Armored Core 6 review: FromSoftware doesn't miss with mech masterclass

Armored Core 6 review: FromSoftware doesn't miss with mech masterclass
Images via FromSoftware

Written by 

Harry Boulton


23rd Aug 2023 16:00

After the overwhelming success of Elden Ring last year, it might have been a surprise for many to see FromSoftware return to Armored Core - a series that largely defined the company before the success of Demon's Souls and Dark Souls.

A strict mission structure, more straightforward narrative, and projectile-based combat make the Armored Core series seem almost antithetical to everything that FromSoft has become known for and associated with.

According to the developer though, it was always a case of 'when, not if' in returning to the mech-based series, and Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon certainly does feel like the perfect way to achieve such a restoration after a decade of silence. AC6 is undoubtedly still not a Soulslike, but takes much of what FromSoft has applied to its games in recent years and moulds it with the core of the mech series to create something really special.

GGRecon Verdict

Armored Core 6 is an exceptional game that merges the classic mech combat of the series' roots with the new-age battles that FromSoftware has become well known for. Challenging boss battles are emboldened by a world left to waste, where your independence is challenged as a mercenary just looking to survive.

Furthermore, the game endlessly encourages you to experiment with its many parts, leaving things feeling consistently fresh and malleable no matter what you want your approach to be. While it doesn't reach the astronomical heights of FromSoft's best efforts, it is still an outstanding game that is a worthy revival for the series.

It's up to you, Raven

Image of an AC stood over a large bunker in Armored Core 6
Click to enlarge

Falling in line with much of the freedom that Armored Core 6 provides the player is a narrative that is all about independence. You play as independent mercenary 621, who usurps the moniker of 'Raven' from the data of a fallen AC in the game's opening.

Upon gaining this new identity, you become acquainted with a number of Rubicon's factions - BALAM, Arquebus Corporation, the Rubicon Liberation Front, and even some arms dealers, too. Everyone is on the hunt for Coral - a mysterious and powerful substance that emerged after the fires of Ibis ravaged the plains of Rubicon, and you play a key part in helping them secure it.

Your role is very much that of a mercenary, as you pick up any and all jobs to begin with, without any recourse of the effects your actions might cause. New information reveals itself the more you encounter, however, and you start to gain a greater sense of what Rubicon once was, what you are fighting for, and whether you are taking the right actions in the first place.

Where there's Coral, there's blood

Image of weapons in combat in Armored Core 6
Click to enlarge

From the offset, it is clear that Armored Core 6 is going to be a tough game. While this isn't exactly surprising when it comes to FromSoftware's identity and philosophy, it feels like a different kind of difficulty that many fans of the Souls series might not be used to.

Although games like Elden Ring (and to a certain extent, Bloodborne) are extremely difficult in their own right, there is almost a language that you can innately recognise when it comes to their difficulty if you've played a Soulslike game before. Patience, movesets, and rhythm - a methodology of playing that gets more intense, perhaps - but stays within the same wavelength.

This is perhaps why many Souls fans found a game like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice so immediately challenging, as it alienates much of what we understand the cadence of Soulslike combat to be - and this very much extends to Armored Core 6 as well.

Image of an AC overlooking a large cavern in Armored Core 6
Click to enlarge

Verticality enters the fold, you're expected to astutely manage four weapons at once, and your enemies move faster than most things that you've ever seen in a FromSoft game before.

This is clear from the first mission too, with a troublesome boss that forces you to pick things up quickly. At the time it felt insurmountable - with a barrage of missiles flying my way while I was just trying to stay in the air - but in retrospect, it was merely just the beginning of the game's unyielding challenge.

I can't count the number of times that I genuinely believed that I was hard stuck when playing - where a boss seemed too quick or too powerful for me to possibly overcome. Yet I always did, and that feeling of pure elation was ever-present as my heart pounded enough to burst out of my chest.

Adapt and endure

Image of an AC stood in front of an explosion in Armored Core 6
Click to enlarge

What feels like a consistent effort to overcome the frustration associated with repeatedly attempting a tough boss is ever-present within Armored Core 6, arriving in the form of keen adaptability and (mostly) stress-free checkpoints.

Unlike many other Soulslike games, it is nearly impossible to go through the entirety of Armored Core 6 with one single build - or even a solitary build type. Not only are certain bosses and areas much easier when approached in a certain way, but the game gives you unlimited opportunities to change things up with little to no cost at all.

You gain new parts for your mech in Armored Core 6 by completing missions and purchasing them from the Parts Store, but of course, these don't come for free. All of the best parts in the game can set your COAM reserves back a fair amount - which might lead some to be wary when purchasing, but the key to this sense of experimentation is the fact that every item sells for the exact amount that you purchased it for.
Release Date:
PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC
Bandai Namco

Want to try out a tank build when you've been nimble so far? Sell all of your parts and try it out - the worst case scenario is that you don't like it and then you just go back to where you started with literally no extra cost.

