Feature image of Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon

Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon Review – The Best Mecha Soulslike

Not for you if:

  • You couldn't get past the first boss in Elden Ring
  • You won't adapt your mech to a specific boss
  • Your brain runs at 10FPS
8

This Armored Core VI review is not a sponsored one. My impatience and hype forced me to buy my own copy on Steam. Armored Core was a series I touched on in my youth, where I had fun building silly robots and going bankrupt after failing too many missions or dumping ammo into corpses.

Therefore, I’m kind of sad to see that the Armored Core series has gotten some Dark Souls treatment when it comes to its bosses. This is not what was expected, especially after FromSoftware said Armored Core VI was not going to be a Soulslike game. And while it technically isn’t, the FromSoftware Soulslike DNA has seeped deep into Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon.

Stunning visual of Rubicon, huge built platforms above the snowy mountains of Rubicon. The scale is absurd, the mountains are tiny while the platforms are gigantic.

TL;DR

Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon has the flashy and fast combat you expect from an Armored Core game. The mech customization allows for many options, and you can tailor an AC you truly like controlling and playing. The story is nothing new, corporations fighting and you are the mercenary in between. 

Add in some rebels and strange Coral forces for intrigue and call it some nice filler to motivate your missions. But some of the changes FromSoftware made just don’t sit right with me. The stagger bar can be exploited immensely; when you get staggered, it simply means death. The boss fights are more Soulslike bullet sponge bosses with unavoidable attacks, forcing you to make a certain mech for that encounter. It forces the player to play a mech they actually don’t like.

Boss Balteus exploding, finally got this boss down.
**** you, Balteus.

Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon Review – Just a small identity crisis

After finishing Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon for the first time, I still have a sour taste in my mouth. Mainly due to the encounter with the CEL-140 Boss that was absolute bullshit and had me quit out of the game and sleep a night on it before FORCING myself to play again. Only after I Googled what the best mech is to defeat that piece of shit with. So yeah, if you don’t like Soulslikes but like mecha games, steer clear of Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon. All boss encounters will enrage you to the point where you simply won’t want to play.

Boss Balteus launching a volley of rockets from its side and top in a beautifull but deadly pattern. As you awe in the beauty you die from multiple explosive impacts.
Beauty in destruction and death.

Fired up for the Fires of Rubicon – Story review

Like all FromSoftware games, the story isn’t straightforward and more clouded in mystery, specially written dialogue and using poetic language in its conversations with you as the player. So is Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon.

Wake up Pilot 621, we have a planet to burn

You are Pilot 621, activated by Handler Walter. The story starts with you dropping through the atmosphere of Rubicon, towards its surface. Your pod gets shot down by the planet’s defences, and you drop out towards the surface.

Thus starts your first mission: acquire false credentials from other fallen mercenaries to activate a false identity for yourself. As your handler puts it, we are illegals there and by no means allowed on Rubicon. What does your Handler want on Rubicon? Why risk so much by dropping a fresh pilot without the proper credentials onto the surface? The questions start early and slowly unravel as you continue.

Eventually, the credentials and call sign you take upon yourself is Raven. So begins your career as a mercenary for the Balam and Arquebus corporations. Making a name for yourself in two missions and being famous in your third mission. At this point, you are still going through tutorial missions and getting to grips with the game. But according to the story you are a certified badass mercenary known by name.

Your arrival spaceship in stable orbit around, your handler announcing human C4-621 has awakened. The start of Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon.

Three Way War

Aside from the corporations, there is the local Rubicon Liberation Front, opposing both corporations and fighting for the independence of Rubicon 3. As you go from mission to mission, you eventually get to the point where you get exposed to raw Coral. It engulfs your mech, and you miraculously survive. After being engulfed, you also hear the voice of Ayre. An original Rubiconian whose essence is infused with the coral and lives on through it.

She offers a perspective into the planet and coral you don’t get from interacting with the corporations or your handler. The explosion that engulfed your mech also starts a phenomenon that baffles your handler and corporations alike. A new hunt for Coral is now in effect, and both Corporations are fighting to control it. The RLF is fighting to protect it, and you have a voice in your head telling you things.

Your Handler, Handler Walter, picking jobs and letting you choose from them. The mission based system of Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon.

Choose your enemies

You can choose between two missions at certain points in the story, steering the story in a direction that affects the ending and certain missions after your choice. There is a ton of replayability, not only because you get these choices. But also because of the different builds you can use to tackle the missions and challenges. While the story isn’t that gripping or exciting, the writing and wording just take it up a notch. Poetry is voiced into the story with some mystery behind the words for you to unravel.

