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Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is frustratingly incredible.

Image captured by Cooper Marshall on Playstation 5

I cannot remember a time that I have felt so angry at a game, nor so rewarded when I cleared a hurdle. I love nearly everything about Armored Core VI from its world design and story to the tight and clean gameplay. 

FromSoftware is no stranger to making polished games that are well-received, but it seemed for so long that the Souls-like genre would be the only thing they created following the success of Dark Souls and Elden Ring.

I am very glad that is not the case.

Armored Core VI is the latest video game made by FromSoftware and the latest installment in their long-running franchise: Armored Core. This game has you play as an augmented human known only as 621 and take control of a massive mech called an Armored Core, or AC.

Throughout the game, you take on many different contracts for different corporations and groups across the planet of Rubicon as an independent mercenary. You learn about the rich and troubled history of a planet that was burned in a cataclysm known as the Fires of Ibis.

Stunning visuals accompany every aspect of this game, from missions to cutscenes to even the garage where you spend time making your AC. This is FromSoft’s most beautiful game to date.

The gameplay of Armored Core is polished and pulse-pounding. You take your AC into sorties, which are your missions. Each one has a unique main objective, and some have optional goals and branching paths. The game emphasizes replayability thanks to this semi-branching structure.

Image captured by Cooper Marshall on Playstation 5

The objectives in these missions can range from taking out a few squads of weaker enemy mechs to defending a missile silo as it prepares to destroy an organization’s base. Each mission has a different strategy, and you have to change your AC’s parts to compensate.

Your AC is the ultimate vehicle of self-expression.

You can change your mech’s parts and weapons, and you have dozens of options that lead to hundreds if not thousands of potential combinations. 

For example, different types of leg parts change your style of movement. Reverse joint legs allow your mech to jump higher, while tetrapod legs let you hover over the ground for an extended period of time. Dozens of different weapons have unique styles of attack, which ensures that you can create an AC for any situation.

Your AC feels amazing to move around in. Depending on your build, you can be a nimble, quick mech that blitzes around your foes, a literal tank equipped with heavy artillery, or anything in between.

Image captured by Cooper Marshall on Playstation 5

You can even change the paint job of your AC. You can customize individual weapons and body parts to be whatever color you like, and you can create your own decals in a robust emblem creator to put on your mech. If you can think it, you can make it.

The combat in Armored Core is tough, but fulfilling. You have four weapons to deal damage with, but they also affect a mech’s Attitude Stability system. This is essentially a mech’s posture, and you need to break it in order to do large amounts of damage. This mechanic borrows heavily from FromSoftware’s earlier title, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.

This game is not a Souls-like, though. It is a linear, mission-based title that focuses on small but intense bursts of action. It is more forgiving this way, but it is much harder. Some of the bosses I faced in this game are harder than what previous FromSoftware titles have thrown at me.

The final boss of the first chapter is what forced me to truly learn how this game is meant to be played. I kept throwing my AC at it only to fail over and over again. I didn’t consider that pulse weapons would be more effective than ballistic ones for a shield, and I refused to adjust my build until I failed at least a dozen times.

This game is only as hard as you make it. Skill is a factor, but the right build can make a world of difference.

The sorties related to the fight for Rubicon aren’t the only activities you can do, though. There is also an arena mode, where you can pit your AC against AI-controlled opponents in one-on-one battles.

Each AC has a unique set of weapons and type of movement, which can force you to reevaluate your AC’s setup in order to counter them effectively. There’s nothing more satisfying than creating the perfect build to counter your opponent.

Without delving too deep into spoiler territory, the story of the game is incredible. You must navigate the perilous world of Rubicon-3 and survive missions while you fight for your freedom. Friends and enemies appear along the way in the form of other AC users.

Every character has a unique personality, and you connect to them even though you never see a person’s face. The dialogue in Armored Core VI is tight and leaves you hanging on for more. Betrayals can shock you to your core, and many story moments left me breathless while I stared at my screen.

The story of Armored Core is more direct and concrete than FromSoft games like Dark Souls and Elden Ring. You are given enough to follow the story, and interactions between characters further enriches the world. The narrative is simple on the surface, but there is a lot to discover underneath.

Image from Reno Gazette Journal

V.IV Rusty is the best character in the game, by the way. He calls 621 his “buddy,” so what more could you want?

Armored Core VI is one of my favorite games of the year. If you enjoy difficult action games that get your blood pumping, this is the perfect game for you. A thoughtful, emotional story and beautiful soundtrack pairs with intense combat to make one of the most gripping gaming experiences of the year. 

Wake up, 621. You have a job to do. Rubicon awaits.

Image capture by Cooper Marshall on Playstation 5

Will Edmonds

Will Edmonds is a junior who loves single-player video games, playing the saxophone, and creative writing. He is majoring in professional writing and a part of the one of the jazz bands at the Catlett Music Center. He plans to become an editor after graduating college and hopes to publish his own book.