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We Didn’t Start the Fire: A Quick Review of Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon

We Didn’t Start the Fire: A Quick Review of Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon

Dante Gagelonia

I’m 30 hours into my first playthrough of Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon, and my eyes are blurry. I think I’m close to finishing the current plot line—I hear there are three, completable only through multiple playthroughs—but I’m being stymied by a particularly tough boss. My wrists hurt, my fingers are trembling while typing this, and my back aches from the prolonged tension. I’m tired and frustrated.

I’m also having the most fun I’ve had with a challenging video game since Elden Ring, and I can’t wait to finish this article so I can get back to kitbashing mechs and dashing around Rubicon like a deranged toymaker.

Got a Job for You, 621

I never played any of the previous Armored Core games. Coming into AC6 drew strong parallels with my alter-ego’s arrival on Rubicon, as I had only the barest ideas of what an “AC game” meant and of the reputation the franchise had. While I did have some prior experience with FromSoftware’s games, I wasn’t prepared for the mecha-anime-on-meth experience that I plunged into. I imagined my in-game persona, the augmented human known only as “621,” was just as stunned at what he had to deal with just minutes after arriving: a lot of shooting, a lot of explosions, and a lot of speed.

So. Much. Speed. Armored Core VI is not a slow or easygoing game by any stretch of the imagination. Every fight is frenetic, mission spaces are so huge that often you need to afterburner-boost just to traverse them, and reacting to threats requires reflexes you won’t realize you had until the game pulls it out of you.

Which is not to say that AC6 is unfairly brutal, a common criticism of FromSoft’s game design philosophy. Its mission-driven gameplay, frequent tips, and flavorfully helpful NPCs all come together to create a supportive experience that trains you well. It doesn’t compromise on FromSoft’s trademark difficulty, but it does give you so many tools and so much flexibility that it feels like going to school.

The fun kind of school, where your classes make you build killer robots and blow stuff up. And your homeroom teacher is Darkest Timeline Karl Urban.

ALLMIND Exists for All Mercenaries

The genius trifecta of AC6’s gameplay loop is formed by its mech building, its satisfying combat, and its lore-based handling of learning how to play. Players are encouraged to test whatever they’re building as often as they like, and even through to the late game there are new parts to discover, new builds to try, and new strategies to work out. Learning new things isn’t the unspoken byproduct of trying to succeed in the game: it’s the whole point of playing.

The game’s menu system, an interface called “ALLMIND,” is subtly idiosyncratic, blurring the lines between a computer interface and a representation of the mercenary world 621 operates in. As you progress through the game, ALLMIND both challenges and rewards you, with occasional hints that there’s more to all this than just the missions we take and the gear we build. As game UIs go, ALLMIND is understated and functional, but cleverly so—nothing beyond what it is, unless….

Feed the Fire

I regret not starting AC6 immediately after it was released.

Had I known how enjoyable its plot development would get—for a sci-fi action game about fighting with giant robots, that is—I would have just jumped right in and taken my time with it. I would have savored the drip feed of world details peppered here and there in random wrecks, snippets of intercepted comms, and item part info. I would have, just as with Elden Ring, let myself slowly immerse.

Instead, here I am leaping right in to experience it as quickly as I can. There’s no time to enjoy the scenery or gawk at the special effects. I have an article to write, a deadline staring me in the face, and a flying tank of bullet-hell energy repeatedly trying to turn my AC into scrap metal.

I wholeheartedly recommend AC6 to everyone, both fans and newbies. It’s what a fast-paced game from 2023 should be: cool, flashy, and thoroughly entertaining.

For now, enough of the article. The embers of war still smolder on Rubicon, and we’ve got a job to do.

It’s time to go to work, 621.