Torture Tutorial – Gameplay review

One thing is clear when you reach the tutorial mission’s end. This is a FromSoftware game, and they made Elden Ring before this. The helicopter boss you meet at the end is the first true test of whether you are ready to continue and an homage to the Soulslike bosses they are used to making. While it’s a roadblock for some, it teaches you one thing. Be aggressive. You are a pilot controlling a mech. Everything you are is a weapon. Dash, shoot, dodge, and punch that helicopter. Get in its blind spot and destroy it with your equipped blade.

The first tutorial boss, an AH12: HC Helicopter putting you down like the filth you are. Until you learn helicopters don't like being punched in the face.
The first tutorial boss, an AH12: HC Helicopter, putting you down like the filth you are. Until you learn helicopters, enjoy being punched in the face.

Pacing issues

After that first boss fight, Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon eases off a bit. You have your run-of-the-mill encounters where your overpowered Armored Core mech decimates factory mass-produced mechs. You start to build out your own preferred death machine and purchase parts as you progress. As you progress you will encounter missions that take up barely three minutes of your time, while others plunge you into a twenty-minute exploration and double boss encounter. You never know if you are getting in for a quick or long run with a ton of story exposition.

You are not prepared

Furthermore, these pacing issues are in full effect when you encounter one of the major bosses. During the mission you are having fun with your preferred mech build, blasting away and clearing out waves of whatever the corporation you are fighting throws at you. It’s all fun and games until that boss comes.

Suddenly, you have to go from fun mode to serious mode and start learning attack pattern ranges, adapting your favourite mech for a boss encounter that is made extremely hard and sometimes even unfair. While some boss encounters are incredibly fun and where your clever thinking helps in winning. There are also some hard, bullshit fights where there is no winning without adapting completely or resorting to a cheese method.

The mecha Soulslike

There is so much Soulslike DNA in these boss fights that I recognized certain moves from when I reviewed Elden Ring. The movement patterns were so familiar I was certain I had seen them before. The resemblance between CEL-1140 and Malenia was so striking that I was as pissed at CEL-140 as I was at Malenia in Elden Ring. The setting, moves, and difficulty brought back all the frustration I buried deep.

While FromSoftware said Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon was not a Soulslike, they surely ensured that the bosses came straight from Dark Souls or Elden Ring. The rest of Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is not like and shares nothing with those games. When you die, you can restart at the latest checkpoint with full ammo and repair kits.

There are no harsh penalties for abandoning or failing a mission. There no longer is the logistic puzzle of managing ammo and losing money from missions. You can no longer go bankrupt if you fail too much. So overall there is less difficulty in playing the missions and managing your mech. But the spikes these bosses offer are insane.

While the difficulty of the bosses is very Soulslike, the setup, cutscenes, and epic feeling are also a huge part and will leave you in awe at certain points. I can simply say that some scenes are just fucking cool when they happen.

Firing on all pistons – Performance review

Bullshit bosses aside, Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is a fast pace game with insane build diversity. The cool and unique weapons, the fights that are balanced well enough to be a challenge but not too hard. It all makes for a fun play-through where you focus your dodges and high-damage shots, so they hit their mark when they need to. 

As for PC performance, I have nothing but good things to say. Without any tinkering Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon ran like a gem on my machine. I’m also really excited to report that Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon runs like a charm on the Steam Deck without tinkering or deep diving into the settings to make anything work.

I installed and booted the game, had it detect its optimal settings, and gave it a shot. I was ready to dive into the settings and optimize stuff to get my target 30FPS. But I was just able to play, no dips, no stutters, and I went on to play a few levels and even defeated the spider boss on the Steam Deck.

A full arial mission where you take down a fleet of heavy cruisers. This was simply epic to do and fun, they gave you unlimited energy and went to town on the fleet.

Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon Review – Conclusion

Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon feels like it has a small identity crisis going on when you encounter some bosses. Suddenly, it becomes a Souslike instead of the fast-paced epic game it is supposed to be. But don’t get me wrong the two bosses that frustrated me most are far apart, and everything in between was a blast. The beautiful world and post-apocalyptic levels are amazing to glide through, and some boss fights their scale, and the same epic feeling cannot be found elsewhere. The story feels slightly rushed but is written so beautifully in its dialogue I hung on every word.

Do I recommend Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon? Yes, I do, if you are prepared for some hard fights or cheesing your way through them in order to progress. The steep and sudden learning curve will leave you frustrated if you are unprepared.

I would like to thank my disposable adult income which allowed me to sponsor myself into buying this game.

Stijn Ginneberge

Posts published: 125

Gaming for me is about experiencing their stories, overcoming challenges, living in fantasy worlds and exploring alien planets. You can also find me in the local game store or on an airsoft field.