action game that strays from the usual Dark Souls formula.

Mechs and mayhem

As the sixth installment in the acclaimed Armored Core franchise, this game promises to elevate mech warfare to unprecedented heights to deliver an unforgettable action experience.

Set in a world teetering on the brink of chaos, where advanced technology and powerful mechs hold the keys to survival and dominance, Armored Core VI immerses players in the Rubicon universe. Here, factions clash for supremacy, and you, as the skilled pilot 621, wield the fate of the world in your hands. As war escalates, epic battles unfold, with players maneuvering through futuristic landscapes and engaging in high-octane combat against rival mechs and colossal bosses.

Stepping into the room to play this game for the first time, expectations were set for a familiar FromSoftware approach the studio is known for in recent history. While the action gameplay proves just as precise and exciting as hoped, the structure of Armored Core distinguishes itself from Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Elden Ring – and it’s all the better for sticking to its roots.

Focussed on the mission

Pilot 621 ventures through missions with clear objectives and unique areas. Each one will introduce a new threat, goal, or ally to work with to achieve your contract. This completely changes the pacing from the abovementioned beloved series, making every second of gameplay full-throttle action.

“Every mission is diverse and will require you to consider how to encounter each scenario…”

Missions are intricately designed to provide engaging gameplay, and players will need to strategise and adapt to their surroundings to overcome the opposition. Players will encounter a diverse range of mission objectives, from infiltrations and eliminations to retrieval and sabotage missions. The missions are thoughtfully crafted to keep players on their toes, offering a mix of surprises.

Veterans of the Armored Core series, who are familiar with the franchise’s mechanics and gameplay, will find themselves right at home with Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon. The game offers a considerable depth of strategy, mech customisation, and combat styles you’ll need to take advantage of to overcome some of the more challenging encounters and bosses.

During our session, I had to return to the Garage and respec my agile machine to become more of a damage-absorbing tank (literally – with wheels) to overcome one of the tougher bosses in the snippet we played. Every mission is diverse and will require you to consider how to encounter each scenario to not be absolutely decimated immediately.

Gears of war

In Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon, you’ll encounter a wide array of adversaries, ranging from other Armored Core units to massive mobile platforms and formidable mechs. Each enemy presents a distinct battle and demands different tactics to overcome. With varied abilities, weaponry, and attack patterns, every encounter becomes a thrilling battle of wits and reflexes.

“The intensity of these boss battles offers players a true sense of accomplishment.”

Gone are the days of facing mere cannon fodder; the enemies in this instalment are well-designed and offer rewarding battles. Some foes will test your precision and evasion skills, requiring lightning-fast reflexes, while others will demand careful planning and strategic approaches to emerge victorious.

However, the true test of your combat abilities lies in the awe-inspiring boss battles. Prepare yourself to face massive and powerful adversaries, each one putting your skills to the ultimate test. Every boss boasts distinct characteristics, weak points, and devastating attacks, necessitating a keen understanding of their patterns and vulnerabilities. To gain the upper hand, you must exploit the capabilities of your custom-built mech.

One standout boss battle showcased in the preview pits you against the colossal Juggernaut heavy mobile artillery unit. Dismantling this behemoth piece by piece demands meticulous target prioritisation and swift reactions. The intensity of these boss battles offers players a true sense of accomplishment when they emerge victorious, making them truly unforgettable moments in the game.

Fine-tuning and tinkering

The Garage is the command center for your mechs and gear. Here, you have the freedom to access a vast array of customisation options, allowing you to tailor your mechs to match your preferred playstyle and aesthetics.

The number of options is deep. Each mech comes with four weapon slots, located on the arms and shoulders, granting you the ability to equip a diverse range of weapons and gadgets. From powerful projectile weapons to deadly energy swords, missile launchers, and defensive shields, the choices are vast.

But it doesn’t stop there. You can also modify your mech’s head unit, legs, and chest to give your creations a distinct appearance and personal touch. Each modification brings its own set of strengths and weaknesses, enabling you to fine-tune your mech’s performance, whether it’s providing more energy for special abilities or reinforcing its defensive armour. This level of flexibility encourages experimentation with different combinations, finding the perfect loadout for the mission.

“…players are presented with a wealth of choices to forge their own path to victory.”

The Garage also provides a comprehensive overview of mech statistics, offering detailed information a mech’s performance. Like the intricate detail found in other FromSoftware games, this menu provides in-depth insights into the capabilities of your mech. While it may seem like a lot of information to digest, the thoughtful inclusion of tooltips helps explain each stat, making it accessible and understandable.

As you venture into the training missions hosted within the Garage, you’ll have the chance to hone your skills and master the nuances of piloting your mechs effectively. These training missions serve as valuable opportunities for both newcomers and veterans to practice various combat techniques, perfect their maneuvers, and truly master the mechanics of their mechs. After all, practice makes perfect, and it’s the key to becoming a formidable force.

With such extensive customisation options and training opportunities, players are presented with a wealth of choices to forge their own path to victory. It’s evident this game stays faithful to the series, incorporating the amazing design principles found in the most recent FromSoftware games while presenting them in a refreshing format.

Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is set to launch on 25 August for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC. Prepare to step into an exhilarating world of mech warfare like never before.