What further helps this is the ability to save your mech configurations as presets that you can freely return to with a few button presses, which makes trying things out and having different build ideas even easier.

This is all integrated into the boss fights through an incredibly forgiving checkpoint system that incentivises replayability in that classic 'bash your head against a wall' Souls format. There is a handy checkpoint at the start of every single boss encounter in the game that allows you to limitlessly retry tough fights, refilling your health, ammo, and other consumables with each restart too.

In addition to this, you can reassemble your mech with all of your available parts at will within this retry screen too, which makes trying new things so easy and further encourages experimentation.

Perhaps my only frustration with this is the fact that these checkpoints are lost if you quit the game or want to return to the shop to buy new items, meaning that you'll have to do the entire level again to reach the boss.

Admittedly, the boss levels aren't as long as their non-boss equivalent, but it is still frustrating to have to repeat progress - especially when many bosses were so tough that I felt like I often needed a rest or a break from the game.

You were at my side, all along

Image of an AC flying through a cave in Armored Core 6
Click to enlarge

In terms of the combat itself, Armored Core 6 produces many of FromSoftware's fastest and most exhilarating battles yet, requiring you to be innately dialled into the flow of each fight to overcome the challenge that it presents.

As mentioned, it did take me a while to get into the flow of Armored Core and become one with my mech, as the prospect of managing all four weapons while navigating the air was understandably quite tricky.

Once you get the hang of it though, Armored Core 6's flow feels incredibly satisfying and almost reminiscent of the aggressiveness needed to conquer Bloodborne. The left-arm Plasma Sword became a very quick favourite of mine, as it dealt high damage and was excellent for closing down fast-moving foes.

Pairing this with one of the shotguns and the reverse-jointed legs which produce a much higher initial jump meant that I could pounce on my foes and deal quick damage up close. To achieve this, though, I needed to sacrifice a lot of weight and subsequently a lot of HP too, meaning that I was near enough a glass cannon. This didn't bode well for certain bosses whose incoming fire I struggled to avoid, so in that instance, I would switch to a (quite literally) tankier build that gave me a much higher health pool at the cost of my agility.

This is just a snapshot of the many decisions that you will have to make when approaching combat in Armored Core 6, and one of the reasons why it works so well. There's just about something for everyone here, without any of the regrets that sometimes come with picking the wrong class or specialisation at the start of a Souls game.

A world and a wasteland

Image of an AC flying through a city that has been torn apart in Armored Core 6
Click to enlarge

The world - and its variance - was perhaps the aspect of Armored Core 6 that I was most worried about before playing. Coming off the back of a game like Elden Ring especially, you can't help but have high expectations for richly detailed environments. While it is understandable that Armored Core won't possess the same sheer scale due to its mission structure, I couldn't help but hold my own reservations about the spaces that would be occupied.

Old factories and cities laid to waste are intriguing at first, but can get rather repetitive - especially from a colour palette perspective. Thankfully this is not the case at all in Armored Core 6, as there is an abundance of visually captivating spaces that inform the Rubicon of both the past and the present.

You'll venture through sparse deserts, snow-filled excavation sites, and hanging cities, torn apart by the flames of Ibis as they all provide not only a stimulating background from an aesthetic point of view but also a wonderfully crafted playground that lets the game's movement shine.

Vast amounts of space are afforded when needed - letting some of the game's grandest set pieces shine in immense scale. On the flip side, claustrophobic crawls through the caverns of an unexplored mine feel adequately intense as you attempt to dodge through a space that is far too small for the armoured mechs that are currently inhabiting it.

The Verdict

All in all, Armored Core 6 is an exceptional return for the series after such a long hiatus - keeping the core of the game true to its mechanical origins while integrating much of what has thrust FromSoftware into such overwhelming critical acclaim.

While it perhaps does not reach the colossal heights of some of FromSoftware's most defining games, it still features an exceptionally deep combat system, an abundance of challenging and memorable bosses, and a world that surprised me with its visual detail and diversity.


Reviewed on PlayStation 5. Review code provided by the publisher.

Harry Boulton
About the author
Harry Boulton
Harry is a Guides Writer at GGRecon, having completed a Masters of Research degree in Film Studies. Previously a freelance writer for PCGamesN, The Loadout, and Red Bull Gaming, he loves playing a wide variety of games from the Souls series to JRPGs, Counter-Strike, and EA FC. When not playing or writing about games and hardware, you're likely to find him watching football or listening to Madonna and Kate Bush.
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